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Saturday, July 20

Gapers Block

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The University of Chicago proudly points to how its Office of Community Affairs has forged a new relationship with surrounding neighborhoods. Gone are the days of the University wielding the tools of urban renewal and eminent domain to "build out" elements of Hyde Park the university, its faculty, high-end staff or students found undesirable. The university now speaks of forming partnerships and collaborating with communities and neighborhood groups on issues of education, public safety, urban planning and economic development. To the extent that the university now mainly builds charter schools instead of condominium towers, the relationship between the university and local neighborhoods appears different. But beneath the surface of grins, handshakes and photo ops lies the reality of an unchanged vision. The university still largely sees neighborhood groups in Hyde Park and across the Mid-South Side as impediments and roadblocks on the path to accomplishing its underlying community relations goal: a stable, staid, homogenous and easily categorizable upper middle class Hyde Park.

Hyde Park is a diverse community that confounds easy categorization. Racial and socioeconomic patterns change block to block and sometimes lot to lot. It is the whitest neighborhood for miles and yet only around 44 percent of its residents are white. It is a neighborhood of renters and condo-owners, of the wealthy living in huge mansions and the poor living in Section 8 buildings. It is full of liberal activists and economics professors, frat boys and math nerds, dusty bookstores and rib joints.

The university has long desired a homogenous, predictable neighborhood to sell to prospective students and faculty, and seems to believe that through bricks and mortar construction and the expansion of the university police force, it can accomplish its vision of Hyde Park. The tragedy of Amadou Cisse's murder, steps from the sparkling new undergraduate dorm under construction, lays bare the failure of this strategy. But the university continues to pursue this strategy and fundamentally unchanged relationship with its surrounding community.

Two recent dust-ups between the university and the community exemplify this essentially unchanged relationship. The first issue is the university's push to convert the Doctor's Hospital on Stony Island into a hotel. Most of us who live in Hyde Park would heartily support a non-shady hotel closer than the expensive Loop hotels that currently "serve" our neighborhood. Had the university chosen to engage in a dialogue or consult important community actors (such as the residents of apartment and co-op buildings on Stony Island), they would have found a questioning, yet overwhelmingly supportive community.

Instead, the university chose to attempt to ram through a plan based on the needs of an important donor, the White family of White Lodging Company. They held their first public meeting on the plan in the small conference room of a neighboring cooperative and all non-Vista Homes residents were shut out. When the Office of Community Affairs finally presented the plan to the public, it was clear that the presentation was a clumsily orchestrated attempt to equate opposition to this particular plan and hotel operator with opposition to a hotel in Hyde Park, economic development and, most heinously, the needs of the families of cancer patients at the University of Chicago Hospitals. The University's hand-picked "preservation expert," who droned on endlessly about how the Doctor's Hospital building really isn't all that historic, finished his speech before getting to a point the university deemed important. So Hank Webber, vice-president for community affairs at the university, yelled a reminder to him from the front row.

The second example is the recent demise of the Hyde Park Cooperative Society. The coverage in the Sun-Times, Chicagoist and other media outlets paints a picture of the university coming to the aid of a failing grocery store by letting it die a dignified death. The reality is that the university has cynically manipulated the process from the start. The Co-Op's flagship store at 55th street is a highly profitable full-service grocery store that has suffered from the attempted expansion to stores at 53rd and 47th Streets. Service quality and prices fluctuated over the last three years as the Co-Op sought a way out of its obligations at the 47th Street store, to the frustration of many residents. Some sort of solution was needed to restore high quality, decently priced grocery service to the neighborhood.

Again, most residents of the neighborhood recognized the need for change at the Co-Op. Again, the university, as lease-holder to the 55th Street Co-Op, could have engaged in a dialogue with the Co-Op society, its members and the wider community about the future of the Co-Op. Instead, the university pushed through a vote requiring the Co-Op Society to decide on its future. Again, instead of letting the process play out naturally, the university hired a consultant to create a shell community organization called Hungry for Change that took out full page ads in the student newspaper, the Maroon, encouraging a vote for the Co-op's demise, to be replaced by a Treasure Island or Dominick's at 55th Street. To make sure their message was clear, Hank Webber sent out a mass email to all those with an email address claiming that "Option A" was the only viable option for Hyde Park, presumably to avoid mass starvation.

The problem with the university's approach to the community is not merely the attempt to ram through a hotel operator that has a federal EEOC complaint against it for religious discrimination, disobeys city laws on housekeeper breaks or is relentlessly anti-union. It is not with pushing through the demise of a 75-year-old institution in favor of a union-busting grocer (Treasure Island) or a faceless corporation (Dominick's). The problem is that the university, having lost its blunt tools of eminent domain and bulldozers, now uses cynical manipulation to impose its vision of a healthy urban community on Hyde Park. It is a similar strategy to the Daley administration, which uses its power and resources to buy off opposition and force community groups to play the game in return for whatever scraps the city (or university) deems appropriate to bestow in return.

The counter-vision of Hyde Park is that it is and has the potential to be the premier example of a diverse urban community that works, a neighborhood that resists the homogenization of late stage capitalism, a neighborhood where the poor and well heeled bump into each other on the street. That counter-vision is not upheld by the sycophantic student newspaper or by the new wealthier condo owners, but by the group that the university has criticized as against progress and development in Hyde Park: the long time "white liberal" residents who man the community organizations, churches and synagogues. It is not the university or the compromised commentariat — its key collaborators in bemoaning that "things don't get done in Hyde Park" — who saved the neighborhood from the twin specters of blight and flight in the 1960s and 1970s. Despite the fact that the bulldozers of urban renewal often receive credit for saving Hyde Park from the fate of other South Side neighborhoods, the real "saviors" of Hyde Park are those now graying men and women who stayed through the decline in the '60s through the '80s. They maintained the vision of an economically and racially diverse neighborhood by not relocating to the North Side or down the Metra Electric Line to the south suburbs. It is because of them that there remains a strong core of religious, social and other organizations that serve the community so well.

The question of who owns Hyde Park remains a contested one. On the one side are the members of the Older Women's League, the lay leaders of the churches and synagogues, and the members of the community council whose vision is of a diverse, heterogeneous community, and on the other stands the vision of those within the gray fortress of the university and their developer allies. It is a battle between Valois and Wendy's, 57th Street Books and Borders, Dr. Wax and Coconuts. It is between those who see Hyde Park as nothing more than a template for Anywhere, USA and those for whom Hyde Park is home and history. For the university to truly have a new relationship with Hyde Park, it must recognize this vision. It must recognize that it is not Hyde Park, and despite the fact that it holds legal title to much of its real estate, it does not own it. Until then, its new relationship will be nothing more than consultant-driven manipulation and propaganda.

GB store


Mateus / December 19, 2007 4:26 AM

I was somewhat involved in the Co-Op debacle, and I have to say that I think it was completely the fault of the Co-Op. Having perused its books, it became clear that its governing council was completely incompetent in accounting for its profits and losses and using data to make sound decisions. So ironic, given that so much of the membership came from U of C, which is globally recognized as a place that teaches reasoned decision making using hard facts. If the Co-Op had voted to try to hang on, it would surely have failed as no one in their right mind would extend credit to the group after having seen their books. It would be a loss for any creditor. Indeed, HP would have become a food desert, as the liquidation process is a lengthy one. This on top of the Cisse slaying and fairly regular flow of robberies committed against students is completely untenable for the University if it is going to continue attracting terrific academic minds. Why deal with no groceries, little night life, bad public transportation and perceived safety problems when you could just go to Harvard or Columbia, where these issues are of little concern?

Jacob / December 19, 2007 7:46 AM

You're right that the Co-Op had to go, I voted for option a. The main issue that I tried to convey in the column was the duplicity and manipulation of the university. It's ironic that little night life is so often cited as a problem with Hyde Park because up until the university plowed over 55th Street, Hyde Park was a center for jazz and blues. From the window of the my apartment in the dorm I live in, you can see where Second City was founded. Now its a fire station.

Ben / December 19, 2007 8:57 AM

As someone who has lived in HP, I say good riddance to the Co-Op.

However, what HP needs is not a Dominicks, which would be almost as bad as the Co-Op, but a good selection of smaller stores. Think of Carniceria Jimenez, Stanleys, Caputo's in the suburbs. Those would vastly improve the quality of life in HP.

Brian / December 19, 2007 12:44 PM

"Faceless Corporation?" Get a grip.

Is ROTSC on permanent "rebel without a clue" mode?
Step 1) find symbol of authority
Step 2) rail against said symbol as source of all evil in the universe
Step 3) Revise, adding more overwrought rhetoric and purple prose

The co op was the worst run grocery store in the city. High prices, poor selection, crap customer service, Enron accounting, etc.

Without the feel good cred of being a co op, they would have died years ago. Good riddance!

Bring on Dominicks. The faceless corporation in my neighborhood has some pretty nice people working there.

Ramsin / December 19, 2007 12:59 PM

"Rebel without a clue mode"? Brian get a grip.

Is Brian on permanent "reasonless ad hominem" mode?
Step 1) Pick out single provocative quote
Step 2 ) Rail against quote as evidence of author's cartoonish socialism
Step 3.) Revise, adding baseless claims ("Would have closed years ago without feel-good 'cred', a thing I made up with my single friend while perusing issues of Reason magazine)

Brian, you're a joke. We get it; you think you know things because you read part of a Thomas Friedman book.

Jacob / December 19, 2007 1:10 PM

Apparently Brian is permanently on "take one line from a ROTSC column and create beef with it." At least read the whole paragraph. If it wasn't written well, I apologize, but the point was not that Dominicks is bad or that the Co-Op should have stayed, but that the university was duplicitous and manipulative and did not and does not engage in its vaunted "new partnership" with communities. If it helps, I voted for option a, even though it made me itch.

Jacob / December 19, 2007 1:13 PM

Apparently Brian is permanently on "take one line from a ROTSC column and create beef with it." At least read the whole paragraph. If it wasn't written well, I apologize, but the point was not that Dominicks is bad or that the Co-Op should have stayed, but that the university was duplicitous and manipulative and did not and does not engage in its vaunted "new partnership" with communities. If it helps, I voted for option a, even though it made me itch.

Ramsin / December 19, 2007 1:18 PM

That said, Brian, if you have an issue with something Jacob actually wrote here and would like to discuss it, do so. But another effort to commandeer this thread with your trolling and personal attacks will get you banned.

We're adults and you are bringing down the level of discourse here. The fact that you can't even see how Fox News-y you are being ("Go back to North Korea! What are you, a dorm-room liberal!? You are just a hippy who hates corporations! Yay Ron Paul!") just goes to show how much discourse generally has been compromised by conservatives.

Jacob is highly intelligent and fully capable of dispatching any actual intellectual point of contention you had with the ideas in his column.

Debate the issue, leave the fabricated-in-your-imagination columnists' personalities out of it. Just because you make a 'Step 1" list, doesn't make it real.

Oh, wait, let me guess "But its my truth. I thought 'liberals' were supposed to be tolerant. Be 'tolerant' of reasonless ad hominems, baseless claims, and (stale) stereotypes! Can I have a juice box?"

Jacob / December 19, 2007 1:24 PM

Sorry for the double posting, I'm working from an old computer. Mateus, you're right about the issues the university has with attracting high quality talent to the neighborhood. But a number of the issues with the neighborhood are of the university's making. For example, there used to be (ok in the 1960s and 1970s, but still) a decent nightlife around the neighborhood, but the university used eminent domain to plow that down on 55th street. My issue is not with the specifics necessarily of the Co-op situation, but with a university that imposes its staid, sterile vision on an urban neighborhood that has the elements to be a vital, diverse, sometimes scary neighborhood. What we get with the university's vision is a bland suburb with crime instead of a high energy urban neighborhood, warts and all. Thanks for commenting!

Jay Mulberry / December 19, 2007 1:58 PM

As the article makes very clear, the struggle over the Co-Op was not about groceries. For those who want to say it was I respond that their charges are shrill and unseemly.

The store suffered from bad management and has not been what it should be -- that is true. But even in the worst of times it has made $1,000,000 profit per year; evidentially it was good enough for a lot of people.

Moreover, a new general manager has completely turned things around and has shown what *can* be done. It is, in fact, being done. To see is to believe and I invite doubters to visit the Co-Op or see the ads on its website,

The bigger issue is gentrification and homogenization of our community that is being pushed on us by the University of Chicago. The University has devoted a great deal of money to getting rid of the Co-Op; if a part of that had been given to saving it the institution would have been in fine shape long ago.

It is a small, but important thing to note that the University worked for many months before its attack to see that 1) members would have as little time as possible to respond and 2) a professionally orchestrated publicity campaign would begin to support its proposal as soon as it became public. In fact, one of the University's PR people even helped write the description of the two proposals that went out to voters.

Against the University's thousands spent on professional flyers, professional callers, professional mailing service, purchase of voter lists, etc., we on the other side spent $10.66 to set up a website ( and passed out black-and-white flyers made on my printer. It is true we lost 61% to 39% and I accept the loss. But under the circumstances 39% seems pretty good.

So it isn't just the food, though we all agree that the food should be good. It is the desire to keep an element of democracy open in Hyde Park while the University strives to assert its divine right.

Brian / December 19, 2007 2:11 PM




Now, since RC can't handle criticism without resorting to ad hominem attacks [and whining about same], lets ignore him.

if it isn't a problem with specifics of co op, then what is the problem? Your straw man "they want it to be the suburbs" is as stupid as "Jacob wants grad students to get shot by gang bangers because that helps him keep his urban cred." Both are silly.

What specifically, should the uni do or not do [now, today, not 1970s] to make you happy?

Ask me, HP suffers from bad location: smack dab in the middle of the economic wasteland that is the South Side.

But without a magic wand, what can the uni do?

Build a wall around HP to keep dummies from 47th and State who think grad students have money from coming to HP and robbing people?

Invest $100M in their own rapid transit system to connect HP to downtown? [Heck, they already have their own police force, so why not?]

If they had Harvard's endowment, they could at least finance local development, [setting aside if this would actually make the SS any richer or safer] but, they don't have that kind of money. [As I'm sure you know, given your no doubt miserly graduate assistance package--unless things have improved since I was there.]

All U of C students blame the uni for the fact that their neighborhood is no fun, but it just isn't clear how this is a fixable problem given the geography and economy of the south side.

Jacob / December 19, 2007 2:27 PM

It's a really good question you ask about what the university should do. I have some ideas that may or may not be harebrained, but I would really love for the university to rethink its relationship to local communities and what its strengths and weaknesses are. You're right, U of C doesn't have the funds to do what Yale or Harvard have down with New Haven or Cambridge. So why invest so much funds and energy in that strategy? Why not leverage the intellectual, research, and human (students, etc) resources you have to foster more engaged, more civically active, stronger and safer neighborhoods. I think UIC, Loyola, and DePaul all engage (at different levels and in different areas) with local communities in positive ways. In engaging with local communities on this level, in truer partnership, you wouldn't bring in the ever elusive "high end retail" the university is always talking about, but you could take small, but significant steps to building trust and stronger neighborhoods. Long-winded, but does it make sense?

brian / December 19, 2007 2:47 PM

I just don't think that the vision you articulate is more than a series of vague platitudes.

What would such an "engagement" actually look like?

Kate / December 19, 2007 3:10 PM

I don't think any HP resident, whether aging hippie, WIC recipient or elitist student needed PR to see that the Coop's time was here. Jacob, evil ivory tower aside, don't you think there would be more of a nightlife down here if students actually supported it? Every time I visit the bar ON CAMPUS there are like six people in it. Perhaps the Midwest's brightest just don't demand a hopping scene.

chicago pop / December 19, 2007 3:35 PM

Neighborhood groups are indeed roadblocks to change in Hyde Park because they are wedded to outdated solutions to problems that are no longer relevant. It's ironic that this essay argues that the University has changed its tool kit from the days of Urban Renewal (bulldozers, eminent domain), when many of the community groups are still stuck there (keep chains out, economic self-sufficiency works, go for suburban-style density (courtesy of eminent domain and those same bulldozers!) and avoid new, higher density housing.)

For all their glory, those graying middle class HP eminences of the 60s-80s who are still Rejecting the Father are being outdone by folks in the black neighborhoods of Bronzeville and Oakland want want more people and more retail now.

Sheila / December 19, 2007 4:09 PM

I’ve lived in Hyde Park for 25+ years, and the Coop has been a mediocre to awful grocery store for that entire time, not just the last 3 years. It makes a million a month because there are just that many people in Hyde Park who don’t have cars and can’t shop anywhere else. I can’t express how happy I am to finally see the Coop meet its well-deserved death and be replaced by ANY other grocery store.

An important fact missing from the article is that the Coop owed the University 14 months rent at the time the University proposed the closing. The U of C could have put the Coop into bankruptcy any time in the last year or so, but didn’t. I’m not sure it’s all that nefarious for the U of C to have planned a way to get the matter settled quickly in favor of having a decent grocery store in the neighborhood (and if you polled residents instead of just members, you’d get something more like 90-10 supporting replacing the Coop rather than just 60-40, I’d wager) with a minimum of disruption in service to the neighborhood. After all, they’ve dealt with Hyde Park “community activists” before, they knew how much howling and obstruction there would be over even a manifestly failed institution like the Coop. I’m grateful to them for bothering, personally. It would have much easier for them to have just demanded their back rent and let nature take its course.

“Against the University's thousands spent on professional flyers, professional callers, professional mailing service, purchase of voter lists, etc., we on the other side spent $10.66 to set up a website ( and passed out black-and-white flyers made on my printer.”

Jay, how much did it cost to mail out the December issue of the Evergreen, which consisted entirely of opinion pieces in favor of Option B, to every single Coop member? How much did the Herald spend on its special “Save the Coop” issue that it mailed out to even non-subscribers? (I got copies of both of those on my doorstep, but I never saw any of these flyers Hungry For Change put out.)

Jacob / December 19, 2007 8:33 PM

Whew, you leave for dinner in the 'burbs and all heck breaks loose on the comment board.
1. Brian: I think concrete examples might make my point best. Loyola, UIC and Depaul (I think) all have centers or institutes that provide research, training, and sometimes financial support to community leaders and community groups. UCLA has a community scholars program where community leaders take a year long funded sabbatical to take a breathe and learn about their areas of work. While not specifically "community" a number of UC campuses have labor centers that provide research and training for community leaders. Also, I'm not sure the university can't afford to fund community/economic development projects in local neighborhoods. They can't afford to be the main real estate/retail developer in Hyde Park/Woodlawn/Kenwood-Oakland/Washington Park, though.
2. Karen: So this is probably a he said/she said deal, but have you been to Jimmy's (55th and Woodlawn) at any other time but 2pm on a Wednesday? It's pretty packed solid. I know that GSB and Law school students often complain in surveys, the Maroon, and in other forums about the lack of nightlife and shi-shi restaurants.
3. Sheila: So why didn't the university just call in the lease? Why go through the expense and effort of creating a shell community organization that (as you note) didn't really do all that much? Why the manipulation, why the deception? That's what the problem is, not the closing of the Co-Op.
Hope that makes sense

Brian / December 20, 2007 7:17 AM

So the University should subsidize self-appointed "community leaders?"

So it is ok to manipulate the politics of HP as long as they prop up the sort of jackasses that Hyde Park Progress's blog rails against?

That strikes me as amazingly naive: "This guys says he is a 'community leader' so he must be ok."

Then it should send its graduate students in to mix with the colorful natives? Isn't that just a little bit patronizing?

Sheila / December 20, 2007 9:21 AM

Jacob, fair questions.

“So why didn't the university just call in the lease?”

Because as Mateus pointed out, doing so could have resulted in a very long drawn-out liquidation process that might have left Hyde Park without a major grocer in the neighbhorhood for months and months on end. This would be a major quality of life issue for students and faculty. If thinking of the U of C doing anything at all purely out of altruism makes you gag (and okay, I admit it, me too), consider the immediate effect this would have on the U of C rankings in the U.S. News & World Report survey in the following year. Quality of life issues in Hyde Park are pretty much what has been keeping this top ten university on the academic scale out of the actual top ten list that prospective students and donors really care about for years and years, and the U of C has been spending a lot of money the last 5 years or so trying to improve that metric. Clearly they’ve decided it’s an issue they have to take very seriously.

“Why go through the expense and effort of creating a shell community organization that (as you note) didn't really do all that much? Why the manipulation, why the deception? That's what the problem is, not the closing of the Co-Op.”

The Hungry for Change people didn’t appear until after the raucous November Coop membership meeting at which a truly surprising (to me at least) level of resistance appeared to having the completely financially moribund Coop’s debts paid and its employees offered at least the prospect of a replacement job in the same location within two weeks of closing.

If you read the November Board meeting minutes as published in the December issue of the EverGreen, you learn that the Coop decided to stop paying rent 10 months ago (leading to a total of 14 months of back rent due to Coop already being steadily in arrears by 4 months at the time of the decision), basically because they figured they could get away with it better with the U of C than with its other creditors, apparently. And when you think about it, it did put the University in the extremely awkward position of either having to put the Coop into liquidation and risk the terrible outcome mentioned above, or just suck up the loss of income indefinitely. (Or at least that appeared to be the Coop’s plan, there being no mention in the minutes of how the Board planned to enable itself to resume rent payments in the future).

I think the U of C thought they had found a third way that would both minimize harm to the community and solve the problem, and were truly surprised that such a large minority would choose to lobby hard against it in defiance of all reason. Hence the last-minute (and definitely ham-fisted and ineffectual) Hungry for Change thing.

The part I think the University actually planned was to line up some vendors that would be able to take over the space at a specific time, and then to present the plan to the Coop with a fairly short deadline. And for all I know, it may not have been possible to get a replacement grocer to commit with a longer time horizon; however it may also be that the University did want to do it in such a way as to give Coop minimal time to react. I suppose that makes the University look evil if you don’t think the Board’s sudden Hail Mary attempts were so much wheel-spinning and denial by people who clearly don’t understand either finances or fiduciary responsibility. They easily could have sought debtor-in-possession financing at the time they first realized they couldn’t pay their rent anymore 10 months ago, but didn’t, for example. What were they thinking? This question was asked at the November Board meeting, and the “answer” was to point out that a previous Board could have done so at an earlier point too.

Let me also add that I find describing the U of C’s plan to close the Coop as part of some homogenizing vision for Hyde Park kind of bizarre. For most of the years in which I’ve been an unhappy shopper, the Coop has been one of the worst F-U ghetto-price-gouging offenders of all the merchants in the neighborhood. The idea that it has contributed anything at all in the last 20 years to making Hyde Park more liveable for low-income people strikes me as just completely unsupported by the reality of how it has actually operated, no matter what its charter may have said 50 years ago.

Jacob / December 20, 2007 9:59 AM

Ok, now you're just being cynical. It's not about subsidizing one set of community leaders or being patronizing, but leveraging the proper role of a university (research, teaching, volunteerism) to benefit community groups. Are you arguing with the concept or the implementation? The Voorhies (sp?) Center at UIC, the Center for Urban Economic Development, UCLA's Community Scholars program all are examples of programs that work.

Brian / December 20, 2007 10:01 AM

Right on Shelia.

This is what I meant by rebel without a clue. There's lots of strum and drang here, but not a lot of clarity or focus.

One flips over to ROTSC and one gets a giant diatribe full of over the top purple prose esposing a comic book vision of good vs. evil.

The rant is pretty, but poorly thought out, and full of tired cliches.

The target of the rant (modern global capitalism, or in this case the University of Chicago) is blamed for everything under the sun.

An alternative isn't provided or is impossibly vague to the point of being utterly meaningless ("solidarity" in RC's lingo, "engagement" here).

The whole thing smacks of a writer who is desperate to rebel against "the system" but wholly unprepared for the task of presenting a real solution.

I'm actually kind of sympathetic to both writers. I was 22 and knew everything once too.

Now that I see the kind of damage that people who know everything can do, I'm less inclined to trust anyone who says "the govt must..." They usually make things worse.

At least Jacob can handle it when somebody says he is full of it.

Sheila / December 20, 2007 10:09 AM

Oh, and also Jacob, a word to the wise: The “old-timer” scions of Hyde Park who bought the single-family homes that replaced the apartment blocks the University cleared may not be the very best possible informants about what everybody was doing during urban renewal. See for example this interesting article about Bruce Sagan (the owner of the Herald who has been lobbying hard to save the Coop, and who rather grandiosly pledged $500,000 at the 11th + 1 hour to the cause) from a 1958 issue of Time magazine:

“Publisher Sagant [sic] mounted a hard-hitting campaign for slum clearance, coupled picture spreads of slum dwellings (including owners' names) with authoritative how-to-do-it articles on redevelopment. Outcome: Hyde Park qualified for federal aid as the Midwest's first and biggest project of this type approved under the new Eisenhower urban-renewal program.”

Urban renewal enjoyed very enthusiastic support from middle and upper class Hyde Parkers at the time, hence the old saying: “Hyde Park: Black and white united against the poor.” Making the University the devil to expiate one’s own sins is a practice that has a long, distinguished pedigree in the neighborhood.

Sheila / December 20, 2007 10:29 AM

Whoopsy, the Time article link in my post doesn't work. It's at:,9171,865758-1,00.html

Repo Man / December 20, 2007 11:11 AM

Time to tell it like it is.

I am a long time (25+ years) HP resident. Brian is right.

Stop blaming the U of C for everything. Without the U, HP would have long ago turned into a ghetto. Anyone who has lived there for a long time knows this, even if they can't bring themselves to admit it.

The anti-University people have been saying the same nonsense for 40 years. Idealogy over logic and facts.

The 'Co-op' has been one in name only for a long time. While it functions ok as a grocery now, that is not enough given the financial situation and the neighborhood's demands.

You can bet these same people who blame the University aren't complaining about the raise in their property values, which is in large part due to the University's presence.

Classic reaction--the left loses a fair election, then complains, demands more time, and accuses the other side of conspiracies. Then threatens a lawsuit.

Jacob / December 20, 2007 1:30 PM

I appreciate all your comments. This is good stuff, and I apologize for not being more on the ball with responding, which means we end up in "huge responses" that are hard to reach. Again, apologies.

1. Sheila: I appreciate your filling in some of the details of the Co-Ops demise. Again to be clear, I voted for option A and did not intend this to be an arguement of the Co-Ops merits. (apparently, many people don't think it had many). So this isn't a bam humbug we lost the election lefty screed. (sorry repoman, the whole article, not just the comments and section on the Co-op should have made that clear) Sheila, I don't know if I fully agree with your answer to my question. If the situation (and I somewhat believe you) was as dire (ie we would have no grocery store in the neighborhood for a period of time and the university stepped into save us) then why go through the trouble of hiring a consultant, creating a front organization, and pitting them against the Save the Co-Op folks? You and I seem to have had different experiences with the university's relationship to the community (Doctor's Hospital and others being mine). I should have written this better, but the homogenization that seems to be at play here is the squelching of diverse opinons. Maybe I'm too jaded, but if you create a fake organization, you can say, Look, the people are with us, these other folks are cranks, we were right all along. Or you can throw up your hands and say this is why we don't need strong neighborhood democracy, or listen to diverse opinions. The new relationship the university touts is one of "partnership," which implies respect. It seems to be outside of the realm of respect and partnership to manipulate things rather than just coming out and making your yes be your yes and your no be your no. Hope that makes sense.
thanks for commenting!

J / December 23, 2007 11:58 PM

Silly. The co-op issue was just that---an issue with the co-op a poorly run, pathetic, propped up business. It has not served HP appropriately for years.

John / December 24, 2007 11:43 AM

Jacob, excellent article. And you are right about the nightlife in Hyde Park. I would speak with old timers about what 53rd st used to look like, or 55th. Now there are like 3 bars, not including the Pub (which, as a student bar, in a basement on campus, is not really a copmmunity watering hole). The co-op was horribly run, but the entire process was poorly run. I think the closure of the 47th St store was a mistake, as it was nicer and bigger than the 55th st store. Without know all of the details, I think it would have been a good idea for the univesity, (or any of its myriad arms) to work with the Co-op to maintain its 47st store, not shutter, and then continue to carry the massive lease on its books.

Also, Brian, I hate to do it, but I have to agree with Ramsin. I would be interested in discussing, nay arguing, these issues with you. But your "arguments" seem to be restricted to name calling and tortured guilt by associations.

And Ramsin, what kind of made up name is that, Turkmen?

PC / January 4, 2008 9:33 PM

I find it immensely funny that the authors holds up UIC -- the only university ever named after a freeway interchange, and more recently of Olde Maxwell Street fame -- as one positive example of how a university can engage with its neighborhood. Town-gown strife is part and parcel of college-town life, and Hyde Park is hardly an exception to that rule.


About the Author(s)

Jacob Lesniewski is a transplanted New Yorker and a graduate student at the University of Chicago. While he loves Chicago, his biggest fear is that his daughters will become Bulls fans.

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