Friday, January 22, 2010

Herald's Chicken: "Save the Point" Longest Running Scam in Neighborhood

posted by chicago pop

Local scam very common to Hyde Park neighborhood

Back in the summer of 2009, we put together a little list of scams you're likely to run into in our cerebral little neighborhood, but we forgot to mention this one: the "Save the Point" campaign.

For reminding us, we thank the the Hyde Park Herald (Wednesday, January 22, 2010) with its wonderfully indignant slam on the Chicago Park District for not wanting to provide matching funds for the "independent third party review": "We would hate to characterize a professionally staffed government agency as petulant, but what other possible explanation could there be?"

How about a professionally staffed government organization that has determined, from past experience, that dealing with Point Savers is not worth their time or the public's money?

They do, after all, have a Point. Watching the Point Savers shepherd their great protest movement from an alternative vision, to an alt-alternative, and then to brute opposition, then further to a period of vague and inchoate inertia, which was then followed by the disappearance of matching funds for reconstruction, which was then followed by the disappearance of funds for a study of how to do a reconstruction, has been like watching panhandler scam greenbacks off students outside Valois.

Whoops! There went my stipend!

Only in this case, it's more like, Whoops! There went my shoreline!

And now the Park District has realized, "Hey! This "Save the Point" thing is a SCAM!"

Hi, I'm "The Point" and I need to be preserved!

According to the Herald, in the latest phase of the mess, engineered by knock-off Che Guevaras, it now appears that there may not even be money for the "independent, third-party study" that was to help lay the groundwork for a new compromise after the Point Savers rejected the first one. And of course, that's not because of any obstruction, it's because the Chicago Park District has double-crossed Hyde Park!

Despite the obvious deterioration of Promontory Point's limestone revetment, there is still a hard-core group of Hyde Park insurgents who, together with the various dry-cleaning proprietors they have cajoled into posting blue "Save the Point" stickers in their windows, continue to believe that the "Save the Point" jihad was a victory against the encroaching forces of wickedness.

The reality is just the opposite: the evaporation of funding and the continuing collapse of the Point is a direct result of the "Save the Point" campaign itself. It has obstructed and delayed and fantasized of limestone castles in the air so long that now it may bring about what it began by opposing in the first place: a quick fix-it job engineered by a City administration that has determined that Hyde Parkers can't be reasoned with.

The back side of those little blue stickers and buttons has a logo in invisible ink, which only becomes legible after the passage of 10 years and millions of dollars of lost federal funds, and it reads:


Thursday, January 14, 2010

City of Chicago and University announce developer for Harper Court

posted by chicago pop


From the U of C's website (January 14, 2010):

The City of Chicago and the University of Chicago on Thursday announced that Vermilion Development has been selected to redevelop the Harper Court retail complex in Hyde Park.

Vermilion, which has extensive experience in mixed–use developments, was recommended by a joint committee comprised of Department of Community Development planning staff and staff at the University of Chicago.

Vermilion was selected from among 12 development firms who responded to a Request for Qualifications that described the development opportunity and requirements for submitting a proposal for the 128,000–square–foot site.

“This creates an exciting opportunity to redevelop this portion of 53rd Street by creating commercial and retail space that complements the surrounding community,” acting DCD Commissioner Chris Raguso said. “The proposed development will complement and enhance other nearby revitalization efforts, helping to ensure Hyde Park’s future economic viability.”

“As a result of thoughtful and creative input from Hyde Park residents and business owners, we have an excellent development proposal that will serve both the neighborhood and the many visitors to Hyde Park from throughout the city and beyond,” said Ann Marie Lipinski, Vice President for Civic Engagement at the University. “The commitment to Hyde Park’s vitality by both the city and the university is very strong, and this project is a powerful demonstration of that commitment.”

“I am grateful to my staff, DCD personnel and University of Chicago staff for their hard work over the last year on this project,” said 4th Ward Alderman Toni Preckwinkle. “The development team which was chosen will transform commercial development in Hyde Park.”

The project is a partnership between the City, which owns an adjacent parking lot on South Lake Park Avenue just east of Harper, and the University, which owns the current retail properties.

Vermilion’s proposal calls for redeveloping the 40–year–old shopping center located at 5211 S. Harper Ave. by demolishing the existing center and replacing it with a mixed–use development.

The proposed $200 million development will be built in three phases that may include a mix of unique dining, entertainment, retail and office uses.

The City and the University will enter into negotiations with Vermilion and prepare a redevelopment agreement for approval by the City Council at a later date.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

University Considers Expanding Laboratory Schools to Doctors Hospital Site

posted by Elizabeth Fama

Early Childhood Center concept rendering for the U of C Laboratory Schools, grades N - 2.

David Magill, the Director of the Laboratory Schoools, announced to his faculty and staff last Tuesday that the University of Chicago and the Laboratory Schools were exploring the possibility of using the Doctors Hospital site at 58th and Stony Island Avenue to build an Early Childhood Center that would service Grades Nursery through 2. (The existing building would be demolished.)

The Laboratory Schools launched its ambitious Lab+ Campaign in July of 2007, to raise capital "to bring new resources to every aspect of the Lab experience," including major building renovations and expansions. Their architects (Valerio Dewalt Train Associates and FGM Architects) have been struggling in the last year to fit a new Art and Music wing and the Early Childhood Center (ECC) on the existing school campus without sacrificing too much green space...and having a little trouble doing it.

Meanwhile the University has been scratching its head about what to do with the Doctors Hospital property, which has become even more of a decrepit white elephant in the 14 months since the residents of the 39th Precinct voted their precinct dry to prevent the construction of a much-needed hotel. (The vote was 255 to 235, showing how little it takes to keep this neighborhood down.)

One apparent solution to everyone's problems is to demolish Doctors Hospital and build the new ECC in its place. The University unloads the space in a way that neighbors couldn't possibly object to, and the Lab Schools gets a state-of-the-art, possibly LEEDS-certified, custom-made facility without cramming it on the existing campus.

When enrollment peaks at the Lab Schools, Mr. Magill says there will be 2,050 students in grades N - 12. According to him, no other independent school has as many students per acre, even if the ECC is ultimately built on Stony Island. Moving grades N - 2 to the space offered on the Doctors Hospital site would allow the school to "fully actualize program possibilities." For instance, the new site could potentially satisfy a dream of the N - 2 teachers to have a fluid connection between outdoor and indoor curricula, and it would reduce congestion along 59th Street, allowing for a safer drop-off and pick-up routine on both campuses. The conceptual plans for the building (there are no architectural renderings yet) include contiguous outdoor-indoor spaces for each classroom, its own physical education facilities, and its own library.

Community Meetings

According to Steven Kloehn, Associate VP for News and Public Affairs, this proposal is exploratory only, and has not yet been approved by the Trustees. In cooperation with the alderman, the University would like to start a conversation with the community about the proposed use of the site, with the goal of uncovering what issues the community might want the University to attend to as the plan is refined. Ann Marie Lipinski, VP for Civic Engagement, met in December with a discussion group of 12 - 15 people with particular interest in the Doctors Hospital site (neighbors and at least one preservationist with architect credentials). There will also be a public meeting in the coming weeks to elicit feedback from the larger community. Mr. Kloehn says the goal of the meetings is to get the word out and to build consensus before going forward.

At some point there might also have to be two meetings held by the City -- one to announce the amended initial use, and possibly another to notify residents that a building designated with "orange" status in the Chicago Landmark Historic Resources Survey has been slated for demolition (an orange designation requires an automatic 90-day hold on any demolition plans).

So, suppose the University does build "community consensus" around this plan with its public meetings, which I assume it will? Is the proposal a good idea for the Lab Schools? That's the discussion that interests me the most. I have early misgivings (based on my educational philosophy and my family's experience) about breaking the Lab Schools campus into two pieces if there's any way in the world to make it fit on one. Yes, the University is eager to find a non-controversial use for its sad white elephant. Yes, the Lab Schools needs to expand. As a Lab alum and current Lab parent, I hope we won't leap to the "easy" solution without carefully thinking through the ramifications such a decision would have on the unique character of the school.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Chicago Magazine Greets Orly's Successor with Mild Sarcasm

posted by chicago pop

We thought a steak had been driven through the heart of the undead restaurant known as Orly's when we learned last fall that, like my single and social-security-eligible aunt, it had recently gone online to look for love. But, according to a blurb in the January number of Chicago Magazine, Orly's is back. Make that Orly's version 8.0. The latest resuscitation takes the name "Big Easy" and shares with all 8 previous incarnations the menu magic of owner David Shopiro.

Somewhat of a surprise, since last we heard, Shopiro was unloading the restaurant and keeping the kitchen catering only. Not so: Orly's has been reinvented yet again, but with a partner, as per Chicago Magazine's "The Pig Out":

The last days of 2009 saw the quiet opening of The Big Easy (1660 E. 55th St.; 773-643-5500), in the space that formerly housed Hyde Park Barbeque & Bakery, and before that, Orly’s, Jalapeño’s, and the original Orly’s. All four (five if you count Orly’s twice) of these restaurants have been owned by David Shopiro, who says he felt the itch to reinvent again last spring. He brought on the South Side native and Lettuce Entertain You vet Jennifer Gavin as an equity partner and together they developed a New Orleans–themed menu, but he kept one aspect that’s been constant since 1981: the bakery. “We have Creole/Cajun, southern barbecue, and a bakery under one roof,” Shopiro says. “I don’t think anyone else has this.” Everyone needs a niche.

Back in October, it looked like the restaurant might actually come into new hands and get the complete makeover it sorely needs. According to Chicago Weekly:

After a series of failed reinventions and menu changes over the last decade, Shopiro realized he was ready to move on and made the following offer on Craigslist this August: “Owner of 30 years in newly renovated central location wants to phase out and just focus on catering…the restaurant operation will be your ship to steer.” Offering control over the kitchen and all front-of-the-house operations, Shopiro’s only requirement was $75,000 in operating capital. Shopiro says he received about a dozen serious offers among over one hundred responses. He says he’s currently negotiating with two “classically trained New Orleans chefs” who want to renovate the dining room, overhaul the menu, and convert the bakery display cases into a bar offering several craft beers on tap as part of a deal he hopes to close by November.

So the bakery is still there, instead of a bar serving craft beers (too good to have been true); as in all previous 7 versions, Shopiro had a hand in the new menu of version 8.0; and it's not clear if Jennifer Gavin = two classically-trained New Orleans chefs.

In other words, plus ça change ... but hey, we haven't even eaten there yet. Go try it out yourself and let us know what you think.

Will They Shovel in Hyde Park This Year?

posted by chicago pop

Hyde Park's "Walk of Shame", Winter 2009

Now that the season's first major snowfall is upon us, it seems appropriate to recall the heavy dose of public shaming we leveled at the Good Neighbors of the so-called "Golden Rectangle" for not being quite so neighborly when push came to shovel last winter.

At issue then were a few notorious stretches of icy sidewalk, many of them along 56th and adjacent streets, and surrounding the landmark I.M. Pei condo-bunkers (photo above).

On the scale of NIMBY-ness, nothing quite says F-You like an unshoveled sidewalk, aside from a Rottweiler chained to a pipe or perhaps the "Do Not Enter" barricade in the westbound lane at 57th and Stony Island.

Shaming/Approbating Flyer from Chicago's Active Transportation Alliance
courtesy of Hyde Park OWL

However, as we are fond of noting that some progress is possible Hyde Park, we're happy to report that some of the Good Neighbors are doing their best to live up to their name, going so far as to "out" the miscreant losers who fail to shovel before we at HPP can. And that's saying something.

Toward this end, our vast intelligence-gathering services have provided evidence that Hyde Park's great reservoir of activists may actually be assuming some responsibility for correcting the treacherous conditions allowed by some of their neighbors.

We'll see if they can overcome the deeply rooted F-You instinct that is materially conveyed along 56th Street every winter.

A few raw intel intercepts:

From Hyde Park OWL:
The Chamber of Commerce has already advertised the campaign to reward businesses that properly clear their sidewalks. A task force is being formed to deal more forcefully with these issues, and will be meeting on January 7 [censored] Meanwhile, she is asking everyone who notes a site that needs snow and ice removal attention to call 311. There is now a code that will direct all calls of this type to CDOT, Chicago Department of Transportation.

It was recommended that we find out who is the proper contact in each Aldermen's office (as well as the Ward Office) for the problem of snow and ice removal.
Hyde Park OWL is still hoping to have a program about Snow and Ice Removal at their January 9 meeting. (We meet from 1-3 p.m. on the first Saturday of the month -- except for this January and June--which is the second Saturday) We meet at the First Unitarian Church.

From the Good Neighbors group:
There was quite a bit of good conversation last year about snow removal and I am glad people are getting already preparing for the winter. As you remember we formed a committee on the subject consisting of me, Judith Kritzberg and James Withrow. We are back in action; Judith will soon send out a message that you can use as-is or edit in letting miscreant neighbors know their obligations (Judith will be discrete. "Miscreant" won't be a word she uses.) James is going to make a list of people who will do the work for a price, and I got the following for us from Sue Purrington, assistant to Alderman Hairston.

Miscreants, look out!