OPC building and road plan concerns

To the Editor:

I think that at 235 feet in height, which is what, a 15 – to 20 – story tall building, the central tower of the OPC should be reduced in height. My concern is a structure of that height is going to tower, loom darkly over the park. It will be visible from the Wooded Island, and seems out of place, at the edge of a nature area.

I am also concerned by the design, which has few windows. The only windows seem to be at the very top, and the rest of the building presents what seems a fortress like facade. Rather than harmonizing with nature, and its site, it stands in stark contrast to it.

Now, as far as Cornell Drive is concerned, I would suggest a tunnel. I, too, would like to see Cornell Drive removed, from that section of the park, but feel widening Lake Shore Drive, along with increased traffic on Hayes Drive, make it a bad trade off. Yes, a tunnel is very expensive. But we have buried a multi-story underground parking structure, a German submarine (at the Museum of Science and Industry), along with several pedestrian underpasses, so I think it could be done. The stretch of LSD they are talking about “widening” doesn’t have much room to spare. The underground parking and submarine exhibit cost in the ballpark of $56 million 1994. Considering budget for proposed road revisions are $175 million, I’d at least see what a tunnel would cost. To pour more concrete along Lake Shore Drive is not a good idea.

Jackson Park was designed by Olmsted, is on the National Register of Historic Places and contains the only surviving oak savanna ecosystem within the city on the Wooded Island. The size of this campus overwhelms the site, and will change it forever. Rather than expand the footprint of the park, it encroaches on it. Will they reduce the size of 63rd Street beach to accommodate a widened Lake Shore Drive? How will pedestrians and cyclists cross a now heavily trafficked Hayes Drive? I think there was misjudgment in regards to public sentiment on park preservation in this plan. To build this next to the Wooded Island is a huge mistake.

Ross Petersen
Former member, volunteer coordinator, JPAC