Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hungry for Preservation or Power?

(Photo by Marc Monaghan, from the Hyde Park Herald, 3/5/2008)

posted by Peter Rossi

The Dry Petition vote is a remarkable event. Only 20 Hyde Parkers turned away the only real chance for development in Hyde Park for sometime to come. While most Hyde Parkers shake their heads with a mixture of disbelief and anger, some are popping the champagne corks.

Who would celebrate such a dark hour?

Not the preservationists. The most likely outcome now is that the abandoned DH buildings will be torn down. The buildings will certainly not be "reused" as some preservationists insist.

Not the Alderman. Her record on development in the 5th ward is now a big fat zero and she showed little leadership in this affair.

Not the University. They have a $10 million albatross and a real problem -- a beautiful campus and vibrant institution stuck in a backwater.

Perhaps, there was some warm beer drunk at local 1, Unite-HERE headquarters. Then some bright spark must have pointed out that this was a charity project by White Lodging and it doesn't really help in the fight to unionize this hotel developer. Unite-HERE big shots have probably figured out that they were the victims of a con scheme.

The champagne was flowing at the house of Jack Spicer in 30th Precinct. Mr. Spicer saw the DH ruckus as way of advancing his own influence on community developments. Before his defenders get upset that I am exposing their hero, I do have evidence that Mr. Spicer misrepresented his motives in the DH affair.

At the community meeting on August 4th, Scott Travis of White Lodging agreed to meet with the preservation interests. A meeting took place several weeks later. Present at the meeting were Mr. Spicer and Scott Travis, of course, but also representatives from Landmarks Illinois (a private group that claims to advance preservation), representatives from the City of Chicago's Department of Planning and Development, and representatives and consultants employed by University of Chicago.

Most of the meeting was devoted to a discussion of re-use or preservation of the existing buildings.

Mr. Spicer stood up toward the end of the meeting and dropped his own bombshell. Preservation of the DH buildings is not really necessary, he noted, what is necessary is that three of my demands are met.

Speaking directly to Scott Travis, Mr. Spicer pronounced "I can help you turn this around" if you:
  1. "address" the union issue
  2. insure the hotel is of high quality
  3. assure me that I will have input and veto power over the design
We now know that Mr. Spicer never had the slightest interest in preservation. After all, he had been working on the Dry "neutron bomb" option for months, including going door to door collecting signatures himself.

This exchange reveals Mr. Spicer's true motivation. What this is all about is that Mr. Spicer thinks he should be in charge of designing the hotel. He can add this property to his other "design" credits -- the crumbling and abandoned Point revetment, vandalized St. Stephens, and the vacant lots on 53rd Street.

I hate to break up Mr. Spicer's party, but this Dry Petition dirty trick will not be forgotten. When people ask, why is there no development in Hyde Park, smack in the middle of what is now the first city in the US? Fingers will point at the radioactive Mr. Spicer who has done his part to keep White Lodging from spending $90 million in Hyde Park.


Anonymous said...

Where did you get this disgusting information from?

I've always subscribed to the theory that most people are trying to do what they think is right (and that they're just mistaken). If Jack really said that stuff than this is one instance where I'm absolutely proven wrong.

Richard Gill said...

I've been through UNITE HERE's website and haven't found a word about their supposed "victory" in stopping the Hyde Park hotel development. There's nothing about it in their press release section or anywhere else, as far as I could tell. Can it be they're not proud of what they did? UNITE Here did some real dirt. If I had done what they did, I wouldn't want to publicize it either.

Peter Rossi said...


from folks (multiple) who attended the meeting!

edj said...

It seems like a long time since you last posted something, Peter. Great to see you back with yet another great post.

I think we should nickname Jack Spicer "Mrs. Havisham" as he raises all these great expectations, but can only deliver rot and decay. He just wants us to come to him asking, "Please. sir, I'd like some more."

Anonymous said...

This is infuriating.

chicago pop said...

Speaking directly to Scott Travis, Mr. Spicer pronounced "I can help you turn this around" if you ... assure me that I will have input and veto power over the design

I suppose this all follows naturally from Spicer's modest manifesto, which I call, for short, Spicer's Grand Principles for the Redevelopment of Hyde Park Kenwood, written in the winter of 2008 and excerpted at the HPKCC website. Take a look if you haven't seen it.

It's a quite masterful document, in which one man spends much time talking about how one man should not make all the decisions for Hyde park, and then proceeds to make most of them anyway.

Of particular relevance to this post is the following statement, made with reference to the now moribund 53rd & Harper project:

The winning proposal is outstanding on every dimension, all the better for the competition and the lack of backroom interference.

"Lack of backroom interference."

Uh huh.

Peter Rossi said...

I don't think one man makes all the decisions, but I think one person can make a big difference when all you want to do is say no!

LPB said...

Wow, I've been so caught up in the Obama U.S. presidency that I must have missed the coronation ceremony when Jack Spicer was crowned King of Hyde Park.
[Very Heavy Sarcasm]

chicago pop said...

The trick to maintaining royal legitimacy (in the case of the auto-coronation of King Spicer that we've witnessed here) is to preserve your power while making it appear as if it flows from the "community."

There is a lot of talk in the Spicer 'manifesto' (see link above) about how 'no one person is smart enough to make all the decisions', which seems to directly contradict Spicer's 'backroom' claim of 'veto power' and 'design input' on the part of one person.

It really is a spectacular contradiction; and makes you wonder if this particular cohort (including Morsbach, of course)is dropping any attempt at consistency (Morsbach and his Many Marriotts) as they try to preserve influence in a changing neighborhood.

Peter Rossi said...

King of all he can preserve.

edj said...

Or Master of his Domain.

Awahnee said...

Once you interpret Spicer as the self-appointed "shadow Alderman" of Hyde Park, I think a lot of his actions come into clearer view.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Wow, the contrasting letters in the Hyde Park Herald this week -- one gleeful and glib from Jack Spicer and one quite somber from Bruce White (of White Lodging) -- speak volumes about the two sides in this hotel debate.

Anonymous said...

Boy, talk about no class. Jack takes gloating and self-congratulation to a whole new level, all thinly veiled in terms like "democracy".

Richard Gill said...

Take a look at the photo of Jack Spicer in the original post. Looks like a bad attempt to imitate Charlton (Moses) Heston delivering the Ten Commandments in the movie. Sort of goes with being the self-appointed Supreme Conserver and Preserver.