Imagine my surprise when I beheld the following elements:
Headline: "Hotel Opposed for Now"
Front Page Human Interest Story: Crystal Fencke, Contributing Reporter
Editorial: "Show Hotel Project Plans. Lack of Communication Shows Lack of Respect."
So when did the Herald go into syndication? It's got a hotel. It's got opposition to the hotel. It's got an editorial channelling Pat Dowell channelling Aretha Franklin ("Respect"). It's even got an article by Herald contributor Crystal Fencke.
Do you think the folks in Wicker Park could come up with their own neighborhood controversies?
You can check out the skinny here:
A developer planning to convert the Northwest Tower [pictured above] into a hotel has filed for a special permit needed to go forward with the project, leaving the area's alderman, the city's planning department and community organizations that typically vet such projects in the dark.
Thirty-second Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack said he likes the idea of establishing a hotel in the 77-foot tower at North and Milwaukee, but he does not have enough information to support the application for a special use permit that MCM, the building's owner, has requested from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Waguespack said his office did not know the ZBA would consider such a request from MCM until neighbors to the proposed project, who spotted signs announcing the permit application in the tower's windows, notified him. MCM did not present its plans to area community groups, he said.
"We said, until you come up with a development plan we're not going to move forward on it," Waugespack said. "You can't just throw up a hotel."
And this has got to be a move taken from the Hyde Park playbook:
Waguespack said he wants MCM to complete a traffic study for the site and a feasibility study that would demonstrate the need for a hotel in the area...[he] also wants to know who the potential operators of the hotel are.
All in all, this seems like a pale imitation of the Doctors Hospital controversy. It's just a clumsy developer, it's not the Borg Collective otherwise known as the University of Chicago. Alderman Waguespack likes the idea of a hotel, is setting out some guidelines in advance (even calling for a traffic study before the NIMBYs do!) and the Northwest Tower, unlike the old Doctors Hospital, is clearly a building worth preserving.
These folks actually seem to want development at this location, even if the current candidate seems to be a bit obtuse on the PR front.
Still, the facts are these: there is no permit, there is no hotel operator, there is just an intention.
The question here seems to be, unlike the Doctors Hospital case, what is the proper process? Do you go to community groups before you have a project lined up (operator, permit process underway), when nothing may really come of it, or do you go to them after you have at least gotten the process moving with some probability of being able to execute?
At this point, Wicker Park's hotel controversy seems to be much ado about nothing. If real plans are drawn up, with a permit to act on them, and the community groups are called in, then we'll see how it plays out, and whether it's worthy of comparison with our own Doctors Hospital.