Saturday, December 15, 2007

Postmortem on the Co-Op

posted by Peter Rossi

The vote (3200 to 2049) by the members of the Co-Op and the decision of the Co-Op Board (7-1) to shutter the store is one of the more remarkable events seen in Hyde Park in many years.

There is much to be learned from the vote and the community foment that preceded it.

What We Learned About the Co-Op and Retail in Hyde Park

I learned that there are many Hyde Parkers who hate the Co-Op with a passion. Witness the dozens of "good riddance" comments posted to the Chicago Tribune web site in response to their saccharine story about the good old times.

This deep resentment was not born overnight. Many recount stories of poor treatment and spoiled food that date from the 1980s. I can still remember a Co-Op bag person screaming at a patron in the early 1980s because this person hadn't said "please." Customers were treated with indifference at best, quality has been poor, and selection has been very limited. My mother, a member of the Co-Op from 1955 to 1967, noticed the bad smell of rotting fish and produce while visiting in the 1980s. The experience of shopping at the tawdry Co-Op is remembered by many a U of C alum of the time (including the current President). These are not pleasant memories.

This increasing discontent started a slow erosion in the Co-Op customer base. That and increased competition from Peapod and Roosevelt Road would have eventually spelt the death of the Co-Op. The demise of the Co-Op was only hastened by its own silly expansion plans.

How can an affluent and highly educated customer base in Hyde Park find itself with a malfunctioning supermarket? It was a combination of a not very savvy landlord and the decline of our neighborhood.

In the late 1990s, the Co-Op's landlord renovated the Hyde Park Shopping Center and signed the Co-Op to a new long-term lease. The plans for this renovation were singularly unimaginative and timid. U of C Vice President Hank Webber was approached by Whole Foods, which thought it could find a good home in Hyde Park. The size of the Co-Op is perfect for WF (32,000 sq ft), and Hyde Park is better suited for a niche market than a competitor for the 100,000 sq ft plus stores found elsewhere in Chicago.

Mr. Webber dismissed Whole Foods as "too expensive" for U of C students. What poppycock! There are Whole Foods in Madison, Ann Arbor, Amherst, and Cambridge. Even "poverty stricken" grad students like to hang out at expensive coffee shops and trendy food outlets (there is a whole city called Berkeley devoted to this). Many U of C undergrads have well heeled parents who would be glad to see their kids getting good quality food. We should not sell short the many professionals, not associated with the U of C, who make HP their home.

But it was not just Hank Webber's bad judgment that got us in this pickle. It was also the lack of competition. If the Co-Op were located at 18th and Michigan Avenue, it would last about five minutes. The new residents of the South Loop have many grocery shopping alternatives. In Hyde Park, we are an economic backwater where the lack of competition keeps obsolete institutions afloat. We need large scale retail development with name brand retailers and much more housing. This is possible but requires vision.

What We Have Learned About the Decision-Making Process

Most issues of importance in our community are decided at "community meetings" called by local officials (often the alderman). These meetings are attended by a tiny fraction of 1 per cent of our community residents, usually the same tired group of NIMBYs. Examples include the disgraceful meetings on Doctor's Hospital and the Point (at a Point meeting, local "activist" Jack Spicer bused in residents of Montgomery Place to pad the crowd estimates).

The game is to see if you can turn out 50+ shouting and angry people, most of whom don't have the slightest idea of what they are protesting or why.

In the case of the Co-Op, we had such a meeting at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club. Little of substance was discussed and a great deal of mis-representation was practiced by various local NIMBYs.

Imagine that there had been no vote. The sense of the Board would certainly have been --- save the Co-Op at all costs.

Instead, there was a membership vote. It turned out that the people who showed up at the HPNC were NOT representative of Co-Op members. The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of a shutdown. Imagine if we had polled the community where there are thousands of pissed-off former members!

So we were lucky this time. A decision was made on the basis of valid information and a more or less democratic process. The opportunities for demagoguery were limited by the vote.

This model should be applied to other, even more important, issues in our community such as the Doctor's Hospital, Sale and Development of Harper Court, the proposed new development at the Village Center, and (last but not least) the Point.

The 53rd Street Vision workshop is a start in the right direction, but we should remember that many interested and reasonable people won't attend these sorts of events. Many believe that we elect government officials to fend for our interests. Over the past few years, our local officials have not exercised leadership on behalf of their constituents. If our alderman are uncertain of neighborhood opinion, some sort of survey or poll should be attempted. This is the only way to make informed decisions. Community meetings and the letters to the editor section of the Herald are a good source for amusement but not for community sentiment.


Betsy said...

I have been a Co-op shopper since childhood and have an extremely different perception of it than you do... but I'll comment no further, as the Co-op will soon be no more.

Just a couple of notes on other points:

1. Re Whole Foods... The U of C has about 14,000 students, not all of whom live in Hyde Park. The places you mention (Amherst, Cambridge, Berkeley, Madison, Ann Arbor) have far larger student populations than Hyde Park does. Those towns all have huge state universities or are home to multiple colleges and universities. It is hard to imagine that there is currently a large enough population of students plus affluent organic food shoppers on the South Side to support a Whole Foods. Most of the people I know—including those who commute to Roosevelt Road for groceries—say they rarely shop at Whole Foods because it is too expensive. Moreover, I don’t think a lot of South Siders from outside Hyde Park would shop at a Whole Foods, and we certainly won’t see any North Siders coming down to Hyde Park to shop there. So where’s the market? I think Hank Webber had it exactly right.

2. Re how the Co-op board was going to vote… You said “Imagine that there had been no [shareholder] vote. The sense of the board would certainly have been -- save the Co-op at all costs.” I don’t get how you come to that conclusion. I was at that Neighborhood Club meeting, attended mainly by folks over age 50 (including me) who clearly came out in support of “their” Co-op. It was blatantly obvious that this was not a representative crowd, either of shareholders or of the neighborhood as a whole. Furthermore, the majority of the board had already come out for accepting the U of C deal and shuttering the Co-op. The shareholder “vote” was to be advisory only. Even if “Option B” had won, the board would almost surely have voted to shut down the Co-op and accept the U of C deal.

3. Re the actions of Hyde Park’s two aldermen… My alderman is Toni Preckwinkle. She was clearly and forthrightly in favor of Option A both before and after the HPNC meeting. Seeing a lot of diehard Co-op supporters (like me) at a town hall meeting wasn’t going to make her change her mind. Town hall meetings (and letters to the editor of a neighborhood weekly) are a forum to give passionate proponents of a cause the opportunity to vent; such meetings also let elected officials get a few thin slices of community opinion. Agree with their decisions or not, most aldermen have multiple ways of tracking the community’s views; they are too intelligent and politically aware to be swayed by a single skewed town hall crowd.

SR said...

Yeah, I think that was a pretty good decision on Hank Webber's part too. I couldn't have afforded Whole Foods as a student, and I couldn't afford it now as a U of C staffer. For me having a Whole Foods in that spot would be equivalent to just not having a grocery store on 55th Street.

If you look at the median income of the neighborhood according to the 2002 census (which was around $36,000 IIRC), I'm not exactly alone in that. Of course the median income of Hyde Park might have gone up quite a bit since then, considering how much rental property has been converted to condos in the past few years.

Famac said...

You guys should check your prices - Whole Foods and the Co-Op are neck in neck with each other price wise. Plus you don't have to buy prepacked produce, half of which is rotten at Whole Foods.

Who was the person that voted against P-A?

And this post is too long!

chicago pop said...

The Vote for Option B was cast by one Hope Mueller.

Stanek was absent.

The rest voted for Option A.

Noah Berlatsky said...

I think that you're claim that this vote validates all your other opinions is confused. I, for example, voted for option A. However, I have no desire to see the Point paved over, and have been saddened by the ongoing efforts to gut Harper Court. Getting rid of the old isn't always progress; it just happens that in the case of the Co-op it is.

I also think that your claim that the Co-op was somehow automatically doomed is fallacious. The Co-op's problem was, is, and has remained lousy management. It's a shame that a store which really did have a lot to offer has been brought to this pass by such gratuitious and willful incompetence.

Shane said...

In regards to Whole Foods, I agree that it is expensive. I do most of my shopping at Dominick’s and only go to Whole Foods about once a month for specialty items. So even if a Whole Foods or similar moved to Hyde Park, I will still probably continue to do at least some shopping on Roosevelt Road.

But, that would at least be one trip a month to Roosevelt Road I could save and stay in Hyde Park, as opposed to 0 times a month I went to the co-op.

Also, as a side note, despite the high prices at Whole Foods when I was there last weekend I had a smile on my face the entire time. It is a thoroughly enjoyable shopping experience. How many can say the same about the co-op (I know some would say yes, but they must have shopped at a different time then me because I haven’t seen anybody walking around with a smile plastered on their face)

Famac said...

Go Withrow!

Peter Rossi said...


I'm sorry to say that you are a bit mis-informed. Produce prices at the Co-Op have been consistently higher than WFs.

If WFs had gotten a toehold in HP in 1999, we would have been drawing shoppers south from the new near South side instead of the opposite.

In the 1960s, folks would come from Evanston to shop at the Co-Op because it was, hands down, the best gourmet foodstore in Chicago. It also featured very high prices.

REgarding Alderman Preckwinkle, it is true that she supported option A. But as yourself two questions:

1. could any sane person support anyother option than A?

2. What has Alderman Preckwinkle done to promote retail development in the 4th ward. She has dragged her feet on doing something about Harper Court and the "development" at 53rd and Cornell is going nowhere. The Borders store teeters on the cusp of closing as there is no parking.

If you think U of C students can't afford WFs, explain how students at state universities can.

I have extremely fond memories of the Co-Op from my childhood (in the 60s) but you have to agree there are many in HP who hate the Co-Op with a passion -- these folks are not irrational. Things went sour around 1980!

Peter Rossi said...


you missed my point entirely. I said that the same model (a vote or poll) should be applied to these issues. Let the chips fall where they may.

No one really knows what folks in our neighborhood think about these issues. They have been feed a steady diet of misinformation about the Point. Your comment shows this-- no one has talked about "paving over trhe POint." The current plan reuses 100% of all existing limestone, provides swimming access and spend 1.5 million restoring the original Alfred Caldwell plan. This plan was APPROVED by the IHPA. People don't know that -- they think the city wants to "pave over the Point."

In any event, a vote would mean that everyone has a chance not just those who are willing to go a "community" meeting.

Peter Rossi said...

One more.

I think it was abundantly clear in 1999 that the Co-Op stunk! If you don't like WFs, why not consider DFF or someone else?

Why not really make over the Hyde Park shopping center to create large retail areas where we could bring in a Panera, a Gap...

What Mr. Webber doesn't understand is that you need large amounts of retail space (100,000 sq ft +) to attract clusters of merchants. You can't expect GAP (or whatever you favorite retailer) to open up a storefront in HP. You need other retailers around them!

You probably need a multi-level parking garage. In the end, this might actually cost the UNiversity less than the millions that they will shell out to get rid of the Co-Op. Adding a DFF or TI to the shopping center doesn't address the problem of lack of retail. It may simply be postponing it.

SR said...

Whole Foods and the Co-Op are neck in neck with each other price wise.

Well, that would be why we do most of our grocery shopping at Dominicks.

However, I think Whole Foods is actually more expensive than the Coop. I can't compare specific prices, I just know I boggle at them every time I'm in a WF, though as an occasional Coop shopper I should be beyond shock.

I think the difference is, the Coop stocks at least some generics and off-brands so you can save some pennies on canned kidney beans and soap or whatever, but everything at WH has the "organic" yuppie tax on it.

Roothy said...

Anyone know how quickly a new grocer can move into the spot?

Peter Rossi said...

one more for noah-

you say that it was a shame at a store that had "so much to offer" is gone. This is a problem that I have-- what exactly did the Co-Op offer? Wasn't it just a run-down grocery store? What services did the Co-Op do a better job of than other retailers/Peapod?

People apparently like two things: 1. its "local" and 2. it is a cooperative. Aren't these merely principles that have to result in something of value?

Can you identify any service or product that the Co-Op did better than other standard grocery retailers over the last 15 years? If so, I'll go to the corner of 55th and Lake Park and eat a copy of the Evergreen.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Whole Foods tailors its stores to each location, so I don't think we can say that people who can't shop at north side Whole Foods locations wouldn't have been able to shop at a 55th Street Whole Foods.

But the point is moot. Apparently we're looking at a Dominick's or Treasure Island, and I for one prefer Dominick's simply because (a) the TI I've been to wasn't that great, and (b) Certified supplies TI and I think it behaved abysmally as the Co-Op failed.

Regarding the Point...oh, man, Noah. I've been working hard on the Point issue for years, and the one thing that slaps me in the face at every turn is how many people just don't understand what it was the City had agreed to after several years of negotiations with the community groups. The proposal was nothing like the sterile strip of revetment between 51st and 54th Street. The SAVE THE POINT folks want you to believe it was, so that you'll pound your fist and say "no" -- no matter how good the City's plan is. Take a look at my summary of the City's last offer, if you'd like to see where negotiations ended.

I'll be posting about the Point controversy in January...I hope HYDE PARK PROGRESS readers will stay tuned, and discuss the posts with the same interest and intelligence that you've all shown regarding the Co-Op issue.

chicago pop said...

roothy asks: Anyone know how quickly a new grocer can move into the spot?

One of the recent Trib reports stated a new grocer would be in operation as of mid-Feb. I'm sure that estimate will be revised forward or backward before then -- any new info welcome.

chicago pop said...

Noah has no desire to see the Point paved over.

Neither do we.

In fact, no one in the neighborhood ever did, and that's why the first neighborhood reps began negotiations with the City.

In fact, I'm not sure how this idea got into people's heads, because it has nothing to do with the Compromise Plan hammered out between the various interests involved, before everything was scuttled by a founding episode of misguided Hyde Park activism.

We've seen how easy it is to get whooped up against a Darth Vader, whether it's the University, or the City of Chicago. It's much harder to figure out what the hell is really going on.

Quite aside from the question of whether the demise of the Co-Op confirms or debunks anyone's opinions, there are broad parallels that we intend to highlight going forward. Elizabeth Fama will be posting more on this subject shortly.

These include a marked failure on the part of vocal and prominent community activists to take into consideration unavoidable constraints. In the case of the Co-Op, they were primarily economic. In the case of the Point, they were legal and structural.

In the Co-Op's case the constraints that die-hards wanted to dream away were the erosion of pricing power, overwhelming debt, and much greater competition in the business than in the hey-day 1950s.

With regard to the Point -- the present dilapidation of which amounts to an enormous act of vandalism -- the constraints ignored were those of modern engineering and safety.

There is simply no way to legally restore the Point to its original state, period. But to even mimic that state, and still meet modern requirements for safety, durability, and accessibility (all very progressive values, no?) that are required for federal funding means using concrete and steel, in addition to limestone.

Outcries against fictional plans to "Pave the Point" are exactly the kind of rhetorical demagoguery that makes for good community meetings, but produces few outcomes other than decaying and dangerous landmarks, and empty buildings.

Famac said...

I copied this from the Co-Ops web site. It kind of staggers the imagination

"Approximately 75% of the ballots contained minor violations of the rules that did not effect the vote. Additionally, there were a great many votes that were injured or separated in the mail."

I guess we know why the Co-Op could sell expired food with such regularity -- customers probably didn't read the labels (or didn't know the date)!!

I get mail everyday and none of it is damaged. How did a great many votes get separarted in the mail. And what did they get separarted from I ask.

Let me guess: the return address.

chicago pop said...

Peter Rossi makes a good observation about community opinion and community activism.

The point is that it's not clear how closely they are related to each other. If at all.

We need reliable ways of measuring their correlation. Town hall or community meetings don't do this. Robyn Kauffman standing up and pointing a finger accusingly, as photographed for today's Tribune article (Metro, Section 2, page 3) is a dramatic picture of one person, but it is not democracy.

betsy has confidence that alderman aren't swayed by noisemakers at town hall meetings. I'm not so sure. Noisemakers can drown out folks who don't make a hobby of standing up and pointing fingers. So the alderman doesn't hear them.

Unless they work at it. Which means doing the legwork to set up opinion polls, planning charrettes like the recent 53rd Street meeting, or calling for referendum votes.

That takes leadership, planning, and vision. We saw some of this at the 53rd Street meeting, and in the execution of the Co-Op vote.

It would be good to see more.

Famac said...

C-Pop - its section 2 page5 in my paper - next to the obituaries oddly enough.

Famac said...

Ok - I just read this article. Bruce Sagan, the owner of the Herald, made a last minute pledge of $500,000???? Give me a break.

First of all who cares enough about a grocery store to hand it $500,000? No one. Of course, it was an empty gesture because he knew they were going to close.

This is what we get from the Hyde Park Herald -- and a point I've been making for a while -- its all about the 15 minutes in the spotlight. Guys like Sagan don't really care about Hyde Park -- they care about their own press and importance.

If its not true - where was Sagan and his $500 grand when it mattered (at the beginning of the drive)????

SR said...

I was astonished by that too. If Sagan is willing to give that much for the good of the hood, I can think of about 100 better uses for the money.

I've been trying to figure out what Coop supporters think it has done for the community that a better store with lower prices wouldn't have, and all I can come up with is the 50 or so senior citizens who get their orders picked and delivered from there free of extra charge (according to the last issue of the Evergreen, I think), which really is pretty nice. Maybe Sagan would like to fund a Meals on Wheels chapter in Hyde Park or something. I'll bet it could serve a lot of people for a long time on half a million dollars.

Tim said...

Peter, you're absolutely right that many, and maybe most students and residents of the neighborhood could afford to make Whole Foods their primary grocery store. However, the problem with using this idea to advocate WF at 55 and Lake Park is the idea that that location is a regular commercial lot like any other with a landlord like any other. Kalven Report aside, I am not convinced that the University is in the real estate business for only 'business reasons', and I think one goal of theirs is to offer basic services to the neighborhood. With this goal of offering a basic service and keeping the neighborhood affordable, we can see why the University would aim for a 'regular' (what's the trade term? 'mainstream'? not-luxury? you get the idea) grocery store for the spot.

In summary, I can see why you would dispute that WF is "'too expensive' for U of C students"... it certainly is not too expensive for all, but it certainly is too expensive for some, and this may be the perspective of Webber.

charlie said...

"Famac said...
Ok - I just read this article. Bruce Sagan, the owner of the Herald, made a last minute pledge of $500,000???? Give me a break."

Thank you for finally bringing this into the equation. Does this remind anyone else of Lorne Michaels on the old SNL when he had the $5000 check for the Beatles reunion?

It's just ridiculous.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Betsy said, "...most aldermen have multiple ways of tracking the community’s views; they are too intelligent and politically aware to be swayed by a single skewed town hall crowd." But I just don't think that's true. I can't remember responding to any sort of inquiry from my alderman, Leslie Hairston, about anything. The HPKCC and Herald photos of her regular ward meetings (every other month, I think?) look poorly attended.

Does anyone have the impression their alderman is canvassing the neighborhood for opinions?

I have an image in my minds' eye of Leslie at the So. Shore Cultural Center (Promontory Point) meeting, overwhelmed by the shouting crowd, doing everything in her power to control the situation, and subsequently backing down from an excellent Compromise Plan that she had already endorsed, and consenting to mediation and "further study." She didn't treat that crowd like a "thin slice of community opinion," she backed away, either because she thought they really were representative of the community, or because they were so offensive she was washing her hands of the whole mess.

I'm not saying we shouldn't have community meetings, just that there should be some other more scientific way of gauging opinions -- after people have seen coherent presentations on all sides (witness Noah thinking the City plan was to "pave the Point"; every issue is more complex than you think). In Hyde Park, the shrill community meetings have doubled as a neighborhood poll for too long.

chicago pop said...

In Hyde Park, the shrill community meetings have doubled as a neighborhood poll for too long.

Yeah, and for a great example, just look at the picture of the well-behaved community representative in today's Trib.

Now just line up half a dozen of those and picture them yelling something at you. Who wants to waste an evening dealing with that? And what on earth merits the finger pointing, after a vote that was declared fair by the poll-watchers, accepted by the Co-Op Board, and expressed a clear majority?

Peter Rossi said...

to tim-

many thanks for your comment. The bigger point is that is was ABUNDANTLY clear that the Co-Op wasn't serving anyone especially well in 1999. What Webber did was to tie his hands by signing a long-term lease.

What really upsets me is that we missed an opportunity to think really big about the shopping center. It is a disfunctional center that doesn't have enough retail to attract a mass of customers. We could have built something really outstanding with covered parking and brought Hyde Park out of the 50s.

I personally would love to see the dual of WFs at 55 and LP and Trader JOes on 47th. But it ain't happening.

Famac said...

Sagan has $500,000 to throw up in the air, and the Co-Op owes them money?

That's interesting, too.

ayeff said...

Peter, you ask:

Can you identify any service or product that the Co-Op did better than other standard grocery retailers over the last 15 years? If so, I'll go to the corner of 55th and Lake Park and eat a copy of the Evergreen.

The Co-op sells Chinotto, a bitter citrus soda made by San Pellegrino. It is very hard to find in the U.S. -- I have never found a "standard grocery retailer" that carries it. I was very happy to find that the Co-op does (and that's pretty much the only thing I will miss).

Otto said...

we can see why the University would aim for a 'regular' (what's the trade term? 'mainstream'? not-luxury? you get the idea) grocery store for the spot.

As I recall, the term is indeed "regular goods." It also bears upon the Dominick's vs. Treasure Island issue.

Heaping portions of gross mismanagement and moronic board decisions aside, one thing that has struck me over the years is that the Co-op was trying to walk a line between "two" (poorly) perceived populations. Most of the time, they erred on the side of crap or crappily thought-out categories or just plain bolted immediately in the direction that most generally smelled like crap when given the opportunity.

(Perhaps I am the only one to still be aggravated that the cheese selection coalesced into its present uninspiring state within weeks of the Chalet's closing.)

I did in fact vote for Plan B, even though I have maintained from the get-go that if opening 47th Street were necessary or advisable, an orderly wrapping up of one's affairs would be far better in the first place. Shoot, I voted to retain Wendy on the board (who was in her own fashion correctly advocating bankruptcy at the time).

I also thought that if anyone had a shot, it would be Brandfon. Not on his own, mind you, but if there were some pitching in, such as pointing out markets that might not be blatantly obvious if one does not live in this neck of the woods (e.g., lose the goddamned canned quail eggs, shelf-foot of British goods, and 57 varieties of plonking whitey-targeted soy fluids).

Treasure Island does not suffer the same Certified sourcing restrictions as the Co-op did, so the urge to break Certified's back may not be quite so pertinent. From what I've seen in person and from TI's most recent flyers, though, it's still none too impressive (frozen puff pastry made with butter? anyone?) and notably more expensive on certain fronts for non-value-added commodities. Yes, the HoKa turkeys will show up once in a while, etc.

Safeway/Dominick's, on the other hand, certainly has the ability to source comestibles with regard to absolutely nothing but price. Advanced Meat Recovery on line 2.

It would seem that things are at scratch. And one of these postulants must be elevated to the clergy.

Anybody want to lay odds on regression to the mean?

SR said...

Which means doing the legwork to set up opinion polls, planning charrettes like the recent 53rd Street meeting, or calling for referendum votes.

And some way to publicize the results. It was pretty interesting to learn that the owner of the Herald was SO invested in option B. If there had been only a neighborhood public opinion poll rather than a membership vote that was part of an actual news story, would the Herald even have published the numbers?

As a practical matter, would this be something that Preckwinkle or Hairston have to do, or could a community group do it? About how much does it cost to do that kind of poll, I wonder?

chicago pop said...

Just based on what I've seen recently, community groups (like the Co-Op) and government bodies like CMAP, as well as private firms or orgs like the SECC, can all contribute to the kind of rational opinion-gathering that we're talking about.

Co-blogger Peter Rossi actually has professional experience doing survey work. He tells me: it would cost $15/respondent, would require about 500 respondents for a representative sample, that this could be done by an experienced professional research firm able to follow all the proper protocols. Results could be posted online at a community website or maybe the alderman's site.

SR said...

So that's about $7500? A little more than bake sale money, I think.

I wonder if it's something the TIF committee might be interested in? The next couple of meetings should be the 2nd Mondays in January and March. Maybe it's worth thinking about trying to put together a proposal?

chicago pop said...

Yeah, I don't think it's something that would be funded from 4th of July lemonade sales. I bet the recent 53rd St. charrette cost at least that much (what with the free -- and yummy! -- sandwiches, coffee, and bottled water, publicity, time, etc.) But if you only do it once a year, and get contributions from area/neighborhood orgs, it might not be so painful. And the results could be mighty helpful as a base-line for positive discussion.

Peter Rossi, any thoughts about spearheading a proposal on this issue for the TIF folks? (He really is the one to do it).

chicago pop said...

that is to say, Rossi knows the mechanics of surveying; I'm happy to advocate and write up whatever.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Yes. We need some sort of sane alternative to community meetings with people shouting, pointing fingers, making their children picket and chant, and claiming to represent all of their neighbors...

SR said...

You know, it might not even need to be anything elaborate, just a detailed suggestion maybe. I got the impression at the one TIF meeting I've attended that there's an ongoing feeling that they're not getting as much input as they'd like from the community (probably because nobody really loves going to meetings). Since they've got money to disburse on behalf of the whole neighborhood, it would be a pretty good idea for them to do something like a poll anyway if they don't think a good enough cross-section of Hyde Park is coming to the meetings.

However, since I've only been to the one meeting, I don't know how the committee works really. It could be that you could just show up and say, "why don't you do X", and they'll run with it, or it could be that you have to do something more like "we want to do X (and here is a detailed proposal of X), give us money" to get anything done.

Anybody have any more experience with the TIF committee?

chicago pop said...

I think something like a scientific poll would be a good follow-up to the results of the 53rd St. meeting at some point(which I've seen but to my knowledge haven't been publicized anywhere). I know that's kind of what they were shooting for with the crowd that they got; it might make sense to devise something based on the outcome of that event.

bornatreese said...

Can we use scientific polling to determine whether Hyde Parkers want a hotel to which they aren't embarrassed to send their relatives?

chicago pop said...

bornatreese, now there's an idea!

Elizabeth Fama said...

I do think HPP needs to follow up on Doctor's Hospital, and see if the University administration is just waiting for the Webber replacement (so that the project is under his/her regime), or if they (and Leslie Hairston) have just given up.

chicago pop said...

I'll keep my ear to the ground, and maybe others can do the same.

Personally, I hope they wipe the slate clean and try again. As much as the NIMBY protests were inane, and the preservationist arguments thin, the University botched the whole thing and made it hard for folks to support the project even if they wanted a hotel in the neighborhood and didn't think the existing structure was worth a hoot.

Note to Webber and Successor: Don't set yourself up, guys. Lots of people will support this thing if you do a little prep work and avoid controversial partnerships.

Ben said...

I don't know if this helps or not, but I have survey experience as well. We could set up an online survey (through Survey Monkey, for example). The difficulty would be getting the link out to as many as possible (and of course computer access for respondents), but the cost of something like this, if possible, would be less than $50 to run it for a couple of months. I don't know how many hits this site gets, but it's a start. Any thoughts?

bornatreese said...

This site must be getting a lot of hits. When I first found it by chance in mid-September there didn't seem to be very many comments from readers. Since then it seems to have snowballed. You've been mentioned in a Tribune article about Harper Court and cited in many other blogs. Your opposition reads you regularly. The blog inspires hope or fear, depending who is reading (In my house it causes sustained chortling in front of the computer screen) But that's not enough for a real poll. Nevertheless, something quick (but not dirty) would be worth getting together.

pc said...

As someone who works in the field of urban planning, I heartily second the call that "We need some sort of sane alternative to community meetings with people shouting, pointing fingers, making their children picket and chant, and claiming to represent all of their neighbors..."

However, no one's yet devised an adequate alternative. We're going to try something new (an open gallery setting) here in Wicker Park in a few weeks. No opportunity for grandstanding, good access to staff, plenty of creative ways to engage people's thoughts.

The larger college towns that are mentioned as successfully housing Whole Foods also have more modestly priced grocers available.