Sunday, September 24, 2006

The un-greening of Chicago by the Green Mayor

In the last several years of Mayor Daley’s reign, we have witnessed the open space on the lakefront covered with green lawns and ample space for people to gather in a serene, quiet setting to a crowded tourist attraction packed with a new, unneeded concert pavilion reminiscent of twisted metal from an urban war, the “bean”, a wading pool and a concrete walkway linking it all.

We saw the pre-emptive destruction of Meigs Field and the development of hundreds of high scale condos, whose residents now resent the noise emanating from what’s left of Grant Park, which they consider to be their “neighborhood park” rather than a gathering place for residents of the city and beyond.

We saw Soldier Field transformed into what can only be described as a stationary space ship, lose its historical landmark status, all in the name of more seating and therefore more money, for a team that has been losing since the 80’s.

When Daley was first elected, he vowed to make Chicago green. He proposed ordinances that would require new construction to allow for green space in front of their buildings, he landscaped Lake Shore Drive, he beautified parks with iron fences and built bike paths and walking paths along the lakefront. The city was guaranteed not to look like Manhattan Island.

But something happened to the green Mayor along the way. He seems to have lost sight of the vision our founding fathers had for our lakefront. The early city planners all agreed that the lakefront open space was sacrosanct. They wanted it to be something that could be enjoyed by everyone in the city. They theorized that pastoral settings are crucial in an urban environment because peaceful environments positively affect the people that visit them.

Our view of the lake, and the pastoral scenes one time seen from Michigan Avenue, are rapidly giving way to developments and high rises, all in the name of progress.

Now Daley wants to host the Olympics and he wants to do it in historic Washington Park. According to the National Register of Historic Places, 3670 acres, 15 buildings, 28 structures and 8 objects are all registered as having historic significance. This designation was won in 2004.

The historic significance is base on architecture and engineering, as well as its connection to a historic event, the 1893 World’s Fair. Its historic function is listed as landscape, recreation and culture. The area of significance is architecture, landscape architecture, entertainment/recreation, social history. Does the green mayor realize that his plan for a stadium to be built in this location could very well adversely affect its landmark designation? Does he care?

On any given day in Washington Park, residents are in the park strolling, playing Frisbee, having bar-b-ques, gathering, reading or just relaxing in the park. In an area that is host to a myriad of problems and a general lack of any other recreation, it is a bright spot in an otherwise blighted area.

Drive down Lake Shore Drive and get off in Hyde Park. Follow the roads that wind around Jackson Park with its rolling hills in an otherwise flat land, then see Washington Park open before you with its lagoons and twisting walkways that meander through this beautiful piece of planned landscaping, designed to give residents exactly what they use it for; a place to escape the urban environment and achieve a bit of peace and pastoral beauty in the midst of an otherwise concrete world.

I understand the Mayor wanting to attract tourism to the city with an event like the Olympics, but how much more of our rich history do we have to abandon to allow this Mayor to realize his plan to turn Chicago into Manhattan?

I think he’s missing a very important point. If we wanted to live in New York, we would move there. We don’t. We want to live in Chicago with its rich history of world-renowned urban planners who redesigned a city that rose from the ashes with exactly the opposite intention of the present Mayor.


At September 24, 2006 6:14 PM, Blogger Thomas Westgard said...

The stadium looks like a steel prison toilet. Every time I drive past it, I picture a huge man wearing a Packers uniform sitting on it, taking a dump. If it weren't also a memorial to troops of past wars, I'd make statues of my nightmarish vision.

I don't know whether the new venue at the north end of the park is "necessary," but I like it for its lightweight appearance and versatility as an indoor/outdoor space.

At September 26, 2006 5:17 PM, Blogger Julie said...

Someone I know described it as a space just looks stupid plpped down on top of that beautiful architecture.

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