About and Reactions to the Mediator's Report

What's in the Mediator's Final Report.

"The controversy over Promontory Point has been widely seen as a conflict between two fundamental values: preservation and fiscal responsibility. Our analysis has delivered us to the conclusion that preservation and fiscal responsibility need not be in opposition. What is required at this juncture is a renewed design process and political statesmanship.

"We have concluded...that a preservation approach to the restoration of Promontory Point is technically and fiscally feasible... And it yields cost estimates, developed with conservative assumptions, that are significantly lower than the budget for the City plan.:

"We recommend that a preservation design framework be adopted by the City and that an appropriate design team be constituted for the purpose of refining that design concept... a spectrum of different preservation strategies are technically and fiscally feasible.

"Our critique of STS's cost estimates for maintenance of a limestone step stone structure as a discounting in any way the City's concerns about maintenance...Greater clarity and creativity in addressing this issue might yield a plan for Promontory Point of which all parties could be proud.... In view of the flawed analysis on which the City relied, we recommend that it reanalyze maintenance costs...[and] We recommend that the City explore with the Army Corps of Engineers the possibility of creating a maintenance reserve as part of the construction budget....

"We have been privileged to witness the quality of effort that both community members and government officials have made to reach agreement... That effort in itself is an important resource. the moment is at hand to harvest it in such a way that relationships between the City and the community are strengthened."

The 32 page report is said by the Mediator Jamie Kalven to have been late because of late delivery of complex material for review and expansion of the scope to include review and costing of a third plan or option. As we study the full report more, we will expand the following section and perhaps include key sections or sentences.

It leaves several major issues for the refinement stage, once the "threshold issue" of preservation with steps-and-part-of-the-promenade of limestone is resolved.

Sticky items to finding a preservation solution include whether any limestone is feasible on the promenade and how much; can the width of the Promenade be reduced any further on the north and east end?; is there any way to maximize access, especially into the water?; What are the merit and preservationist mandate for the Task Force proposal for only re armoring the coffin section and only repairing the steps (vs promenade) on the south side?



Some initial reactions to the Final Report and mediator's alternate

Community Task Force: Says they welcome the report's showing that a "preservation" plan is not irresponsible or too costly and so possibly giving Alderman Hairston a way to proceed in that direction. Jack Spicer says the report is as supportive of their position as they could have hoped. (more in May 26)

Peter Rossi of the group favoring the city "compromise" plan: Welcomed calling into question high-end cost estimates esp. for maintenance ("city should respond"), is intrigued by the mediator's alternate plan, saying it's virtually the city's with regard to the promenade [including no coffins and rebuilt south side], provides even longer water access areas, and has all four steps in stone. (More in May18)

South East Chicago Commission: Very Interesting; whatever is physically and fiscally possible we want to see done. SECC members are still studying the report and SECC will respond in detail later.


Limestone proves feasible: Mediator's report suggests that renovation via limestone would be cheaper than city's "concrete" ideas.

Chicago Maroon, May 21, 2004. By Rob Katz [emphasis added]

The mediator in the Promontory Point dispute, Jamie Kalven, asserted on Monday that a renovation plan including limestone would be cheaper than the city's all-concrete plan.

Kalven's report, released on May 17, compared the feasibility of the city's plan to renovate the Point and a renovation plan called Figure 1. The report acknowledges that Figure 1 will generally be recognized as a "preservation design." ...

The city put the cost of an all-concrete structure at $24,278,317.36. Kalven put the cost of Figure 1 at $22,816,466.69, including a $2 million "maintenance reserve." "This is a great opportunity for the city and community to work together," said Jack Spicer of the Community Task Force for Promontory Point. "The cost of limestone was the city's last concern."

The report states: In view of the flawed analysis on which the City has relied, we recommend that it reanalyze maintenance costs, giving proper weight to the history and current condition of the existing structure. This will yield a more realistic statement of probable maintenance needs. It will not, however, eliminate all uncertainties."

The report recommends that the city create a maintenance reserve as part of the budget. The maintenance reserve, proposed to be 10 percent of the total budget, would be held in escrow, earning interest. "This is a common practice for addressing precisely the sorts of maintenance needs and uncertainties that the City confronts at Promontory Point," the report said.

Julian Green, a spokesman for the Chicago Park District, said that his agency was still reviewing the report. "We'll have a reaction early for you next week.

Spicer said that he hoped the city took as long as it needed. "It's a complicated report and deserves a lot of time," Spicer claimed.

The features of Figure 1 include four limestone steps and a promenade that incorporates limestone on the outer (lakeside) edge.

According to the report, Figure 1 has "comparability with the current Community Task Force proposal, the City's current proposal, and to the redesign options assessed by the consulting firm STS."

The main differences between Figure 1 and the Task Force proposal are that the former has no consideration of wheelchair access and no limestone on the inner edge of the revetment. [ed. also the promenade is uniform rather than six different treatments.]

The report predicts that the cost of limestone would be $178 per ton. This is the low-end of the $150 per ton to $350 per ton range predicted by STS.

A step-stone structure was to be incorporated in the design of the revetment. Kalven's report calls STS assertions regarding the steps "inexplicable." STS implies that the cost per stone would go up by 400 percent.

Kalven's report has several problems with the maintenance projections supplied by STS, beyond the actual projections of $100,000 [ed. for/per what-year?], called excessive for a maintenance need described as "possible, though unlikely."

"Maintenance costs for the stone options are treated as above and beyond the maintenance costs for the all-concrete options. Unless the assumption is that there are no maintenance costs associated with the all-concrete option, this approach necessarily inflates the maintenance costs for the stone options," the report wrote.

Also, STS does not define maintenance, according to Kalven. He asserts that irregularities in an all-concrete structure are a serious problem but in a limestone structure they ar a part of the aesthetic appeal. STS did not try to use past history of maintenance costs in the projection of future costs.

The report states that the costs of set-up and break down of the construction site, set by STS at eight percent of the total construction budget, is higher than the standard practice of two to three percent.



By the Promontory Task Force Executive Committee Fred Blum, Bruce Johnstone, Jack Spicer, Connie Spreen.

Report makes preservation plainly possible

Hyde Park Herald, May 26, 2004

Thank you for the article of May 19 about Promontory Point Working Group mediator Jamie Kalven's recent report.

We are pleased to see that progress on the Point looks likely, and that Mr. Kalven's report makes significant steps in that direction. For more than three years, the Community Task Force has advocated on behalf of our community for the preservation of the limestone revetment at Promontory Point. We look forward to continuing our work with Alderman [Leslie] Hairston, under whose leadership this progress was made, with the South East Chicago Commission, which suggested the mediation process, and with the City and the Park District, which agreed to this process, its independence and its legitimacy.

We urge community members to read the report themselves, by following the link at www.savethepoint.org.

The purpose of the report to quote from it, "is to provide an independent review of the feasibility of a 'preservation' design for the restoration of Promontory Point." It finds that, yes, "a preservation approach to the restoration of Promontory Point is technically and fiscally feasible." Further, the report concludes: "We recommend that a preservation design framework be adopted by the City and that an appropriate design team be constituted for the purpose of refining that design concept."

Mr. Kalven's report must be a catalyst toward progress at Promontory Point. It presents an extraordinary opportunity to reach a resolution, and points the way in clear, unambiguous language. We must build unity in our community behind this report, which is a product of a coalition of diverse concerns within the community. Working together and in agreement, the Commission, the Alderman, the Community Task Force, the University of Chicago, and concerned community members all united behind the process which produced this report. Now, in the same spirit of cooperation, we must work with the City to implement the recommendations contained in the report.

Mr. Kalven has worked for eight months as mediator between the Community Task force for Promontory Point and the City. He states that he has "been privileged to witness the quality of effort that both community members and government officials have made to reach agreement..." Those months of careful, quality work built mutually respectful relationships that can now be used for the benefit of our park, our community, and our city.

The report states that "what is required at this juncture is a renewed design process and political statesmanship."

Of followed, these mandates will lead to a swift and peaceful resolution of the controversy at the Point.

We are ready for the work ahead.



From Peter Rossi, May 18, 2004. This speaks favorably of the report and Kalven's analytic-tool plan (Figure 1).

To Those Concerned About the Future of the Point:

In March, Alderman Leslie Hairston asked mediator Jamie Kalven to conclude the mediation process by issuing a final report. This final report examines various options for adding more limestone to the revetment plan and explores costs and engineering issues. The report is available at the following link: http://thepoint.invisibleinstitute.com/.

Therese Allen-Vassar, Kay Clement, Beth Fama, Gerald Marsh, Lauren Moltz, and Peter Rossi

Summary of the Kalven Report (by the above)

Mr. Kalven proposes a plan with a steel pile/concrete promenade and four steps of limestone. This plan is very similar to the Compromise Plan offered by the City in overall dimension, use of the concrete and steel as the main structural components, and provision of water access [1]. It differs from the Compromise Plan by using four limestone steps (rather that two) and by using only a single “layer” of limestone. City engineers have stated that the limestone steps must be in a double layer to meet Army Corps standards.

Mr. Kalven estimates that his plan will cost approximately $21 million. This estimate is lower than estimates produced by the City design team for four limestone step options by at least $5 million. Lower estimates of the cost of limestone and the use of a single layer of limestone account for the difference in cost. Mr. Kalven estimates a cost of $178 per ton of placed limestone block, while the City design team provides a range of $150 to $350. Mr. Kalven believes that the $350 figure is unrealistically high. Mr. Kalven and his consulting engineer, Wayne Brunzell, argue that only a single layer of limestone is required.

The Army Corps requires that the City create a budget for maintenance of the new revetment. The City design team has contended that plans with four steps of limestone will require higher maintenance budgets. Maintenance tasks include grouting of voids between stones and replacement or resetting of dislodged limestone blocks. The City design team provided a range of annual maintenance costs in a January 27th memo. Mr. Kalven contends that the upper-end estimates are unreasonably high. The upper end estimates imply that more than 60 days of maintenance would be required each year.

It should be pointed out that limestone costs comprise less than 15 percent of the construction budget proposed by Mr. Kalven. The rest of the budget relies on cost figures provided by the City in 2001. The actual cost of construction of the Kalven proposal or even the Compromise Plan is not known as of this date.

[1] The Compromise Plan calls for two 300 ft sections of limestone steps from the promenade level into the water. Mr. Kalven’s plan enlarges these sections to 700 ft each.


From the June 2 Herald

National Trust endorses Point mediation plan- Royce A. Yeater

To the Editor:

As supporters of the Community Task Force and its advocacy for a preservation-oriented solution to the revetment question at Promontory Point, the Midwest Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation was pleased to see the leadership of Alderman (Leslie) Hairston and the convergence of the community around a process to resolve the future of the Point.

The process, entrusted to the Promontory Point Working Group and Mediator Jamie Kalven, has yielded results we can whole-heartedly support. In concluding that a preservation approach to stabilization of the point is technically and fiscally feasible, and in recommending that "a preservation design framework be adopted by the City and that an appropriate design team be constituted for the purpose of refining that design concept," we believe the mediator has provided a valuable service and pointed the way to resolution and progress.

We encourage the community to unite behind this recommendation. We encourage that City to implement the recommendations of the mediator with the community as a full participant. If there is a way we can assist in that regard, we stand ready to help.

Point report divulges city misconceptions[: Preservation Chicago Jonathan Fine and Michael Moran

To the Editor:

Last week, residents of Gurnee heroically blocked the Des Plaines River from ruining their town. This week, Hyde Park is witnessing it own share of heroism, as residents are stopping a river of concrete from covering Promontory Point.

The latest milestone in this effort is the report by mediator Jamie Kalven. This report lays bare the misconceptions promoted by the City of Chicago and by those who had supported the City's recent plan to pave over the Promontory Point shoreline.

As pointed out by Mr. Kalven, one of the several deficiencies in the City's plan has been the overestimation of the costs of a plan tha would adequately preserve the character of the Point. By dispelling the City's claims about the high cost of preservation, the mediator's report allows us to start fresh with and understanding that cost estimates must be made in good faith and without prejudice.

Preservation Chicago fully supports the tremendous work under taken by the community Task Force for Promontory Point. As a citywide organization, we view Promontory Point as a true citywide resource. As such, we feel that it is essential to make... clear our assessment of which local group truly represents the interests of Hyde Park Residents in the effort to preserve Promontory Point. The Community Task Force is certainly the group that is serving that role from the vast majority of Hyde Park residents.

By shedding light on the shortcomings in the City of Chicago plan for the Point, the Kalven report removes the last obstacle to preservation. We feel that the City of Chicago should now establish a preservation design team that will start with the premise that the recommendations of the Kalven repot are sound and fair. Furthermore, the community must be a full participant in the design effort, with transparency and full disclosure throughout the process. We appeal to Alderman Leslie Hairston (5th) and other officials to begin this process soon. We can keep Promontory Point special.

Up in Gurnee, the floodwaters have receded back to the riverbed. As we restart the Promontory Point planning, let's remember that concrete does not so easily recede.

Point dispute a model for all. By Bob Kass

To the Editor:

I would like to add my voice to those supporting a preservation design for the Point. Now that it has been established that such a plan would be feasible and less costly it makes sense for the various government agencies to implement what is the desire of the overwhelming majority of the community that uses the Point.

It is important to recognize the value of the hard work by all parties in the process, and to acknowledge the efforts of Alderman (Leslie) Hairston, Jamie Kalven, city officials, and the Community Task force. This could turn out to be a model for resolving differences and fulfilling community desires in decisions that affect Chicagoans in their neighborhoods. Thank you to all for your efforts. I hope you are able to bring about a satisfactory resolution now that agreement is within reach.