Let Their Voices Be Heard
Our Views: News-Star, April 17, 2008
Last week, the Chicago City Council voted to increase the subsidy for the Wilson Yard TIF to $52 million.
The increase marks the second time within the past year that the city's public tax subsidy has been increased. Beset by construction delays, Wilson Yard has stalled, heightening Uptown residents' frustration.
Elected officials and the project's developer maintain that the increased public funds for the project are necessary because of skyrocketing construction and other unforeseen costs.
Local community leaders have criticized the project plan since it was first floated before residents in 2004. Since the last open community meeting, a movie multiplex has dropped out of the project.
The project's anchor — Target — also has yet to make a public announcement that it is coming to Uptown. Target's silence has fueled neighborhood rumors that the retail giant has backed out of the project.
Despite residents' protestations, both the developer and alderman insist that Target is still part of Wilson Yard's big picture. Yet both have refused to produce a signed letter of intent or contract from Target stating that is coming to Wilson Yard, citing "confidentiality."
Now, some community leaders and residents are calling for the current Wilson Yard plan to be scratched and start anew.
We certainly don't go that far, though this project has been a failure of urban planning from the start. However, clearly we believe that residents and community leaders deserve a clearer explanation as to the current status of the project and its public funding. Target also needs to come clean as to whether it plans to remain part of the Uptown project.
While we can appreciate the confidentiality of certain business agreements, the developer needs to understand how this simply fuels residents' skepticism that the project will ever be completed.
In the words of one Uptown resident who asks, "For something that is sucking up so much public tax money, why is there so much confidentiality?"
Community residents deserve to have their voices heard so they are not surprised by the final outcome of a project that stands to be a gateway to the Uptown neighborhood for decades to come.
Uptown residents' voices deserve and need to be heard.