Federal review of OPC confused and problematic
As JPW noted in a letter to local newspapers (which appeared in the Sun-Times and Herald), the March 29 Section 106 meeting offered little clarity and raised new issues:
To the Editor:
As eloquently noted by Openland’s CEO Jerry Adelmann at last Thursday’s Section 106 meeting, there are significant problems with the process the City’s Department of Planning and Development and Department of Transportation are following as they conduct the required federal review of the proposals for the Obama Presidential Center and the related road changes it requires. Two problems stand out: First, the City departments have omitted the necessary first step of including public participation in developing the statement of “purpose and need” that defines the project for review. Second, they have instead drafted their own “purpose and need” statement without public input. Rather than taking the current configuration of the park as the starting point for assessing the impact of the proposed changes, their statement disingenuously presumes that all of the OPC construction and road work has been completed and that only the resulting traffic problems need to be addressed. As with the South Lakefront Framework Plan, there is an ongoing attempt to put the cart before the horse.
Also of note at Thursday’s meeting was the new proposal to take the eastern portion of the Midway — land that the Obama Foundation previously hoped to use for a parking garage — for use as “replacement” land for the baseball diamonds that will be displaced as a result of the OPC siting in the park. Ironically, this proposal could result in a net loss of park space unless the City fully meets its commitment to give the Park District new open green space equal to that taken for the OPC. Further, this proposal disregards the fact that there is an existing Midway Plaisance Framework Plan, developed through a proper community process, that envisions other uses for this space.
We hope that the haste with which the City and Obama Foundation are pursuing their objectives does not result in mistakes that will ultimately slow the entire project down.
The meeting – inconveniently scheduled to coincide with school and religious holidays – was sparsely attended. Public input on the specific focus of the meeting (the impact of the OPC and road changes on historic properties and landscapes) was further limited because the draft archeology and historic property inventory reports (some 1000 pages of documents) had been posted for review only ten days before the meeting date and the promised hard copies of the historic properties reports were first available at the meeting itself. There were many questions and concerns about the timing and sequencing of overall federal review process along with questions about whether the archaeological review was adequate, how and why the “period of significance” was defined, whether the critique of road changes choose arbitrary cutoff dates, and more.
Voice your concerns!
Despite the complexity of the federal review processes and questions as to whether they are being managed appropriately, public input continues to be crucial. You can comment on the 3/29 Section 106 meeting itself (a webinar version of the hour-and-a half meeting is available via YouTube – no visual until minute 1:47) and on the details of the Historic Properties Inventory and the Archaeological Properties Identification reports that were the specific topic of that meeting. The (very lengthy) reports are available online (scroll down to the March 19 entry under “Milestones”).
You can also comment on any other aspect of the federal reviews: on the idea of having baseball diamonds on the Midway; on how the South Lakefront Framework Plan process “put the cart before the horse” in presuming the construction of the OPC and the golf course and the related roadwork; on continuing concerns about the OPC, the proposed road work, or the golf course proposal.
The comment period on the Section 106 draft reports closes April 19. There is no deadline for comments about other aspects of the federal review processes.
Send your comments to the City’s Department of Planning and Development general e-mail address, email@example.com , and be sure to label your e-mail “public input for the OPC federal reviews.” You may want to cc your comments to:
Mayor Emanuel (firstname.lastname@example.org),
CDOT Commissioner Scheinfeld (Rebekah.Scheinfeld@cityofchicago.org ), or
Park District CEO Kelly (Michael.Kelly@chicagoparkdistrict.com ) .
Chicago Plan Commission hearing on OPC, road changes pushed back further
The agenda for the April 19 Chicago Plan Commission meeting has been published, and none of the Jackson Park-related applications are on the docket – not the CDOT application to execute the road closures and realignments, not the Obama Foundation applications (there are two) to construct the OPC; not even the Park District application to build a replacement track and field facility at the south end of the site originally designated for the Obama Presidential Library. We do not know the specific reasons for the delays, but suspect that the complexities of the processes, the ongoing pushback against many aspects of the proposals, and the sheer amount of detail involved continue to significantly slow the work.
We will continue to track this and to keep you posted. The next Plan Commission meeting is May 17. We urge you to note that date on your calendars and to make plans to be there if at all possible. When the OPC and CDOT plans do finally come to the Plan Commission, it will be very important to have a major demonstration of questions and concerns.
Quote to note
In Crain’s Chicago Business on March 29, renowned preservationist and architect John Vinci was asked: What’s the worst part of being a Chicagoan?
Vinci’s response: “The indifference of politicians to architectural significance. I’m furious over Jackson Park and the proposed Obama Presidential Center. People are just starting to realize that it’s being violated.”
Donations welcomed – and needed!
THANKS to all who have recently donated. Your trust and support motivates us and enables us to persist. Our road initiative continues and we hope for an initial report soon. Additionally, we continue to need funds to support the legal assistance that has been critical to our work. Please send your checks to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615. If you have questions about our request for support, please feel free to contact us at email@example.com.
Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch