To the Editor:
The article on the presidential library in the Dec. 30 Herald is an unfortunate example of the power of misleading advertising. No, it is not “inevitable” that the proposed library will be located in either one of our landmark parks. Yes, the U. of C. “had its work cut out for it” to convince reasonable people that either of the historic parks would be appropriate locations. They did not succeed. The massive campaign, cleverly blurring the distinction between Washington Park (the neighborhood) and Washington Park (the park) has succeeded only in distracting the gullible from the fact that these two sites still are, at this point, merely proposed locations.
The same slick advertising tactic, substituting an “it’s a done deal” assumption for a “proposed” idea, is currently being used to push the suggestion for a hotel at 53rd and Dorchester into the “done deal” column. However, as Ald. Hairston (5th) was quick to remind us at the community meeting on Dec. 15, any such idea is merely a suggestion until it has both unified community support and city council approval.
For both suggestions, there must be less destructive alternatives. Regarding the library, the land along 63rd Street between Cottage Grove and Woodlawn avenues is almost entirely empty. The library complex, if built there, would not displace anybody or destroy any heritage. The same is true for most of the land on both sides of Garfield Blvd. between King Drive and the Expressway (much of which the U. of C. already owns). Regarding the hotel idea, consider the possibility of a four-story, Harper Theater-style building with two floors of retail space and two floors of parking. Great creative ingenuity could transform this corner, reduce congestion, increase parking, provide substantial mixed-use retail opportunity, and not despoil the landscape.
More imaginative thinking is needed on these projects. Didn’t the U. of C. recently inaugurate an “innovation exchange?” Well? We need not settle for any proposal that destroys historical features or priceless and irreplaceable public assets, and blocks our view, just because no one has yet envisioned a creative alternative. The community still has a voice – it should be loud. We can do better.