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:
- "address" the union issue
- insure the hotel is of high quality
- assure me that I will have input and veto power over the design
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.