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Chicago’s Pursuit of Amazon Brings to Mind other Highly Sought Over Projects

Posted by Mike G on September 22, 2017

With Chicago preparing to make its best case for winning the Amazon sweepstakes (location of its second corporate headquarters), I find myself considering other big “gets” for which our City aspired – on some we prevailed; on others, not. With the benefit of hindsight, how do I feel about some of these opportunities - some missed; some received?

2016 Olympic bid– LOST (thank God.) Thinking about this failed bid reminds me about the time I had a chance to purchase a local tavern (one, thankfully, that ended up with the gentlemen who own Rogers Park Social (Glenwood, south of Morse) – who are doing such an exceptional job running that establishment.)  I suspect that had the Olympics landed in Chicago, it would have resulted in us taxpayers holding the tab on a costly and ill fated initiative - similar to what would have happened had I bought that tavern!

Sure, it would have been fun to be the object of the world’s attention for a couple of weeks.

But, like a great party, after its over, someone has got to pay the bar tab and pick up the mess.

On this one, thank God for missed opportunities!

Obama Museum – WON. There might be some naysayers out there, but, to me, the Obama Museum and Library are a huge boon to Chicago, and, in particular, the Jackson Park neighborhood where it will be located. The site will be great tourist draw, and bring needed positive focus to a beautiful historic part of Chicago that now receives far too much negative press.

And with Barack Obama being such a young former President, for many years he will be bringing focus to many important issues about global and local matters, including race relations – how awesome these important initiatives might be crafted and developed locally.

Lucas Museum – LOST, Though its design was weird, I felt that the City lost a great tourist draw by losing out on the Lucas (Star Wars) museum. Of course, it would have been great had Mr. Lucas been willing to settle on non lakefront property like, say, the Michael Reese sight – but his vanity – and the principled but perhaps unwise vision of the Lakefront folks won out – it hurts to turn away an $800 million investment that could stimulate such economic benefit – all in the name of preserving a parking lot.

At least Bear tailgaters are happy.

Boeing, McDonalds, Google, Motorola opening Corporate HQs downtown. WON
Perhaps this is one of those things that if I were to know more about the cost of the corporate incentives required to draw in these companies, I might not view the relocation of corporate headquarters to Chicago as a “WIN.” I do know that Boeing did not bring many jobs with it, though it is helpful to our City’s image to have Boeing’s name associated with it. Also, large corporations do much to support Chicago’s cultural presence and they support other important non-profits.

And, do corporate giants establishing their headquarters in Chicago help built momentum, drawing in more?

Of course, this leads to the important question: do give aways devised to draw in or retain corporate presence a sheer necessity to foment economic growth, or are they a nasty form of corporate welfare?

As troubling as is this issue – I’m glad to see that Chicago maintains its relevance as a global city and the presence of corporate biggies helps us attain that status..

Northerly Island (converted from Meig’s Field):  I admit – I have never been to Northerly Island and I hear that it is an amazing place to catch a Summer concert. And, doesn’t a downtown airport offer a direct benefit only to a handful of folks, nearly all of whom are some of the wealthier folks around.

Of course, with some ingenuity and creativity, a downtown airport could have offered a direct benefit to more than simply those who own and lease private planes and jets.  (Think kids being offered the chance to fly in a plane, and the wealth of that experience.) Most important, as aviation changes in the decades ahead, and airplanes develop the capability of landing without a long runway, we might find ourselves deeply lamenting the absence of this historical airfield. Its rare for a major city to have a downtown airport - we had one, and we lost it.

The biggest lure of a downtown airport might be that having one helps attract important wealthy and connected people - but important wealthy and connected people who can draw up more business for the city. Also, consider the importance of maintaining Chicago’s one dominant (and now teetering) role as a convention hub and how having an accessible airport minutes away from our major convention site can help make us a preferred convention location - and all of the jobs that associated with a healthy convention industry.

And, as we try to draw substantial employers like Amazon, I wonder how our chance of prevailing would be increased if the corporate leaders knew that they could fly their private jets in and out of downtown, instead of competing with commercial airlines for arrival at our other airports, and then fighting traffic to get downtown?

As much as we all love green space (though our needs are greatest in the neighborhoods!), to me, the highest and best use of that space would be as an airport – and our former Mayor was disingenuous in using the threat of terrorist attacks as an excuse to close it down.

¬Trump Tower:  Up until the time that the Big D decided to place oversized lettering onto his downtown high rise, constructed on the former Sun Times site, I was thrilled to see an attractive major structure included to our Skyline,.

Yet, the name TRUMP blaring across our cherished river at such a key location is an affront to so many of us who love our City and how frustrating that we are powerless to do anything about it.  (Who was asleep at the wheel on that?)

How many times do we see folks position themselves in front of the building, taking selfies, their camera in one hand, and extended middle finger on the other?

If Chicago could have had the building without the obnoxious signage? A WIN.

With those damn letters, which represent a horrible affront to so many of us! LOSS


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About the Author

Mike G's photoMike Glasser

Mike has a long term relationship with Rogers Park, having lived here at various times in his life, most recently returning to the neighborhood in August, 2009. While living here as a third year law student, he remembers drunken nights at Biddy Mulligan’s and hosting a couple of memorable parties that he, hypocritically, now forbids his own tenants from having. Years later, after completing his stint as a lawyer, Mike started investing in apartment buildings in Rogers Park (and elsewhere), and soon after, did what many newly divorced real estate investors do: he moved into one of his buildings. In 1992 Mike was one of the founding members of the Rogers Park Builders Group, an organization that he eventually headed for six years, until yielding those reigns three years ago. Around a decade ago, on a whim, he reserved the web site “Rogerspark.com,” which he has been developing ever since, and which co-hosts RP BizArts networking events. Mike is the proud father of three wonderful children, Amy, Mitch and Ella.

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