University of Chicago and the City reach an historic Memorandum of Understanding
They will test streamlined city zoning and permitting, while aldermen seek to ensure their turf, city envisions better interdepartmental communication and coordination. Maybe a South Side master plan. And in the background some conflict grows over (inter alia) UC hiring and departure of Career Pathways.
University and Community home. Aldermanic campaign 2011 and pol/gov'tal scene since. Hot Topics home. Development Hot Topics. Development in Depth. Zoning home. TIF News and Home. Woodlawn News (see on Grove Parc 30M)
AGREEMENT (less exhibits) IN PDF. Precis
of full document (by
Exhibits: A Major UC Projects.
B Prop. change of UC Police Patrol.
C UC City Interagency Task Force-Projects with timeframes. Spreadsheet derived from Exhibit C. Spreadsheet in Excel
(The Full agreement, release, and Exhibits are also cached in the Hyde Park Herald- visit http://www.hpherald.com.
RELATED CHOICE NEIGHBORHOODS GRANT FOR WOODLAWN incl. Grove Parc complex IN WOODLAWN NEWS
Note- the agreement did not seem to help the Harper Theater to open on time.
(A quick note about 57th
and the east edge of Washington Park- there was originally to be a bridge between
the old and new parts (so. of 57th) of DuSable Museum, but historic agencies
said such bridge would jeopardize the historic ranking of the old roundhouse
building- that's why DuSable is looking at closure of the street.
The text of the release on the agreement. Courtesy of WBEZ. To Full MOU Document in pdf.
Note, you need to read both the full agreement and its exhibit carefully to gather the breath-taking scope of this. It will at the least shake and shape the landscape of power on the South Side and between city and aldermen and UC and aldermen.
OFFICE OF THE MAYOR
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 26, 2011
CONTACT: Mayor’s Press Office
MAYOR EMANUEL ANNOUNCES MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING WITH UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO THAT WILL SPUR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF CHICAGO
First-of-its-kind agreement will create jobs, encourage growth and increase cooperation between the City and the University of Chicago
Mayor Emanuel today announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City of Chicago and the University of Chicago, which creates a framework for the University and the City to work together to facilitate economic opportunity and collaboration in the Hyde Park neighborhood and surrounding communities.
“I am pleased to announce this historic cooperation agreement with the University of Chicago,” said Mayor Emanuel. “The collaboration allows us to achieve more value for taxpayers, as the University and the City work together to create jobs for residents and complete construction projects more efficiently. This agreement will have a profound positive impact on the communities on the South Side of Chicago that neither party would be able to do on its own.”
In the MOU, the City commits to creating a plan for development of the public infrastructure surrounding the University of Chicago, and to integrate with a similar plan from the University. This will dramatically reduce the amount of time needed for permitting and licensing for these projects, and will speed up construction significantly – both of which are priorities for Mayor Emanuel.
Further, the Mayor’s Office will create an inter-agency task force that will include representatives from several City departments and sister agencies, as well as the Mayor’s office. This task force will coordinate with the University to ensure a high level of ongoing collaboration between the University and the City. The City of Chicago has additionally outlined approximately 50 construction projects that it will undertake in the area as part of this multi-year plan.
“This agreement helps ensure that our investments and the City’s investments work together to help create a vibrant South Side community,” said University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer. “It expresses our commitment to working with the City, our neighbors and our local officials, and it supports that ongoing engagement with specific steps each of us will take.”
The University of Chicago, in the MOU, commits to work in conjunction with the City and local aldermen to coordinate construction projects and major initiatives. This includes the University’s $1.7 billion capital program for the next five years. The University has also committed to providing strong access for minority-and women-owned businesses to be part of these projects, as well as expanding employment opportunities for residents of the surrounding communities. Finally, the University has committed to continuing many of its successful efforts in fostering business diversity, promoting K-12 educational opportunities, ensuring public safety, and facilitating housing stability in the surrounding communities.
This MOU came together with the leadership and cooperation of Alderman Leslie Hairston, Alderman Will Burns, Alderman Willie Cochran and Alderman Pat Dowell, who worked alongside University of Chicago officials and representatives from the Mayor’s office to craft an arrangement that benefits the residents of the surrounding communities.
This cooperation initially grew out of Saturday morning meetings that Mayor Emanuel held with leadership from various universities, including the University of Chicago, immediately upon taking office. The MOU is effective immediately. Construction projects initially outlined will take place over the next five years.
Historic agreement between city, UC for projects, jobs streamlining announced at end of August 2011
Note, you need to read both the full agreement and its exhibit carefully to gather the breath-taking scope of this. It will at the least shake and shape the landscape of power on the South Side and between city and aldermen and UC and aldermen.
City, University of Chicago strike deal to ‘create a vibrant South Side’
BY STEFANO ESPOSITO Staff Reporter email@example.com August 26, 2011 8:52PM
Reprints26ShareUpdated: August 27, 2011 6:44AM
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the University of Chicago announced a “first-of-its-kind” agreement Friday intended to “create jobs” and “encourage growth” over several years in Hyde Park and surrounding communities.
The city is planning “approximately 50 construction projects” as part of the multi-year plan, but the mayor’s office didn’t offer any specifics on what those projects might be.
A spokesman for the city didn’t return a call seeking more information.
“I am pleased to announce this historic cooperation agreement with the University of Chicago,” Mayor Emanuel said in written statement released Friday. “The collaboration allows us to achieve more value for taxpayers, as the university and the city work together to create jobs for residents and complete construction projects more efficiently. This agreement will have a profound positive impact on the communities on the South Side of Chicago that neither party would be able to do on its own.”
The mayor’s office said the agreement will “dramatically reduce the amount of time needed for permitting and licensing for these projects, and will speed up construction significantly.”
“This agreement helps ensure that our investments and the city’s investments work together to help create a vibrant South Side community,” said University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer. “It expresses our commitment to working with the city, our neighbors and our local officials and it supports that on-going engagement with specific steps each of us will take.”
Under the agreement, the university commits to working with the city and local aldermen as it moves forward with $1.7 billion in construction projects during the next five years, the university said.
The agreement also commits the university to spend $2.5 million to work with Metra to improve the 59th Street station and opening a 60th Street station.
The mayor’s office said the agreement grew out of Saturday morning meetings Emanuel held with leadership from various universities, including the University of Chicago.
Natalie Moore at WBEZ adds in http://www.wbez.org/story/university-chicago-makes-financial-commitment-south-side-91127:
The University of Chicago and the city have entered into an agreement
that calls on the school to be a better South Side neighbor.
The University, located in Hyde Park, has sometimes had a fraught relationship with surrounding neighborhoods. The school is investing more than $1 billion in capital improvements over the next three years and officials say the community will benefit.
In a memorandum of understanding with the city, the university has pledged to make sure contracts and jobs go to people and businesses in
the neighborhood. President Robert Zimmer said the university’s committed to using local contractors – as well as women and minority-owned companies.
“We’re part of the South Side of Chicago. It’s important that the community flourish. It’s important in social terms and important for the university. There’s a whole fabric of ways in which this is good for the community and the university,” Zimmer said.
The memo also outlines ways the University of Chicago can foster economic growth on the South Side. That includes improving a Metra commuter line and developing properties along Garfield Boulevard. A few years ago the university started buying up property in Washington Park. Residents, politicians and community organizers were disappointed that the university didn’t reveal its plans before purchasing land.
(For more go to wbez.org.)
And Lynn Sweet in the Sun-Times August 31 speculates that the two parties are anticipating being ready to pounce for an Obama Presidential Library.
But aldermen say city, UC jumped the gun during negotiations with them
Based on Hyde Park Herald August 31 by Sam Cholke, "U. of C., city reach development deal; Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd): City met with us, then sent out announcement without responding to local alds.' suggested changes"
The article stresses that the UC can expedite its projects while the city will invest in planning, infrastructure upgrades that line up with UC plans "for a vibrant south side."
However, Ald. Burns, Dowell, Hairston and Cochrane were in meetings with the city and UC and reviewing drafts and submitting suggestions, and thought they were making good progress when the agreement went out as "final."
Things not in the agreement, according apparently to Dowell, were requirements for regular meetings with the UC especially high level officials, and hiring standards for UC projects.
The 50 or so $1.7 billion in projects will be overseen by a task force appointed by the Mayor. The agreement was in effect as of 3 pm August 26 2011.
Analyses and highlights
Tribune, Oct. 27.U. of C. development deal hits snag.An alderman who represents the University of Chicago are is threatening to hold up parts of a development deal brokeered by Mayor Rahmn Emanuel, saying school officials have not addressed community concerns.Ald. Leslie Hairson, 5th, said university leaders have been vague about architectural standards for new buildings in Hyde Park."Constituents are filing my email inbox with requests to have the university come up with language that protects the histori character of Woodlawn Avenue" from 55th to 59th strets, she said Wedneday.The school has been in talks with Hairston and commmunity leaders for months, and talks will continue, university spokesman Steve Kloehn said.If the City Councl shoots down the zoning blueprint, that could affect parts of a separate development plan Emanuel touted as a "historic cooperation agreement" between the U. of C. and the city.
Under the deal, the university set out plans for more than $1.7 billion in development around its campus the next five years. Emanuel in tudrn promised more city cooperation on permits and construction.
Winners: University of Chicago, especially its Office of Civic Engagement and the South East Chicago Commission (which gets to distribute a new fund and apparently serve as a community development corporation with the vast backing of the UC rather than struggle like most do). Also University Police and the Charter Schools. And the planning and real estate divisions that will have closer relations and expedition with permits.
Businesses affected by development
Residents, drivers, bikers on arterials
Surrounding neighborhoods that may get infill housing and shopping.
Losers: Aldermen potentially
Neighborhoods and their orgs/councils if public input is reduced.
Groups skeptical of UC power and actions if new funds enable university and city to buy automatic acquiescence
Taxpayers, if $60 M in public investment is considered a LOT, but not if they were to be done anyway and streamlining reduces overhead and the delays that lead to higher costs.
Neighborhoods get more of a peek into University and City plans or at least "big thoughts/long thoughts." Perhaps the start of real wide areal planning. All of these have been asked for for several years.
Neither the process, studies, or projects would seem to portent major changes in neighborhoods in the short run.
None or few would seem to be highly detrimental. (We will have to see what the reaction will be when plans for the west edge of Washington Park or for Nichols Park are actually set forth.) Note also that the MOU covers only the intersections of the city and UC, not everything either is planning in the area!
Highlights to keep your eyes on:
Garfield Blvd. development- El station, street, bikes, properties etc. in Washington Park all the way to Dan Ryan and also to Lake Park
Washington Park transition
Midway and Boulevards
63rd corridor- El stations, corridor and dev. to Dan Ryan, Grove Parc housing development, infill housing including Employee Assisted and Columbia Pointe
Stony Island (the only long n-s corridor available to the UC west of University Ave.)
Lots of Bike lanes and trails and centers
Growing role of UC including Civic Engagement (which gains staff) and SECC
Possible harbinger of UC police taking over more role and larger territory from Chicago Police and whether this will create frictions in the communities
Tighter and maybe more minority and women-owned jobs and businesses (half the MOU dealt with this)
Reportage and annual plans including for infrastructure work.
Whether the role and potential veto by aldermen in permitting will in fact decline.
Rahm gives U. of C. zoning shortcut. Hyde Park Herald June 1, 2011. By Sam Cholke
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the University of Chicago have reached a tentative agreement that teh university wil b the first to benefit from any reform to the city's zoning and permitting process.
Local aldermen say they were recently called into a meeting with the mayor and told that he was putting together a task force charged with streamlining the city approval process, starting with University of Chicago development projects. Emanuel told the aldermen that university President Robert Zimmer had expressed frustration with how long it took to approve capital projects, saying the university's projects in China were approved far quicker than those in its backyard.
"We are delighted to have the opportunity to take up this conversation with Mayor Emanuel and his team, and to find new ways we can work together for the benefit of Chicago," said university spokesman Jeremy Manier.
The task force so far includes representatives from the Department of Housing and Economic Development, the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Chicago Transit Authority. The mayor is expected to assign additional departments to the task force.
Local aldermen want to make sure that they get a say in a changes. Ald. Will Burns (4th) said he and other aldermen will not relinquish any oversight responsibility. Aldermen currently must sign off on zoning changes and special use permits and shepherd planned developments through the city's barrage of committees and commissions.
"This is not a diminution of aldermanic review of the permit process," Burns said. He said he and other local aldermen would meet with the university in the coming weeks to discuss their expectations for local hiring, minority -business involvement and other concerns before they sign off on the pilot project.
Major university projects, including the redevelopment of Harper Court shopping center, are in Burns' 4th Ward. The university owns tracts of land in Ald. Pat Dowell's 3rd Ward and Ald. Willie Cochran's 20th Ward. The main campus is in Ald. Leslie Hairston's 5th Ward."
"There are some thing the university has done well, there are some things the university has not done well. There are some things the university has been honest about, there are some things the university has not been honest about," Hairston said.
Hairston and the other aldermen said their expectations of the university must be spelled out in a memorandum of understanding before they will participate in the mayor's reform effort. "Without a doubt, otherwise they'll welch," said Hairston, who along with Burns is making local hiring a priority.
[Caption: Englewood resident Evelyn Woodson rallies a small group of people as they gather in front of the Undershirt of Chicago Human Resources Department Tuesday afternoon to protest university hiring practices and the closure of the Career Pathways initiative offices on 61st Street. sign says U of C Now Hiring (not from the Community)- for 108 applications we got 2 interviews, 1 offer. Not said is whether after United Community Jobs reviewed applicants they filtered any out or submitted all.] [There are also ongoing rallies against increasing outsourcing of the labor force and elimination of many service employees in the dormitories.]
The university's poor reputation for local hiring boiled over on May 24 in Woodlawn. More than 20 Woodlawn residents and graduate students rallied in front of the university's human resources department and submitted a letter complaining that it hires few people from the surrounding communities.
The United Community Jobs Campaign helps Woodlawn residents apply for jobs. Since January 2010, the group has provided graduate students to review potential employees' qualifications, resumes and certification for job openings. During that time, it submitted 108 job applications to the university and secured two interview and one job offer for applicants. Locals are clearly interested in working at teh university. People repeatedly pulled their cards over to ask the group if they were taking applications to work at the university.
Duff Morton, a doctorate student at the university, said the group was pushing for more involvement since the university's local job training and placement partner, the Career Pathways Initiative, announced it would close its Woodlawn office on June 29. Career Pathways will consolidate with parent group, the Cara Group, to expand the 4804 S. Cottage Grove location. It's not clear that Career Pathways was more effective at placing local job-seekers at the university than the group of graduate students. Performance reports from 2010 say 44 clients have secured full-time jobs at the university or its hospital since the program was launched in 2007, 14 percent of all its job placements. Career Pathways does not track the number of applications submitted to the university or other employers.
Both Career Pathways and United Community Jobs work with the most difficult prospective employees, including ex-offenders and those without a high school diploma, and their experience is not directly relatable to the university's overall hiring practices. "Some local residents apply for and and are hired in university jobs without ever using Career Pathways," said Jeremy Manier, a spokesman for the university, adding that there are a limited number of entry-level jobs, which are the target of most Career Pathways clients. "The university is constantly striving to do better at helping to develop our vital community workforce. That mission is more challenging yet all the more necessary in these difficult economic times."
United Community Jobs has drafted its own agreement on local hiring it is hoping to get the university to sign onto. When told about the local politicians' push for a local-hiring agreement, organizers said they would reach out to the aldermen.
Unlike Burns' and Hairston's priority on community hiring, Ald. Dowell said she wants to improve the community process for university development projects. "I'm focusing on the fact that the university has purchased property in the Washington Park community without any clear plan for development," Dowell said, adding that she needed assurances that the property would benefit the community in the short term and not just sit vacant. The university purchased 15 parcels in Washington Park in 2008 and though it says it continues to work with Dowell on plans for the property, she remains frustrated and now wants a process in writing going forward. "This will help alleviate a feeling of distress I have--and occasionally frustration," Dowell said.
Dowell said she was also in the meeting with the mayor and was assured of the aldermen's continuing involvement, but said the details of the pilot project were still vague.
The mayors' office declined to comment on the proposal and referred questions to the commissioner of the Department of Housing and Economic Development, Andrew Mooney, one of the first to be assigned to the task force. He said the pilot program was still in the planning phases and there is not yet a specific mandate or timeline. "The mayor wants it done yesterday," Mooney said. He said he expects part of the task force's mission to be to improve communication between city departments, adding that he hopes it can develop a master plan for the south Side. He was not opposed to a formal agreement with aldermen being part of that plan.
Mooney said it makes sense to work with the university first because it is the largest employer on the South Side and has an outsized influence in the area. he said teh program would over time be extended to other large neighborhood institutions, lie the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois-Chicago.
The University of Chicago employees more than 10,000 people and is the largest property owner in Hyde Park. Even temporarily giving the university preferential treatment in the permitting process could increase its dominance in the real estate market, allowing it to complete its projects faster and cheaper than competitors, but at least one other South Side developer said concerns about reducing competition misses the larger benefits. "The University of Chicago is the most important economic engine on the South Side, if not the city," said Peter Cassel, director of t community development for Antheus Capital, the second largest property owner in Hyde Park. "Anything to get them to work more efficiently is good for the neighborhood."
Ald. Hairston echoed Cassel when she asked whether the pilot program would reduce competition. she said the university is already the dominant player in the South Side real estate market and struggle to think of institutions that could be considered competitors. From developing laboratory space to day-care facilities, the university already has an enormous advantage because of its large size and its $5.9 billion endowment.
Cassel was hopeful that a streamlined permitting process would be extended to other developers and any problems could be addressed early with the university before it was expanded.
The task force was expected to convene for its first meeting in the coming weeks.
On the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the University and the City 2011. Grey City Dec. 11 2011 by Adam Janofsky
[Box] "What can the Memorandum of Understanding do for Chicago's South Side?"
PROS [depending on whose perspective]
1. Streamlined permit process means that buildings will open in a shorter amount of time.
2. New jobs of South Siders, with a focus on opportunities for women and minorities
3. Revamped Metra stations will provide a better way to get to and from Hyde Park.
CONS [depending on whose perspective]
1. Increased university presence throughout much of the South Side, not just Hyde Park.
2. Increased concern of University's demolition of historic buildings [or changes to character and dominance/creep/other distortions]
3. University intervention into South Side culture [and control]
[So what makes up the $1.7 billion?
Infrastructure and initiatives: $500K- employment opps at UC, $750K employer assisted housing; $750K neighborhood improvement grants, $2.5M 59/60th Metra station, a list of infrastructure projects, some done some in the interest of both parties.
Major university buildings $81M Mansuetto, $114M Logan, $215 Eckhardt, West Childcare, New Hospital Pavilion, and a host of smaller.]
On a Saturday morning in late May, Rahm Emanuel strode into City Hall to begin his first weekend as Chicago's 55th mayor. The first item on his agenda was a 45-minute meeting with University of Chicago president Robert Zimmer, executive vice president David Greene, associate vice president for facilities Steven Wiesenthal, and Sonia Malunda, who was representing the University's office of civic engagement.
Emanuel and Zimmer had discussed the matter at hand before, if only informally. The University of Chicago, as Zimmer is quick, to tout, had established an entire 23,000-square-foot academic center in Beijing in less than three years. An ad hoc committee submitted a proposal fo the center's creation in October 2008 and it was opened in Summer 201. The same rapid development could be happening on the University's home turf, if only it weren't for bureaucratic red tape and permits.
As mayor-elect, Emanuel heard this and asked his economic development team to figure out a partnership between the U of C and the city, which had never* formally happened in the University's 120-year history. [*Ties were pretty tight under President Harper, who practically ran the schools and more, and the ties were very tight in the Urban Renewal era, including policing and housing, dominated by Julian Levy.]
A few months later on one of Emanuel's first days in office, top officials from both institutions were hammering out details for what would become the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU): a 9-page document that addresses, among other things, streamlined permits, collaboration between the U of C and the city on public infrastructures, and $1.7 billion in capital projects.
"We had a few goals going into the meeting," said Malunda, the point person for the the MOU. "We wanted to convey the University's $1.7 billion investment over the next five years in campus and capital construction... Second--creating more efficient ways to streamline government, foster economic growth, create jobs--those were all major priorities for [Emanuel] as a new mayor. That tied in nicely with the University's desire to efficiently work with the city to streamline the city's approval processes to create jobs and rebuild the campus.
"The third one was really around the community and economic development... the mayor's office was viewing the University as an anchor institution, and part of the discussion was, "How could we as a city leverage our resources with the University's resources to help rebuild the community and provide economic development around this anchor.'" Upon its August unveiling, mayor Emanuel called the MOU a "historic cooperation agreement with the University of Chicago," and both parties heralded it as representing a new partnership that would help foster a brighter economic future for the South Side.
Although the MOU is highly important for Hyde Parks' future and massive in scale, it remains a completely foreign concept to Hyde Park residents and U of C students, many of whom give blank stares when asked to describe what the "Memorandum of Understanding" is. And for those who do know of the collaboration, many are skeptical of its contribution to the South Side. Recently this divide has sparked community concerns that may threaten several University plans and curb the MOU's power.
A marriage of monoliths
The University of Chicago is the second largest private employer in the city, next to DePaul University. With an endowment that grew to $6.31 billion this year, a campus that covers 214 acres, and over 17,000 employees, the University is a machine of expansion: in addition to the Center in Beijing, recent protects include a similar center in Delhi, the William Eckhardt Research Center, teh Reva an David Logan Center for the Arts, the Mansuetto Library, and the South Campus Residence hall. Add these major developments to the thousands of smaller projects--from the renovation of the Regenstein library's lobby to replacing the roof of Ida Noyes Hall--and you have one of the biggest spenders in Chicago. When University administrators reviewed future development plans, they came up with a total projected cost of $1.7 billion over the next five years and $3.5 over teh next ten. To put this in perspective, the U of C spends the equivalent of DePaul University's entire endowment every eight months, only on construction and development projects.
Perhaps the main difference between the University of Chicago and other private institutions, besides size, is its status. as an academic corporation the University can and must continue to invest money despite the health of the economy. Although there was a period after the 2008 recession when the University went through heavy budget cuts, they mainly fell on administrative functions. The surge in recent development projects has been supported not by increased tuition revenue, but often times from monstrous donations--the Booth School of Business, for instance, received a $300 million gift in 2008 from David Booth (M.B.A. '71), the largest donation ever given to a business school. The University's dedication to development during a time of economic flux puts it in a unique position. As University spokesperson Steve Kloehn says, "We're certainly the only institution on the south Side making the kind of investment that we're making."
And the city has noticed. Budget issues have hit almost every local government across the nation since the financial downturn, and Chicago has been far from spared: Pension funds have gone underpaid for years, and the city's credit rating was downgraded from AA+ to AA in 2010, largely because of Mayor Richard Daley's habit of using the city's reserve funds as operating cash. It's not unusual to hear that Chicago's predicted budget shortfall is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Although top officials in Emanuel's administration rejected the idea that the MOU was motivated by economic factors, University administrators suggest that it was a logical step that the city proposed to create a stronger economic and commercial culture on the South Side. Never before has the city partnered so tightly with the University--an unusual fact concerning the University's closeness with former administrations (former Mayor Daley, who now holds a faculty position at the U of C's harris School of Public Policy, called the University "the greatest institution in Chicago" while he was in office.)
But motivations aside, what's not debatable is that MOU was constructed with cooperation on economic development in mind. "The University's growth presents an opportunity to partner with the City to catalyze the revitalization of communities surrounding the Hyde Park campus by creating jobs and improving key services for Chicago's residents", it reads.
"The idea generally was that it was taking forever for the university to get permits, and there was an opportunity to streamline things," said Tom Alexander (A.B. '00), a spokesperson for Emanuel who oversees city housing and economic development [and a Hyde Parker]. "If we did it together it would be faster."
Effectively a statement of support for the University's development plans, the MOU outlines several ways that the city will boost the University's investments on the South Side: in addition to a streamlined permit process, the city will create an annual development plan for neighborhoods around Hyde Park that compliment the University's projects, establish an interagency task force to oversee coordinations with the University, appoint a liaison to the University, and support specific University projects like the redevelopment of Harper Court.
The U of C, in addition to holding its commitment to spend $1.7 billion over the next five years, will increase employment opportunities for the community during construction projects, reach out to minorities and women for job openings at the University, and take on several new neighborhood improvement projects, like opening a new 60th Street Metra station and providing grants to local businesses.
The key mediators between the city and the University over the next five years will be the aldermen that oversee the wards surrounding the University. "It was important from the mayor's perspective that the aldermen be at the table," Malunda said. "There were a series of meetings with the city and the aldermen, the University and the aldermen, and we came together two or three times before we all felt comfortable about the MOU."
The aldermen are mentioned twelve times throughout the MOU, and are involved with almost every aspect of what will come out of the agreements -- the University must meet with them at least quarterly, provide computer workstations for their offices to assist people in finding jobs, and they review the progress of the of the memorandum annually. Additionally, the MOU doesn't change the way permits and zoning are handled, so every major development still must meet the appropriate alderman's approval. "The MOU doesn't have an effect on the public process of whether something does or doesn't need a permit," Kloehn says. "The alderman has a say and is an important part of that process."
[A question is whether the MOU means that even more than ever the city will side with and be permissive with the University, and if the alderman in public process sides against or with other, the alderman stands alone. In the PD 43 filing, public and aldermanic say are greatly reduced.]
But from the start, the aldermen have been hesitant to jump on board. In the Chicago Tribune's first article on the preliminary stages of the MOU, they reported "there is likely some horse trading ahead, as the affected aldermen, who were briefed on the master plan Friday, come forward with requests." Those requests have since shaped the MOU, like its position on job opportunities for minorities and women.
However, some of the concerns from the aldermen have not faded. Fifth Ward alderman Leslie Hairston, whose jurisdiction covers the majority of the University of Chicago's campus, made a daring move last month to speak out against a routine University development procedure, effectively stalling a relatively minor project. [See PD 43 and Woodlawn Corridor about this evolving conflict with ongoing "bold moves" by the various parties.]
Gridlock at midnight
"The MOU does not eliminate City Council approval. The University still has to come through me. I will hold their feet to the fire about this, especially transparency and communication," said Hairston in an October 26 press release [in full in the above-cited pages] that condemned the MOU [?] in the face of a small and unrelated [?] development project.
That conflict began when the University was amending its Institutional Planned Development document (PD43), a zoning classification that covers the contiguous campuses of many large Universities, including the that of the U of C. Last year, the University purchased several buildings on Woodlawn Avenue from the Meadville Lombard Theological School [and Chicago Theological Seminary]. As a matter of course, [actually many matters around much of the perimeter including especially need to advance high-density projects in the Science and Medical subareas-- borrowing density from the to-be-expanded subareas that will include Woodlawn Ave., combined with the need to accommodate move of Seminary Co-op Bookstore and other new needs there not allowed in current general zoning--in turn so conversion of former Chicago Theological Seminary could go forward were among reasons that the Woodlawn landmine was detonated] they drafted a proposal to include these buildings in PD43.
Although the changes to PD43 aren't explicitly part of the MOU, the events surrounding it paint an unsettling picture for the roadblocks that might appear in the future. Several Woodlawn Avenue residents spoke out against the PD43 amendment, fearing that the University was pushing its boundaries too quickly and was preparing to tear down building. Some called for the creation of a historical district around the area, which would block [limit] University development. Alderman Hairston vocally backed these concerns [but not a district] in an October 26 press release that caught University and city officials off guard. [Not that the concerns and ideas had not been communicated to them.]
"The university has bought several well preserved, architecturally and historically significant residential properties in thriving areas... People are terrified the university will demolish or alter these buildings, maybe replace them with highrises and institutional structures," Hairston said. The alderman scheduled a public meeting two weeks later that largely addressed the concerns surrounding the Planned Development: the University compromised by including a section in the PD43 amendment acknowledging the area's historic character, [providing easements to half the properties, and promising a series of small meetings that produced partial progress but, negotiators said, other things promised were reneged upon] while Hairston struck down the creation of a historical district, saying it would place unfair costs on residents. But perhaps the most constructive aspect of the meeting--one that needs to be addressed again if the University wants to avoid gridlock with the community--was when the MOU was brought up several times during the discussion.
"The recent Memo of Understanding between the city and the University of Chicago has fueled questions and concerns about the potential impact of the university's development plans on the social, cultural and historic "character" of Hyde Park and neighboring communities, Hairston's release reads.
Of course, matters become conflicting when one considers that the MOU was a document drafted by the Mayor's Office on the University's behalf, and includes the aldermen as key figures throughout development cooperations." "They were consulted before the meeting with Mayor Emanuel, they consulted at every step of the way," Malunda said. [But the aldermen said the statement was issued before negotiations were complete and excluding things that were agreed upon.]
However, city officials are still confident that Hairston and others will continue to support the collaboration with the University, and University administrators saw Hairston's meeting as a point of growth. "The MOU is a partnership between the city and the university that's really good for both parties," Alexander said. "I think the aldermen know that, and that's why they supported it throughout."
Ivory tower, grey city
It's an interesting piece of irony that the MOU, which was constructed with intentions to better the community through economic development and beautification, is receiving its first round of attack from the community itself. But that's not surprising.
Although the MOU is an example of politics at its best--a broad alliance thought up by a handful of administrators and officials to tackle inefficient government--it doesn't take into account the nature of a topic s broad as University development. With an institution as large as the U of C, every development project concerns a network of people that is larger than the officials who represent "the City" and "the University." Just as neighborhood residents needed to be consulted in regards to PD43, local businesses will inevitably have questions when the University and city-sponsored Harper Court development nears completion.
The only projects that are proven to be immune to this are public services, like the creation of the new 60th street Metra station or the expansion of the UCPD patrol area to cover charter schools, which was passed and went into action last month [and projects deep inside the UC core]. University-centered projects need to take into account the considerations of all parties notwithstanding the streamlined power the MOU provides, or other roadblocks are bound to emerge--and they won't be the result of government red tape.
There are many ways to solve this, and perhaps Hairston's unexpected PD43 meeting is one example. "In the past several weeks we've made a great step forward in working with the community and Alderman Hairston," Malunda said. "I'm optimistic about it." [But this site says hold on to your hats.]