Tuesday, September 4, 2007

We Could Have Had This by Now

As promised, I have some images of the genuinely attractive, eminently acceptable, 20-plus-million dollar Compromise Plan that the SAVE THE POINT group scuttled on behalf of all Hyde Parkers.

The Master Plan (aerial view) appears above. If you want to see details, you can click on it to open it in a bigger window.

Some of the compromises to look for in the plan:

1) It reuses all of the existing limestone, with the two top steps of the revetment made of limestone blocks

2) It restores the Caldwell landscaping

3) It provides sanctioned water access (which also means it will be staffed with lifeguards)

4) It reduces or removes the objectionable features of the new revetment between 51st and 54th:

(a) The scale of the revement is smaller
(b) The steps down to the promenade are shallower
(c) The promenade is narrower (not a "landing strip")
(d) The berm of earth (flood control) in the lawn behind the revetment is gone
(e) Tumbled fragments of limestone blocks cover the steel supports from view

5) There are two 300-foot swimming sites, one on the north and one on the south

6) The step stones into the water are limestone blocks, mimicking the happy accident of nature that allowed swimming at the Point in the first place

The drawing below shows the north side swimming access site. Note that the structural core of the revetment (including the bottom two steps) is concrete and steel, and the top two steps are limestone blocks. The two concrete steps have textured vertical faces. The promenade is concrete with textured concrete near the water's edge:

Except at swimming access sites (where there are limestone blocks), large limestone fragments would shield the steel in the water from view:

This is what the textured concrete looks like:

This is what the tumbled limestone fragments look like:

This is an illustration of the south side. Note the City bothered to show a lifeguard; a sign of goodwill, methinks.

And here's the drawing of the south side, in a non-swimming section:

The transition to the 57th Street beach shows ways that the contractors have used limestone decoratively, as a way to integrate the two materials in preparation for Point repair:

And overall, the workmanship is pretty good:

But presuming the City will still provide us with the above plan -- even if we suddenly experience a moment of mass sanity -- may be just wishful thinking. For one thing, I've heard a Park District official back away from the scale of the swimming sites, saying that they may have to be 150 feet each, not 300.

I'm also not sure what's happening with the funding. I know that the federal funds designated for the Point in 2004 were diverted to other areas. Meanwhile everyone waits for Barack Obama to convene a not-yet-existent committee using non-existent funds to "study" a project that has been studied to its demise.

Barack, you're a good person and a beloved neighbor, but it's time to call someone and say you're too busy to follow through with this. You've got a lot on your plate. We understand.

The Department of the Environment Shoreline Protection Project site has this short statement regarding the Point:

"Due to unresolved issues relating to the proposed construction materials, the 54th to 56th Street segment project is currently on hold. The 56th to 57th Street revetment was completed in July 2005."


Famac said...

I'll never understand what that grass walkway sorrounded by limestone blocks is for (second to last photo).

The two rows are so close together, they block light from the grass between.

When they installed that I was thinking "are they trying prove the Point-savers claim they have no clue on how to design something?"

That walk serves no purpose whatsoever and should be removed.

chicago pop said...

If the present condition of the Point is any indication of what results of preservationist activity in Hyde Park, then we can expect Dr's Hospital to be in pretty good shape for a really scary Haunted House in a few years.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Famac: my guess about the two rows of limestone blocks is that they serve two purposes -- (1) the first row covers the top edge of the concrete revetment for aesthetic purposes, and (2) the grassy space and the second row of blocks provide a sort of buffer between the lake and the bike path, in the (rare) event that high waves force water toward Lake Shore Drive.

The Army Corps of Engineers does see a big part of their job as preventing storms from washing onto Lake Shore Drive. The recent low lake levels make that unlikely for the foreseeable future, and their compromises with the original task force seem to acknowledge that.

Meanwhile I've had a lot of private e-mails asking questions about the history of the Task Force, and why and how the Compromise Plan that I've pictured was rejected. While it was a frustrating experience for the original members of the Task Force to have to see this final plan scuttled, it wouldn't help anyone to re-hash the politics.

It's much more important to me that people who read this blog get a clear picture of what we gave up, with the tiny hope that if we speak up, maybe we can finally push it through.


chicago pop said...

"While it was a frustrating experience for the original members of the Task Force to have to see this final plan scuttled, it wouldn't help anyone to re-hash the politics."

But the politics are why the Compromise Plan was scuttled in the first place, no? And a different politics are driving HPP's position on the current impasse with regard to the Point. I would suggest that the politics aren't trivial, they're central. What's going on, in my view, is that we're trying to better understand and critique the politics of how things happen in this neighborhood. This is important because the same constellation of forces that came together to scuttle the Comp. Plan continues to arrogate to itself the right to speak as the "voice of the community," and block all sorts of other proposals that would alter the status quo.

Famac said...

You're right. It never occurred to me because from my window, it all looks flat (even though I walk past there - I never put it together). That's actually a pretty steep hill, and water would roll right down it, so perhaps that "walkway" is designed to slow runoff.

A lot of the problems with the Point boil down to our Aldermen and their lack of leadership. Difficult political issues can sometimes only be solved by someone willing to sacrifice their position for a cause. But some of these folks want the job for a lifetime, and become neutered by self interest.

Didn't both of our Alderman vote for the frois grois ban, too?

And what ever happened to Obama - our very own? If he can't handle this, imagine him dealing with Iran.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Oh, shoot, you're right. Maybe I should post one more article in the Promontory Point series explaining the timeline and events as I understand them?

But will I get burned at the stake for doing it?

(That little moment of paranoia brings up an important issue that I'd like to open to your readers, Chicago Pop: there seem to be a lot of HPP visitors out there, but they're a pretty quiet bunch. The same few people write most of the comments. Maybe it's because for all the history of activism we have in Hyde Park, people are afraid of expressing views that oppose what they perceive to be the "accepted" opinions, forced into prominence by the loudest voices at community meetings, and even by the editorial slant of the Hyde Park Herald. Or maybe they just don't want to create a google account to register their two cents...)

chicago pop said...

Peter Rossi's edition of the Point story on Wikipedia goes some way towards the establishment of a reasonable timeline/narrative -- assuming it hasn't been much altered since posted. Some version of that might be worth archiving here.

Colignius Ferox said...

I am one of the people who has been silently reading and much enjoying HPP for several months now. I have been in HP (associated with the University) for about seven years. When I arrived, the Save the Point campaign seemed to have recently passed, but I never quite caught the story. It was explained to me in passing that it was about stopping some kind of undesirable development -- you know, a community-members vs developers story. If you have a good account that you have posted or would be willing to post, please do. Because there is only one side out there, and people tend to think of all development as bad -- as thought it were going to mean high rises in the point and barbed wire.

Peter B Fitzgerald said...

Much of the rejected compromise plan looks great--the exception being the length of allowed swimming. Lack of real deep water swimming is the #1 reason why I don't swim at the beaches. Being able to swim way out at the Point (as you are allowed to do elsewhere around the world in far more dangerous conditions than a lake) is wonderful, and I'd hate to see that taken away. Is anyone fighting seriously to preserve deep water swimming? 300 ft, to me, is not serious.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Peter Fitzgerald,

The 300-foot sections don't refer to how far out you can swim, but the length of the water-access site, which will be limestone steps into the water. (It has actually been changed to 150 feet in the current Compromise Plan.) In other words, you have two 150-foot areas on the shoreline where you can access the water. Once you're in the water, I'm not sure how far out you'd be allowed to swim, but historically they've only cared that you don't stray out of the "cove" past the buoys, where motor boats and jet skis are.