Though we have not been involved in planning tonight’s meeting about the EMC site, we believe it is important to remember several things going into it:
- LAST CHANCE: Almost half of the EMC site – nearly two acres – has already been developed. 27 single-family homes were built on the EMC’s surface parking lots along Edgewater, Rosehill, and Paulina back in 2004. The Real Estate market was hot at that time, and no open space was preserved. The remaining EMC site represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address the open space deficit in the Andersonville/Edgewater community. The Chicago Park District has long designated our community as an “under-served area”.
- MIDDLE MAN: Waveland Partners is a middle-man. They are working for the EMC Bankruptcy Trustee to market a development plan and to secure a “planned unit development” zoning variance for the site from the city. Their goal is to maximize the financial return for the Bankruptcy Estate if and when the property is sold to another developer. They do not know if or when any developer will be able to get financing to actually develop anything.
- PUBLIC MONEY, BUT NO PUBLIC GOOD: When the EMC was built and added to over many decades, it was granted the ability to build large buildings, in part, because as a hospital it was providing a public service to the community. Given the likelihood that any new development will be private and not provide any public service, zoning densities and building heights similar to the existing EMC buildings are NOT merited. Nevertheless, Waveland wants not only high densities and building heights, they also want more than $5 million in public taxpayer funds through the TIF.
- COMMUNITY SUPPORTS PARK SPACE: More than 1100 people voted in favor of public park space at the EMC site in a referendum on the ballot in five 40th Ward precincts in the February 2011 election – more than 87% of those who voted on the question were in favor. The referendum question was placed on the ballot after 330 neighborhood residents signed petitions. Additionally, 160 people participated in a park design charette in June 2011.
- MONEY FOR PARKS EXISTS: Despite the economic crisis and government deficits, on May 13th, Mayor Emanuel announced a $290 million capital investment plan for parks. The plan calls for the city to buy 180 acres and build at least 32 new parks and play-lots. Between these funds, TIF funds, and private dollars, a significant neighborhood park is clearly possible.
- REALISTS: To be clear, though we would love to see the whole EMC site become a park, we, the Friends of West Edgewater Park, are realists. We advocate for a balanced development plan for the EMC site, a plan that includes a significant neighborhood park, is fiscally sound, and is in keeping with the scale and fabric of the community.
On behalf of the Friends of West Edgewater Park, thank you for considering these points!