Your article "Sticking Point" [Neighborhood News, January 16] made it seem as if the Gateway Plaza shopping center emerged from a shrouded process that ignored the wishes of the Rogers Park community. Quite the opposite is true. There is tremendous support for Gateway, and there have been numerous opportunities for community input. Over the last year and a half I personally attended a total of 17 community meetings and small group sessions with other local organizations to discuss the many facets of the project--including the need to acquire the Pivot Point site. As your article did point out, the building was once for sale. In fact, its owner approached me three years ago pleading for help to find a buyer. This does not diminish the fact that Pivot Point is an important community business. We want them to stay in the community, and our development team has offered various relocation options. Unfortunately, many things boil down to cold hard cash. We couldn't reach an agreement, and now it looks as if the court will need to decide the property's fair market value.
Ben Joravsky missed the real point of what's happening in Rogers Park. Gateway Plaza is an exciting, desperately needed community resource being built in a way that is sensitive to the aesthetic and functional needs of a dense, urban business district. Gateway will bring a full-service grocery store and other retailers to our community, while supporting and augmenting the small businesses that have already made a commitment to Howard Street.
Gateway will create over 400 retail jobs, not to mention construction jobs and a construction-placement program that will employ 25 local residents. Gateway also calls for a complete overhaul of the Howard Street el station--currently in dire need of repair. Gateway is a $60 million project that proposes to develop 260,000 square feet of retail space on a 31-acre site linked to the second-busiest transportation hub in the city of Chicago. It is no small undertaking, and it's not inconceivable that there would be at least one dispute. But your readers should keep in mind that there are always two sides to a story, especially this one. We understand that the owners of Pivot Point are concerned with their self-interest. They should be. Our job, however, as a nonprofit community-development corporation and chamber of commerce, is to promote the interests of the entire community and to plan for the future in a way that is effective and meaningful to our constituents.
We hope that Pivot Point chooses to stay in the neighborhood. That decision, however, is ultimately up to them. In the meantime, we will continue moving forward with a project that, by most accounts, is one of the best things to happen to Rogers Park in a very long time.