Chalmers Ad Infinitum

A few thoughts on Chalmers given today’s op-ed in the Recorder (here) and comments from Karl Baia (here):
Recorder Op-Ed: I’ve covered most of my points in prior posts so I’ll just add a few comments. The economic impacts of hotel development versus residential development differ markedly. I’m a proponent for driving demand for housing in the city. My thinking simply comes down to making this a more livable community so Kaufman’s concept fits with my general thinking on this.I also don’t get why a skeptical eye would not greet the feasibility of hotel development and restaurant development from a different developer. Are we to believe this is a sure thing and less risky than Kaufman’s venture? I’d argue these are riskier.
Another underlying philosophy to development is that architectural preservation, adaptive reuse and small cities are the trends embraced by more and more communities. But we, as usual, seem to be riding the old wave instead of catching the new wave. Unbelievable.
As far as a ‘ticking clock’, I’m a bit confounded. This city’s decline has been many decades in the making and suddenly on Chalmers we have such urgency. Where’s the urgency on all the other issues facing the city? Is the clock not ticking there too?
Karl Baia and Pro-Demolitioners Comments: Let me be clear on my position. I support the adaptive reuse of Chalmers as I believe ultimately it will be a net positive for the city and for the Southside. I also believe that the revitalization of Amsterdam will be driven from the Southside given the proposed development and given its preservation from the arterialization prevalent on the north side of the city. I also support the right of Southside residents and their elected/non-elected  leaders to organize and petition on Chalmers. I may disagree with your position but I support your right to do so and your right to advocate as you see fit for your ward and neighborhood.
That said, my criticism on the petition process stems from its characterization that it is an objective, fair process to form a representative  view of the Chalmers debate. My point is simply that this process in no way can “get a more accurate number on who wants to see the current project pursued and who would like to tear the building down”. It’s just not so and I have to call people on it who say otherwise.
Krab Cakes
Check out Charlie Kraebel’s post today (here) as I think it’s got some good points. Again, my exception is that the process and instrument matter if we are truly taking the pulse of the city on this one so its characterization matters if we are using it as a tool to sway or gauge public opinion. It is not a survey, it’s a petition.
But the bottom line of his post is that both sides have legitimate reasons for their stands so at least let’s steer the debate to the relative merits of the argument. I’m not arguing that 5th ward residents should not have a say; I’m just saying that all 5th ward views should have their say as it’s not just a 99.2% monolithic block of opposition even in the 5th ward.
Slippery Slopes and Muddy Waters: Charlie posts this:
But because a petition largely carries the views of one particular section of the city doesn’t mean it should automatically be dismissed. In fact, the results of such a survey should carry a lot of weight.
Let’s be honest. A person living on upper Church Street or someone living on Guy Park Avenue isn’t going to be as impacted by the fate of the Chalmers building as those who live within a few blocks of Amsterdam’s most visible eyesore.

As someone opposed to the closure of Bacon– my neighborhood school, my neighborhood, my ward– the comment above makes me a bit prickly as the impact on our neighborhood from closure never entered the debate. I’d argue that the opposite argument was made that the interests of the city trumped our rather parochial and elitist interests. If you doubt the marginalization of this neighborhood for the ‘interest of the city’, please read elsewhere on the blog or pull any op-ed letter or editorial. This is a slippery slope indeed.
Let me move on though. The issue with Chalmers is more than the physical presence of the building. For me it’s a bottom line dollars and sense issue. How else is this community to grow and to remain viable if we cannot attract any demand side activity on real estate and housing? Or a younger and more affluent demographic to move and live here? Please tell me how.

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