Friends of Downtown held a forum Tuesday with the two alderman who split most of downtown Chicago between them. Both Brendan Reilly (42nd ward) and Robert Fioretti (2nd ward) defeated long-time incumbents who were seen by many as far too cozy with developers and far too tolerant of being rubber stamps to Daley administration whims.
Talk, of course, is cheap, and neither alderman has really been tested yet on how they strongly they'll stand up for their stated convictions, but their comments, a sampling of which can be found below, offered a refreshingly different take on the business-as-usual of the recent past.
Fioretti talked about future challenges to Chicago's center city, "from North Avenue to the Stevenson to Halsted or to Ashland. We have 160,000 people in that area right now. In the next ten years, it will be, according to the current projections, a half a million people. Let’s think about where the parking is, and where’s the congestion. Where are the new schools? Where is the transportation, the infrastructure? . . . If we don’t start planning for the long-term dealing with the problems, we’re going to get nowhere."
On the proposed move of the Chicago Children's Museum to a new building in Grant Park -
Reilly: That’s been a bit of a political football. . . . That’s something that will be thoroughly vetted, building by building, in the new East side. I find it curious that there are certain organizations out there, that have in their charter a mission statement of preserving open space, that are actually advocating for additional building for Grant Park. I don’t understand that. How these folks can look [you in] the eye and say, yes, we’re here to preserve Grant Park, but please put this building in, I don’t understand that.
On the Chicago Spire and developer Garrett Kelleher's multi-million dollar commitment to creating a new DuSable Park on the other side of Lake Shore Drive.
Reilly: I'm happy to see that that it be finished before the Spire is open for occupancy. Generally, my view is the more green space the better. Especially in downtown Chicago, we need to preserve open space whenever we can.
Fioretti: I think we have to be very careful on how we spend TIF money. . . . Money has to be given back to the schools.
Reilly: My view is that if we’re going to reform the system, it has to be done at the state level. I don’t think the city should unilaterally disarm. We are competing with other cities. Generally I support TIF reform.
On Queen's Landing, where the city suddenly, without notice or discussion, closed down the pedestrian crossing from Buckingham Fountain to the lake.
Reilly: That’s something I’ve been talking about with CDOT [Chicago Department of Transportation] just in the past week. . . . We’re talking about whether or not to revert back to the old crossing arrangement (applause) I’m working with professionals who know an awful lot about traffic management and infrastructure - certainly a lot more than I do - to get their informal recommendations and then we’ll hash that out, but it is something to be revisited. Certainly given the potential for winning an Olympic bid has resulted in the Department of Transportation taking a closer look at that. Hopefully we’ll have something to announce in the next few weeks, or coming months.
On the fate of the Lake Shore Athletic Club, which preservationists are working to save from Fifield Properties; plan to demolish it to make way for a new Lucien Lagrange condo tower:
Reilly: I think there has to be a very compelling case made to tear down historically significant buildings to replace them with new structures. I would say that Chicago has precious few historic buildings still standing today, and it’s in the community’s best interest to have a good mix of old and new. That’s one reason why the Lake Shore Athletic Club issue in my ward is weighing very heavily in my mind and I’ve spent the last month meeting with local residents, and explore all potential options for that property. I’ll be making an announcement by the end of this week . . . . I have asked Northwestern University to voluntarily extend the deadline for their request for a demolition permit for that property, and I’m waiting to hear back from them. [Reilly said he's looking to extend the demolition moratorium by some 60 days “to fully vent this plan.”)
On Northerly Island and the Olympics
Fioretti: I don’t think you can make any further decisions until 2009, when the Olympics are decided, because that is going to be a major venue for track, field, three or four other ones. I want to make sure that when the Olympics leave here, that we have plans are for the future for all of these locations, whether its Washington Park, whether it’s Northerly Island, and especially, impacting my ward, the Olympic village.