Still supporting U. of C. — but with caveat

To the Editor:

Several weeks ago in these pages I voiced support for the University of Chicago and Mesa Development’s proposal for construction on the so-called 53rd St. McMobil site. While I still believe that that apartment building will be a net asset to the neighborhood, I also wish to join my neighbors in adopting a stance of measured skepticism to all claims by developers that their efforts are sure to beautify the streetscape. 

Case in point: the university and its partners in the development of the 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue are soon to open the doors of their new office building at that intersection. Could be quite lovely inside. Outside? Not so much. 

Consider this photo (below). Were the designers of the new sidewalk planters concerned that there wasn’t enough unadorned and badly-finished concrete in the vicinity? The planters appear to have sprung fully-formed from the curb. This gulag-inspired design does little to soften the stark appearance of the corner. Perhaps it’s just an architect’s wry nod to the brutalist character of the intersection — or perhaps it’s just plain old ugly. 

I could find no drawings of the planters in any of the pre-construction renderings available online. The developers can thus truthfully claim that they’ve delivered what they promised —nothing. In any event, I would ask the university, Vermilion Development and JFJ Development: is that all you got?

Loren Santow