Lincoln Square -- A letter to the editor

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The following is a letter sent by reader Andres Torres.


On the Misguided Attempts to Make Miracles

When Dorothy Gale fell out of Kansas, a “Miracle” occurred. Without a second’s thought to the appropriateness of its landing spot, her house just fell. Miraculously, it solved a great ill in Munchkin Land, and, against all odds, liberated the oppressed. Ms. Gale, however, kept enough sense about her to recognize that this was no miracle, but rather nothing more than a freak accident with positive consequences.


Recent plans for the 4800 Block of North Western Avenue called to my mind Ms. Gale’s experience, not just for its promise of “problem solving.” Alderman Schulter’s proposal to redevelop the eastern parcel of Western Ave. between Lawrence and Ainslie would clear away a Wicked Witch, but what would fall wouldn’t be one house, but perhaps hundreds–all at once.

The opportunities for complaint, therefore, are multitudinous, as I, and each of my neighbors who will be forced to circle the block once more each night, must implore that the City Council appreciate the cost to “family dinner-time” this project would have. But that is not why I am writing this letter.

I could also be pointing out that Ald. Schulter’s Condominiums, like Ms. Gale’s prairie house, may turn out as aesthetically jarring as a Kansas farm house squished into a Munchkin ditch, and seem as foreign and unwelcoming. I need only refer to recent construction a block north on Western Ave or at the northeastern corner of Foster and Lincoln to indicate how poorly planned structures can crowd the sidewalk, daunt the pedestrian, loom over the neighborhood, and only strengthen the fierce impersonality of the metropolis. But, that again, is of itself an entirely new letter.

No, today I concern myself not with the aesthetics, not with the ethics of stripping neighbors of their livelihood to award their land to someone who can rent their storefront for a higher price, and not even with the very pressing issue of parking. Instead, my worry at present is that Ald. Schulter and the City Council mistakenly believe that they can control the fall of their house(s) and ensure that it liberates, rather than that it just leave an ugly bruise.

The businesses that have arisen in this parcel of land have done so over time, and have survived because they have been supported by the neighborhood. In a Darwinian fashion, they have proven themselves fit. Perhaps, in Ald. Schulter’s mind, they are not the fittest. I am in no position to deny this. At the same time, I do not know how Ald. Schulter and his planners can know who the fittest may be.

Before someone protests the application of Darwin’s theory here, I will concede. My point, however, is that a wholesale replacement of this block ignores the organic development of this sector, and the conscious choices neighborhood consumers have made. The stability of this area is a product of decade-long development and meticulous planning on the part of every former, current, and prospective entrepreneur along this stretch. Now, Ald. Schulter intends to usurp this process and drop a big box of development, and he proposes to do it without tearing a large hole in the fabric of this community.

Even if Ald. Schulter has recanted in part and has conceded he will not seize the entire area, the threat still looms, especially for the prominent corner of Lawrence & Western. Will it be refashioned a la Damen & Lincoln, or Ashland & Lincoln? How do I know our as-yet-unnamed developer won’t be driven by the bottom line and build as far up and over as possible? Department of Planning and Development Project Manager Eva Marie Tropper has already proposed that these buildings “do not present the highest or best use of the land.” How do I know that Mr. Lincoln, who proudly surveys the street named in his honor, won’t be crowded out by a new six-story building that really needs that corner plaza as retail space?

When Ald. Schulter waves his eminent wand, he will wipe away the tyrants who have been monopolizing Western Ave. storefronts to the detriment of myself, my neighbors, and “better development.” What I want to be sure of is that when this wand is waved, what Mr. Aldermen is pursuing are the tyrants, not the ruby slippers.

Andres Torres

Chicago, IL


Recent plans for the 4800 Block of North Western Avenue called to my mind Ms. Gale’s experience, not just for its promise of “problem solving.” Alderman Schulter’s proposal to redevelop the eastern parcel of Western Ave. between Lawrence and Ainslie would clear away a Wicked Witch, but what would fall wouldn’t be one house, but perhaps hundreds–all at once.

The opportunities for complaint, therefore, are multitudinous, as I, and each of my neighbors who will be forced to circle the block once more each night, must implore that the City Council appreciate the cost to “family dinner-time” this project would have. But that is not why I am writing this letter.

I could also be pointing out that Ald. Schulter’s Condominiums, like Ms. Gale’s prairie house, may turn out as aesthetically jarring as a Kansas farm house squished into a Munchkin ditch, and seem as foreign and unwelcoming. I need only refer to recent construction a block north on Western Ave or at the northeastern corner of Foster and Lincoln to indicate how poorly planned structures can crowd the sidewalk, daunt the pedestrian, loom over the neighborhood, and only strengthen the fierce impersonality of the metropolis. But, that again, is of itself an entirely new letter.

No, today I concern myself not with the aesthetics, not with the ethics of stripping neighbors of their livelihood to award their land to someone who can rent their storefront for a higher price, and not even with the very pressing issue of parking. Instead, my worry at present is that Ald. Schulter and the City Council mistakenly believe that they can control the fall of their house(s) and ensure that it liberates, rather than that it just leave an ugly bruise.

The businesses that have arisen in this parcel of land have done so over time, and have survived because they have been supported by the neighborhood. In a Darwinian fashion, they have proven themselves fit. Perhaps, in Ald. Schulter’s mind, they are not the fittest. I am in no position to deny this. At the same time, I do not know how Ald. Schulter and his planners can know who the fittest may be.

Before someone protests the application of Darwin’s theory here, I will concede. My point, however, is that a wholesale replacement of this block ignores the organic development of this sector, and the conscious choices neighborhood consumers have made. The stability of this area is a product of decade-long development and meticulous planning on the part of every former, current, and prospective entrepreneur along this stretch. Now, Ald. Schulter intends to usurp this process and drop a big box of development, and he proposes to do it without tearing a large hole in the fabric of this community.

Even if Ald. Schulter has recanted in part and has conceded he will not seize the entire area, the threat still looms, especially for the prominent corner of Lawrence & Western. Will it be refashioned a la Damen & Lincoln, or Ashland & Lincoln? How do I know our as-yet-unnamed developer won’t be driven by the bottom line and build as far up and over as possible? Department of Planning and Development Project Manager Eva Marie Tropper has already proposed that these buildings “do not present the highest or best use of the land.” How do I know that Mr. Lincoln, who proudly surveys the street named in his honor, won’t be crowded out by a new six-story building that really needs that corner plaza as retail space?

When Ald. Schulter waves his eminent wand, he will wipe away the tyrants who have been monopolizing Western Ave. storefronts to the detriment of myself, my neighbors, and “better development.” What I want to be sure of is that when this wand is waved, what Mr. Aldermen is pursuing are the tyrants, not the ruby slippers.

Andres Torres

Chicago, IL

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Mark Konkol

Mark Konkol covers city neighborhoods for the Chicago Sun-Times. You can e-mail him or call (312) 321-2146.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Konkol published on December 11, 2007 6:26 PM.

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