Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Tuesday, March 5

Gapers Block

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Andrew / June 10, 2003 10:36 AM

I'd hate to see UIC bully Taylor Street -- and possibly the garment district across the highway, Greektown to the north, etc. -- into bending to its will. These areas are vibrant and interesting on their own, and UIC's wish to clean them up will only be a detriment. Who'd want to live in a Disney-esque Little Italy&tm;?

On the other hand, Loyola is shelling out something like $4 million to rehab Devon Avenue from Clark St. to the Lake. They're not interfering with the businesses along the street, just beautifying -- planters and water fountains and brick bits. Seems like a much better way to get involved in the community, rather than evicting everyone and rebuilding according to some master plan.

Paul / June 10, 2003 10:42 AM

It's pretty sickening.

I dislike the way UIC has co-opted the area, and is turning it into Lincoln Park South; the concept of the "drop-in neighborhood" only makes these areas of Chicago feel like the suburbs.

Craig / June 10, 2003 10:43 AM

Did you know Northwestern pays NO property taxes to the city of Evanston? So Evanston is basically Northwestern's bitch. FYI. End transmission.

kegz / June 10, 2003 12:30 PM

Actually, I think Evanston is the bitch of the developers who have turned the downtown into an ugly mall/condo complex.

Change marches on, be it at the hand of greedy developers, universities, or government influence. Cities need turnover, growth, and change to remain vibrant. The unfortunate part of the story is that city development circa 2000 brings very few interesting and unique improvements. There are exceptions (Old Town School in Lincoln Square, the City of Chicago's school construction/rehab project), but most of the time we get condos, Border's books, Walgreens, and Blockbuster.

I agree that Loyola's methods sound more palatable than what UIC is trying to do, but the situation could be worse than adding patios and menu boxes. Bulldozing everything in sight to make condos Evanston-style would be cause for real panic.

Craig / June 11, 2003 10:29 AM

"developers who have turned the downtown into an ugly mall/condo complex."

Maybe I'm just too new to the area to see it that way, but I think they are doing a decent job NOT turning it into a mini-mall. Yes, the high rises are quite large, and not designed to blend in with what already exists, but that diversity is what keeps areas interesting. Yes, they added a lot of "yuppie" stores (Borders, Wolfgang Pucks, etc) but I think they are doing a decent job keeping the downtown-feel, not building a mall or worse yet, a strip mall. I hate to see corporate gentrification as much as the next chap, but CHANGE itself is extremely healthy for an area to undergo. Imagine the dissent and anger from some when the modernist architechts began building those god awful skyscrapers that embody Chicago's skyline... my $0.02

Andrew / June 11, 2003 10:38 AM

Not to mention all those condos help to mitigate the tax burdon for Evanston, considering Northwestern squats on a huge portion of the city tax-free. And although I think the bright orange and yellow balconies are ugly, the buildings themselves aren't too bad.

(And Craig, Borders was already there, it just moved into a newer space from the ugly one they had a couple blocks away.)

kegz / June 11, 2003 11:20 AM

Then I guess I'm really at a loss how restaurant boxes and some outdoor patios on Taylor St. are all that harmful. I totally agree, as I said, that cities need change to remain vibrant. Unless I missed something in the UIC article, they don't plan to do anything on the scale of the hotels, movie complex, and high rises that Evanston now has. I'm a little surprised at the big to do about Taylor St, but nobody has an issue with the large scale changes in Evanston.

Andrew / June 11, 2003 11:38 AM

Well, one difference is that Northwestern isn't the driving the revitalization of downtown Evanston (even though they may be the cause). UIC is trying to force changes in a neighborhood that most people would probably prefer to stay the way it is, or at least change more oganically.

In Columbus, the area around OSU was pretty shabby -- lots of seedy college bars, trash everywhere, etc. A development group called Campus Partners (basically a nonprofit "cause" group organized by real estate moguls, developers and commercial interests) formed to clean up and gentrify the area. Five years later, there's now a huge barren space where the bars were -- we're talking two city blocks of gravel -- and a bunch of stripmall favorites in place of many of the locally owned stores. The trash is still there, but now it has fewer things to blow up against. Improvement? Not really.

My worry is that UIC's plans for Taylor Street will cause similar damage to the neighborhood. After all, last I checked their "rehabilitation" of Maxwell Street resulted in just a lot of barren space and some student housing.

Craig / June 11, 2003 12:25 PM

"And Craig, Borders was already there..."

I know this-- it's my 'hood... thought it was strange that they would move two blocks, but it will create a nicer space in that Church Steet area-- giving another social location other than the movie theater.

As far as people objecting gentrification of the UIC area, I'm not too familiar with the area so couldn't say. My comment was more upon growth in general-- and how it is treated in an Urban Planning sense. In my mind, an example of really poor urban planning is the block of Clark Street in Lakeview between Clark and just south of Belmont. The DSW/Marshalls monolith is on one side and the Sportmart on the other. This creates a completely DEAD block because both buildings do not address the street in any manner-- in turn ruining an entire block. This kind of phenomenon-- where the architect doesnt even think of how the buliding effects it's surrounding environment troubles me much more than the fact that they are both corporate chains and contribute to "gentrification".

I feel like Evanston has done a good job with the explosive growth-- they have made sure the bottom levels of these high rises have stores or public parking in them, they have addressed the street with their architecture, and not created dead spaces, and they have attempted to build cohesive "central" locations for social gathering.

kegz / June 11, 2003 12:51 PM

Craig, you make very good points about how the growth in Evanston has been handled. I agree that the section on Clark you mentioned is awful by comparison. I still feel that the new section of Evanston is over congested and ugly, but that's just my slant on it. Between school and work, I spent 8 years in Evanston and I find the new developments jarring and not in character with the town I spent time in.

I know I'm biased because Evanston is a town I've felt a part of and Taylor St. is an area I've been to only a handful of times.

Alex / June 11, 2003 1:01 PM

Don't even get me started! Do you know how sad it is that there will be an entire generation of children who will never have an honest to goodness Maxwell Street Polish (complete with the white chunks of something or another)?

And forget about ever knowing the joy of buying a baby chick on Maxwell Street (only to have the poor thing die within a few days -- but that's besides the point)

Now where are kids going to get ices and lupini beans?!

That neighborhood is going to hell and UIC is passing out the handbaskets.

Craig / June 11, 2003 1:14 PM

Kegz- Glad I sort of convinced you! :-) I moved to Evanston about a year ago, so I'm new-school... I am sure if I lived there prior to the new construction I would be just as jolted. I am just relieved it's being done intelligently.

I like having this interactive portion of Gaper's Block...

(By the way I meant between Halsted and Belmont on Clark St... but you got the idea)

brian / June 12, 2003 12:33 PM

One thing that hasn't been mentioned: U of C. Ever wonder why there aren't many bars in Hyde Park? Notice that the bulk of the properties are controlled by a few management companies (which in turn are owned by the University)? Ever notice the private police force?

The U of C runs Hyde Park with an iron fist. It seems that UIC is trying to do the same.

Personally, I'm disgusted by UIC's actions. I was a student in '93 and used to go down to Maxwell St. a lot. It was a real bizarre bazaar, and the newer one is a bit lifeless in comparison. And the Chia-neighborhood (just add water!) that is down there is disgusting.

The University was very clear about their intentions: they wanted to make the south campus a vibrant area, with a movie complex, Starbucks, etc. But they're missing the point: they have one in Taylor St. and Greektown. Work to make the university grow, not dictate the terms. We don't need another Schaumburg.

UIC has a serious Napolean complex and an image issue. No number of ugly condos or Starbucks is going to fix that.

Rob / June 12, 2003 1:44 PM

It's worth keeping the perspective of the UIC in mind. Aside from the obvious profit motive, a university might rightfully have a desire to take control of its surroundings. If they can make sure their environs are inoffensive and lowest-common denominator, then appeal would tend to widen. For students, faculty, donors, the city and state, etc etc. Safety and desirability are things any power-broker in a neighborhood might want to encourage.

And nothing telegraphs the idea of safety and desirability more than a Starbucks with adjoining multiplex. Maybe not for us cranks here, but for the reverse white-flighters, who're sick of the banality of the suburbs and want to move back to the city -- all the while not quite realizing that they're bringing their banality with them.

Ramsin Canon / June 12, 2003 6:08 PM

I don't think its just the menu boxes and iron-fences they're requesting. The UVA is issuing "guidelines" for new businesses and beginning to bring pressure to bear on the current businesses (like Mario's Lemonade, which uber-developer Oscar D'Angelo considers an eyesore--not to mention he got in a fistfight with the owner).

I don't think the UVA considers dropping high-rise condos down in the Taylor Street area an option. The entire concept behind the guidelines they issued is to make Taylor Street more "Taylor Street," to make a caricature of the area's character.

What they did to Jew Town (what is now called "_ew Town" on the signs of many hot dog joints) is unfortunate, but inevitable because of the criminal element that the Maxwell Street Market and surrounding areas invited (ask any old-timers around the area where they worked as kids, and it was "ran products from the railyards to Jew Town," meaning stolen goods).

The fake history they're trying to foist on Taylor Street is endemic of what community organizations have done in places like East Village, Bucktown, Lincoln Park, and even Logan Square. Taylor Street is one of the most community-supported strips in Chicago and it would be a terrible pity if that character was gussied up for a slight increase in property values.

Jon / June 14, 2003 4:15 PM

It's not without precedent in this city. The U of C and Hyde Park, IIT and Bronzeville, and especially UIC - when it was first built Mayor Daley I destroyed the entire neighborhood it sits on.

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