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

Screenshot 2015-09-11 13.15.09
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.

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.

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