Questioning OPC as ‘wildlife habitat”

To the Editor:

In a recent letter to the editor, it was claimed that the OPC “will transform a spartan, underutilized strip of Jackson Park into a habitat perfect for birds and other wildlife.”

I do not understand how the writer can say this with a straight face. This is a towering building, equivalent to 22 stories in height. It is covered in mystery stone, which is to say, no one knows exactly what kind of stone. It is largely windowless, on the east side there is one window.

No environmental impact study has been done on this. We do know, through doppler radar, that area is a corridor on the Great Lakes migratory flyway. Millions of birds pass through on spring and fall migrations. To suggest that a building of this height will provide benefits to birds and wildlife is absurd. There will be collisions with this building. This is another reason to move the center to multiple locations along the West side of Stony Island.

There have also been claims made about the history of Chicago parks, and museums within them.  It turns out, most of these museums were built on private land, before the parks came along. In other cases, these museums were located in park structures built for other purposes. The letter, it turns out, was written by Jenner and Block, and paid for by the Obama foundation. I’m not sure any museum president actually had a hand in this, as it left out critical details. No mention of Olmsted’s design or the historic character of the park. This seems like a questionable endorsement for the OPC in a park when there are all of these potential sites (along West Stony Island) that would be vastly superior.

I think the author of the letter has failed make a case for the park.  If anything, the absurd claims of benefits to birds and wildlife demand we take a closer look at this plan. A building of that height does not belong in the park, period.  How many museums occupy a mid-rise building some twenty-two stories in height? And, next to one of the most sensitive nature areas in the city?

Sincerely, 

Ross Petersen

former president of the Jackson Park Advisory Council