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Tunney cracks door open to relaxing plaza rules for playoffs

This is the site of a mixed-use development by Wrigley Field. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) on Thursday cracked the door open to relaxing hard-fought rules governing the sale of beer and wine at an open-air plaza adjacent to Wrigley Field if the Cubs make a deep playoff run that could culminate in a World Series championship.

Tunney was in the mood to celebrate. After 10 years of fits and starts, ground was finally being broken on Addison & Clark, a mixed-use development on a 2.3-acre site across the street from Wrigley Field.

That’s $1 billion in new development, counting the Cubs’ $750 million plan to renovate Wrigley and develop the land around it.

That’s when the question was raised about temporarily lifting a 12-event limit on the plaza to pave the way for watch parties for both home and road games if the team with the best record in Major League Baseball goes deep into the playoffs and even wins the World Series.

The Cubs stand to make a ton of money on those plaza watch parties, provided the team is allowed to sell beer and wine during those celebrations.

“The Cubs will have to ask. [It will depend] where they’re at in terms of the construction. … [But], we’re ready for excitement. My life is always about compromise and about bringing people to tougher. This is gonna be a historic moment,” Tunney said.

“We’re not forecasting. We’re not getting overly optimistic. We take each day as it comes. They’ve still got the best winning record. We, as a city, will handle it like we have in the past. This is a first-class team and a first-class city. We will have a first-class security plan for sure.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel (blue shirt, middle), Ald. Tom Tunney (purple shirt) and state Sen. John Cullerton (far right) were among those taking part in the ceremonial groundbreaking for a new mixed-use development near Wrigley Field. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times
Mayor Rahm Emanuel (blue shirt, middle), Ald. Tom Tunney (purple shirt) and state Sen. John Cullerton (far right) were among those taking part in the ceremonial groundbreaking for a new mixed-use development near Wrigley Field. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel brokered the agreement that gives the Cubs the limited right to sell beer and wine on the plaza, but in a way that, team officials claim, will tie the hands of the billionaire Ricketts family that owns the team.

Liquor sales on the plaza would be limited to beer and wine. Those drinks could only be sold during “stadium events” such as games and concerts and at a maximum of 12 special events per year, each requiring its own special permit.

The new rules would remain in place for three years to give the congested neighborhood time to adjust to a plaza with up to 6,000 patrons and a hotel and office building with more than 100,000 square feet of new food and beverage space.

Asked Thursday whether he would be willing to relax those plaza rules to accommodate a World Series run by the Cubs, Emanuel ducked the question, on the grounds that it was “premised on an event that has yet to happen.” He accused the reporter who asked of being “in a different business, which is taking bets in Vegas.”

Turning serious, the mayor said, “First of all, I’ll be celebrating like the rest of the city something that hasn’t happened for over 100 years. That’s No. 1. How we celebrate, I’m gonna work with the alderman and the surrounding community and the owners. We figured out how to celebrate three times the Blackhawks. We’ll figure out how to celebrate something that hasn’t happened for over 100 years. But, I’m not gonna answer a question without consultation because that’s the partnership that Tom [Tunney] and I have.”

The Cubs are unhappy with rules that bar fans without tickets from the plaza on game days.

They’re equally concerned about a restriction on concerts that was tucked into the deal.

Those big-money events now cannot be held at Wrigley during the Chicago Public Schools academic year. The team says that violates a 2013 agreement on concerts at the ballpark and it may be entitled to financial compensation.

As for the transit-oriented development known as Addison & Clark, it will include 148 luxury apartments and 150,000 square feet of retail space anchored by a 10-screen CMX luxury movie theater.

In 2009, Wrigleyville residents concerned about game day congestion lined up against a project that had included a hotel, retail and residential complex.

They were concerned the building’s precedent-setting height — 91 feet at its tallest point — would turn their residential neighborhood into a “downtown, tall-building commercial district.” They were not appeased when M&R Development shrank the project and lowered the height to below the Wrigley roofline.

But that was before the City Council approved the Cubs’ plan to renovate Wrigley and develop the land around it with its own boutique hotel.

That prompted a developer who had struggled to secure financing to drop the hotel, raise the number of residential units to 148 and increase the minimum number of parking spaces from 399 to 493.

On Thursday, Tunney predicted that a second hotel would be coming to Wrigleyville.

“Trust me. Ten years from now, we’ll have two hotels around here. I don’t know where they’re gonna be. But, I’ve never seen [just] one hotel in an exciting place like Wrigley Field or any sports stadium,” he said.

He added, “Everything that’s happening around Wrigley Field — if you put all the investment together and the jobs and the transformation for a community — this is close to a $1 billion in investment. … This is like, `Make no small plans.’ The combination of what’s happening basically on all four corners is transforming this part of our neighborhood. We hope it’s a 365-days-a-year experience — on the plaza too.”