An open letter to Ald Moore - North Howard Neighbors Association - Update: Ald Moore Responds
Dear Alderman Moore and/or Michael Land,
The North Howard Neighbors Association is in the process or carefully reviewing the DevCorp/Rogers Park Business Alliance Plan (http://rogerspark.typepad.com/CommercialCorridorPlan/RP_Full_Plan.pdf) which was completed in 2006. Our initial review shows that the “Revitalization Strategies for Howard Street” stresses “historic preservation” (see below). The ‘development project’ regarding the Wisdom Bridge Theatre site, completely ignores that. The ultra-modern glass high-rise building Mr. Aronson presented to the community last night has no aesthetic or viable place on this stretch of Howard Street for obvious reasons. At this point, we are interested in knowing why the Alderman’s office and zoning board would even ‘present’ this kind of possible development, which is obviously in complete disregard of the DevCorp/RP Business Alliance development ‘plan’ for Howard Street (see below)?
Also, we would like to know if the “Handbook for Developers” (see below) that the 2006 ‘Plan’ calls for, has been developed? If so, how may we obtain a copy. If not, why not?
We will continue to raise community questions and concerns as we further review the ‘Plan’ as it impacts Mr. Aronson’s specific development proposal for the Wisdom Bridge Theatre site on Howard Street.
Thanks in advance for your responses.
North Howard Neighbors Association
You write: “At this point, we are interested in knowing why the Alderman’s office and zoning board would even ‘present’ this kind of possible development, which is obviously in complete disregard of the DevCorp/RP Business Alliance development ‘plan’ for Howard Street (see below)?”
Quite frankly, I’m rather surprised you would even ask that question. I have never viewed myself, nor has the 49th ward Zoning and Land Use Advisory Committee ever viewed itself, as the final arbiter of what development proposals are “worthy” of community review. Both the Committee and I review development proposals and make suggestions to the developers prior to community meetings. Sometimes those suggestions are incorporated into the proposed design. Sometimes the Committee and I wait and see what the community thinks of the project.
You would be the first person to complain, and rightly so, if I acted as gatekeeper and prevented a legitimate proposed project from public review. The Business Alliance plan is just that—a plan or set of guidelines. It is not the holy grail. The Committee, which has on its ranks several Business Alliance board members, and I use it as a guideline to help us analyze development proposals on Howard Street. The guidelines are by their very nature general in scope. It is up to us and the community to determine whether a particular project falls within the scope of the plan.
As one example of this need for a broad approach, you stress the emphasis on “historic preservation.” As was noted last night, the preservation of the Wisdom Bridge Theater is not economically feasible. And I would add that it is safe to say the building immediately to its east is not historically significant. Do we preserve those buildings at all costs in the name of “historic preservation” or do we examine the possibility that a new development might be a better use for the site? It’s certainly something worthy of discussion by the broader community, and should not be subject to aldermanic fiat.
With respect to your request for a Developer’s Handbook, I will refer you to the Rogers Park Business Alliance.
Finally, I note your e-mail is written in the third person. In the interest of full transparency, who besides yourself is the North of Howard Neighbors Association? Do you have regular meetings? If so, when do you meet? If someone is interested in becoming a member, how do they go about joining? And why did you blind copy “NHNA Members, Rogers Park residents and various Media” in your e-mail to me? Don’t you think these unnamed individuals would be interested in and entitled to reading my response to your inquiries in an unedited and unfiltered fashion?
Thanks for attending the meeting last night, and sharing your thoughts. I will advise you and others as to the next step in the review process for the proposed development.
The question is asked because the development proposal Mr. Aronson presented last night is totally out of touch with and in complete disregard to ‘your’ 2006 DevCorp/RP Business Alliance development ‘plan’ for Howard Street. Perhaps if your office did more to insist on at least some semblance of following ‘your’ established “plans or guidelines”, our Rogers Park ‘community development’ wouldn’t be such a sorry hodgepodge, helter-skelter mess with numerous failed projects scattered about, with the resulting empty lots and holes in the ground. One only need to look to our neighboring Edgewater community, as guided by Alderman Smith, to see the difference that is made when community leadership provides clear, concise and adhered to, community development guidelines and plans, with real neighborhood input (block clubs) forming a basis for solid planning and future thinking on community development.
With respect to the ‘Developers Handbook’ the DevCorp North/Business Alliance 2006 ‘Plan’ states…“As there are currently no guidelines for new development in Rogers Park, DevCorp North should work closely with the Alderman’s office and the 49th Ward Zoning and Land Use Advisory Committee to assemble a task force to develop a Development Handbook.” I appreciate you referring me to the ‘Alliance’ for the Developers Handbook. Am I to assume that means such a Handbook does exist?
FYI, the membership of the North Howard Neighbors Association is comprised of ALL people living North of Howard and any other Rogers Park residents who wish to be included. There are no formal or scheduled meetings or dues. Living NoH automatically makes one a ‘resident’ member. We do maintain an active data base of contact information for those who wish to be kept up to date of issues affection our neighborhood. That active data base currently numbers 98 individuals. Our mission statement/purpose is clearly stated on our blog as follows:
North Howard Neighbors Association “The NHNA was formed in February 2003 to provide the North of Howard neighborhood, (historically known as Germania) with a forum, giving all North of Howard residents full representation and a voice in all issues affecting our past, present and future community direction, development and quality of life. “CONSULTATION NOT NOTIFICATION”!”
FYI, I blind copy our members and my media contacts as a way of protecting their privacy, while keeping them informed. And rest assured Joe, your replies to NHNA inquires are always copied to the members, without ANY editing or filtering.
Bcc: NHNA members, Rogers Park residents and various media.
You are certainly entitled to your opinion, which was shared by others in attendance at the meeting. But others at the meeting reached a different conclusion and liked the project, and still others, such as myself, have refrained from making a final decision, waiting for more information.
You make much of “my” 2006 DevCorp/RP Business Alliance development plan for Howard Street. Actually, it’s not my plan; it’s the Business Alliance’s plan developed through a community process. The plan also covers Morse, not just Howard Street. You might be interested to note that some of those who were intimately involved in drafting the plan—the members of the RPBA Planning and Development Committee—have heard a presentation from Mr. Aronson, and have not rejected his proposal out of hand, as you have. They are waiting for more information regarding the details of his proposal. While I certainly respect your viewpoint, I believe the opinions of those who drew up the plan as to whether a particular project comports with the plan’s guidelines should be accorded more weight than the opinions of someone who was not involved in the planning process.
Finally, thanks for the information regarding the North Howard Neighbors Association (NHNA). It confirms what I’ve already suspected, that the opinions expressed in your e-mails and on your blog are your opinions, not the opinions of an established organization. You state that the membership of your organization consists of “ALL people living North of Howard and any other Rogers Park residents who wish to be included” and that “[l]iving NOH automatically makes one a ‘resident’ member.” You also confirmed that you have no regular meetings, membership dues or officers. Did you consult with “ALL” the people living north of Howard before you rendered an opinion claiming to speak on behalf of NHNA? I seriously doubt it. While I’m certain others living North of Howard share your opinions, you are clearly speaking for an organization of one.
So in the interest of transparency and honesty, would you please in the future simply state your opinions in the first person, and not falsely claim that you are representing the views of some organization? And please share my unedited reply with all those you have blind copied. Thank you.
Mike, in your last e-mail to me you wrote, “rest assured Joe, your replies to NHNA inquires are always copied to the members, without ANY editing or filtering.” I just visited your blog and noticed you had not yet posted my most recent reply. Could you please let me know when you plan to post it.
Thanks very much.
I refer to the 2006 Rogers Park Business Alliance’s (formally known as DevCorp North) Plan as ‘yours’, because that’s what it is! The former DevCorp North now RP Business Alliance Board of Directors is essentially made up of a select group of individuals (approved by you), some with self-serving special interests, including several who also serve on your Ward Zoning Committee. Over the years, the officers of DevCorp/RPBA have rotated in and out of the various positions, assuring loyalty to you and your agenda. For all intent and purpose this is essentially an ‘inbred group’ that is a political arm of your Aldermanic office.
In regard to your considering the North Howard Neighbors Association as an “organization of one”, it would be laughable if it wasn’t such an out of hand dismissal of the concerns and feelings of many residents of the 49th Ward, particularly those in the North of Howard Neighborhood. While the NHNA is not structured, nor does it operate, as a traditional organization (elected officers, holding regular meetings, dues, etc.) it is, never-the-less, a legitimate group formed in 2003 to provide a sounding board, to speak for and provide a way of expressing opinions, as well as, serving as a community bulletin board. That was the intent of the founding members in 2003 and it continues to be the purpose of the group. As such, and for that reason, the NHNA will continue to express the feelings and concerns of many in our North of Howard neighborhood, members and non-members alike.
As you well know, the NHNA and it’s offshoot, S.O.C.C. (Save Our Community Center), was the driving force in our neighborhood’s successful effort to stop your ill advised attempt to privatize the CPD Willye White Recreation/Community Center 2 years ago. It may be that your off-hand dismissal of the NHNA as a “single voice” stems from your resentment of the NHNA’s organizing of that successful people’s community effort. Whatever your motive, it doesn’t speak well of you or your obligation, as an elected representative of, and for, ALL the people.
By the way, if you are interested, we would be happy to add you (as an individual) to our active membership data base.
Let me get this straight. You belittle the Rogers Park Business Alliance as “essentially an ‘inbred group’ that is a political arm” of my office, and yet you apparently believe the development plan produced by that organization is of such high quality that it should be rigidly adhered to when reviewing any and all development proposals. So what is RPBA? A political arm of the alderman, or an organization of thoughtful community members who have produced a comprehensive development plan worthy of being followed? I guess consistency has never been your strong suit.
For the record, I have never approved the appointment of board members to DevCorp North or the Rogers Park Business Alliance, nor have I ever asked to screen such appointments. Your assertions to the contrary are an insult to the hard working and dedicated members of that board.
Finally, my designation of your “organization,” NHNA, as an “organization of one” is based primarily on your own inability to articulate an organizational structure or identify any individual members other than yourself and the amorphous “all people living north of Howard.” I understand that some of your opinions may be shared by some of your neighbors. I’ve never questioned that. What I find objectionable (or, on second thought, laughable) is your “Wizard of Oz” construct of an organization that appears to exist on paper only.
It’s late, and I believe this conversation has run its course. But if you would like the last word, be my guest.
“Consistency never been my strong suit”? Sorry, Joe, it’s you who is not consistent, and your attempted use of ‘transference’ here is really transparent (and laughable)! First you claim that there is a ‘Development Plan’ for Howard Street and cite the 2006 “Commercial Corridor Plan”. Then, when you are challenged as to why ‘the plans’ directives aren’t being followed or seriously considered with the building proposed for the Wisdom Bridge site, you say it’s NOT a real plan, only general suggestions. In your words: ” I use it as a guideline to help us analyze development proposals on Howard Street. The guidelines are by their very nature general in scope.” So, apparently there is no real ‘Development Plan’...... or is there? Which is it, Joe, do you have a development plan for the Ward or not? Based on conditions and the way things are and continue to be, I’d say,“NOT”! This is what many in the 49th Ward have come to expect from you and your ‘leadership’! One only needs to consider the sorry state of the conditions on Howard Street and Morse Avenue after 18 years of your reign as Alderman. Sorry, indeed!
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