Wednesday September 20, 2023 was a damn good day.
You see what that says right there? One year, 26 days, 2 hours, 1 minute, and 39 seconds after we first submitted our application to Chicago's Department of Buildings, the city has bestowed upon us a coveted construction permit.
When we last checked in on July 20 zoning had just denied our landscape drawings. This denial triggered the start of the Administrative Adjustment process we needed to undertake in order to avoid losing parking spaces to install landscape islands.
Our Administrative Adjustment was granted August 30. From there we resubmitted to zoning our application with all other requested corrections. A few more days of back and forth between our architecture team and zoning ensued before the Department of Planning and Development determined our landscape deposit on September 8.
May we tangent for second into the land of landscaping. Apparently, the city estimates how much a project's planned landscaping will cost and makes developers fork over that amount as a refundable deposit that it holds on to until the actual landscaping is completed and passes city inspection.
We paid the extortion deposit on September 11 then waited for "re-review" and sign off from zoning. After zoning the application would go back to the Department of Building for final review and permit issuance.
We were still waiting for zoning to sign off on our application when on Tuesday September 19 I got a call from a WTTW Chicago Tonight producer asking me to come on the show to discuss Mayor Brandon Johnson's announcement that the city will explore the feasibility of a public grocery store.
When Chicago Tonight correspondent Brandis Friedman asked, "Liz, what are some of the hurdles you've faced in trying to improve food access in Austin?" I was bound by law to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
A funny thing happened after I implored Chicago's Department of Building to give us a construction permit on live TV. Less than 24 hours later a deputy mayor reached out to me to inform me that their office was pulling up our permit application and would be contacting the Department of Buildings. Thirty minutes later we received zoning approval. An hour after that a permit was issued...along with the permit fee.
I am scarred and too jaded from this rigamarole to even hope that we are through the hardest part of this development. Construction is notorious for cost overruns and delays. However, reaching this milestone is still worthy of celebration so I'm going to take a minute to bask in this victory.