To the editors:
Your recent article on the Gateway project [October 9] could have just as easily been titled “Field of Broken Dreams.” Anyone can see that the project is not progressing well. The project appears to be rife with one act of mismanagement after another. There has been one lie told after another. All one has to do is review the press to verify multiple deadlines that have been missed. Rarely, if ever, have the principals involved and the alderman fessed up to problems, when any fool can see something is wrong. They only admit that something is wrong when someone publicly proclaims that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.
What about all the jobs that were promised? So far we have lost several hundred. What about all the new businesses? So far we have lost many with no replacement. The businesses at the Howard el were evicted over a year ago, leaving a mall that looks like the west side after the riots. And what about the promise of a future for the Rogers Park 25? Lest one forget, they are the 25 community members who were hired in August 1997 as construction workers. This was a “novel” experiment that garnered the developers much publicity (see Crain’s, August 13, 1998, page 11), but garnered the Rogers Park 25 nothing. They completed their training, bought equipment at their own expense, and so far have barely worked a day.
What about the ancillary projects? When is someone going to take down the sign on the empty lot at Ashland and Howard proclaiming “Retail Development: Howard Square: Fall 1998 Delivery”? Has anyone noticed, it is the fall of 1998?
What kind of development is this? Is Rogers Park the only community in Chicago that can’t put together a quality development during a period of economic growth–again? This project was flawed at the outset. Why would someone pick a developer whose previous crowning achievements were the Jarvis and Morse el projects, two other “thriving” business enterprises? The current developers appear to be making the mistakes of their predecessors. The development again includes a housing project that the community was told had to be included for the project to succeed. Where have we heard that before? Existing businesses were treated shabbily by a “chamber of commerce” who maintains a fiduciary interest in the project. Critical parcels went unpurchased. Voices who questioned the wisdom of giving these developers total control over the project so early in the game were ignored or dismissed.
For the sake of the project, and we are always told “for the sake of the project,” dissenters kept their comments to a minimum, hoping that maybe this time things would be different. For the most part the community presented a united front, which included a well-organized campaign for a much needed full-service grocery store. Well, we should have been screaming our bloody heads off! Any alderman worth his salt would be holding the developers accountable for this mess rather than describing this project as something one can be proud of.
The Rogers Park community has looked to the Gateway project for over 20 years as critical to “saving” the community. What it appears to have gotten is another broken dream.
Karen N. Hoover