University concern about input hollow

To the Editor:

So the South East Chicago Commission is now conducting a traffic study “as a result of the 53rd Street Visioning Workshops.” I applaud the volunteer spirit of the community members who will serve on the committee. But the concerns about traffic were raised at the first Visioning Workshop in 2007, so why wait six years for this study? We should be skeptical of the argument that the delay occurred because “funding was available now.”

Why did the university not seek such a comprehensive study before moving forward with the huge Vue53 development at the McMobil site? Such a study might have produced a recommendation that development at McMobil be kept in scale. The SECC website, however, states that the current study seeks “recommendations relating to bus shelters, sidewalks and crosswalks, signage, biking facilities, streetscape improvements, shared or consolidated parking, ‘control of parking demand through pricing’ and parking requirements that will encourage pedestrian-friendly development.” It pointedly does NOT seek any recommendations related to the scale of potential developments. Community input is welcome up to a point.

At the first Visioning Workshop in 2007, the university and the SECC showed that they had an agenda to seek community acceptance of an out-of-scale building at the McMobil site. (The details are too long for this letter, but can be read on the website save53rdstreet.org.) At the end of the workshop, which had focused on issues around Harper Court, we were asked out of the blue to vote on whether we would accept a mid-rise (3-12 story) building “somewhere in the 53rd St. TIF district.” It was obvious to many of us that this was a transparent attempt to be able to spin the workshop results as community support for a tall building at the McMobil site.

My friends and fellow citizens on the committee should be mindful that the SECC and the university have an agenda here: they want to be able to claim that they sought community input and got community buy-in, but they also want to dictate what the questions are, just as in 2007 they refused to let the workshop participants take a separate vote on whether we would support a mid-rise building at the McMobil site. They have never asked that question, because they do not want to hear the answer. I call upon the Parking and Transit Committee to make sure that the right questions are asked.

Michael Scott