Differing opinions

To the Editor:

I appreciate the Herald’s coverage of the Obama Presidential Center, as well as covering other organizations that have expressed their concerns. I’m disappointed that the U. of C. has not stepped up and expanded the footprint of the Presidential Center, beyond Jackson Park. Here, I am talking about the parking lot, which now exists on the site of the former Plaisance Hotel, along 60th St. between Stony Island and the RR tracks. At present, an asphalt parking lot.

By hemming the OPC entirely into the park we are missing an opportunity to take underutilized land, adjacent to the park, and to expand the OPC campus into the city. This is an opportunity to create a gateway design, across Stony Island, thus lessening the building load inside of the park. No demolition of any building, no displacement of any resident, would be required. The OPC would still use Jackson Park, but here I would use restraint in any design, apply some height limitations. Don’t build up the park. Use both sides of Stony Island, and put a foot solidly in the city, as well. The West side of Stony Island was heavily hit by so-called urban renewal, which was little more than wide spread demolition, without any benefit of “renewal”.

In true Chicago fashion, this plan has been rubber stamped by the plan commission, even though nobody knows exactly what this building is going to be covered in, exactly what it will look like. The concept – a twenty story tall building, clad in solid stone, with few windows – I don’t see this evoking hope. It’s a huge structure with some gimmicky angling of the walls.

Anybody who thinks that every museum we’ve ever built in a park is a good museum should be sentenced to spend an afternoon at the (not-so notable) Notabaert Nature museum, in Lincoln Park. Also consider the park district’s plan for expansion of the park at Oak Street. A tunnel carries traffic under that park. Consider the dog bowl up on top of Soldier Field. Civic design is not what it used to be. We taxpayers are being asked to foot $175 million in roadway changes, which we don’t have. Obama made significant contributions to National parks, to the environment. But here he is taking parkland away from us, ignoring vacant lots and depressed neighborhoods nearby. Put the high rise on Stony, Save Jackson Park.

Sincerely,
Ross Petersen