Pritzker: My New Garage Will Fight Congestion, Is a Symbol of Democracy

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Tawani staffers, Moore, and Pritzker at the ribbon cutting. Pritzker is using a replica of a sabre owned by General Philip Sheridan. Image courtesy of the 49th Ward.

Colonel Jennifer Pritzker is a billionaire investor, a historic preservationist, a bicycle advocate, and an LGBT trailblazer. Unfortunately, we have to add to that list “tone-deaf commentator on urban planning issues.”

A ribbon cutting was held Wednesday for the new 250-car parking garage in Rogers Park, built by her development company Tawani Enterprises. “I am very enthusiastic about this,” she said, arguing that the structure would “remove the traffic congestion we are all so painfully aware of,” according to a DNAinfo report.

Pritzker added that the garage, located at Sherwin and Sheridan, will make it easier for people who live outside the community to go there and spend money at local businesses, according to DNA. She also said the garage represents the “marriage of democracy and free enterprise.”

Where to begin? For starters, adding hundreds of parking spaces to a neighborhood doesn’t fight congestion, it generates traffic. The structure will encourage more tenants of the nearby, Pritzker-owned Farcroft by the Lake rental tower and visitors to Frank Llloyd Wright’s Emil Bach house to bring cars into the neighborhood.

Other neighborhood residents can rent monthly spaces for $125, which further promotes car ownership. As of Wednesday, 75 drivers had rented monthly spots, and a total of 822 garage transactions had taken place since the facility opened on August 5, DNA reported.

Although Rogers Park is a community that’s rich in transportation options, including excellent ‘L’, Metra, and CTA bus access, the extra traffic will make it a little harder to get around without an automobile. In most Census tracts in the neighborhood, over 40 percent of households are carless.

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Photo: John Greenfield

More driving will at this intersection will make it tougher for pedestrians to cross the street, and create traffic congestion for bus riders and more hazardous conditions for bicyclists. People on foot now have to watch out for motorists crossing the sidewalk to access the garage entrance on Sheridan. And, since the building has no retail, it presents a blank face to pedestrians, which makes walking less interesting – previously, the lot was occupied by a colorful, 90-year-old house, surrounded by tall trees.

Pritzker is correct that the garage symbolizes a triumph of capitalism, but democracy? Not so much. During the public input process, there was stiff opposition from residents, for all the aforementioned reasons, plus their belief that the monolithic structure would be out of place besides historic buildings on Sheridan.

The board of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce voted unanimously against the project. And judging from the applause levels at a community meeting attended by 100-plus residents, about three-quarters of those present opposed the structure.

Ultimately, 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore approved Pritzker’s plan. I believe Moore’s reasons for doing so were largely altruistic. He truly seemed to believe that the garage would be an asset for the neighborhood, and he wanted Pritzker to keep doing other types of development in the community. But, sure, no politician wants to be on the outs with one of the city’s wealthiest residents when reelection time rolls around.

Moore had some choice words at the ribbon cutting as well. “This is like, wow, this is really stunning,” he said, also referring to the structure as “awe-inspiring,” according to DNA. Yep, as I’ve said before, the garage is about as attractive as any building can be whose sole purpose is to warehouse cars.

  • what_eva

    nitpick on your photo caption. the DNA article says the sabre is a replica of Sheridan’s, not one owned by Sheridan.

    She’s clearly not well versed on the concept of induced demand, nor of the fact that a lot of traffic on Sheridan is pass-through to Evanston, so the garage won’t do anything for that congestion.

  • Good catch — that’s what I meant to write. Fixed.

  • I spoke with Jennifer Pritzker just before the ribbon cutting ceremony and offered a handshake and congratulations on behalf of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce. I also let her know that if there is anything that she should need in the future, our office is only about a block away. This peaceful gesture was well received.

    Sandi Price of the Rogers Park Business Alliance told me that she was surprised to see me at the ribbon cutting ceremony, due to the fact that the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce opposed it’s construction. I told her “Although we did oppose the parking structure construction, it is up now and we represent the businesses of Rogers Park”.

    “As a Board, we opposed the parking structure in the past due to many legitimate concerns voiced to us by residents and businesses of our community, which we represent. Now that the parking structure is complete, this ends our ability to oppose it’s construction. We wish Jennifer Pritzker the best in her future endeavors, just as long as they do not dispose of the life, character, culture, diverse businesses and rich history of Rogers Park”.

  • Thanks for your comment. What is the chamber’s position on Pritzker’s new development by the Mayne Stage?

  • Itsgonnabeme

    Let it go – it’s built. It will be fine. People will have a place to park. Not everyone has the option to take public transportation or ride a bike. Not everyone lives in the fantasy land you think they should live in, nor do they believe the government knows what is best. If this really bothers you that much, you should seek professional help!

  • Yeah, I wasn’t planning on writing much more about this, but Pritzker’s hilarious remarks demanded a response. I don’t follow your logic. A majority of residents at the hearing were against the garage. The fact that it got built anyway is a result of the government (Moore) believing it knows what is best.

  • Bernard Finucane

    The lack of a bulb out and the grass, signs and other junk on the sidewalk don’t help much either.

    But the funniest part is the cars parked in front of the parking garage, presumably free of charge.

  • Because it is the mission of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce to work on behalf of that which is in the best interest of our Chamber members, our positions will reflect all that is indeed in the best interest of our members and the entire Rogers Park business community

  • I don’t expect oligarchs capable of understanding democracy. I do hope for understanding of quality urbanism. Sadly Col. Pritzkers understands neither. As usual the rest of us who often understand both are left to suffer their consequences.

    The biggest disappointment here is Alderman Moore. I suspect that he is so dependent on money to get reelected that he thinks he must set aside urban design principles towards the pursuit of campaign funding opportunities.

    It is possible that he has not kept up on urban design best practices. Maybe he honestly doesn’t get the critical importance of the role that ground floor retail presence plays in creating a vibrant livible urban environment. Maybe he never read Jane Jacobs. After all she is such a recent design influence. Moore has only had some 50 years to catch her.

  • chevanston

    This could’ve just been a comment on the original article. Also did you clear it with Joe Moore if you could use his Facebook picture? How many articles is Chistreetblog gonna right about this parking garage? Also Not So Much – is an overused modern phrase that would be nice to retire. Say it a different way. Using the same words over and over is dull. Tone deaf is another modern catch phrase that should be used less often, How about deaf-mute, surd, unhearing, or hearing-impaired? Or there is another way to say it. Unless you just wanna sound just like everyone else.

    ?Encourage people to bring more cars? Or it will invite the car driving public who has money to visit the neighborhood and spend money in Rogers Park instead of downtown Chicago and downtown Evanston?

    Why isn’t Chistreetblog advocated for Evanston to tear down their downtown parking garages?

    This “new” article doesn’t add anything that the author hasn’t already said. The best article was last article where the author at least visited the object of his disdain and took a bicycle tour. This is just a reblog. A report of someone else’s report. An unnecessary item clogging up the ‘net.

  • I myself have run a blog not backed by organizational depth. Keeping a steady stream of articles is not easy. This article is fine. You are being overly critical and are coming at this with too high of expectations. When it comes to net clogging, a far fetched concept if you ask me, this blog is nowhere near one.

  • Kelly Pierce

    I accept this as a business decision. She wants to provide
    parking to the customers of her businesses. She plans to develop more in Roger’s
    Park and believes her business potential will be stifled without ample parking
    for all the visitors she anticipates.

  • Sound business decisions often can be bad for everything else. Many bad things can make a lot of money. Making money can be a terrible reason to do something.

  • Folks, here’s Chevanston’s website: http://chevanstonrogerspark.blogspot.com

    Chevanston, you bring up some interesting points. See my comment below about why I wrote yet another post about “The Mistake by the Lake” garage.

    Joe Moore’s office has generally given us cart blanche to use their images but, you’re right, I should have double checked on this one, and will do so on Monday. FYI, there’s no bad blood between Moore and Streetsblog. After we ran an article about his decision on the garage, he commented, “John, though we disagree, I appreciate your balanced account of my decision”: http://chi.streetsblog.org/2013/06/21/say-it-aint-so-joe-alderman-moore-approves-the-mistake-by-the-lake/ We’ve also written plenty of positive articles about how Moore pioneered the participatory budgeting process in the U.S. and has done many pedestrian and bike initiatives in the ward.

    Yeah, that Borat-ism has been overused (looking at you, RedEye), but in this case I felt the shoe fit. Ditto for “tone-deaf,” which seemed a little gentler than “clueless.” Again, I’ve also written plenty of complimentary stuff about Pritzker’s historic preservation and bike advocacy efforts, and she’s an acquaintance of mine from the bike scene.

    True, this was largely a recap of arguments we’ve made against the garage in the past (except the part about the democracy issue), but part of Streetsblog’s raison d’etre is to respond to tone-deaf statements about transportation from public figures and misinformation in the mainstream media. I suppose the post could have been shorter, but I figured I’d include the full list of the garage’s drawbacks for newcomers to the discussion.

    Finally, Streetsblog is a transportation news and advocacy site. As such, we do a mix of original reporting and commentary. I do appreciate the existence of DNAinfo. Since they have many reporters dedicated to one or two neighborhoods, each one can cover most of the important meetings and events within his or her beat, and they often get scoops on transportation news. I also respect that DNA transportation articles tend to have less of a pro-car bias than those written by the other dailies’ transportation reporters. Perhaps it’s a generational thing.

    Since I’m the only full-time Streetsblog Chicago employee, I can’t make it to every hearing and ribbon cutting across the city that I’d like to. Therefore it’s nice that DNA is there to break some of these stories. Linze Rice did a fine job with her article on the garage event — great photos too.

    Part of Streetsblog’s role is to comment on news that other outlets have already reported. In turn, since we’ve got our ear to the ground on transportation issues, we often get scoops as well, and sometimes DNA runs articles that help spread the word about news that we’ve already broken. Here’s a recent example (note the hat-tip to Streetsblog at the bottom of the post): https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20150902/river-north/kinzie-bike-lanes-here-stay-city-says

    Thanks again for the heads-up about the Moore photo attribution. Best of luck in your blogging endeavors.

  • Cameron Puetz

    This was absolutely a business decision. Pritzker felt that parking was a requirement for renovating the Farcroft Building into luxury rentals. The primary motivation for the garage was fearing that without parking the Farcroft project wouldn’t attract renters willing to pay luxury prices.

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