Neighbors not buying museum’s solution to hide rooftop equipment
Loop North News

CONDOMINIUM LIFESTYLE 220 E Chicago Ave - MAP

(Above) Equipment in the northeast corner of the roof of Museum of Contemporary Art in Streeterville, seen from a condo unit across Pearson Street. (Click on images to view larger versions.)

29-May-17 – Equipment on the roof of Museum of Contemporary Art is needed for a new restaurant opening in August, but neighbors above, in condominium units worth between $400,000 and $1.3 million, say it is an eyesore that will lower their property values.

Residents of four condo buildings on East Pearson Street have banded together to share their concerns with MCA and 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins. On Thursday, the museum gathered about 50 neighbors into its Edlis Neeson Theater to discuss the matter for nearly two hours.

Teresa Samala de Guzman, MCA’s Chief Operating Officer, and Museum Director Madeleine Grynsztejn described how their staff studied the concerns for a month, used a drone to survey the roof, and came up with viable options – while making clear to the residents that removing the equipment from the roof cannot happen.

Museum of Contemporary Art

(Above) Illustration by Museum of Contemporary Art of proposed “green option” to hide mechanical equipment on its rooftop.

The museum considered painting the equipment so that it blends with its surroundings, or enclosing the equipment in a metal pyramid like existing design elements on the roof, but said the best it can do is enclose the equipment in a green screen at a cost of $250,000.

In addition to covering up the equipment, MCA says it will aim kitchen exhaust fans away from Pearson Street, relocate telecom antennae, remove a large tent from the terrace, open a back gate during museum hours, add security cameras along the building perimeter, and replace paving stone in front of the museum.

Photo by Barbara Champion

(Above) Closer view of roof showing telecom antennae at far left, exhaust vent from kitchen, heating/ventilation/air conditioning and other equipment at right. Photo obtained from Barbara Champion.

Neighbors wary of ‘camouflage’ solution

While praising some of the changes, neighbors were not impressed with what they called “camouflage” of equipment on the roof. Barbara Champion described it as “a piece of fencing with plastic vines wrapped around it” that will not completely hide the equipment.

Barbara Champion “If it doesn’t hide the mechanicals and just clutters up the field of vision, it’s going to do nothing but further destroy property values for all of us that are on the sightline,” said Champion (left).

“The solutions are less than stellar, quite frankly,” said Gail Mahaffey. “It’s shocking they didn’t have a creative element.”

Diane Cochrane predicted the equipment enclosure would not hold up well to the weather, and was not convinced turning the kitchen vents away from Pearson Street would help.

“It doesn’t matter what way you turn those vents, it’s going to stink,” she said. “And it’s extremely unfriendly. And turning the vents, all you do is [send] it across the street and then when the wind blows this way, [it’s sent] to our balconies over that way.”

(Right) View of MCA rooftop through a living room window on the eighth floor of 210 East Pearson Street. Photo by Steven Dahlman

Gary Beckman, a Realtor who has sold multi-million-dollar homes in the Gold Coast neighborhood, forsaw a loss of $600,000 in property values at his 62-unit Pearson Street condo.

“We shouldn’t even be here tonight,” said Beckman. “We should have been here three years ago when somebody came up with this idea. Now we don’t need to feel sorry for you because you need to take this trash off the roof. We shouldn’t feel sorry. You didn’t do your planning back then or if you did, you didn’t give any consideration to a world-class vintage building.”

Alderman asks for more options

Alderman Hopkins said he knew from the start that the matter was going to be “contentious.” While MCA is within its rights to locate the equipment on its roof, he said, and does not require a zoning change, he asked the museum to “take a second look” and come up with more options. He invited MCA to work with a building engineer from the City of Chicago.

Photo by Steven Dahlman (Left) Alderman Brian Hopkins surveys the rooftop for himself from a residence on the eighth floor of 210 East Pearson Street.

“I know you said it’s impractical,” he told museum leaders. “It’s not impossible, and I understand it’s probably more expensive.”

The 120-seat restaurant, Marisol, will open closer to mid-August, according to MCA COO Teresa de Guzman.

Museum Director Madeleine Grynsztejn says they are “not expecting to make very much money on this at all” but the restaurant, part of a $16 million renovation that will create three new spaces, is needed because 73 percent of Americans visit museums for social as well as cultural experiences.

“Our Millennial generation – your children and grand-children – don’t come to museums only to look at art, they come to museums to be with each other,” said Grynsztejn (right). “They come to museums to stay longer because they’re well-fed – heart and soul and body. They come to museums to stay longer because they’re taught and because they learn in spaces like we’re building like the commons. This is the new kind of museum.” Madeleine Grynsztejn

 Previous story: Condo owners above MCA say its roof is no work of art

By Steven Dahlman | Loop North News | sdahlman@loopnorth.com

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