Friday, June 19, 2009

University of Chicago Construction Update

Monday, June 8, 2009 the University of Chicago held a Community Meeting to update residents on its University South Campus Plan. The $702 million dollar capital program includes the soon-to-be-open New Residence Hall and the Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts, that will be breaking ground this summer. Logan Center is a 450 seat auditorium designed to house music, cinema, and the performance arts space and personnel. It features two theatres, a cafe, art studios, digital labs, shops and rehearsal space. One of its many special features is a solar powered roof.

While this spectacular capital campaign in the midst of a poor economic climate seems counterintuitive U of C appears to be thriving despite the economic downturn. Its construction of new facilities increases its ability to attract and serve its student body that is drawn from all over the world. However, its neighbors are less than thrilled. Some of the concerns expressed by residents include:

noise (contractors are not honoring agreements about start and ending times); vibrations (monitors were installed but not monitored. They have since been removed); pot holes (Alderman Willie Cochran has asked for repairs and even offered to pay half the cost. But until the meeting he had had no response to his offer)traffic); residential buildings have sustained structural damage (one landlord reported $150,000 in damages to his buildind. Impact fees are available for damage and repairs); traffic; impact on health (including lead in the soil; the Alderman cited incidents of asthma and respiratory illnesses due to fumes from trucks); limited jurisdiction (to Evans - the initial promise was to expand public safety to S. Lawrence.However, public safety officers jurisdiction is only 1 1/2 blocks south and 3 1/2 miles east; blocked sewers (Sewer department is coming to clean the sewers at 61st and S. Woodlawn); There is already inadequate parking for existing residents problems No parking has been provided for the 811 bed residential hall. U of C representatives claimed that only 100 of the 300 students transferring from Shoreland own a car. First year students are not permitted to have cars. However, this seems a little short sighted even though residents were assured that a shuttle service will be available for students to 55th St. and that they really will not require cars).

Some residents speculated that 61st street would become a major industrial street. The University assured them that was not the case.

Considering the fact that some of the residents present had been living with these construction problems for years they were polite, amenable to generating solutions and willing to work with the University. Some of the solutions that were offered included:

reroute heavy traffic; provide list of minority contractors (The goal is 25% minority contracts); a minority apprenticeship program; Alderman promised to repair 61st stree if U of C repairs other streets; enforce weight ordinance for streets with school on it; detailed analysis on construction and operational analysis; asphalt and cement pads on streets where buses travel; host a meeting around economic impact issues as relates to Logan Ctr in partnership with Alderman's office and work with local businesses.

Malunda indicated that the garden located at 61st and Dorchester will have to be relocated due to the construction of the Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS.) The site will become a major staging site. The Alderman's office is working to find an alternative garden site.

Sonya Malunda, Associate VP Office of Civic Engagement of U of C promised to respond in writing to residents concerns by July 1.

The meeting was advertised as a one hour meeting to begin at 6pm. However, when I finally left at 8pm it was still going strong with only a few individuals of the more than 75 or so individuals having left. The majority of attendees were still asking questions of the U of C representatives.

One individual pointed out the symbolic turning away from the community that was he saw in the architectual design of U of C's plan. Evidently the original design featured the main entrace of Logan Ctr. on 61st. That has been redesigned.

The residents present appeared to be very savvy and know how to hold the U of C accountable. Nevertheless it was clear that U of C was going to proceed with its plan regardless to public opinion. The question is how successful can the community be at negotiating for some redress to its grievances and to what extent can it leverage its power to entice the Unversity to consider what is at stake.
Only time will tell.

blessings! Rev. Qiyaman

This trailer has been the home of several University of Chicago Public Safety Officers while their new home is being built across the street. They will be able to move in by the end of July.

This picture shows the newly constructed office building parking garage with office space for public safety. It is located at 61st and Drexel. Public safety will begin occupying the office space by the end of July, 2009

These pictures show the new residence hall and dining facility. It will have 811 beds and 541 seat dining. The students will start moving in September, 2009.

More pictures of the new residence and dining facility

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