IF YOU WEREN’T AT LAST NIGHT’S “COMMUNITY CONVERSATIONS” MEETING, PLEASE PLAN TO ATTEND ONE OF THOSE REMAINING: SATURDAY, 10 AM – NOON, HYDE PARK ACADEMY; TUESDAY, 6/27, 6 – 8 LA RABIDA. ASK FOR ACTUAL DATA, COST PROJECTIONS, TIMELINES, AND WHO WILL PAY SO THAT COMMUNITY MEMBERS CAN MAKE INFORMED DECISIONS.
Facts and information on costs and feasibility were noticeably absent in last night’s “Community conversations” meeting, the first of three in what appears to be a series of community “conversation” meetings in coming months. Instead, the meeting featured a conflicting array of presentations:
First, a welcoming tone by Deputy Mayor Andrea Zopp and Park District Vice-President Avis LaVelle, saying that community input is needed, that nothing is yet fully decided, and that they need to hear from us all.
Next, a golf course “concept” plan enthusiastically presented by Beau Welling, the golf course designer with whom Tiger Woods works, that expands the existing golf courses footprint, takes out the natural area to the southeast of the South Shore Cultural Center, and not only keeps the golf course driving range but expands it, all the while offering no information about funding or timelines. Noteworthy points include:
- with all games slanted to begin and end at a new pavilion on Cornell and Hayes, the project will have little beneficial economic impact on South Shore’s main commercial corridor, and
- despite repeated assurances until yesterday that the nature sanctuary east of the South Shore Cultural Center beach would not be affected, the plan shows it as the site of a new hole featured in the presentation and touted as a key lure for major tournaments.
The following presentation about the Obama Presidential Center by V.P. for Civic Engagement Michael Strautmanis combined south side boosterism with a crowd-pleasing appeal to all who love the Obamas, but didn’t tell us anything new about OPC plans and hid until the end the fact that OPC plans as they now stand require closing Cornell Drive between 59th and 63rd.
Finally, there was a bland presentation by CDOT commissioner Rebecca Scheinfeld of all of the roads closure and ”improvements” that would be required to realize the “visions” of the OPC and golf course promoters, again without data, costs, or timelines, including:
- Cornell Drive 59th to Hayes
- Midway EB between Stony Island and Cornell
- NB Cornell Drive from 67th to 65th
- Marquette from Stony Island to Richards
proposed “improvements “:
- improve LSD to Hayes
- improve interchanges at 63rd (Hayes) & LSD; 63rd & Richards; 63rd & Cornell
- reconfigure traffic flow & safety where the Midway meets Stony Island
- improve Stony Island (presumably between 60th and 67th)
- convert Cornell south of 65th to two-way.
The complete absence of any reference to traffic studies, costs, or feasibility was remarkable. More importantly, the fact that one of Scheinfeld’s stated goals was “to lessen the impacts on commute times due to the closure or Cornell and Marquette” rather than to investigate the feasibility of closing Cornell and Marquette suggests that CDOT may be compromised and its credibility in doubt. We hope instead to see the data that she seemed to indicate would be forthcoming at some point.
The turnout at the meeting was huge, and that was great. The “listening” sessions at the end of these presentations left something to be desired in terms of the individually facilitated small groups JPW had been told would be there, but nonetheless did allow some chances for individuals to comment. JPW attempts to accurately summarize the comments in these somewhat random sessions indicate support for the OPC and a desire to help it succeed; major skepticism about the golf course initiative; and extremely serious broad-based concerns about the massive road-closure and reconfigurations presented as if they were a “done deal,” (soothing words from Andrea Zopp and Azis Lavelle at the begining of the meeting notwithstanding), let along questions of exactly who would be paying for all of this major road work.
All in all, JPW urges everyone to attend one of the remaining sessions to ask for real data, information about costs and who will pay them, and workable time lines. While joining with others in welcoming OPC into our neighborhood, we know that projects as substantial and far-reaching as these of necessity have untold numbers of details that need fine-tuning, and that community input is essential to getting it right. We want to be certain that traffic and parking arrangements, in particular, ensure that would-be visitors to the OPC and would-be golfers at any newly configured courses (let alone neighborhood residents, those who work in the area, and regular commuters) are not deterred because of massive traffic jams.
Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
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