Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Future Tense: Hyde Park Hotel Dedicated on Former Hospital Site

posted by Richard Gill

Chicago – Apr. 8, 2010

Mayor Richard M. Daley today cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the new Marriott Diplomat Hotel and Resort complex at 58th & Stony Island, in Chicago's trendy Hyde Park neighborhood. The 15-story hotel is the centerpiece of a new US State Department conference and trade negotiation facility that will bring high-ranking officials to Chicago from all parts of the globe.

Also officiating at the opening was State Department Third Deputy Secretary for Economic Affairs Jim Oberweis, a Republican recruited by the Obama administration as part of its across-the-aisle outreach program. Oberweis has unsuccessfully run for Congress 37 times in his west suburban district.

Oberweis said, "This marvelous new facility will definitely make Hyde Park the premier visitor destination in all of Chicagoland."

"Not only does Hyde Park have excellent ground transportation, which is a 'must' for a major hotel, but the helipad on the south end of the hotel roof will enable guests to arrive at and depart from the hotel by air at any time of day or night," Oberweis said.

The Marriott hotel has 380 standard rooms, 32 luxury suites, three restaurants, a wine bar, a sports bar, two taverns, and a micro-brewery. In 2008, the immediate area was voted dry, in a hotly contested election. In February 2009, the land was deeded to the Federal Corrections Department. Federalizing the property voided the 'dry' designation of the site. Corrections wanted to construct a two-story prison to house 250 inmates in a pioneering work-release program in Hyde Park. Neighbors immediately complained that the prisoners would use up all the best parking spaces, would create massive congestion issues, and that the chain-link fence would alter local air currents.

Community activist Lainne Stopit-Gregge told reporters, "We're not against prisons at this site. We're just against this prison. Maybe they should build it across the Midway or at Harper Court."

Stopit-Gregge's sentiments were echoed by Zack "Prez" Szpisczer, who said, "We welcome prisoners of all stripes. But these prisoners just aren't a good fit for Hyde Park."

Then, in a remark not intended to be overheard, Szpisczer elbowed Stopit-Gregge in the ribs and snickered, "Get it, huh? Stripes. Prisoners."

A local resident, who asked to remain anonymous discussing sensitive issues, said Szpisczer's nickname comes from his penchant for preserving everything. "He [Szpisczer] is not 'the prez' of anything," the neighbor said.

Responding to neighbors' objections, the Feds offered the hotel as an alternative. The neighbors' persistent worries about parking were addressed by inclusion of a 500-space, six-story free parking garage behind the hotel and above the Metra tracks.

Leading the campaign for community acceptance of the hotel was Morsch Hanselbach, owner of the MuddyCheee restaurant on 57th Street. In the new hotel, Hanselbach also owns the MuddyCheee II restaurant, the sports bar and the micro-brewery.


David Farley said...

Calling people names again. Tsk-tsk.

One new reason I've been given for not having a new hotel is that when people come to Hyde Park, they should know somebody and stay with them. You don't want people coming to Hyde Park who don't know somebody in Hyde Park.

Richard Gill said...

By that, you mean we don't want nobody nobody knows?

Elizabeth Fama said...

Uh oh. David Farley isn't going to like my Pac-Man post.

Anonymous said...

Nanny nanny boo boo!

David Farley said...

It is interesting that a letter in this week's Herald goes on at length about various reasons the 39th Precinct was forced to vote itself dry (size, parking, aesthetics, etc.) but only mentions the noble labor issues as an aside in half a sentence towards the end. Although earlier in the letter, it is made clear that wage-earners of any sort (union or not) would be unwelcome in that corner on HP unless they take the bus.

If you can believe the article in the Herald about the dry vote, the University didn't see it coming at all and has no back-up plan. Golly gosh.

chicago pop said...

If you can believe the article in the Herald about the dry vote, the University didn't see it coming at all and has no back-up plan

The U got totally hosed. No doubt about it.

One new reason I've been given for not having a new hotel is that when people come to Hyde Park, they should know somebody and stay with them.

After booze at bar mitzvahs and blocked air flow, that may be the most insane rationale yet.

It all boils down to one simple phrase, really: KEEP OUT

WoodLawn Jack said...

The letter was written by the owner of the Medici. He still believes, apparently, that a hotel is a viable option.

The funniest part is how self serving the whole letter was. He--speaking for all the home owners in that section of Hyde Park--has no problem with the 1,000 plus students descending on the neighborhood and taking parking spaces. But he worries about parking for 200 workers. The majority of those workers would likely actually be from the area and not drive. I'm sure the 18% of hyde parker's living at or below the poverty level might've liked a local job opportunity. Of course thanks to Hans and the other Ivory Tower pro-union league members those 200 jobs will only exist in theory.

But back to Hans and parking. His fear seems to be that the UC decides that a parking lot would be the only good use in the Drs Hospital space. That however would pretty much require doing zoned parking so students couldn't take spaces on the residential streets. That in turn would make the Medici much less convenient and have much less foot traffic.

I'm curious whether anyone else thinks parking in HP on week days has gotten worse this year? The section of woodlawn just past 61st is now all zoned parking all the time--and I know those streets used to be full during the school year. Now with zoned parking it seems HP parking is next to impossible except for maybe on Harper.

LPB said...

For all those people who are under the sad delusion that other hotel operators are salivating over the prospect of setting up shop (albeit a "dry" shop) on the Doctors Hospital site, I've got one question: where are they????

I'm still waiting to see if and when any other candidates might surface. It's been nine days so far, and I see no sign of any other parties initiating discussions about hotel (or any other type of) development there.

I seriously doubt much will change by the end of this month, and the month after that, and the month after that. In the mean time, I will continue to diligently cross days off my calendar until a another developer emerges.

Note to self: Buy a five-year calendar the next time I'm at Target.

Elizabeth Fama said...

We've missed the real-estate and development boom. Now we're probably in a recession. White Lodging was going to let us squeak by with the very last hotel project, maybe in the whole city. We are a neighborhood of knuckleheads.

Stephen said...

I'm perplexed when people say parking in Hyde Park is bad. I never have a problem parking in Hyde Park. Sure, sometimes I don't park right in front of my building, but who cares. If I wanted that, I'd live in the suburbs.

chicago pop said...

The funniest part is how self serving the whole letter was.

Indeed. That's why Morsbach may get this year's HPP NIMBY-of-the-Year Award. If NIMBYism is anything, it's self-serving, and if Morsbach has demonstrated anything in this affair, it's that he'll stand up -- for his own back yard.

In a recent article on Hyde Park in Crain's, it was mentioned that Morsbach has been in business in the nieghborhood since the early 60s. This shows in his mentality; as it does in the statements of other dry vote supporters such as Rechtschaffen. What it all comes down to with them is a great apprehension of urbanity and a desire to keep everything just the way it is: underpopulated, underutilized, and protected from being otherwise by cordons of even more underpopulated and underutilized neighborhoods.

Anyone reading one of Morsbach's letters needs to keep a BS meeter nearby. Examples:

1) "A hotel largely designed as an overflow for downtown facilities would not serve Hyde Park well."

Can someone prove that the hotel is intended to serve this purpose? And further, if it is, how exactly this would "not serve Hyde Park well"? Is the economy of Hyde Park limited to a one square mile area?

2)"A study has shown that there is no reason that the existing limestone-and-brick structure cannot be used."

Has anyone seen this study? Why has it not been circulated to the public? How much did the design of this structure diverge from the parameters presented by White Lodging?

4) Density and Infrastructure:
A hotel would "burden our infrastructure."

This is classic NIMBY-suburbanite whooey. City infrastructure in most places is underutilized, and has been for generations. Cities are intended to deal with lots of people. By arguing that major urban areas can't handle intensive use, you're throwing the towel in to energy-efficient settlement patterns.

The dry vote proponents -- Rechtschaffen especially -- claim that objections such as these were never dealt with "substantially" -- and yet here it is asserted with certainty that "infrastructure" would be burdened.

Such as? Sewer mains? Power grids? Road surfaces? Metra ridership and station facilites? It's not clear they have any idea.

Again, cities are designed for more burden to infrastructure per unit area than any other type of settlement. There are fewer people living in the 5th ward now than there were 50 years ago,which means that there is less of a burden, if any, on exisitng infrastructure.

Morsbach is viewing urban planning issues through the eyes of an auto-centric suburbanite.

Unfortunately, we now know that suburban living -- which distributes infrastructure burdens as widely as possible, instead of concentrating them -- contributes to our nation's exorbitant rates of energy consumption.

And finally...

"There should be a place for visitors and students to park their cars without a lot of hassle. Providing adequate parking is imperative."

Hans hasn't always used such high-minded rhetoric; previously he has made it clear that he wants to be able to park his car in front of his house.

Morsbach, like most of the rest of Hyde Park's NIMBY's, is unreflexively auto-centric. Beyond that, here again, he gives no evidence or bases for his implication that "parking" (in a private lot? a city lot? on the street? in a garage? in front of his house?) would become more difficult.

In fact, Rechtschaffen, who again criticized White Lodging for not providing a parking study (which they did, though the University chose not to release it to the public), clearly had already made up his mind that parking and congestion would be "a disaster".

Why? Because neither Rechtschaffen nor Morsbach can conceive of efficient and economical urban density that is not autocentric; they are also conditioned to a style of urban living that is relatively inefficient in terms of infrastructure burden and energy consumption. (Fear of congestion)

As we have conveyed on this blog numerous times, urban density in fact diminishes car use, and "congestion" is a bogey man that should be kept stored in a Harper Avenue garage for use only on Halloween when we can laugh at it.

Morsbach's letter peddles suburban phobias posing as legitimate urban concerns, and refers to no concrete evidence in support of his dire predictions.

That's plenty for one garbage pizza, for sure.