Promontory Point developments late 2005-mid 2006: from rejection to intervention and Senator Obama's intervention to hammering out Scope of Work for a preservation- driven independent review process
This page is #19 in the 2003>> series and is brought to you by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and its Parks Committee and website

Point home (navigator). Parks home. Latest Point news/reports. To Save the Point.
Previous in series: #18 Aug.-Oct. 2005 incl. (part) the Sept. 15 "rejection" meeting.
Next in series: #20 Scope of Work 2006 document for review process, then Latest page.

In this page:


2003 forward series pages

1: July 13 2003 Task Force Preservation and Access Plan text
2: Reports and text, views, links to view plans
3: City counter/compromise plan, reinstated January 2004
4: September 10 2003 public briefing and summary
5: Reports of the Mediator of the Working Group meetings and process disc/complaints
6: Reports and Appeals March-December 2003
7: Reports, Appeals, Press from Jan.-Feb.2004 breakdown period, incl. Mediator's Statement
8: Point dispute-statements-coverage-Rossi letter late Feb./March 2004
9: The March 9 2004 summit under Ald. Hairston and costing tasks supposed to lead to a final working group report due April 15
10: Listing on the '10 Most Endangered' list; disputes over plans and 1993 Memorandum and defenses of rival plans
11: Latest Promontory Point news
12: From the Mediator's Final Report May 2004

13: About and Reactions to the Mediator's Report
14: Reactions to the ad hoc group; during the period of its (non) meetings, June-August 2004. Other actions including by Rep. Jackson, Ill. Hist. Pres. Agency
15: Late 2004, including Mediator's Final Report with a 3rd option
16: 2005 through June
17: Mid 2005: Jackson budget Amendment, IHPA-CPD, HPKCC, other letters of appeal
18: August-October 2005, incl. the "infamous" Sept. 15 2005 public meeting; HPKCC and Sen. Obama positions
19: Late 2006-mid 2006 including dev. of Scope of Work review doc. [This page]
20: Scope of Work for The Preservation of Promontory Point (3rd party review guide)



Cache 1

The October surprise by Senator Obama and its aftermath

Senator Obama's convening of parties and stakeholders October 3 2005, insistence on a quick resolution on which all can sign off

On October 3 virtually all the involved elected officials, government agencies, and parties including representatives from the Community Task Force for Promontory Point and preservation organizations were convened at short notice by U.S. Senator Barack Obama. Careful negotiation was made to include all and only all who should be there or could contribute substantially, including the Point Mediator and highly-involved aides to Rep. Jackson. Not there, however, was Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

Elected and community persons were very pleased with the meeting. From the start the Senator took the current park district plan off the table. Probably the most significant watchwords were 'keeping the Point and its limestone,' 'independent engineering review', 'quick', 'that everyone can agree to', and 'within design life and other modern standards.'

Obama began by relating what the Point has meant to him since his very first day in Hyde Park in 1985 and saying that he wants it as it is and in the existing footprint to the extent possible. He noted Representative Jackson's amendment, said he wasn't sure it did the job in strong enough language and said he would be looking for suggestions. (Experts were brought in to explicate or opine on the language and what it would "preserve" and preclude--there were differences of opinion). He called the legislative solution a "hammer"-effective but blunt and inflexible- and said he was prepared to use it, but preferred the parties resolve the issue themselves. It became clear that the Senator will consider the Task Force and the Park District the definitive parties.

He asked first the Task Force (main presenter Don Lamb) then the Chicago Park District (main presenter Rob Rejman, with General Superintendent and CEO Timothy J. Mitchell present) to make statements. Obama then asked tough questions. Information was included that was perhaps not before fully known or understood by the Senator and others. The Task Force made clear its concerns - including about lack of peer review of the city's engineering firm's work, community desires and connection with the Point, and willingness to compromise. The Park District expressed its concerns for design life, ability to execute in a reasonable timeframe without starting design all over, access even should the lake levels rise again, and that the whole lakefront not be opened to redesign or retrofit. (The senator signaled assurance on the latter.) (There were some differences between Park District and U.S. Corps of Engineers positions, the latter claiming it only had a supervisory role, to make sure the wall would last 50 years. Others have noted that under federal law the Corps is responsible for seawall, whereas the responsibilities of the Park District are contractual, e.g. the Memorandum of Agreement.)

There was discussion of access. Both sides expressed commitment to disabled access to the edge, the Task Force looking for some access into the water also. The Task Force pointed out the limited amount of swimming access in the city plan and the dangers to swimmers from the rounded chop-block toe stone and the sheet wall wrapping the Point in the city plan. This appeared to have raised a red flag to the Senator.

A key question by the Senator was, why all or more of the Point could not be repaired in place, or rebuilt in the limestone. The Senator quickly concluded that there needed to be a (relatively quick) independent engineering review but that the Park District and Task Force should meet and agree on the kind of design within a 6 week framework--and do this without the firm that did the city's design. The Senator also indicated that if cost were the barrier to doing the Point right, money could be added, adding that if any plan cost $200 million he would have second thoughts. [Note that the idea of the city and Task Force meeting has been superseded by the process above.]

Obama insisted the parties work together and quickly arrive at a plan all can sign off on and live with. He said he preferred to have the parties reach agreement themselves, but that if they did not he would use that legislative "hammer". The Task Force immediately accepted all conditions for talks. The Park District did not respond.



Some quick takes Sept.-Nov. 2005

Obama's press secretary, Julian Green, after the meeting, as quoted in the October 5 Herald, added that there are "...a couple of factors that certainly he's keeping in mind that he realizes may not make that vision feasible." Specifically: the Army Corps 50-year design life mandate and spending federal funds "wisely."

Community Task Force spokesman Greg Lane, who attended and spoke to the meeting, lauded Obama's stand and said he is confident a consensus can be reached. "He [Obama] came out in a strong way. He understands the community's feelings because he is a part of the community. We were very happy to hear that."

Jack Spicer of the Task Force Executive Committee, also at the meeting, told the HPKCC Conference, "It was a very good meeting and the Senator was very good -- we'll know for sure how good in a few days." Spicer added later that the difference now is that there is that potential "hammer" if the parties do not get together.

Jonathan Fine of Preservation Chicago, also at the meeting, was encouraged and optimistic but cautioned that it is important that it end in a mutually agreeable conclusion everyone can live with.

The Herald stressed that return to community participation is the key, as insisted upon by the Senator and noted that the legislative hammer would be heavy indeed since federal funding would probably be barred should restrictive language pass.

At a latter Task Force session, attendees agreed that the key principles that need to be maintained and realized are preservation, access, and swimming access. Executive Committee members said that all the alternative plans, from Galvin's through Heitzman through the Mediator's study, would be drawn upon to inform a resolution and that the Task Force intended to make a good faith effort to resolve the Point question.

Caution from this source. We have seen developments leading to optimistic scenarios of resolution within a month or two many times over the past 5 years, including the mediated process of late 2003 into early 2004. And this will take at least months.

A lesson?: despite this editor's distaste at 'rowdy Hyde Park meetings,' of 'claques' and of 'lobby-ragging' officials, it's clear to this source that this latest initiative would not have happened without the large crowd and what happened at the September 15 meeting and the hundreds of calls and e-mails to Senator Obama.



According to the Hyde Park Herald, October 19, 2005, citing Obama spokesperson Julian Green, Senator Obama urged STS, the engineering firm that prepared the city-park district plan, to step aside as a first step in mediating the Point dispute. Green said the Senator "is certainly not asking anyone to start from scratch. I think what was apparent was that the Promontory coalition had problems with engineers who were in that project and credibility was questioned." He is said to have added that the project cannot go forward until everyone is on the same page, Green continued."Without numbers that everyone could agree to, a well as an independent study that the community and city agree on, to them, that was the impasse."

Greg Lane of the Task Force said the group welcomes the opportunity to work with the park district so long as the process is open, transparent and honest. Chicago Park District Communications Director Jessica Maxey-Faulkner said, "We appreciate the senator's interest in the Chicago Park District and we share his desire for closure of this project." She could not give a date for a meeting and would not comment on the request for STS dismissal, according to the Herald. Top

Report on the September 15, 2005 public meeting on the city (CPD/IHPA) plan for the Point

By Gary Ossewaarde, HPKCC Parks Chair

On September 15 2005, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, U.S. Army Corps, City of Chicago, and Chicago Park District presented at South Shore Cultural Center their apparently final plan for shoreline protection rehabilitation at Promontory Point in Chicago, approximately 55th Street. This was announced as an informational meeting, not a hearing. The Robeson Theater at the Cultural Center became full not long after the meeting began. Catcalls, comments and questions were shouted out from the opening moments.

The meeting, begun before the arrival of Alderman Hairston, was started with introductions and short statements. Handout included the agenda, latest plan and views of the north and south side, July 19 letter from the Chicago Park District accepting on behalf of the planning partners of conditions from IHPA and July 25 letter from IHPA to the Park District further defining conditions and giving consent to proceed to the 50 percent drawings stage. (The plan and views are found below; the two letters are currently found in the August-September 2005 Point page.) Materials were also distributed or displayed by the Community Task Force for Promontory Point.

The plan as described by presenters from the agencies included the following main features or changes:

The justification stated by the agencies for the exclusive use of concrete for the Promenade and first two steps was strength to withstand wave force, especially in high-water phases when water may wash up against the steps, and a clear path for universal access, both on the promenade and on two steps. The staying power of "special, thick" concrete was defended against criticism.

The justification given for rebuilding the north side was structural failure; for the east side was unhistoric repair of the 1960s that was also failing. They stated it was hard to reconcile such diverse aims as preservation, shore protection, and repair or replacement of failed sections. The agreed solution was to start over with the north side but make it as close to the original as feasible but to keep the less damaged and less heavily attacked south side.

No exact timetable was given, but the plan must now be prepared to 100% drawings stage for final review, then if approved construction drawings will be prepared. Both funds and resources are currently tied up in other sections of the lakeshore. So, it could not be guessed whether work could start in 2006/ And it will be done in two seasonal phases.

Alderman Hairston stated some of the history of the project, including difficulty gaining inclusion and information, and that the four responsible agencies under the 1903 Memorandum of Agreement had finally been assembled together to consider compatibility of goals, the first of which are preservation and community use. She said she would listen to what the meeting said, but that this is the plan of the legally responsible parties.

A letter was read from U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) stating that he would take into account the interests of local constituents when handling legislation this fall that could include language by Rep. Jackson mandating preservation of the existing step stones. He would decide the matter and evaluate the present plan in accord with major principles: preservation, access, and structural integrity for protecting the Point.


The moderator, Arnold Randall, denied motions to field questions from the floor and proceeded to read batches of similar questions/comments, with response for each set by various agency spokespersons. As vocal outbursts, calls for an open meeting and hearings, and shouted questions and comments, and demands that the spokesperson for the Community Task Force (Greg Lane) be allowed to speak began to overwhelm this process, Alderman Hairston changed the process to allow Greg Lane to make a brief talk on behalf of the Community Task Force for Promontory Point, then to allow persons to line up to ask questions, some of which were given answers or counter statements by representatives of the agencies. Mr. Lane strongly criticized the plan, the studies and conclusions on which it was based, and the way it was arrived at. Most of those who lined up insisted on making statements rather than asking questions; several had their statements cut short by the Alderman. Several members of the audience attempted to break in with remarks. Almost all those who lined up to speak opposed the plan. Prime objections include that the plan does not preserve, that limestone is enjoyed and fully up to standard and present, that concrete has not performed well elsewhere, or for better swimming access, as well as a top-down approach.

As the meeting was finally shut down after 3 and a half hours, Shoreline Protection Manager Rob Rejman said the district to move the project forward, and he did not anticipate another public meeting on the matter.



Reflections of Alderman Leslie Hairston (5th) at the HPKCC Annual Meeting, September 18, 2005

As reported by Gary Ossewaarde

Alderman Hairston said she was disappointed with many who came to the September 15 meeting on the Point, saying they were not prepared to respect or listen or consider all aspects of the project. She said there is much misapprehension in the community and a part of the community would like for nothing to be done to the Point, no matter what need is shown. On the other hand, the agencies had no idea how to run the meeting and she had to take control when things got out of hand.

She said that the four agencies who came together have the power have to power and right to impose their plan at any time. She indicated, however, that changes are possible and she is working on them at the highest level.

Considerations: "Something" has to be done to rebuild the Point to protect it, and the the Corps of Engineers standards, which have changed over the years, have to be followed. She noted that the alternative plan 1) has been shown to not meet those standards, 2) the alternative plan itself has substantial concrete in the promenade. And the east side is already of concrete and should be taken out.

Also, Americans With Disabilities Act requirements have to be followed. While the alternative studies by ADA experts showed such access is not necessary on the steps, there has to be clear access all around the Point, on the promenade in the new construction part. She indicated little confidence in smoothed stone to make a good ADA path. She is pleased with reduction of the promenade width.

What needs to be changed?


Alderman's Report: We need a plan we can live with

Hyde Park Herald, September 21, 2005. By Alderman Leslie A. Hairston (4th)

After attending last week's meeting regarding Promontory Point, I want to once again make it clear to the rest of the city how we feel about our beloved neighborhood treasure.

We all agree that the Point must be rebuilt. The question is when do we agree to a plan so that rebuilding can begin. In New Orleans, public officials knew of the dangers posed to their levee system, but did not act. I do not intend to make that same mistake. The Point is deteriorating and while we may disagree on how fast this is occurring, as an elected official I do not have the luxury of waiting to see how things will turn out when the answer may reveal itself in a collapse. Further, with the involvement of the IHPA, the memorandum of agreement is once again whole and the project planners could conceivably move forward with the project without additional community involvement.

We have been clear about what we don't want; we have to begin to think about what we are willing to accept.

We all know that whatever plan is adopted it will not be reconstructed completely out of limestone. This is a fact that both the Park District and the Community Task Force agree [upon]. The reconstructed zones in both plans call for the significant use of concrete in their designs. Concrete is not foreign to the Point given that it has been a part of the eastern tip for more than 40 years.

To reiterate, the plan put forth by the Park District an the IHPA is not perfect. I do not like it but it is the only plan we have that meets criteria for preservation and meets federal standards for durability. The Army Corps of Engineers cannot approve an all-limestone revetment because it does not meet their 50-year design life requirement. This latest Park District-IHPA plan uses the least concrete and preserves the most limestone of any other design to date. Now, it needs to be modified to address as much of our community's concerns as possible. It is clear that the issue of swimming access must be revisited, since deep-water swimming is a tradition at the Point. Access to the water has to be a part of any final plan. Consequently, I agree that the Park District must deliver a plan that makes the Point accessible to everyone. Alternative designs to the proposed zigzag wheelchair ramp, however, should be considered. ADA features do not have to be ugly to be functional. One suggestion that was submitted at the meeting is the idea of gently sloping an accessible ramp into the promenade from the north. There is enough space to ensure that easy grading will be comfortable for park users of all ability levels.

I am offering these suggestions as a place to begin the conversation so the community can continue to make progress. I recognize tha some believe that we should continue this fight to the bitter end--even if it means jeopardizing the project itself--but I do not believe they speak for the majority. I believe that most people are ready to move forward and bring closure to this issue. To that end, it is time to stop yelling and to start thinking about what we really want and how best to achieve it.

Given the work that everyone has put into preserving the Point--an in spite of my reservations--we must recognize that we have the elements of a final plan that needs to be further developed to preserve this local treasure. I assure you that I will be at the table to ensure that we get the best of all elements included in this plan. But this cannot be an open-ended process. The Point will be rebuilt. It is my goal to have construction begin at the Point in the spring with a plan that addresses our concerns and has our support.


Task Force position after the September 15 meeting

It is clear we support limestone preservation. Herald letter of September 21, 2005

Our community should be very proud that so many hundreds of us attended the Park District's meeting last Thursday night to insist on saving Promontory Point. This community made it clear that it is intelligent,well informed, and persistent.

With the strength and clarity of the community's rejection of the city and IHPA's concrete-based plan, we have sent the government agencies back to the drawing board to start over.

However, we are concerned that, following a resounding rejection of the City's plan, Alderman Hairston admonished those preset "to move on," "to stop talking," to get over it and accept the phony and unacceptable "preservation" plan that we had been presented.

We can understand that Alderman Hairston may be tiring of this process. Real success, though, sometimes takes longer and requires more work than the alderman might have wished. We assure you that the Community Task Force will not abandon Congressman Jackson's amendment; we will not abandon the hope that the city and the IHPA will learn from their mistakes and finally enter into honest negotiations with the community; and, most of all, we will not abandon the overwhelming majority of the community that insists on preserving the character and beauty of Promontory Point.

Fred Blum, Bruce Johnstone, Jack Spicer, Connie Spreen, Executive Committee Community Task Force.


Coverage and views at end of September 2005

Obama last hope to preserve Point, then softly saying "no" to legislative stop, "yes" to swift conclusion reports Herald: Aide says senator's top priority to save federal funding. (Compare with letter to community in August-September 2005 Point and report on Obama's initiative at top of this page.)

September 28, 2005. By Tedd Carrison

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill) called for a swift consensus in the Promontory Point rehab debate and said he would not support legislation that would "contribute to a delay in the process" for fear that federal money allocated for the Point will be lost to other projects, spokesman Julian Green told the Herald Sept. 23....

Obama was recently thrown into the debate when language calling for "limestone step preservation" was added to the fund-dispersing Water Resources Development Act by U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr (D-2) in July and now awaits Senate approval.

The senator from Hyde Park is still reviewing the park district plan that calls for limestone restoration on the Point's south side and demolition on its north and east sides. He h as not commented specifically on these latest drawings nor Jackson's language but said he will not support an amendment that would would prolong the project, including one that would require entirely new plans be drafted, said Green.

"What we have seen over the last few years is a project that originally used concrete evolve into a project that not only uses some of the original limestone but incorporates limestone into the design," said Green, a former park district spokesman."I don't think that scratching the whole plan and starting fresh would benefit the city or the community."

Following a public presentation Sept. 15 where nearly 400 Hyde Parkers packed the South Shore Cultural Center and disdainful shouts continually interrupted city and state officials, the park district said it is authorized to move forward with the project. Despite the opposition displayed from members of her constituency, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) treated them as in the minority and said she would like construction to benin in the spring with few* changes made to the present plan.

To many favoring a complete Point restoration, including Greg Lane of the Community Task Force for Promontory Point, Obama is potentially the final legislative barrier to the city in a debate that Lane called "utterly leaderless with the exception of Congressman Jackson."

Since July, Hyde Parkers have inundated Obama's office with phone calls, letters and petitions insisting on more limestone. Aside from saying he is aware of their concerns and "preservation should be an underlying complete" of the Point's rehab, the senator has remained largely aloof on the issue.

"Some time this senator is going to have to stand up and take responsibility for the residents of his home neighborhood," said Lane.

Green said it is unknown when the Senate will vote on the Water Resources Development Act and it could be delayed until next year.

[This writer believes "a few changes" would more accurately describe the Alderman's position.]


Other views at the end of September 2005

Herald's view Sept. 28. Promontory Point needs a public hearing

Those wanting to vent frustrations overt a plan by the Chicago Park District to turn most of Promontory Point's limestone revetment into concrete needed a public hearing, not a Q-and-A. Therefore, the Sept. 15 meeting at the South Shore Cultural Center was a mistake to begin with.

I never should have occurred, not in that fashion. Nobody in the crowd of about 350 people who attended the meeting wanted to write a question out in advance to be read aloud by park district Director of Planning and Development Arnold Randall. Most wanted to vent, as characterized by the endless shouting, jeering and even hissing.

Fifth Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston could not control the room either when mid-way through she announced that those wishing to ask questions, and only questions, of the park district should form a line behind a microphone. Same bus, different driver. Most wanted to vent. And whatever happened to all the pre-written questions that were never read aloud?

Many did respect the process and the alderman and asked informed questions about swimming and disability access, soil erosion, the feasibility of limestone, and the costs of limestone compares to concrete to construct a new revetment.

But still, most wanted to vent. And they were never given that opportunity. In fact, the park district has disregarded any community participation in creating this last plan, announced in July. Was Hyde Park expected to swallow something that looks totally different than what has stood at the shore of Lake Michigan since the 1920s and not have a say in it?

And then Ald. Hairston wrote in her column in last week's Herald that "the project planners could conceivably move forward with the project without additional community involvement." Additional? Where was the community involvement to begin with? The plan fell out of the sky in July and out of necessity the park district hosts a Q-and-A two months later. The only community involvement has been lobbying U.S. Sen. Barack Obama to support legislation that could determine the Point's future as well as unending letters of protest in the Herald.

The contentious crowd that filled South Shore Cultural Center's theater hall should have appeared to the park district, engineers and the alderman as no surprise. This is the community protesting the park district's plan, and far more have spoken against it than have praised it.

Hairston disregards the critics, writing, "It is time to stop yelling and to start thinking about what we really want." But isn't that what the critics were attempting to do Sept. 15 to deaf ears? Some of the same, thoughtful arguments that were made that night have surfaced over the last five years.

Perhaps the alderman should ask that the park district listens to what the community really wants and stops insisting on its concrete plan. That is leadership on behalf of the community against city encroachment. You cannot have it the other way and claim to represent the community.


Letter from Rob Rejman, Director of Lakefront Construction, to the Herald, September 28, 2005

Park district's plan does preserve Promontory Point's limestone

To the editor:

The Chicago Park District agrees that preservation should be the underlying principal [sic] behind any plan for Promontory Point. On Sept. 15, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA), Chicago Park District, Chicago Department of Environment and U.S. Army corps of Engineers presented plans that incorporate recommendations of the IHPA for preservation and reconstruction at Promontory Point.

The plans presented were a direct result of the community's insistence that the Chicago Park District consult with and defer tot he the IHPA for matters of preservation at Promontory Point. We have done so and will continue to do so for refinement and approval of construction documents.

In summary, highlights of the plan include:

Other commitments include:

Despite the rhetoric of a few, the recommendations of IHPA enjoy general support. Most would agree that the south side of the point should be fully preserved in limestone, and that installing three upper steps of limestone on the remaining north and east sides is a good idea.

Common ground has been established on several other key issues, as well. All governmental agencies, former task force groups, former mediator and current Community Task force have recognized that full reconstruction is required for the north and east sides of the Point. All sides support accommodation of persons with disabilities, and all have proposed plans that use concrete for reasons of accessibility, structure and even preservation. The community task force proposal to retain the existing concrete promenade and wave breakers on the east side for the purposes of preservation, cost, and accessibility, is an example of this.

Indeed, the most compelling evidence of common ground lies in the noticeable similarities between the IHPA approved plan and the community task force proposal. As cited in the Report of the Promontory Point Mediator, well befdore th e latest IHPA changes, "The city started with an all-concrete and steel steel structure; the Task Force with an all-limestone and wood structure. Today both propose reinforced concrete structures, each of which incorporates some limestone." For those who take the time to examine substance, it is clear that the Mediator's Report and the plan proposed by the Community Task Force for Promontory Point have been two of the most influential documents in the formation of the IHPA approved plan.

However, focus on substance has been difficult in the existing climate. Despite previous agreements, and despite the fact that the Chicago Park District has had a standing commitments to reuse all salvageable limestone, some hard-liners continue to label the current plan a a "concrete and steel demolition plan."

There are those who may believe the entire Point is fine the way it is, and that it should be left alone. This claim has become a fundamental part of Point mythology, despite obvious deterioration and definitive evidence to the contrary.

The Report of the Promontory Point Mediator acknowledges that structural failure, as well as the need to reconstruct the north and east sides of the revetment. The Point was completed in 1939, and large portions of the east and north sides failed within 25 years of construction. The first major repair occurred in 1963, when the eastern promenade was replaced with concrete and protruding wave breaks. Four major repair efforts have been made since then. Rubble covers large areas of the north face, and failure continues where repairs have not been made.

Some may appreciate the deteriorated aesthetic, but this personal preference does not satisfy preservation guidelines, nor does it address the primary purpose of shoreline protection. It is also important to recognize that access for persons with disabilities was not seen as a civil rights issue when engineers designed and constructed the original revetment. Thinking has changed for the better, and all sides have agreed that maintainable ADA accessibility is a requirement for any reconstruction of Promontory Point.

Any plan for Promontory Point must meet preservation guidelines as determined by the IHPA, must meet the 50-year design life required for funding, must be maintainable at a reasonable cost , and must provide reasonable access for persons with disabilities.

The new IHPA approve plan preserves and reuse all salvageable limestone, retains the entire south limestone structure as-is, rebuilds the upper half of the north and east sides entirely with limestone, covers sheet pile with stone along the entire perimeter, provides an ADA accessible promenade on the north and east sides, provides ADA accessibility on two alternate steps for times of high water or wave conditions, and has been engineered to last with little maintenance required.



One letter writer to the Herald wonders why Ald. Hairston tiptoes around the Point, as he alleges, when he could win the gratitude of constituents and guarantee a bright future by supporting a 100 percent real limestone for both sides of the Point.

Lois Friedberg-Dobry, on the other hand, says Ald. Hairston is doing the right thing:

I think that the task force executive committee is being deliberately misleading when they say that Alderman Leslie Hairston (5th) told people at the Promontory Point hearing to stop talking and accept the Park District preservation plan. I think they rather conveniently overlooked the fact that if Leslie hadn't stepped in we would not have been able to speak at all.

Just because she did not let the task force grandstand and monopolize the meeting does not mean she was trying to shut people up. As I recall, she even had to step in to keep a few people from being shouted down by others in the audience who apparently didn't think anybody had the right to disagree with them. Even though the task force claims to speak for everyone, even people who support them are getting tired of their nasty intimidation tactics.

I really don't think we should be bashing the alderman after all this time. She doesn't look tired to me. She has been with us since the beginning and she has worked hard to get us the best deal possible. If the people on the North Side had had an involved alderman who wanted to listen to the people, they would not have the mess they have now.

From what we heard from the experts at the meeting-when we could her them-the federal funding we need for the Point is only available to us if we meet the current guidelines for structural stability and ADA accessibility as well as preservation. The question is not when the money will be available, the question is how can we meet the guidelines, which are different now than when the Point was originally built, so that we can get the money.

The representative from IHPA was not rigid. He certainly heard us when we said that the water access needed to be improved and the alderman agreed, calling a meting to help us improve the plan. Leslie has been the best friend we could ask for on the Point. Let's not turn on her now.

Andrew Harrington to Sen. Obama, other officials and HPKCC

Dear Senator Obama,
My letter about Promontory Point preservation is included below in plain text, that may not be the best formatted. You may prefer to read the same letter, fully formatted, from the web:

- - - - - - - - - - -
Dear Senator Obama,
I am writing to you about Promontory Point preservation. I hope you can help to do something about the distorted and pernicious version of “preservation” that the City and Corp of Engineers are trying to ram down our throats. For all that the engineers claim to know about the Point, they appear to pay very little attention to how the community uses it and what the community appreciates.

I was at the only public meeting, Sept. 15, about the city’s most recent “preservation” plan. I heard your representative speak reasonably and plainly, and I heard a lot of other officials make pronouncements that totally strain credulity. At least Alderman Hairston changed the meeting format so we had at least limited ability to interact with the team assembled by the city.

The four high-level goals below are all worthy, but the spin the city is putting on the details needs to be vigorously challenged, as I do below.

The idea is to have a structure that lasts for 50 years and throughout this time will

1. Protect the shore -- little argument or issue.

2. Allow reasonable handicapped access -- the prominence and level given by the city is totally inconsistent with actual city practice along the lakefront.

3. Be aesthetically pleasing and functional over 50 years -- the city position on “lasting for 50 years” is totally distorted. I believe it can be finessed in your legislation by carefully defining what needs to last in what form. It is a very poor standard, totally ignoring neighborhood desires, to have something “last” (as in be static) for 50 years in a form that is worse than anything in a whole sequence of natural changes over those 50 years of an alternate plan.

4. Have a reasonable budget for timely completion -- this ties in with what is functional and aesthetic, and reasonable compromises to make.

1. Protect the Shore
Briefly: All are in agreement that the Point has been eaten away underneath by wave action digging away under the limestone, and that this should be avoided in the future with metal sheeting driven deep down. Concrete is a reasonable material for further support structure, at least where it is not visible. People can argue about how much subsurface concrete is needed, and that will affect the price some, but it this is not what the neighborhood will be looking at, and is not the center of argument from my perspective.

The central issues of interest to me and the neighborhood, and which have been enormously distorted by the city, center around aims number 2 and 3 above. These are impacted by the enormous amount of ugly concrete the city proposes to use on the visible surface part of the Point.

2. Handicapped Accessibility
A realistic situation for comparison appears right behind the Cultural Center where our Sept. 15 meeting took place. There is a public beach in the park. Handicapped access is obtained by a strip of thick blue plastic, about a four to six foot wide, presumably able to support a wheelchair, that goes from the paved road straight down the beach to the water. Fine: we have handicapped access. Note what is NOT there: There is no strip of blue plastic all the way across the beach along the water. This could have been done easily enough if there were a need to have handicapped access to the water at every place along the beach. But of course it was not done: it would be total overkill. Nor is there a 16 foot wide swath of concrete down to the water or all along the water in place of the sufficient blue plastic. That, too would be total overkill, but this is what the city is claiming is required at the Point, completely out of keeping with what they find acceptable elsewhere. Nevertheless, the bogus reasoning here was a major reason given in the Sept. 15 meeting to reject the neighborhood preservation plan.

Who knows, I could be wheelchair-bound in a few years. I could well want to accompany my grandchildren to the Point. I would appreciate being able to get down close to the water at some place on the promenade and be where I can see them enjoying the beautiful limestone rocks. The thought of removing most of what is so enjoyable now, so I could go anywhere in my wheelchair, in a place I would no longer be tempted to even take my grandchildren, would be a terrible irony.

3. Be Aesthetically Pleasing and Functional over 50 Years
The argument about “lasting for 50 years” is important because we are told it is directly tied to federal financing. It appears to me that the city and engineers are using definitions and criteria out of step with the reality of the evolution of the Point and neighborhood desires.

The issue is that as a surface material, the concrete is an ugly total change from the limestone promenade that currently attracts so many people to the north side of the Point in particular. The city has made two main arguments, one based on disabled access, debunked in section 2 above. The other is about “lasting 50 years”. What that means is central here. At first I thought the city meant being static. It was very significant that they indicated that was not so in at least one situation: They talked about limestone rock in front of the steel sheet “naturally shifting” and this being “part of the plan”.

Fine, so suppose we have a steel front wall, concrete down low and out of sight, and in what few places it is necessary on the surface for handicapped access somewhere along the shore, and that we have almost entirely limestone at the visible level, as there is now.

Here the issue is not shoreline preservation, but the uses and desires of the community. As the city has declared with some limestone already, let us declare that some shifting and changing in the limestone here is “part of the plan”. The main point is that even if the limestone shifts some, even at the end of 50 years, it will likely be vastly more acceptable, aesthetic, and used by the community than static ugly concrete. There are two components to this, discussed below:

A. Acceptable Changes -- How perfectly even and static it needs to be for community acceptance, and
B. Likely Changes -- How much the limestone is actually likely to shift.

A. Acceptable Changes
When judging what will get community acceptance, it is instructive to see what parts of the Point the community actually uses compared to the condition of the parts. The city acknowledges that a part of the Point has changed little, about the northwestern quarter of the shoreline, and they would preserve this part, making it sound like a great compromise. Meanwhile they protest that they are doing us a great service by putting concrete in place of the far-from-uniform 75-year-old limestone promenade on the north side, with its occasional hole, and the places the retaining wall on the edge has totally failed. In fact, the almost pristine part that the city wants to save gets almost no use. If evenly placed limestone blocks were so important to people, the use would be entirely different, but it certainly is not. People very clearly vote with their feet, and prefer the sometimes considerably shifted limestone, easily by 100 to 1. There is also concrete nearby, in the eastern part that was modified in the 60’s. That is also far less popular than the uneven limestone on the north side.

If the surface were to be redone in limestone, behind a secure steel outer wall, after a mere 50 years the limestone should be in at least as good condition as it is now AND THAT IS CLEARLY PREFERABLE TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD! It would not be static. It would probably not be perfect, but there is no need for the Corp of Engineers to define “lasting” as static, when the original state of the concrete is less desirable than the likely state of limestone 50 years later! The Corp of Engineers may remain blind to that, but you as a user of the Point should realize the Corp’s definition is ridiculous. Please undo it as our elected official!

B. Likely Changes
I asked a question at the Sept. 15 meeting and was directed to talk with the Chief Engineer. I had heard the engineers reject limestone embedded in concrete. OK, suppose the interface separates, leaving the limestone just sitting there. The stair-step walls are limestone, and the principal mode of failure has been collapse due to being undermined. This mode should not happen with the solid steel outer wall and a concrete foundation. The issue has rarely been that the gorgeous limestone blocks have been pulled out by storm forces. (And as I said in part A. – even if it were to happen as often as it has in the last 75 years, the results would be preferable to the large scale surface concrete replacement!)

I suggested another alternative for the promenade: putting in closely spaced but not attached limestone blocks in a trough (which would need a drain somewhere) behind the wall so the tops come up to the level of the promenade. The engineer rejected this based on their calculations of storm forces washing across the top and tearing these blocks out.

OK now, I am a professor of computer science, a mathematics professor for many years, with a Ph.D. in mathematics, a degree in applied mathematics, and one who took all the physics courses available on forces and dynamics in college. I, too, have made mathematical models declaring with mathematical certainty that a force or something could be no worse than X. The problem with such models tends to be that to get mathematical certainty, you need to choose a bound much more conservative than you are ever likely to reach. There is another source of information: look at the Point after 75 years! Even though the present construction allows a storm surge underneath the free-laying limestone blocks of the north promenade, and block have fallen where the outer pilings have failed (both which should be eliminated with the solid steel wall) the vast majority of the remaining blocks have not been pulled out, particularly where I swim, fairly far from the eastern end. The mathematical models are not as valuable as history! And again, if we acknowledge that the neighborhood would rather have a few blocks in the promenade move than purposely toss them all out for concrete in the first place, keep the limestone! Accept some limestone shifting as “part of the plan”!

4. Cost and Completion
The metal sheathing and subsurface concrete are common among plans. The issues seem to be the amount and source of limestone and whether the concrete reconstruction already on the most exposed east end of the Point is retained, as suggested in the community plan.

The city says they have to use much less limestone, because there is not enough of it. There is limestone essentially everywhere now. At issue is how much can be reused. That fits in with the issues of what is aesthetically acceptable. Certainly we would be most happy with pristine limestone. On the other hand, as I have indicated above, imperfect limestone is preferable to masses of concrete. Also, the less pristine limestone could go in the part the city so kindly was talking about preserving – the part where almost nobody spends any time. Plus there is a lot of limestone around, without even going to a quarry:

Out of curiosity I swam down along the nice sandy bottom north of the Point to the end of the awful recent concrete eyesore that stops a couple on hundred yards north. The lake wall here used to be limestone blocks, too. The city has “preserved and used” lots of this limestone by dumping it in the water in front of this newly constructed sterile concrete wasteland, where nobody swims. This is not a cost effective use of massive limestone blocks. Concrete demolition debris is already used as protection against the waves in other places along the southern lakefront, like south of the beach near the Sept. 15 meeting about the Point. Such material could be used in front of the new concrete monstrosity north of the Point with little issue, freeing up much natural, majestic limestone. There is also all the limestone that was prudently stored after removing it from the site of the new 57th St. underpass (by the way, a place where the reuse of a token amount of limestone contributes almost nothing to the experience of the site).

There are a variety of other more reasonable compromises to make than those taken by the city if cost is an issue. For instance, the city folks have sneered at the neighborhood proposal to leave the 60’s concrete revision of the most battered east end of the Point. Well, the wave-breaking projections sticking up in that concrete are not particularly exciting, but they are hardly worse than the solid concrete expanse on the promenade envisioned by the city, and the neighborhood would keep the limestone steps inland from the concrete that the city would partly replace by more concrete. The main point is that if the existing concrete were kept (there is nothing there to “preserve”), with a new steel wall in front of it to stop further undermining, it would save money. This is not the area that the neighborhood hangs out and swims, so if money is in such short supply, why not concentrate it in the area of most use, the north side of the Point?

The city talks about how their plan is “not so different from the community plan”. Of course the difference is the part most important to the community, the surface layer, but the city team also talks about how they have only a 50% plan at this point, and lots of details can change. Well, the surface layer does not need to have a whole lot to do with the basic plans for infrastructure, and the community has well-detailed plans for the surface layer that can be quickly accessed. The issue is not the possibility but the will.

Of course we would like real improvements over what we have now, but as long as we are not entirely too late for funding, we are willing to wait for something realistic, not the awful, crippling vision of the city.

Thank you for your attention. I hope you can put teeth in the real preservation of the Point experience, and that does not include massive expanses of surface concrete. Please build on what Congressman Jackson has started.


Dr. Andrew N. Harrington
5482 S. Hyde Park Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60615

Copies to
Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.
Alderman Leslie Hairston
Hyde Park Herald
Save The Point
Hyde Park Community Conference


William F. Zieske in the October 12 Herald objected to the city and state's twisting the word 'preservation' to bolster their plan.

Zieske says IHPA and the city did not just use 'preservation' loosely, they twisted the concept into its opposite. This destroys cultural values--what will we destroy-to-save next? he asks. "Preservation' in any context means keeping some essential characteristics of a thing. So what is the essence of the Point that must be preserved for the solution to be an act of "preservation"?

"The Point is a work of landscape architecture, and was meant as one when it was built decades ago. It is not simply a work of engineering, designed only to withstand wave part beauty and one part utility... The aspect of the Point's beauty that are most loved by the community are [evident by looking where the people are--on the north side limestone, where the view and swimming are.]

He suggests for a real picture of what the hybrid plan would look like, visit the north end of the 57th beach. He also says that keeping just the south side is like saving just the south side of Robie House.


See also the HPKCC reports in the Autumn 2005 issue of the Conference Reporter (in August>Point) and Letter to Parties, December 2005 above.


A new direction, opened by Sen. Obama, Corps of Engineers and Community Task Force, gives best promise yet that preservation may be achieved. Watch for papers and meetings.

All should know how much sincere effort and attention Senator Obama, and also Representative Jackson have put into the Point and how much they have backed and consulted the community representatives concerning an issue that could have been relegated to "constituent service." Still, the process described below will take time and is dicey.

Pursuant to his October 3 stakeholders meeting, at the tail end of October, Senator Obama's staff met with leaders of the Community Task Force for Promontory Point to propose a new initiative his office developed with the national-level of the Army Corps of Engineers. The idea, endorsed November 2 by the core Task Force members, would set up an agreement and meetings with non-Chicago divisions of the Corps using their engineering experts-- and Corps preservation/compliance experts proposed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation-- to evaluate exactly what can be preserved, and how, and how access can be included--one that does not change the character of the Point (this latter according to expectation of the Task Force) as well as reasonable maintenance expectations for the local partners. As the Task Force understood the arrangement at the time:

The Task Force pledged to keep the community in the loop and decision-making seat. Therefore the TF will put out explanatory papers/email and call informational/input meetings, and larger meetings as talks reach important plateaus. To be in the line for such communications or to ask for a Task Force presentation to your group, contact the Task Force via

The city/park district played coy for the next couple months at least, claiming it had no formal requests from the Senator and saying it was "open to hearing his suggestions." October 28, the Park District presented 50 percent complete drawings by STS engineers to IHPA for comment, as if nothing has happened.

Promontory Point was named on Nov. 9 to Preservation Chicago's "Chicago Seven Most Endangered."

The Task Force continued to stick to its basic position as supported by studies that the Point can be repaired in place, in large degree using existing or matching materials and without a major 'redesign', and that safe and convenient ADA and swimming accessibility must be provided. The Task Force said it is most pleased that preservation professionals are included and will insist on clear and fair rules for the process.

The use of the Corps is a step away from the Task Force's request for an outside independent review, but the Corps has worked hard with the Senator to ensure it will fairly and sincerely explore a preservation approach. Note that one of the Corps of Engineers principal sticking point has been that it is the wood pilings that failed. Whether there is a middle ground on this, at least for parts of the Point, will be discussed. Task force member say that the Corps is the responsible agent under the U.S Waters and Historic Preservation acts and the 1993 Memorandum of Agreement ( "The Corps shall ensure that.." and "The Corps shall consult to ensure that..." are the mandate in every case therein).

A clarification about access. It has never been maintained seriously by any party that the Americans with Disability Act must be applied to the Point, if compliance means altering its character. Court decisions support this interpretation. This does not mean that parties don't recognize that they have a moral obligation to include genuine, reasonable access for persons of all abilities. Top

Herald coverage Nov. 9 2005

Tedd Carrison cites statement by Senator Obama's spokesman, Julian Green: The Senator is "in discussion" with the Army Corps, requesting it serve as third party consultant. "The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has indicated at least an interest and the Buffalo District..would appear to be the most likely candidate because their operation is familiar with Great Lakes issues." Green also indicated the Senator preferred a federal agency because it would be more subject to the Senator's direct oversight and less likely to present cost and credibility issues than a private firm. The consultant is to be agreeable to both the city and community. Park District spokesperson Jessica Maxey-Faulkner said the city is open to suggestions from the Senator but had not received confirmation that the Army Corps will be the consultant. Top

Preservation Chicago names Point to "7 Most Endangered in Chicago" (The Chicago 7) list

The list of 7 endangered was released at a press conference at City Hall November 9. The purpose of the list is not only to highlight important structures that may be threatened but to honor the work of local residents and advocacy groups. Both the Point and Doctors Hospital have been on the list in the past. The Point was named to Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois' "Ten Most Endangered" list in March, 2004.

Bulletin from the Community Task Force for Promontory Point Nov. 6 05

Dear Friend of Promontory Point --
In late September, Senator Barack Obama joined Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., in supporting the community's effort to preserve Promontory Point. Since the Senator stepped in, the City's principal engineering consultant, STS, has been fired, and a new study of the Point has been requested from the Army Corps of Engineers. The new study will focus directly on preservation, and members of the community will be involved in the process from the beginning.

Representatives of both the Senator and Congressman will be present at a press conference:

12:00 NOON
CITY HALL, 121 N LaSalle
At the press conference Preservation Chicago will announce their selection of Promontory Point as one of Chicago's SEVEN MOST ENDANGERED BUILDING/SITES of 2006. Although the middle of a weekday is a difficult time, it's very important that as many people as possible attend to show support for the preservation of the Point and to show appreciation for Senator Obama and Congressman Jackson's support of the community.
Please spread the word about Wednesday -- all are welcome.

Executive Committee
Community Task Force for Promontory Point


October surprise: End run or sideshow? Park District delivers 50% stage STS drawings to IHPA; why this may not matter

October 28 the Chicago Park District delivered 50% completion drawings for the Point, prepared by STS engineers, to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency for comment (comment mandated in the 1993 Memorandum of Agreement). Senator Obama had suggested that STS posed credibility problems and asked that they step aside/be asked to in favor of an independent review. There could be many legitimate and/or deliberately provocative reasons both for keeping STS (if that is indeed a correct conclusion) and for continuing to present more advanced plans to IHPA. Despite statement by the IHPA spokesman quoted in the Herald about the plans conforming to what was said at the September 15 public meeting, Task Force understands that the plan has not been changed--apparently it was everything as the plan presenters said at the September 15 meeting.

But in responding to Task Force query about the apparent continuation of STS on the project, the Senator's aide said: Assure the group (Task Force) that the Senator is certain the Park District will keep its promise to the Senator re: setting STS aside for independent review. Communications between the Senators office and the Task Force and preservation allies is reported as continual, open, frank, and cordial.

The direction being pursued by the Senator for such review and new plan was to engage the Buffalo District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers--but may now work at a different/higher level, along with the star of the Corps' preservation compliance division. All documents for consideration in making their decision have been delivered to these parties and a decision was expected by early December, which was indeed the case. Since (November), the Corps Preservation accepted involvement and is willing to interrupt his important work at New Orleans, starting with visiting the Point. The Task Force and its preservation organization allies know they will have to be on their toes.

Herald's coverage of the update to IHPA, November 23, 2005

By Tedd Carrison

Despite a continuing search for a third-party engineer to oversee the Promontory Point rehab project, the Chicago Park District's engineering firm recently presented its own updated plans to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, an IHPA spokesman told the Herald Monday.

Spokesman David Blanchette said he would not comment on the plans presented by STS consultants on Oct. 28 until the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois [? not IHPA?] had an opportunity to review them. He did say the changes "appear to be everything that was discussed at the public meeting," referring to the Sept. 15 presentation at the South Shore Cultural Center.

U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) called for an independent review of the Point project last month and is currently "focused on getting the Army Corps of Engineers at the table," said the senator's spokesman Julian Green.

Following an Oct. 3 meeting in Obama's office of all Point stakeholders, Green said, "I think what was apparent was the [Community Task Force for Promontory Point] had problems with the engineers that were in the project and credibility was questioned." He called the lack of figures that both the city and community could agree on, an "impasse" and said, "You have to come up with an engineer that everybody could agree with and if you got to that place, you could move forward."

Green said he was unaware of STS's meeting with the IHPA and said he did not know the official status of STS on the project. He would not comment about what, if andy, role STS would play in the Pont's rehab once the new engineer was confirmed. He said, "The Senator has asked for an independent review."

Park District spokesperson Jessica Maxey-Faulkner said she had received no confirmation about the status of STS but said the park district is "open to the suggestions of the senator."

At the end of November:

According to the Herald November 30, Park District spokesperson Jessica Maxey-Faulkner confirmed that there were no changes from the September 15 presentation in the 50% plans the District submitted October 28 to the IHPA. She also asserted she received no confirmation from Sen. Obama's office regarding the future of STS Consultants. "Right now, we are waiting for guidance from the senator's office. No further movement has been made."

Obama spokesperson Julian Green told the Herald the likely replacement is the Buffalo District of the Corps, but this was still in negotiation.

Re IHPA review, spokesperson David Blanchette confirmed that it was erroneous information that Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois had received the plans to review.

Greg Lane told the Herald the city plan is off the table and "will not be built on Promontory Point-period."



Park District finally responds to HPKCC letter of July 7 2005 and promptly replies to our letter of December 6

HPKCC letter of July 7

July 7, 2005

Timothy J. Mitchell
Superintendent and CEO
Chicago Park District
541 North Fairbanks Ct.
Chicago, IL 60611

Dear Mr. Mitchell:

The overwhelming majority of our community hopes and asks that the Chicago Park District will engage in creative, open-minded collaboration with the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency to develop a design that repairs and preserves the whole limestone Promontory Point revetment in a way that upholds its beauty, historic integrity, accessibility, and usefulness to visitors.

We are disturbed that six years into planning we do not see preservation-experienced engineers and architects assigned to this project and that community consultation, pursued with such promise two years ago, has been abandoned.

Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference nonetheless hopes and expects that a new beginning will be made and that this longstanding matter will be satisfactorily resolved so that collaboration can go forward between our communities and our parks’ governing steward.


George Rumsey, President,
And the Board of Directors,
Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference

Timothy Mitchell's response dated November 2, 2005.
This editor [GMO] observes that the response deals only with our insistence to properly engage with IHPA, not with our insistence on engaging collaboratively with the community or to include preservation-experienced engineers and architects. Instead, it engages in Newspeak, calling its plan "preservation" and conformity to the Memorandum of Agreement and lists the standard generalized 4 criteria to which everyone agrees --if that were the question, there would have been no 6-year standoff. #4 is a more restricted understanding than I have heard concerning manageable maintenance costs.

(Note that our letter was written just before the CPD and IHPA certainly did "engage" in a way HPKCC did not seek or expect. This way-overdue response to a letter allowed to become outdated as if it were per face current is itself disingenuous.) Assuming this letter was composed in late October or the date at the top, the letter also shows that the District has learned nothing from the September 15 meeting and community opinion or Senator Obama and thumbs its nose at both.

November 2, 2005

George Rumsey, President
Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference
1513 East 53rd
Chicago, IL 60615

Dear Mr. Rumsey,

Thank you for your letter dated July 7, 2005, calling for engagement of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) in the development of a preservation plan for Promontory Point. The IHPA has reviewed and approved plans for every completed section of shoreline in the Chicago Shoreline Protection Project. The IHPA has been actively involved in design for Promontory Point, and their participation will continue to be instrumental as construction documents are developed.

All agencies responsible for shoreline protection at Promontory Point have agreed to adopt a preservation approach, and that the final plan must meet the following project objectives:

  1. Meet preservation standards as outlined in the project Memorandum of Agreement of 1993, coordinated with and approved by IHPA;
  2. Provide the level of shoreline protection/storm damage reduction for a 50-year project life;
  3. Provide an appropriate level of accessibility to the water's edge for persons with disabilities;
  4. Construction and maintenance costs shall be comparable to the cost per linear foot for construction and maintenance of previously completed segments of the Shoreline Protection Project.

We believe that all of these criteria can be met, and that Promontory Point can be preserved for future generations. I look forward to your continued support in this process.


Timothy J. Mitchell
General Superintendent and CEO
Chicago Park District


HPKCC letter to the District and other parties, early December 2005 endorsing Senator Obama's initiative, stressing that the Point is public property and its stewards public servants, and calling for the negotiating meetings to be open.

(The Conference's letter was mandated at its November board meeting, before Park District Superintendent Tim Mitchell's November 2nd reply to the Conference letter of July 7 (both above) was received. The new letter serves, however, as the Conference reply. Similar position letters were sent to other parties and elected officials.)

As published in the December 14 Hyde Park Herald, version addressed to General Superintendent and CEO Timothy J. Mitchell.

Dear Mr. Mitchell:

Promontory Point is one of the most popular and cherished landmarks in our neighborhood. The Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference endorses Senator Barack Obama's intervention in the process, as well as his commitment to a true preservation plan. We applaud his action in gathering the parties together and ensuring that preservation remains one of the most important goals of any rehab of the Point.

The Point is public property. The funds for rehab and improvement are public monies. The park district, which oversees the Point, and the Army Corps of Engineers, which will have a significant role in the future of the Point, are both public agencies staffed by public servants. Any proposed change to the Point should be discussed in public.

The media and concerned citizens should be permitted to observe future meetings between the parties to see for themselves what is happening. We already see the consequences of closed meetings: the Task Force for Promontory Point reports that Senator Obama has denied STS Consultants any future role in the Point, whereas the park district maintains that this has yet to be confirmed. The public is left confused and uninformed.

Open meetings are at the heart of democracy, and so we urge you to make public all meetings concerning the Point's future.

George W. Rumsey
Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference


Response of December 14 by Superintendent Mitchell.

December 14, 2005

Dear Mr. Rumsey:

Thank you for your letter dated December 6, 2005 in support of Senator Barack Obama's work to facilitate design resolution for Promontory Point. The Park District shares the Senator's commitment to protection of our valuable park resources, and we welcome his support and guidance.

The Park District and Chicago Department of Environment have worked in good faith with the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) to generate a plan that meets the preservation standards outlined in the project Memorandum of Agreement of 1993. Great effort has been made to balance community concerns and produce a preservation plan that meets engineering requirements and accessibility goals.

We remain open to preservation enhancements that provide the level of shoreline protection/storm damage reduction for a 50-year project life; provide an appropriate level of accessibility to the water's edge for persons with disabilities; represent a reasonable cost[] to local agencies for construction and maintenance, and []continue to meet IHPA approval.


Timothy J. Mitchell
General Superintendent and CEO
Chicago Park District




Army Corps Buffalo District accepts in December Senator Obama's request to serve as third-party consultant and reviewer. (This went temporarily off the tracks, but is back on.)
The Senator's terms:

full participation of stakeholders,
preservation according to Sec. of Interior's guidelines and the famous Memorandum, as well as
50-year life and reasonable cost of maintenance.

In early December, the Buffalo, N.Y. District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers agreed to Senator Barack Obama's (IL) request to serve as third-arty consultant for the Promontory Point project. The request was made by the Senator pursuant to his insistence at his October 3 convocation of parties and stakeholders that there be independent third party review. The Task Force agreed with the Senator's proposal to engage a knowledgeable public body, a part of the Corps of Engineers (which is responsible for the Lakefront Protection Project) Corp's Buffalo District and the Corps' (Preservation) Compliance Division experts. The highly respected expert of the latter agreed to assist in November.

The Senator's spokesman, Julian Green, told media including the Hyde Park Herald that the Senator met with the Buffalo Army Corps on Friday, December 9. The release said, "During the meeting [Obama] asked them for full transparency with the full participation of the stakeholders." Green continued that the Senator considers preservation as "paramount" and "he asked the Army Corps to adhere to preservation in the guidelines of the Secretary of the Interior's Standards and the 1993 Memorandum of Agreement." (The Memorandum includes repairing in place to "match the existing" although it does allow for an alternative of new construction that meets certain conditions.)

Green noted that the rehab must also provide shoreline protection and reduction of storm damage in a way that meets a 50-year life and provides an upkeep cost to the Park District that is "reasonable and affordable."

While a date for start of meetings of the Buffalo Corps with stakeholders has not been set, this should happen in coming weeks . "We are ready to move forward," Green said.

Jack Spicer of the Task Force said he is pleased and that "The Buffalo District has a reputation for experience on lakeshore projects and a reputation for independence."

Letter from Senator Obama to the HPKCC President (similar to other stakeholders and residents), December 2005, with Review Guidelines

Dear George:

Thank you again for contacting me about the preservation of Hyde Park’s Promontory Point. I know you have expressed your concerns on this subject in the past, and as a resident of Hyde Park, I would like to provide you with an update on this special place.

This October, I met with representatives of the City of Chicago, the Chicago Park District, and the Task Force for Promontory Point, to discuss the disagreement associated with restoring the Point. During that meeting, I expressed my intent to pursue a 3rd party engineering review of the plans to restore the Point.

I have contacted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarters in Washington, D.C., requesting that the Corps conduct the 3rd party review through the Corps District Office in Buffalo, New York - -an office with Great Lakes expertise. I have also requested that this review consider particular guidelines. A copy of these guidelines is enclosed for your information.

Thank you for writing. Please continue to keep in touch on this or any other issue.


PROMONTORY POINT REVIEW GUIDELINES (Proposed- final is in Scope of Work page.)

Historic Preservation

· Adhere to the Historic Standards/Guidelines of the U.S. Department of Interior, and principles outline in the Project Memorandum of Agreement of 1993.

o Preservation—“repair in place” – minimal intervention, as has already been proposed by the ACOE for the south side of the revetment; the replacement of intact or repairable historic materials will be avoided; where the severity of deterioration necessitates repair or limited replacement, the new materials will match the old in composition, design, color, and texture.

o Rehabilitation – “remodel”—minimal changes to allow for code compliance such as accessibility for persons with disabilities; new additions will not destroy historic materials, features, and spatial relationships that characterize the property.

o Restoration – “remove” – where a later addition may need to be taken away and the features from the original period reconstructed, such as the concrete deck at the east end.

o Reconstruction – “rebuild” – where historic revetment is so badly deteriorated that it cannot be repaired in place, minimal rebuilding in the original location must re-create the appearance of the non-surviving historic property in materials, design, color, and texture; designs that were never executed historically will not be constructed.

· Involve Horace Foxall of the Corps’ Center of Expertise for the Preservation of Historic Buildings and Structures in the engineering analysis.

Accessibility for People with Disabilities

· Outstanding, thoughtful, appropriate accessibility features for the full range of persons with disabilities and for a full range of activities, including water access, appropriate for a preservation project.


· Maintain multiple entry points to the water distributed around the entire revetment.

· Entry designs allowing for safe and easy access for the full range of park users, including water access for people with disabilities.

Basic Engineering

· Provide shoreline protection/storm damage reduction for a 50-year project life.

· Cost of construction and operation and maintenance to the local agency shall be reasonable and affordable.

Study Process

· Transparency

o An initial meeting involving the Corps, the Community Task Force, the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP), and Senator Obama and/or his staff, prior to the beginning of the review.

o Access by the Community Task Force and the NTHP to the Corps during the study, including regular face-to-face meetings.

o A final meeting involving the Corp, the City, the Community Task Force, the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP), and Senator Obama and/or his staff before the Corps reports the results of its review.

· Independence.

o Involvement of Horace Foxall of the Corps’ Center for Expertise for the Preservation of Historic Buildings and Structures.

o Involvement of the Corps’ Federal Preservation Officer [of Compliance].

o Involvement of the NTHP in formulating the review and during it.


Summary March-June 2006

May 11 the Task Force met to review and offer revisions to the "Scope of Work" document that will set forth the principles, purposes, end goal, steps, and timeframe for the Army Corps Special projects and Buffalo office and the working group that includes the community, preservation, city, officials (particularly offices of Sen. Obama and Rep. Jackson), and stakeholders. Horace Foxall, Army Corps preservation expert, will lead this process.

A couple of key suggestions were added at the May 11 meeting; in general the group felt the process is headed in the right direction and gave the Task Force a round of applause. As for design, the Task Force leaders indicated that their position and the process has moved back from extensive accommodations of the old city plan such as 2003 Tjadden-Heitzman, a product of the dynamics and pressures of that time, and back to what Cyril Galvin sought to do as a preservation plan but with access.

The scope deals first and positively with the issues key to the community--preservation, access for persons of disability and differing abilities, and what is really water/swimming access--still a sticky issue. The (minimum) standard specified is federal ADA, which has been worked out elaborately in case applications and working groups, the access community generally understanding that there is a whole range of abilities and access to be considered, only 10% providing for wheelchair access.

Other goals clearly stated and also agreed upon in the Point design working group are a design life of 50 years of lasting and protecting the Point and lakefront, and reasonable cost including upkeep.

The timetable, roughly projected at 11 months, really starts with a 10-day on-site design charette. This is not yet funded and likely cannot occur until at earliest October 2006.

Meanwhile, collection and review of all historic and original construction documentation including the need to preserve the Point and a historic landscape evaluation (like what was done for Caldwell's Lily Pond in Lincoln Park) proceeds. The "11 months" includes first reaching consensus on design then Corps engineering to the 35% design level. At that stage the working group must again reach a consensus on a Recommendation before further design work can proceed. (Note that we are already in spring 2008, or maybe 2009. And if there is not consensus, all bets are off) An explicit goal is to have the design strong enough to avoid the kinds of major changes that often come in between 35% and 100% of design and for the design to proceed fast.

At this stage or slightly thereafter the public will be invited to review the approved design and this Scope of Work will have run its course--but the group, especially Senator Obama's office and the community will be actively involved and have weekly or update meetings with engineers and contractors until the project is done.

Asked about some form of public observation of decision-making meetings such as the Charette, the Task Force said that the press could not be present and the participants is quite well set. However, there could be after-meetings briefing and question sessions. The Task Force also showed that it is making provision for full involvement of experts and others on disability and swimming issues as well as preservation architects.



A series of video conferences and other sharing of information led to establishment and meeting in March of a working group. A day-long visit was arranged, led by Horace Foxall, head of the preservation of structures sector of the Army Corps of Engineers, with staff from the Buffalo District (all acting under Cincinnati Division) and under direction of the office of Sen. Obama with the office of Rep. Jackson. The visit to the Point and daylong discussions led to outline of a procedure to develop a plan to preserve the Point and keep it in limestone, much of it as is, the rest restored to the present look. (Also present or represented were Ald. Hairston (in person), the Community Task Force, three preservation organizations including Hyde Park Historical Society, Chicago Park District and more.

The enthusiastic commitment to draw up preservation choices for each of the sections of the Point was clear. What has to happen next (and is in progress) is to get the federal funding into law for a formal, three-day charette by the above-described group. The charette (costing broadly in the range of $150,000) cannot take place until this funding is at least guaranteed--either about June or after the fiscal year kicks in in October 2006. (The Task Force will more broadly announce one of its meetings to discuss the process and what people want to see for access for example, once the funding and schedule for the charette is secure.) (In the protocols with the Army Corps for the "review," all previous studies and documents are noted, but some (particularly the former city plan) are for reference only. Access is understood to be based on ADA standards.)

The charette is to produce 2 preservation design options for each sector, which will be given to the Buffalo engineers to develop to the 35% state (cost in the $100,000 or more range)--essentially the visible part in enough detail so people can decide. At that time the charette group, maybe enlarged a bit, will meet and, if there is consensus, recommend to a public meeting. Note that nothing may be ready to build before 2008. The funding for construction will remain in place, probably through continuing resolutions.

The Task Force is very pleased with progress so far and the help from our local elected officials, esp. Sen. Obama and Rep. Jackson. The city and Army Corps are cooperating.


How we got here (more).

In December the Army Corps Buffalo District accepted commission as third-party consultant for Point resolution, agreeing to strong conditions by Senator Obama. However, due to complications and a complete rewrite of the commission within the Corps, the process was reorganized.

In January, Horace Foxall Jr., program manager at the Center of Expertise for the Preservation of Historic Buildings and Structures, division of the Seattle District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, noted for his expertise and for serving as a referee, agreed to join the oversight and resolution of the Point controversy, at urging of Sen. Obama. Teleconferencing with parties incl. the Task Force commenced and Foxall has commenced visiting Chicago and the Point in March. Mr. Foxall's remarks indicate one goal is to check out feasibility of restoring the Point according to original plans, and not just to test costs, propriety and feasibility of the City's or other plans. Foxall knows he's in a hotbed of controversy--and is often called it to handle hot potatoes.

The Task Force's and Senator's position--and this is the Senator's project--is that this is a preservation project, not a construction project with preservation features, so the starting point is to look at 5 sections of the Point (as in Heitzman's access plan for the Point done for the Task Force in 2003)--every part of the revetment, to determine what needs no or minimal change, what needs more or major, and how to fit in meaningful accessibility. Experts from several Corps divisions will be involved when time for engineering comes, reaffirmed to be the Buffalo District. This will take time--no physical work on the Point is expected this year.

March 3 a plenary meeting of "all" stakeholders was held, under the Senator's auspices-and acknowledged to be so-, to commence the process. See March 8 Herald coverage. The Task Force was HIGHLY pleased with the meeting and its directives.

The Task Force is highly appreciative of full communication, support and understanding form the Senator and his staff.

The Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference sent a letter to the Park District, Task Force and other parties in December endorsing Senator Obama's initiative, stressing the public character of the Point and its stewards, and calling for an open-meeting process. (Text to Park District Superintendent here and his reply and with other recent Conference position papers in the August 05-forward Point page.) Senator Obama sent his thanks.


The process begins

First Plenary Session of stakeholders held March 3 2006 under Sen. Obama's auspices. Horace Foxall in charge of developing recommendation for the 5 sections of the Point, Buffalo District to provide 3rd party review. Task Force very pleased. Three-day charette coming. The "how" of the process as known at that time.

Significance includes that for the first time it includes a community-representing body (and that is not an elected jurisdiction or official or an ongoing interested party such as a preservation organization as a full, recognized participant.

"As much...preservation as possible" Hyde Park Herald, March 8, 2006. By Tedd Carrison

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) hosted the first in a series of meetings with all stakeholders March 3 to develop new plans for revetment repair of Promontory Point as the park enters its sixth year of controversy.

The Point, an offshoot of Burnham Park that juts into Lake Michigan from 55th Street, was created by landfill in the 1920s. Large limestone slabs were installed to form a tiered lakewall, providing access to the water and protecting the shore from erosion. In 1937, famed landscape architect Alfred Caldwell designed the surrounding park space which is often the backdrop of weddings and barbecues.

Today, the Point is embattled in a debate over how best to rehab these aging revetments. Over five years, the city has favored a uniform concrete rebuild and then a concrete/limestone mixture along most of the Point while a community group has advocated a more complete limestone preservation--allowing for some concrete and steel to meet modern accessibility and longevity standards.

The venerable disagreement has survived multiple mediation attempts yet Greg Lane of the Community Task for Promontory Point said this is the first to give his group's pleas for preservation priority. "This is the first time in five years that the Community Task Force feels that the process is headed in the right direction," said Lane. "This is what we have been fighting for all along."

Obama spokesman Julian Green said that Horace Foxall, a preservation expert for the Seattle District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will lead the many stakeholders as the work "to accomplish as much historic preservation a possible." He said that Foxall has divided the Point into five sections that will examined separately. By way of a three-day charrette, Foxall will draft plans using the input of all government an community representatives. These plans will be sent to the Buffalo District of the Army Corps of Engineers for a third-party review and returned with comments to Foxall. Green said no date has been set for the charrette and would not speculate about a construction date.

Parties vested in the process include the park district, the task force, the Chicago Department of the Environment, an array of preservation advocacy groups, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) and U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-2), whose preservation language, passed in the Water Resources Development Act, brought the issue to Obama.

Jackson's Legislative Director Charles Dujon said the congressman is working to secure federal money to fund the third-party review but added that it will likely be fall before Congress can approve the money. Green said the review will start in the coming weeks, although funding is the priority.

Park district spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner said "We welcome the input from the Buffalo and Seattle Districts of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers." Though she said, "Any design that we adopt must meet a minimum 50-yeasr design life; provide an appropriate level of accessibility; be of reasonable cost to build ad maintain; an meet historic preservation standard as determined by IHPA."

Lane called last week's meeting "one of the most significant developments" in the 5-year debate but acknowledged that a firm resolution is still pending. "We are headed down th right road but there is a lot of work to be done before we reach that conclusion."


Critiques of cracking concrete on other sections needing expensive repairs, continuing insincere? or at least poorly publicized calls for public comment on other sections. Lakeview weighs in.

Concrete failing prematurely in some other sections of new revetment;
A poorly-advertized last-chance to comment by July 26 2006 on the 40th Street section.

The prospect is bleak for either maintenance cost or the lakefront holding up if much of the concrete is going to fail so soon and extensively. Such repairs (and maintenance in general) is not funded in the projects. Was limestone indeed a better deal all along? Substantial cracks are already noticeable at 57th beach.

Hyde Park Herald, July 19, 2006. By Brian Wellner

One engineer says if poured correctly, concrete should not crack this badly so soon.

A firm hired by the Chicago Park District recently repaired several cracks in the revetment the U.S. Army Corp of Engineer built at 31st Street beach six years ago and is planning to extend down to include Promontory Point.

On June 28 Jose Arroyo of Takao Nagai Associates repaired 17 cracks--some measuring 20 feet long--in a process that requires drilling and patching the damaged slabs of concrete. He said the cracks were caused by the weather. Chuck Shea of the army corps told the Herald last week that while some cracking is typical of concrete when it settles, the cracks he saw at t he 31st Street revetment were "beyond what we thought was typical."

As project manager for the Chicago Shoreline Storm Damage Reduction Project Shea oversees construction of concrete revetments from Montrose Avenue south to 57th Street. Several stretches of he revetment are complete. The park district is proposing to rebuild the limestone revetment around Promontory Point using a combination of concrete and limestone blocks joined together.

While the park district has applauded the engineering behind the 31st Street revetment, the engineers themselves said they were not expecting the degree of damage that has occurred there in six years. "We didn't anticipate these types of cracks," said Mike Nguyen, an assistant project manager with the army corps. When settled[,] concrete produces a kind of hairline crack no thicker than a business card. The cracks at 31st street were a half an inch wide in some places and broke off into several smaller cracks at the edge of the revetment, looking much like a river's delta.

"It could get worse," Ngygen said. "The city wanted to address the problem." According to Shea, the $250,000 both the city and army corps is paying firms like Takao Nagai to reseal the cracks was not figured into the original cost of the overall shoreline project, estimated in 1999 at $300 million. The federal government is responsible for 65 percent of the cost while the city picks up the other 35 percent. After 2009, when officials say the project should conclude, the army corps will hand the responsibility for repairing the revetments over to the park district.

Nguyen said the work currently underway at 31st street should alleviate much of [the] cracking problem for now. Besides resealing the cracks, the city is replacing the joints between th concrete slabs every 100 feet to allow for greater flexibility in the overall structure.

Hyde Parker Sam Guard, a retired concrete engineer, said that any repair work being done this early means that something went wrong in either the design or the construction of the revetment.

The revetment is built on a pre-stressed system of steel rods copyrighted by DYWIDAG Systems International. The rods are pulled and stretched under enormous pressure, and once the concrete is poured the rods are released from the jacks that stretched them. The rods take several years to move back to their original length, which compresses the concrete around them. According to, the process is common in suspension and long-span concrete bridges.

Guard said hairline cracks will appear, but they are hardly noticeable and would not need to be sealed. "The process does not prevent cracks," he said. It prevents cracks from being flaws." The park district deferred all questions to the army corps.



Poorly-advertized/announced chance to comment on concrete for 40th Street section closes July 26

Hyde Park Herald, July 19, 2006

If people wish to comment on a concrete revetment model that may replace Promontory Point's limestone wall, they have less than one week to mail their comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The model is located near 40th Street and the lakefront, about 1,000 fet south of the Oakwood Avenue overpass.

Comments are due no later that July 26 to Keith Ryder, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 111 N. Canal St., Suite 600, Chicago, IL 60606. Faxes and e-mails are not allowed.

The Herald first learned of a notice soliciting public input on July 14. According to the notice, the model "is intended to re-create the appearance of limestone blocks originally placed along the Chicago lakefront."

The notice references three North Side segments of the lakefront where concrete revetments are being proposed. While Promontory Point at 55th Street and the lakefront, where preservation of its limestone revetment is still under debate, is not mentioned in the notice, Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) said she presumes the model [affects] any future lakewalls the army corps intends to build. That also includes a stretch of the lakefront from 40th to 51st streets, in the alderman's ward.

Preckwinkle said she had no idea the army corps was soliciting comments on the model until the Herald faxed her the notice July 14. She said any plans for "experimental concrete treatment" must go through the North Kenwood-Oakland Conservation Community Council, where in meetings at the Kennicott Park Community Center, 434 s. Lake Park Ave., the public is invited to view and comment on new developments in the 4th Ward.

The notice was sent to the Herald from Robert Clark with the Lakeview Revetment Task Force. He was sent the notice a week earlier from Ald. Tom Tunney (4th). Clark said neighborhood organizations active on the issue, including the Community Task Force for Promontory Point, were unaware the Army Corps was soliciting public input by July 26. It is unknown where else the notice has appeared.

Calls to Keith Ryder at 312 846-5587 , the number that appears in the notice, were not returned by Herald presstime.


And Lakeview Citizens' Council weighs in, in Herald letter Aug. 30, "Thanks Sen. Obama"

Over the last few years, in repeated meetings, letters and petitions, the public has consistently objected to the new concrete-and-steel revetment that is being build along the lakeshore in Chicago. Again and again, from the South Side to the Northside, the following objections have been made.

The revetment's "concrete runway" design is stark and unrelenting. The construction ignores the historic value of the original limestone seawalls. This stretch specifically known as the "Belmont Rocks" has been a historic part of Chicago's Gay and Lesbian community.

The sheer drop-off to the water is dangerous and has caused life-threatening accidents. The unsafe drop-off also cuts people off from the lake, denying access to the water. The construction is destroying the naturalistic limestone fishing grounds of the Black-Crowned Night Heron, and Illinois Endangered Species whose numbers have dwindled along the new revetment.

Ironically, the new revetment is already cracking and causing the land behind it to wash away. It is actually causing the very erosion it was deigned to prevent. This is a flagrant waste of millions of taxpayers' dollars.

We are very grateful that U.S. Senator Barack Obama has intervened at Promontory Pont and has succeeded in replacing this inadequate design with a plan for historic preservation. we now call upon Sen. Obama, along with other elected representatives and public officials , to do the same fo t he remaining stretches of Chicago's historic limestone seawalls. Sadly, only a few remain.

On the North Side as well as the South Side, we insist on a lakefront that rep sects history and is accessible, safe and as beautiful as it has always been.

David Winner, President, Lake View Citizens' Council