Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Open Letter to HPP

posted by chicago pop

A reader identified as "Tupper" left us this note in a comment box, and we thought it deserved the full light of day:

I have been following this blog, and in fact I have been following development in many Chicago neighborhoods for years. This disease of NIMBYism is spreading like a weed throughout Chicago. There is a general lack of education and understanding among these groups that simply aren't able to see past the windshield of their car and recognize that they too will ultimately benefit from more density--more stores, better city services, safer streets, etc etc.

It's obvious that this is plain old ignorance, and most people are ignorant about most things most of the time, which frustrates the hell out of the minority of us who actually see things as they really are.

All that aside, Hyde Park is not really in a position to be anti-development like Bucktown or Wicker Park are. Sure it has a Metra stop, but it has a lot of things going against it. It's on (gasp!) the SOUTH SIDE of Chicago, it doesn't have an L stop, it doesn't have much of a nightlife, and it's full of old people. Really not much of a draw.

Old people aren't interested in changing that, apparently. So do we just wait them out (if you know what I mean)?

NO! Hyde Park is missing out on perhaps the greatest urban rebirth in Chicago's recent history. I applaud those of you for starting this blog, but I implore you to take action for the simple fact that you'll never get over your frustration if you don't.

Lets face it--this blog is a nice project, but don't you wish you didn't HAVE to have this blog to begin with?

There is a small group of us who have formed an organization for this exact purpose. We need more numbers, we need more brains. We've already met with the newly minted Alderman Fioretti, but not much can be done if we don't expand and organize even further. I think there is a voice waiting to be heard among us, but too many people simply aren't aware of how large of an issue this really is.

I say we have 2 choices here: 1) Give organizing and educating more people about the benefits of density (and how they are being deprived of it) a chance, or 2) Keep getting frustrated. What's there to lose?

I'd really like to know who's interested, if anyone. And no, this isn't some cheesy gimmick. We are a real organization, but I'm not going to pretend that we're very big or influential (yet).


SR said...

What is the name of this organization? Does it have a website? Who is in it? What has it been doing? What does it want to do in Hyde Park?

James said...

The ideal political situation for advancing New Urbanist policies would be a city-wide (or even national) organization with chapters in each of the wards. The arguments can be advanced city-wide or nationally-- there's no reason to reinvent the wheel ward by ward-- but the aldermen tend to listen to their constituents first and foremost. And don't forget the fundraising component for campaign contributions.

Elizabeth Fama said...

I have to take exception to the "old people" comment. People aren't averse to change simply because they're old. One of the nicest aspects of this community is the diversity in age. (I think SR pointed that out in a previous comment.) I love the fact that we have a wide variety of ages on our our block -- from preschoolers to seniors -- and that my kids are happy to interact with all of them.

UChicagoDomer said...

I echo sr's question. What is the name of the organization and how does one join? And I echo the sentiments of the original poster, Hyde Park is one of the most reactionary neighborhoods I've experienced. The attitudes of its residents, given the neighborhood's anemic development, is completely unwarranted.

Tupper said...

Citizens for Better Planning.

Website is in the works (a lot of us are busy with our lives, so admittedly we've been slow about this part).

Members include several professionals, a police officer, and some college students (naturally). Also included was a key member of a major Chicago preservation organization, although he has temporary left to focus most of his energy on preservation efforts.

We've been meeting 1 Thursday or Friday of every month, discussing things such as development, community meetings, etc. Our focus has been on discussing the merits of certain projects and showing support for them at community meetings (we have members who live in neighborhoods all over the city).

We are still small and have a lot of organizing to do, but we'd like to see that change. Our ultimate goal is to be a recognized organization that has a working website, goes out into communities and invites their involvement (ie passing out flyers, participating in community meetings when a member of ours lives in the community), talking with city leaders, etc. You don't have to be (insert name) Neighborhood Alliance to have an impact, guys--I see Preservation Chicago as a great example of a special-interest group that has a lot of influence; often they are quoted in the Tribune or the Sun Times about projects, they stage rallies, and they exert an influence over Aldermen.

Regarding Hyde Park, we'd like to do what we prefer to do in all Chicago neighborhoods. We are in support of more pedestrian-friendly, transit-oriented development that makes better use of infrastructure already put in place generations ago. We are supporters of quality and innovative architecture, and we believe that density can be beneficial to stagnant Chicago communities. We also believe that car-dependence and auto-oriented development is a big problem in Chicago, and we want our community leaders to take a larger leadership role in promoting other ways of getting around rather than the automobile (we're NOT car-haters, though, despite being inappropriately accused of such).

If you guys want to get a better feel for us, though, I invite you to attend a meeting.

UChicagoDomer said...

one other question. does anyone know what's going on at 53rd and cornell (near the Metra renovation project; where Cedar's of Lebanon used to be)? there is a "demolition" sign hanging on a fence that rigns around the corner there. I sincerely hope that whatever goes up is sufficiently flush with the street and devoid of unsightly parking lots.

chicago pop said...

If Tupper would provide some contact info, I have a reporter who would like to talk with him/her. To send along privately, my contact info is available on my blogger profile.

Tupper said...

Chicago pop, I'm sending you an email titled "tupper Chicago" right now

Elizabeth Fama said...

uchicagodomer: a development company called L3 owns the property at 53rd and Cornell. They've proposed a 17-story mixed-use building. Toni Preckwinkle supports the project, but I think she has asked L3 for some changes to the plan first. The building permit hasn't yet been pulled.

chicago pop said...

The building as proposed will have street level retail, which means no street-facing parking. I suspect Preckwinkle wouldn't allow otherwise, as she's pretty hip to that kind of thing. Besides, a parking lot in front would prevent maximum build-out for the developer, making him have to go higher, and piss off even more neighbors.

It's interesting that if you go back and look at some of the discussion on this issue, you'll see that the developer at this site got a lot of pressure to go with 1.5 parking spaces/unit, similar to what the McMobil folks want, and that this immediately made him (Leal) consider enlarging the units to drop the parking, thus raising per unit price, thus affecting the amount of affordable that could be offered. Word up to the McMobil folks -- you're not doing anyone any favors with your requirements.

chicago pop said...

I agree with Elizabeth that ageism shouldn't be an issue in any argument for smart development. There are real, generational demographics at work in Hyde Park, and it's good to understand them, but the ideal for me is a community that has a balance of folks at all stages of life.