McMobil project will leave us lost in the dark

To the Editor:

I’m a new “McMobil” activist but a long-term near neighbor/homeowner (5305 S. Greenwood Ave. since 1973) with a long historical memory and also experience behind the scenes here in Hyde Park and with the city in land-use proposals (back to 1989 aborted efforts to appease marginalized locals in building a new Bears stadium on the West Side). As such, I’d like to focus on what is being left out.

Beware developers’ blandishments with Trojan Horse zoning changes and distorted optics. Demand full disclosure and “transparency” from those who call the shots and the snapshots — Mesa Development LLC, the University of Chicago and Ald. William Burns (4th) and their confederates (Chamber of Commerce, etc. ). Thank you Hyde Park Herald for airing so many voices, but also consider assigning another investigative article on the whole picture. Most disheartening to me is what I heard from first-person testimonies and draftsman-worthy drawings with full-frontal strollers’ sidewalk and current home owners’ and renters’ “backyard” profiles at CARRD’s March 18 public meeting (my first). It’s the ethics of the way the project is being advanced. First, the Trojan Horse zoning changes proposed to citizens and affected residents versus those actually implemented. For example, a proposed variance to accommodate an appealing new restaurant or some such in the place of the closed Third World Café at the corner of 53rd Street and Kimbark Avenue becomes a zoning change of whole blocks around both sides of the corner, which have been turned from “dry” to “wet.” Yes, “wet zoning” improves the profitability of restaurants, but is that all that should be considered? Birds’ eye views — drawings or photos — give nothing of what residents and strollers see in front of them or behind them. “Right to light” court cases have stopped contested skyscraper development in the past.

Finally, the faceless statistics on automobile emissions flunk the sniff test. Pro-development people sum up the total number of odorous puffs from automobiles, comparing the total number of cars going through the Mobil station (that includes me — regularly) with the total number of cars after carrying out the skyscraper-big box (sorta) development plan. But that fails to account for the number of cars in the Mobil at one time compared to the total number of odorous puffs emitted by the snails-pace virtual parking lot traffic of automobiles along 53rd Street post-skyscraper commercial development. Take this sniff test yourself. I have been IN the Mobil car wash as well as at the pumps with no respiratory exacerbations (I have asthma and borderline emphysema). Finally, look beyond the near neighbors and consider the whole community — and consider the far neighbors northeast, on the other side of “the tracks,” those middle class and more marginalized residents without cars in a veritable food desert after the closing of Village Foods and the late Michael’s as well as the former Co-Op (which, by the way, never got the adequate marketing to and polling of near residents it deserved).

Hyde Parkers and Kenwooders, hold the alderman’s, university’s and developer’s feet to the fire. And Hyde Park Herald, please bring some more sunlight on “the project” and continue the dialogue you have supported.

Louise Kaegi

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