posted by Elizabeth Fama
I know this post looks long, but I've chiseled the timeline down as much as I can. It will bring you up to date on why the Point is actively deteriorating, more than 6 years after the City started rebuilding the rest of the shoreline:
1) January 17, 2001: At a community meeting, the City and Chicago Park District (CPD) presented an unacceptable plan for the Point revetment. The plan was along the lines of what you see between 51st and 54th Street. And even if you don't mind the way that stretch of new revetment looks (this means you, famac), the design (1) precludes water access (that's a deal-killer right there), (2) is arguably out of scale and over-engineered, and (3) does not reuse any limestone. So Alderman Leslie Hairston agreed to coordinate meetings between a community task force and the City and CPD officials, with the goal of modifying the design.
2) January, 2001 – May, 2001: The executive committee of the original community task force (Margie Borecki, Kay Clement, Bruce Johnstone, Tom Knight, Gerald Marsh, Lauren Moltz, Peter Rossi, and Jack Spicer) worked with the City to hammer out the “9-Point Plan,” which included nine design concessions from the City, including reducing the scale of the promenade and steps, lowering the top step to the height of the current revetment, and adding two, 300-foot limestone platform steps to provide swimming access on the north-side and south-side (to replace our current, horrible swimming access), along with sanctioned deep-water swimming. (Other than these limestone platform steps, and a limestone toe berm to visually hide the steel supports in the water, the structure was all concrete and steel.) Work would be carried out in phases, so that one half or the other of the Point would be open to recreation during construction. The plan also restored the original Caldwell landscaping.
3) May 1, 2001: All members of the executive committee of the community task force, including Jack Spicer and Bruce Johnstone, verbally agreed to a "Memorandum of Understanding" between Alderman Hairston, City officials, and the CPD, approving the 9-Point Plan.
4) May 1, 2001 – October, 2001: Apparently Jack Spicer and Bruce Johnstone decided that they didn’t support the 9-Point Plan after all. Behind the scenes they marshaled activists to attend the City’s October 1 presentation of the 9-Point Plan to the community, held in the auditorium of the Oriental Institute.
5) October 1, 2001: When the microphone was opened to the audience at the public meeting, Jack's and Bruce's troops unexpectedly shouted down the 9-Point Plan. Two Chicago Tribune writers, Rick Hepp and Liam Ford, reported the next day that "residents turned out in force" to "scoff at an updated plan," and to demand limestone. In the following weeks four members of the executive task force who still supported the 9-Point Plan resigned (Clement, Knight, Moltz, and Rossi), to allow Jack Spicer and others their chance to negotiate for more limestone.
6) Jack Spicer formed the new task force, which I’ll call the SAVE THE POINT group. He launched the successful blue bumper sticker campaign, raised money -- including a hefty check from Hans Morsbach and a grant from the Driehaus Foundation -- and got hundreds of petition signatures from uninformed but well-meaning people who believed the task force was fighting for the recreation of the old limestone Point over the City's plan to "pave it" with cement. Lots of my friends signed the petition and even gave money. But hey, we all want to save the Point, I understand their mistake.
7) March 12, 2003: The SAVE THE POINT group unveiled a -- I’m sorry, it has to be said -- kooky architectural rendering of their idea of preservation. It essentially tuckpointed the supposedly-protected south side, it merely replaced the piling in the water of the eastern tip (leaving the ugly 1960s concrete-coffin section intact), and it dismantled and rebuilt the north side, using a funky blend of limestone with a concrete “strip" down the promenade that the Army Corps studied and said was an engineering nightmare. (This plan is no longer being considered by any party, and an Illinois Historic Preservation officer stated in a private meeting that it did not meet preservation standards.)
8) July-August, 2003: The City released their new “Compromise Plan,” containing a further concession to the SAVE THE POINT group of more limestone.
This is when the activism degenerated into madness.
It was a damned good plan that reused all of the existing limestone by fashioning the top two steps of the revetment out of limestone, installing two 150-foot limestone platform steps into the water (note: the steps were previously 300 feet long in the 9-Point Plan, but we all know that when a teacher regrades your test you run the risk of losing points as well as gaining them). Finally, the two bottom steps that were made of concrete would be textured to resemble limestone.
Again, the SAVE THE POINT group denounced this genuinely sensible plan, misleadingly labeling it "anti-preservation," a "demolition plan," and "an all-concrete" plan. The four members of the task force who had resigned (and I) began to campaign for the Compromise Plan, which was almost impossible due to slanted articles, editorials, and letters in the Hyde Park Herald.
8.5) OK, I’m skipping all the 2004 Jamie Kalven stuff, because it just doesn’t add to the story other than to make me feel hopeless about “mediation.”
9) July 25, 2005: The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency certified that the City’s new Compromise Plan met historic preservation standards, paving the way for a public meeting to present the plan to the community. The meeting was held on September 15, 2005, at the South Shore Cultural Center. The SAVE THE POINT group once again stacked the audience and shouted down the proposal. I'm not exaggerating when I say the meeting made Hyde Parkers appear to be lunatics.
10) 2005 – now: The shoreline construction project is in its end stages. When the rest of the shoreline project is finished, I have no idea what will happen to the funds originally slated for the Point. During this period, the SAVE THE POINT group persuaded Jesse Jackson Jr. to insert language into the Water Resources Development Act 381-40 requiring that the Point be rebuilt according to (undefined) preservation standards. The activists also pressed Barack Obama to become involved, and in October, 2005 he requested a third-party review of the engineering plans, with the goal of resolving the conflict in six months.
Meanwhile, although members of the SAVE THE POINT group have abandoned their architectural plan, they have not stipulated an alternative that would be acceptable. Some of their members say the Point is not collapsing, in spite of the fact that it’s as plain as the nose on your face and some of them want it to be re-built all in limestone, which the Army Corps has said outright it will not do. Some seem to have lost interest; others have shifted their activist energies to other projects and obstructionist causes.