About the new Point ad hoc study group, happenings and views during its meeting period; and other moves

In this page:

The Point home and sub pages. Latest Updates.
site incl. plans:
City/Dept. of Environment site with city plans, updates
Peter Rossi contact peter.rossi@gsb.uchicago.edu
Point Wkg Group (Mediator's) website: http://thepoint.invisibleinstitute.com
Landmark and Preservation status (incl. March 24 Landmark Pres Council of Illinois listing)
The huge inflow of letters to the Herald are cached in www.hpherald.com/pointletters022504.pdf
Alderman Hairston's email. To Alderman's website- find City Council and scroll to name.

The Final Report of Mediator Jamie Kalven and assisting engineer Wayne Brunzel is on the Invisible Institute website (all 32 pages). Main parts of text. Highlights in Latest Updates.

Mid-2003-2004 Series:
1: July 13 Task Force Preservation and Access Plan text

2: Reports and text, views, links to view plans
3: City counter/compromise plan, reinstated January 04
4: September 10 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. breakdown period, incl. Mediator's Statement
8: Point dispute-statements-coverage-Rossi letter late Feb./March 2004
9: The March 9 summit, costing tasks to lead to final working group report due April 15
10: Listing on the '10 Most Endangered' list; disputes over plans and 1994 Memorandum and defenses of the rival plans
11: Latest Updates. Expectations from the Mediator's Report, the new ad hoc committee formed by Ald. Hairston
12: From the Mediator's Final Report May 2004

13: About, Reactions to the Mediator's Report
14: [This page] Reactions to the ad hoc group; during the period of its meetings, June-July 2004; other moves including by Rep. Jackson.
15: Late 2004, "ad hoc" period
16: 2005 through June


Please return to Point Latest for background and dramatic new developments.
The ad hoc committee was appointed by Alderman Hairston June 3 and mandated to come up with an agreed upon solution by July 31. For reasons given in Latest this is now unlikely. The ad hoc met June 28 and mandated the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency would meet July 12 with the Corps and city planning partners (done) and bring a recommendation July 19 (since postponed, IHPA saying it had a lot material from the Corps and city to digest and having requested a more complete plan from the Corps and city).


Herald editorial June 9, 2004: Unified effort needed to rehab Point

At what step in the process of renovating Promontory Point do you say enough to expert studies, committee formation and information gathering and finally move forward with a plan to restore the limestone revetment?

The Herald hopes that a meeting last Thursday of stakeholders marks the beginning of the end. But that would depend on 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston's ability to get everyone back to the same negotiating table.

Recent findings of a report by paid mediator Jamie Kalven and sanctioned by the South East Chicago Commission, among others, confirmed what the Hyde Park Herald has long endorsed--that a complete restoration of the limestone revetment is feasible and financially possible. It also said that the city's estimates to preserve and maintain the limestone were inflated. The city has proposed reconstructing the Point with a mostly concrete revetment with some, but not all, of the original limestone restored.

At last week's meeting, Hairston recognized the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency as a valuable player in future Point talks and that may be useful. The Community Task Force for Promontory Point, which has advocated preservation, has referenced a memorandum of agreement between the city and the state's preservation agency as a guide for shoreline reconstruction.

Hairston, however, is tiptoeing around the Chicago Park District, which continues t hold the line against complete limestone restoration. The district told Kalven flatly that a restoration offered in his report does not follow U.S. Army Corps of Engineers standards and, therefore, cannot be done.

Hairston also formed an ad-hoc committee to review every design and opinion that has surfaced since the three-year-long debate began. But she glossed over what exactly th new committee aims to achieve by its July 31 deadline. That's less than two months to not only hash out the debate again but also to come to some kind of conclusion.

If the alderman wants to move forward, she needs to use her political smarts and authority and mobilize all of the warring community parties to one effort to move the park district toward the right starting-off point, and that is limestone preservation.

The Herald agrees with Hairston's comments to stakeholders last week: "It's time to...close this out."


Jackson Jr. to propose Point preservation act

Hyde Park Herald, June 16, 2004. By Mike Stevens

Congressman Jesse Jackson (D-2) will soon propose legislation requiring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to preserve Promontory Point's limestone shoreline.

Jackson told the Herald last week that he was drafting changes to two acts that would require the Corps to follow preservation guidelines during the Point's revetment rehab.

Local activists have been lobbying Jackson for months to support preserving the popular lakefront park's limestone sea wall. Jackson sits on the influential federal House Appropriations Committee, which allocates fund annually for Army Corps projects.

Jackson said he would work through details with the city, 5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston and the Army Corps.

Jackson's proposed legislation sent city of Chicago officials scrambling both locally and in Washington, D.C. to derail the modification, sources said.

Park spokesman Julian Green said the district has heard of the proposed legislation but has not seen anything in writing and could not comment. "We certainly would prefer to give a response [when] we actually see what the congressman's office is proposing," Green said.

Jackson's decision came after nearly eight months of lobbying, including trips to Washington D.C. by members of the Community task Force for Promontory Point, member Greg Lane said.

[Sen. Peter] Fitzgerald (R-Illinois) doesn't return phone calls. Neither does [Sen. Dick] Durbin (D-Illinois). Jesse Jr. sat down with us--virtually," Lane said of a past tele-conference meeting with Jackson.

A draft copy of Jackson's proposed modification obtained by the Herald calls for the Army Corps "to ensure that the original limestone stepped revetment, including the limestone promenade...is restored or rehabilitated in a manner consistent with the Secretary of the Interior's standards for Rehabilitation and the National Historic Preservation Act."

The draft states that any reconstruction at the Point not consistent with these standards will not receive federal dollars. The federal government is slated to pay 65 percent of the Point rehab.

Jackson said he continues to re-work language but hopes to introduce the legislation soon. Jackson's offices have produced five drafts so far but preservation will remain the central thrust, Jackson aide Rick Bryant said. "The language will call for preservation," Bryant said.

Jackson also heralded the report offered by paid mediator Jamie Kalven on the feasibility of a "preservation" approach at the Point. "The mediator's findings conclude what the community has long said, namely that preservation is feasible and realistic within the federal budget constraints," Jackson told the Herald in an e-mail.

[Alderman Leslie A.] Hairston commissioned the report but said while she worked to bring the different parties involved together she could not yet comment on it.

The city's engineers, STS Consultants, argue Kalven's design, which he credited to make cost estimates, did not meet Army Corps engineering standards; therefore Kalven's conclusions are wrong. Kalven's report cast doubt on STS's work in a January report estimating the cost of a "preservation" approach.


Final Point meetings put state agency at forefront

Hyde Park Herald, June 30, 2004. By Mike Stevens

The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency will decide which elements of Promontory Point will be rehabbed and which will not, Ald. Leslie Hairston said following the first in a series of closed-door ad hoc committee meetings at the South Shore Cultural Center Monday.

The committee is charged with agreeing on a design for the historic lakefront park's limestone seawall by July 31.

Hairston initially kicked out the press along with several uninvited preservation groups including the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois, Preservation Chicago and the Hyde Park Historical Society. The committee then voted to ban the press from all its meetings.

On July 12 the IHPA will meet with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Chicago Park District and the Chicago Department of Environment to figure out what parts of the Point can be preserved. A design recommendation will be presented to the ad hoc committee at its next scheduled meeting July 19.

All four agencies signed the Memorandum of Agreement, a 1994 document governing the $301 million Chicago shoreline project. Despite being charged with signing off on the final proposal for the seawall rehab, the IHPA has not been consulted for two years, Hairston said. At the committee's formation, Hairston pushed for the IHPA to be included.

"Since preservation is such a key component [the IHPA] had to be at the table," said Hairston, who heralded the announcement as the beginning of the end of the 3-year debate over Promontory Point.

At a press conference following the meeting, Hairston said unified residents blocked the city's original "sterile" concrete plan and that the same type of unity will help resolve the issue now.

Hairston refused to comment on what will happen after July 19 saying that the committee can better gauge the next step when it receives the recommendation. Hairston has called for the committee to wrap up its work by July 31.

Attendees at the committee's first meeting at the South Shore Cultural Center included 4th Ward Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, private mediator Jamie Kalven, representatives from U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr's office as well as all four agencies involved in the project.

The Community Task Force for Promontory Point, which has been actively lobbying for a preservation approach to the rehab, were hopeful following the meeting, member Jack Spicer said.

"It will depend on whether the IHPA gets quality information," Spicer said. "We have a lot of confidence in IHPA."

The task force presented the committee with a petition bearing more than 3,500 signatures collected over the last 10 days, Spicer said.


New voice on Promontory Point
State preservation agency joins talks to find accord on lakewall repairs

By H. Gregory Meyer
Tribune staff reporter
Published June 29, 2004

The state watchdog agency charged with monitoring historic preservation on government-funded projects will join negotiations to reach an agreement on how to rebuild Hyde Park's Promontory Point lakewall, it was announced Monday.

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), who recently formed an ad hoc committee to reach an agreement, said she hopes the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency's participation will lead to consensus soon.

The agency's director and two staff members attended a meeting of the ad hoc committee on Monday--the agency's first discussions in two years with the city, the Chicago Park District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which are reconstructing the lakefront.

"Today's meeting marks what I hope will be the beginning of the end of the fight to preserve Promontory Point," Hairston said.

While the agency has declared the point's lakefront limestone of historic value, it has been left out of recent negotiations over its repair or replacement.

The preservation agency monitors compliance in Illinois with federal law on the protection of historic properties in government-funded projects. Infractions can lead to withholding of federal funds for the project or civil penalties, though "that is not something we anticipate at this time," said David Blanchette, an agency spokesman.

As "historic resources," the limestone steps at Promontory Point fall under the agency's oversight, Blanchette said.

"Things had not moved very well until today's meeting," Blanchette said, adding, "We don't want to point any fingers of blame."

The city and Chicago Park District signed a 1993 agreement stipulating that new revetments be designed to match the look of old lakewalls. The city then started to replace 8 miles of rock revetments, a project expected to end next year.

But at Promontory Point, one of the most inviting nooks on the lakefront, area residents opposed a proposal to replace the four tiers of rocks with concrete. The Park District in January floated a compromise proposal calling for the two top steps to be limestone, which got a mixed reception.

Blanchette said the parties will now discuss using "limestone or something that is visually similar to limestone."

"We consider this a victory for historic preservation," he said.

Bob Clarke, president of South East Lake View Neighbors, which has opposed concrete lake walls on the North Side, said the preservation agency has signed off on them elsewhere.

"They came to regret having done that," he said. "Now they seem prepared to resist those final stretches being destroyed."


Herald editorial of June 23, 2004: Jackson Jr. could upstage Hairston in Point debate

Fifth Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston may lose her political footing in the public debate over rehabbing Promontory Point. A new and arguably more influential political voice has chimed in. Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. has been lobbied by the Community Task Force for Promontory Point to argue in favor of a plan that utilizes all the current limestone blocks. Jackson has agreed, and according tot he June 16 Herald, he will soon present legislation requiring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to follow specific preservation guidelines during the rehab process.

Now whether he has the political strength to get the job done remains to be seen. The Task Forces's lobbying a congressman to take a serious look at preserving the 80-year-old revetment, a favorite Hyde Park landmark, is an achievement in and of itself. Jackson Jr. could have easily said he has better things to do.

After three years, Hairston remains tight-lipped on the issue, offering no opinion on how she would like the Point renovation project to proceed. This has left a void of leadership.

Jackson's involvement not only upstages Hairston but could also undermine any authority she has in deciding on a Point rehab solution from now on. So the Herald has a suggestion on how the aldermen can remain the leading political force in this process.

Hairston should take another hard look at the bipartisan report that criticized previous city maintenance costs regarding the Point. The report, written by paid mediator Jamie Kalven, concluded that complete limestone preservation was feasible despite city consultant's arguments suggesting otherwise.

The alderman has offered no public opinion of the controversial report, which she has held onto for more than six weeks without a response. Her only reaction was to form a new committee to rehash the three-year-old Point debate. The committee will meet Monday, June 28 but is not open to the general public. Depending on who's invited to join the committee, the group may wind up in a series of point-counterpoint-meetings the alderman has said she wanted to avoid.

It is time now for Hairston to commit to a permanent solution ford the Point. That will provide the necessary political guidance to keep the committee on track. By delegating Point discussion to the committee, she is only putting off the inevitable: a decision.

Hairston should have chosen to preserve the limestone revetment befdore Jackson Jr. beat her to the punch. It is now no longer just about the Point preservation issue but about Hairston's political leadership.

Other reactions include opposition to a close deadline for resolution of this complex issue. Top

Alderman Hairston's response: "Hairston tells Herald she's committed to Point"

by Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) June 30, 2004

Last week, the Hyde Park Herald published an editorial attacking me for not showing leadership on the issue of Promontory Point. They further accused me of sitting "tight-lipped" on the sidelines for the past three years, "offering no opinion" on the course the project should take.

Before the Herald accused me of being missing in action on an issue of such importance, they should have first retrieved their own archives for an accurate chronology of my involvement.

My role has been the challenging and apparently unglamorous task of bringing everyone to the table and keeping this issue alive. For more than three years, I have worked diligently to prevent this community's interests from being trampled. For more than three years, I have fought hard against the bureaucratic indifference that has threatened to bury one of our neighborhood's greatest treasures under concrete.

I have supported our community's efforts from the beginning. Since that first community meeting, January 17, 2001, I have stood out in front on this fight. I have made it unequivocally clear that I support the goals of this community. Earlier this year, when the park district, department of environment and the Army Corps of Engineers decided abruptly to walk out on the Promontory Point Working Group, in effect killing the project, I demanded that they return. I directed the Point Working Group Mediator to put together the final Working Group report which establishes the feasibility of a preservation approach to the rehabilitation of Promontory Point.

While I have had Kalven's report since May, it was agreed upon at our June 3 meeting that we would not discuss the report publicly until all parties had an opportunity to digest and respond to the city's rebuttal at the upcoming June 28 meeting.

The fight to preserve Promontory Point is not a competition. There is a process underway. This process is our best hope for achieving a preservation driven rehabilitation of Promontory Point without a protracted legal battle. I am not willing to undercut that process for the sake of grabbing a few headlines. I have invited the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency to the June 28 meeting. The IHP[S] is one of the signatories to the 1994 Memorandum of Agreement and now is the only agency in the agreement whose mission is preservation. Until now, they have been omitted from the process. I have reaffirmed their place at the table.

The continued support of Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. in this fight is welcomed and necessary to our success. This is not simply a local issue. The Shoreline Revetment Project plays across the local, state and federal levels. Jackson along with our other federal representatives (Congressman Bobby Rush and Senator Dick Durbin) has been part of this process since the beginning. Congressman Jackson has stepped up to address the Army Corps of Engineers because they are a federal entity; he is addressing the issue of preservation at the federal level. We hope that his office can secure the necessary funding with a definite timeline.

While the time that has been spent dealing with these issues may have seemed wasteful to the Herald, this process has been necessary and is in fact crucial to marshalling the full weight of the community behind a preservation plan before moving forward. The community demanded this process.

I am not "delegating Point discussion to the committee;" I am building consensus in a community that prides itself on its independence and its intelligence. For me to simply decide the issue for the sake of expediency would be to pre-empt a process that has been a model of community involvement and civic engagement. We will continue this process until its agreed upon conclusion July 31 and in the end we hope to have a plan that the entire community can unite behind.

Let me assure you that our community's unity may well be put to the test. The city has made it clear that they do not care if the project is completed or not. We as a community must be prepared to stand together if we are to see this through to the desired outcome.

This is still Chicago.


Jackson Jr. shares credit with Hairston

To the Editor: June 30, 2004

I write to thank the Herald for its kind editorial about my support to preserve Promontory Point (June 23) .

The Point was added to the Second Congressional district a little more than a year ago. I support and applaud the local citizens for their steadfastness to protect and preserve this unique lakefront treasure.

But I want to make one clarification. I worked closely with Alderwoman Leslie Hairston (Ward 5) during the past year and she deserves credit for her deliberative and evenhanded leadership.

Rather than characterize my efforts as upstaging her's it would be more accurate to write that the Alderman and I worked together to carefully gather all the facts before reaching a decision.


Herald counter of June 30: "Hairston doing public business in the dark"

Dear Alderman Hairston:

The debate over rehabbing Promontory Point has gone on long enough. The community should be allowed to hold an open meeting where the decisions are being made. And a Herald reporter should b allowed to cover that meeting.

On June 28, you removed a Herald reporter from covering the first Point ad choc committee meeting at the South Shore Cultural Center to which we had clearly been invited by your office. This is a committee that you empowered to resolve the three-year-old Point debater. It is made up of city officials, park advocates and a few concerned residents. It is not as if the general positions were not already known. And the various views of the facts have already been laid out before us.

You're doing the public's business in the dark. the public should know how such an important decision in the community is arrived at. Like any public decision-making, it's the public's right to know.

You're having a meeting to decide a very important issue to this community and you've closed it. Not even the Chicago City Council or its committees are permitted to do this.


Ald. Hairston: "Point public forum would delay results"

July 7, 2004

In its editorial last week, the Hyde Park Herald took my office to task for having "removed a Herald reporter from last Monday's ad hoc meeting to discuss Promontory Point. The editorial goes on to accuse me of "doing the public's business in the dark" and standing in the way of the public's right to know.

First of all, no one was "removed" from the meeting. The Herald reporter, who was in fact not invited to the meeting, was asked to leave and he complied.

Secondly, every care has been given to ensure that the committee operates in as transparent a manner as possible. At the conclusion of the meeting several reporters, including a reporter from the Herald entered the room and were able to interview whomever they wished.

Additionally, I held a news conference immediately following where I and members of the Community Task Force for Promontory Point answered reporters' questions for nearly half an hour.

I believe in the right of my constituents to be aware of and involved in what goes on in this ward. Development in the 5th Ward has always been preceded by public meeting. I have not allowed any major project to proceed in my ward without first allowing the community to have its say.

Such has been and will continue to be the case with Promontory Point as well. But given the sensitive nature of discussions now occurring and the distinct possibility that we can make real progress toward an acceptable solution, I must say that the Herald's call for a public meeting is, a best, premature. Promontory Point remains a highly contentious issue. A public meeting at this point would likely generate far more delay than results.

I can appreciate the Herald's desire to over these meetings as they happen, but our goal here is the preservation of Promontory Point.

Task Force says "Alderman should allow press in Point meetings

July 7, 2004. [Note: this letter may have been submitted before Alderman Hairston said that Kalven's report shows that preservation is doable.]

The Community Task Force for Promontory Point would like to thank the more than 3,500 Point users and concerned citizens who signed the recent petition demanding preservation of the limestone revetment at the Point calling for compliance with the 1893 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that requires preservation. The community has demonstrated, once again, an overwhelming consensus for preservation. The petitions have been delivered to all involved governmental agencies and to alderman Leslie Hairston.

As reported in the Herald last week, a new committee met on June 28 to discuss the Point. We were pleased to see the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) in attendance. Their presence cleared up a few points of confusion:

1. The IHPA affirmed that the Memorandum of Agreement is a binding and enforceable contract requiring preservation at the Point. The MOA is signed by the city and the [U.S. Army] Corps [of Engineers].

2. The IHPA made clear that preservation is a process rigorously defined in federal regulations. The Secretary of the Interior's Standards guide the process, as specified in the MOA. Those standards can be summed up simply: identify historic features, preserve those in good shape, repair where necessary, and replace in kind where repair is impossible. Those standards are the law at Promontory Point and they require full historic preservation of the limestone revetment.

Jamie Kalven, Point mediator, also attended the meeting, along with his engineer. They issued a report on City responses to the Mediator's Report, concluding "Mr. Brunzell and I see no need to alter the conclusions and recommendations of our May 17th report."

From the May 17 report: "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." These recommendations constitute a clear path toward resolution of the Point issue. Yet the Alderman's committee did not endorse or even comment on them. We call for Alderman Hairston's endorsement of her own mediator's report and for the implementation of its recommendations.

The Community Task Force would like to express its dismay at Alderman Hairston's refusal to allow the press to attend meetings of the ad hoc committee she has formed to discuss the Point. This committee grants disproportionate weight to anti-preservation activists. Its meetings are being held behind closed doors, off the record The authority, purpose and rules of the committee remain unclear. At the June 28 meeting, the Community Task Force was alone in advocating for the presence of the press and preservation groups. We join the editor of the Herald in calling for open meetings of the ad hoc committee. This community cares deeply about this issue and deserves accurate and public accounting of the process.

The solution at Promontory Point is no more closed meetings of yet another committee with an unclear agenda. Rather, we must build a united, open advocacy behind the independent mediator's recommendations. It is the only way forward to a swift and successful resolution.

Fred Blum, Bruce Johnstone, Jack Spicer, Connie Spreen


Point mediator stands firm on his report's conclusions

Hyde Park Herald, July 7, 2004. By Mike Stevens.

Former Promontory Point mediator Jamie Kalven reiterated his belief last week that preserving the park's limestone seawall is possible by following a preservation model. The declaration comes after the city's engineers discounted conclusions in Kalven's report for using a design that they say does not meet federal standards.

"I see no need to alter the conclusions and recommendations of our May 17 report," Kalven writes in a 4-page response to city concerns.

Kalven stressed that his design is an analytical tool used to gauge costs and that many questions raised by city engineers, STS Consultants, can be worked through once a preservation approach begins. Preservation at the popular lakefront park is about a process rather than a particular outcome, such as two steps of limestone or four steps of limestone, Kalven said.

"It's not a dramatic shift. It's pivoting of perspective," Kalven said in an interview last week. "The questions don't go away. You just tackle them in a different sequence."

The preservation process sequence begins with an independent assessment of the Point, Kalven said. After identifying salvageable historic elements, decisions about what is physically and fiscally possible must be made, Kalven said.

With various preservation groups and U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson (D-2) expressing support for Kalven's report and a new petition urging preservation bearing more than 3,500 signatures, the time is ripe for resolution, said Jack spicer of the Community Task Force, which has fought for preservation at the Point for 3 years.

Spicer believe that 5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston's decision to place the state preservation agency at the forefront of a committee charged with agreeing on a Point design might signal a good chance [for] resolving the contentious debate.

The Illinois Historic Preservation agency will examine the revetment and determine historic elements that can be preserved. They will then meet with the three other agencies involved in the $301 million Chicago Shoreline project to draft a recommendation for a design approach at the popular lakefront park.

"We're hopeful," spicer said. "Especially given that IHPA has taken its rightful role as mandated by law to be consulted and approve these plans."

Hairston shared Spicer's optimism after announcing the news June 28 saying, "Today's meeting marks the beginning of the end of the fight to preserve Promontory Point."


Point conclusions refuted

Hyde Park Herald, July 14, 2004. By Mike Stevens

Community activists have refuted a July 2 letter sent by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency which concludes "in-kind" replacement of the Point's limestone seawall is unfeasible.

In interviews with the Herald Monday, members of the Community Task force lambasted the Army Corps' recommendation to photograph the historic limestone revetment, which officials say may lessen the impact of its possible demolition.

The cover letter accompanied a sheaf of documents requested by the IHPA regarding the popular lakefront park's revetment rehab. "We are confident that after careful review of the above-mentioned documents, you will arrive at the same conclusion," Gary E. Johns[t]on colonel of the Army Corps, wrote to State Historic Preservation Officer Bill Wheeler. "We feel confident that any effect on historic properties can be mitigated by completion of HPBS/H[A]ER documentation."

"I wouldn't say that we have a plan to use [HABS documentation] but it is mentioned in the letter," Army Corps project manager Felicia Kirksey said, adding "It could be done if the State Historic Preservation Officer finds it acceptable."

It is unclear that the Point's historic limestone seawall must be demolished, task force spokesman Greg Lane said. "We have been hearing [this conclusion] for three years and it's been proven wrong again and again and again, most recently by an independent engineer that the city and [Army] Corps endorsed before the mediator's report was released," Lane said. The Army Corps' offer to photograph the Point before tearing the seawall apart to make room for a new part-concrete, part-limestone revetment represents that "absolute minimum" possible, Task Force member Jack Spicer said. "I don't think a photo album of Promontory Point is what the community is fighting for," Spicer said.

Meanwhile, the IHPA officials met with officials from both the Army Corps and the city July 12 to come to an agreement on how to reconstruct the revetment. "I can say that whatever is presented today is going to be brought here to Springfield before any decisions are made," IHPA spokesman Dave Blanchette said Monday afternoon.

The meeting marked the beginning of the coordination process between all the agencies, confirmed Army Corps' Kirksey. These three agencies were expected to reach an agreement by July 19, but instead it appears they will continue their discussions at that time with an ad hoc committee created by 5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston which is investigating plans for the Point's rehab.

Hairston pushed for the IHPA' involvement in the committee which met for the first time June 28, just days before the Army Corps letter.

The Community Task Force, which has been fighting for a preservation approach to the Point rehab for three years, worried that the IHPA's increased role might now make them a prime target for political pressure, Spicer said.

"We still have confidence in the IHPA as an organization to do their job. [But] we are concerned that the IHPA will get political pressure to give-in or step aside, and that would really be a shame," Spicer said.

As with any governmental agency there is the possibility that political pressure will be brought to bear," the IHPA's Blanchette said. "[But] not yet."

If the Army Corps moves forward without the IHPA's approval they will be in violation of the Memorandum of Agreement, Blanchette said. The MOA was signed by, and governs, all four agencies involved in the $301 million Chicago shoreline project.

Blanchette refused to say that the IHPA would file a lawsuit if the federal agency moves on with the current plans without IHPA's okay but did say the Army Corps would be leaving itself open to a possible lawsuit.

Alderman Hairston says (August 4): Latest Point coverage misleading readers

In the lead of its July 28, 2004 front page story, "Ald. drops Point deadline," the Herald dramatically dramatically announced that the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency had "pulled out of a series of Promontory Point rehab design meetings" and would not return until plans were further developed. The article goes on to present speculation that that political coercion may somehow have forced the agency to walk away. The Herald seems to be telling two stories here. The Herald acknowledges that, according to IHPA, the process is continuing to move forward as it should, but on the other hand, it insinuates that something has somehow gone wrong. Instead of bringing any clarity to the issue, the Herald's speculative reporting serves no purpose other than to confuse an already difficult situation.

The IHPA has not pulled out of anything. According to the 1994 Memorandum of Agreement, the IHPA is supposed to consult with the planners over the design. That is what they are doing now. They have asked for design plans with greater detail to be presented and the planners have agreed. Those designs should be completed within the next month.

The process is finally moving along as it should. Admittedly, the pace of these consultants is frustrating, particularly because we are watching these agencies move through a process that should already be complete. But while these are meetings that should have occurred years ago, that does not change the fact that they are necessary now.


Late July: in the doldrums but maybe at the brink.

By Gary Ossewaarde

The ad hoc committee was in abeyance waiting on the IHPA to digest its current material from the Corps and city and evaluate more advanced plans yet to be completed and conveyed to IHPA. Some sources said political pressure was applied to IHPA to accept the city's plan; the IHPA's Anne Hacker says no, "We see this as a beginning of a discussion." IHPA Preservation Officer Bill Wheeler wrote the Herald that the current plan, reusing (in various ways) 90 percent of the existing limestone, is "generally consistent" with federal preservation standards.

Alderman Hairston told the Herald, "We can't meet until we have something t meet about,..IHPA is supposed to be reviewing everything and I don't know that that has changed. They are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing...The purpose of the deadline is to get everyone focused on finishing this." She told the July 27 Ward Meeting that she "hopes [all] can soon reach agreement and hopes to see a preservation-minded design." "IHPA, which was excluded for 2 years, is currently reviewing material and has requested the future design by the end of August." She is "keeping her fingers crossed."

Jack Spicer of the Task Force criticized IHPA's working independently of the ad hoc committee, perhaps as a prelude to caving to political pressure. He said he had understood the IHPA's role as helping he committee develop a design, not examine one after it had been further developed.

Meanwhile the possibility of lawsuits hangs over the issue. Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois president David Bahlman told the Herald "Litigating is a possibility should things not progress positively with the IHPA modification of the project, but said he was optimistic about changes in the City's plans. Peter Rossi, who with a portion of community residents favors basically acceding to the city's plan rather than have the project not done, says a suit would likely be no more than a nuisance and in any case it's wise to "wait and see what the IHPA says."

Latest word from the IHPA was, "It's far from over, of course, but we think we are moving in the right direction."


August: Lake wall gets key backing, Preservation agency calls initial plans 'positive'

(In a comment, a Herald source considered the statement given by Mr. Blanchette of IHPA here more definite and and stronger than that given the Herald a week or so earlier. Otherwise it seems to give with clarity the state of various parameters as given by Ald. Hairston, the Herald and members of the Task Force and preservation groups. We understand that the Task Force has given interviews and possibly a statement since the following article appeared.)

Chicago Tribune, July 5, 2004. By Hal Dardick

The city's preliminary plans to rebuild Promontory Point have won conditional approval from a key historic preservation agency, much to the consternation of activists opposed to the project.

"The preliminary plans that were submitted were very positive," said Dave Blanchette, spokesman for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. "We've given the go-ahead for design construction plans to be drawn up."

After those plans are 25 percent complete, the agency will again review them to make sure they follow U.S. Secretary of the Interior guidelines for historic preservation. That's required under a 1993 memorandum of agreement among five city, state and federal agencies for rehabilitation of the city's lakeshore. "It's far from over, of course, but we think we are moving in the right direction," Blanchette said.

The Point is a limestone revetment, or lake wall, between 55th an 57th Streets built on a peninsula created with landfill in the 1920s. It was completed with a promenade by Prairie School landscape architect Alfred Caldwell in 1937.

City plans cal for demolishing most of the Point [revetment] before rebuilding it using steel, concrete and limestone. that troubled some activist groups, including the Community Task Force for Promontory Point and the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois.

"It' equivalent to looking at a historic building, demolishing the whole thing and rebuilding it and putting on a facade," said Greg Lane, spokesman for the task force. "The vast majority of Promontory Point only needs to be repaired.."

David Bahlman, president of the council, said the city plan "doesn't look like a preservation solution." But he also said his group is waiting to lok at more detailed plans to make a final assessment. The council "is very, very much intent and committed to a proper preservation solution at Promontory Point," he said. "We wand to see as much limestone as possible, as little concrete as possible."

University of Chicago professor Peter Rossi, who has gathered 361 signatures in favor of the city's plan, said he is pleased with the state agency's decision. "Basically, the whole thing has to be torn down and rebuilt because the whole structure has failed," he said. "I've always thought the compromise plan is an excellent plan, and it's also a preservation plan."

Under the plan proposed by the city Environmental Department and Chicago Park District, which are working closely with the Army Corps of Engineers, the top two steps would remain limestone and the bottom two would be cast in concrete atop a steel-reinforced foundation.

Much of Caldwell's original promenade would be restored*, and handicapped accessibility would be created. About 90 percent of the original limestone would be reused*, according to the state agency.

Former Park District General Superintendent David Doig first presented** the plan in January, but talks between government officials and community representatives then broke down. That tightened a logjam that began to form in January 2001 when activists panned the city's original $22 million plan, which called for creating an all-concrete structure.

The government agencies involved then put the plan on hold until a community consensus could be reached for the plan, part of a$301 million effort to rebuild 8 miles of lakewall. If consensus is not reached by next year, federal funding for the project could dry up, Park District officials said.

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) in June formed an ad-hoc committee that included the state agency to restart negotiations. But agency officials said they won't meet again with the committee until sees more detailed plans, saying there's nothing else for it to contribute at this point.

*Ed.: the plans do not call for "restoring" the promenade as it originally was (or as part was changed in the early 60s) and clearly less than half of the limestone will be reused in the steps-and none in the promenade.
**The plan was rolled out in July, 2003.

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