With summer likely to return for another year, students and neighborhood residents heading in droves to the Lake for weekend barbecues will come to face-to-face with a bitter reality: Promontory Point is falling apart.
Given the Point’s uneven, dangerously crumbling landscape, it would be logical to assume that fixing this popular locale would be a top priority. And yet, since 2001, a vocal coalition of residents have argued that “preserving” the landmark is better than fixing it; these activists have stymied a series of progressively better redevelopment proposals advocated by the Park District and the Army Corps of Engineers.
The controversy is centered on the seemingly trivial issue of limestone. The Point’s current state of disrepair is due almost entirely to its construction from limestone blocks which, unsuited for the repeated pounding by Lake Michigan’s waves, have eroded or shifted out of position. The Park District’s original proposal would have rebuilt the Point using mostly concrete, which community activists have rightfully pointed out is less aesthetically pleasing than limestone (but much sturdier). In an attempt to reach a compromise, the city agreed to incorporate much of the old limestone in its redesign.
But “Save the Point” proponents scuttled the plan, refusing to accept a concrete–limestone hybrid. The Point should be preserved, they claim, but preserved for whom? No one benefits when the Point is unusable. The activists are not defending a beloved community monument from evil developers; they are preventing Hyde Park residents from fully enjoying their lake.
Unfortunately, common sense rarely prevails in these disputes. As with the Doctors Hospital (perhaps the activists want the hospital reopened for when they break their ankles at the Point), the outspoken community members seem to have forced the issue to a stalemate. Currently, the task of overseeing a new redevelopment plan has been given to Senator Obama, who has been too busy promising to mend the deep fissures in national politics to find a way to fix the cracks in the Point.
It is a great irony that those who claim they want to “Save the Point” seem dead set on doing the opposite. Instead of handing out their bumper stickers and commending themselves on defending the neighborhood, the activists should reevaluate what the purpose of having parks and community landmark is. They say they want to save the Point; the rest of us just want to be able to use it.
The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.