Truman College is to be commended for pulling together two community meetings to discuss its plans for a new parking structure and student services center. Truman has demonstrated a forthrightness that is sorely lacking in the 46th Ward.
All of the college's intentions in staging these meetings are admirable and the college should be thanked for sharing information with the community. Unfortunately, 46th Ward Ald.Helen Shiller and other city officials, particularly those from the city's Department of Planning and Development, still don't get it.
The only problem with Monday evening's meeting at Truman College was the pent-up frustration that many Uptown residents feel over the lack of community input into the planning process.
Planning for Truman's new parking garage and student services center should have taken place in a smaller setting. Instead of two large community meetings, there should have been several smaller meetings. The block clubs closest to the college should have been included early on in the planning process.
Residents could have asked their questions then about garage security, interruption from construction, access and new traffic patterns, not when plans for the project are almost completed. Perhaps then, Monday's meeting would have been a slam-dunk for Truman.
The residents attending Monday night's meeting had a right to ask why $10 million in TIF money has been proposed to foot part of the costs for a tax-exempt city college. After all, it's their money.
These residents deserve better than an alderman who chooses to put in a rare community appearance, and then pretends to not understand why her constituents are angry and frustrated.
While we recognize the need for a new building at Truman College so it can continue growing as a city college of choice, we believe that some of the proposed $10 million in TIF funding could have gone to refurbishing the existing Wilson El Station or toward construction of two new stations as CTA President Ron Huberman proposed Monday evening.
As one resident put it during the meeting, when do residents who have already given up so much take priority?
We urge Truman to come up with a plan for neighbors to benefit from its new parking garage during off-school hours. Nearby residents can use the garage on snowy winter days, for overnight guests, or on afternoons when Cubs fans invade neighborhood streets looking for free street parking so they can ride the El to Wrigley Field.
We understand Truman's dilemma in trying to solve its parking issues and urge the school to look for incentives in inducing more staff, faculty and students to not use the garage by taking mass transit or finding alternative modes of transportation.
While we believe college officials when they say they want to be good neighbors, we hope that whatever plan Truman comes up with for its parking garage also considers those who are helping to foot the bill-the residents who live within the Wilson Yard TIF District.