If you've been reading this blog for awhile, it will come as no surprise to you what we think should happen at the McMobil site on 53rd and Kenwood. We want to see a mixed-use, mid-rise building put right there. Like the buildings of similar height just yards away. Not surprisingly, a group of folks want a building here which allows for more cars, fewer and therefore more expensive units, with none of these preferences based on substantiated arguments as to why a bigger building would be worse.
In previous posts, we've gone over the reasons why we think a mixed-use mid-rise is a good idea, and in fact fits with the character of the neighborhood. The alpha and omega of this issue -- something which goes against the very core of the NIMBY soul -- is that Hyde Park needs more people. We've gone over the demographics here, and made it clear that the decline in neighborhood retail is linked to the decline in neighborhood population, and not just here but throughout the South Side.
We've also pointed out the research demonstrating that, as household density goes up, auto ownership goes down. That means fewer people actually chose to own cars. That's good for congestion. And the environment. And when retailers decide to locate nearby concentrations of shoppers, that means fewer trips by car are necessary. If NIMBYs don't want a building here, congestion is not going to be a convincing bogeyman.
Hyde Park is in fact full of such buildings, sprinkled liberally among low-rise structures. This is the case on 53rd as well, and a building here would in no way depart from the historic texture or precedent of the street or the neighborhood.
Here are a few examples of other mid-rise buildings amid low-rise housing. Does anyone have any complaints about these towers near the intersection of 56th and Kenwood? Can anyone argue that they contribute to congestion on 56th Street?
After the 53rd Street community visioning meeting this past Saturday, I sense that people are starting to realize this, that the Old-Timer resistance to change may be ebbing. Hyde Park needs more people. It needs new people. And it needs new, modern housing to hold them in sufficient numbers to make streets busier and safer.
When you get a chance to build new housing on a major artery of the neighborhood, if you don't try to match what the neighborhood historically supported, you're perpetuating the suburbanization of the inner city that was the vision of Urban Renewal. It's something a lot of NIMBYs still cling to.
A lot of holes have been ripped into the neighborhood in the last 50 years, and the NIMBY crowd has grown accustomed to them. They like their vacant lots, dead space in public parks, empty streets with anemic urban densities, and marginal retail amenities. And they especially like their free street parking.
But none of those things are fundamentally good for the neighborhood. And there is as yet no good reason that has been offered as to why an 8-10 story building shouldn't go on this spot.
When we get a chance to fill one of those holes, and turn some of these things around, we should make the most of it, and in a big way.