I read with interest "Day of the Condo" [January 15], the report in which developer Mark Weiss's proposal to build 30 expensive condos and retail spaces in northwest Uptown was maligned by some of the agitated neighbors who fear "the costs will price many people out, so we'll lose our diversity."
Now, I haven't seen the building plans, but let's assume the naysayers are accurate in stating that the neighborhood "would lose its character. It would be just Lincoln Park II," a gross generalization if there ever was one. Let's also assume the current businesses would need to relocate. Why is any of this viewed with such foreboding by a neighborhood obviously in need of such investment? Further, Weiss has indicated a willingness to work with the local residents to address concerns about building design and parking.
Laurie Hasbrook's comments regarding losing Uptown's diversity just don't ring true. If anything, they are elitist and exclusionary. She trumpets the racial and cultural diversity of her neighbors. Yet apparently economic diversity is not seen by her or her supporters as a desirable characteristic in a neighbor willing to invest the kind of money Weiss is considering. Her comments regarding the potential purchasers of the condos are nothing short of prejudicial and reactionary: the project's "residents will be faceless to us. They won't interact. They will be cut off in their upscale enclave." Surely these same remarks have been used to oppose the construction of every low-income housing project. Why is such intolerance acceptable toward those at the other end of the income spectrum?
As a longtime resident of Rogers Park, I, and many of my neighbors, would welcome just such speculative development. If, as stipulated, the gentrification is headed further north, I say it's been a long time in coming. We would also welcome both the residents and the businesses displaced by Weiss's project. We've got a great variety of housing stock and a surplus of empty and underused storefronts in need of successful businesses. But most of all, we possess a captive and diverse consumer group that has been grossly underserved for years, not only by a campaign of deliberate disinvestment here but also by the misguided social policies and programs of the current and former alderman. Alas, change is in the wind here as well--finally.
I hope Weiss can cobble together a mutually acceptable arrangement with his Uptown neighbors, but if not, I invite him to look further north to the Rogers Park community. While we may hold his feet to the fire on the project's design, we won't sing the false praises of the benefits of diversity. We're already there and looking for more of what he has to offer.