Wednesday, August 12, 2009

GCC Arrives at Critical Community Meeting

Michael Reese Hospital addressed by committee "ad nauseam".

Words spoken by the moderator of the community meeting last night. While many questions were asked about preserving MRH, they received the same response, "we have committed to preserving the only landmarked building on the site" built in 1909 and not a Gropius. Which is why the questions were asked more than once.

Lots of haters, few supports, all had their own agenda.

Frustrating as it was, the Gropius in Chicago Coalition was offered a private audience by the committee at which time it broke up into several groups where GCC members peppered them with questions. I could only be in one discussion at a time, that helmed by Cassandra Francis of Chicago 2016.

She was well-spoken and seemingly well-informed. She insisted the Olympic Village is already crammed onto the site and no space could possibly be given up for any reason. She said she has met with the top architecture and preservation firms in the city on the matter and not one has said the buildings are worth saving nor that it would be possible to share the site between the Olympic Village and any potential Gropius buildings. We were told she met with 3 firms today on the subject and came to the same conclusion and says she asked them if they could be quoted but was refused permission.

Grahm Balkhany disagrees with Chicago 2016's assessment:

... which is common lip service in this matter. They are proposing 21 identical 12 story buildings on parking podia, all crammed onto the south portion of the site. How is this good site or neighborhood planning?

Mr. Balkhany claims the IOC is flexible in its requirements and Chicago 2016 is simply showing them what it wants with the intent of modifying it once the bid is awarded. These claims counter those of Ms. Francis who insisted the IOC requirements are stringent and that the Olympic Village as it is planned now only just meets those requirements.

One of Mr. Balkhany's chief criticisms is the 12 story height limit and suggests that limit may be malleable. Increasing the heights of some of the buildings would free up land for the Gropius buildings to remain, not to mention improve views to the lake making these post Olympics market-rate apartments more marketable.

Mr. Balkhany is also peeved at the parking podiums being proposed, likening them to the parking podium blight of River North. He claims other architects have proposals in the works but he too has been sworn to secrecy. I'm not sure what all the covertness is about but he suggests Ms. Francis is open to reviewing these proposals.

They better hurry and get them to her, demolition has begun and time is running out.

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