Editorial: Broken promises

By Maroon Editorial Board

Last November, the U of C launched a campaign to convince Co-op Market’s shareholders to accept a buy-out proposal that would clear the way for an affordable, well stocked supermarket sorely needed in Hyde Park. A centerpiece of that campaign was the promise that a new grocer would open within two weeks of the Co-op’s closing.

Treasure Island is set to open Wednesday, a full month behind schedule, and what should be a celebration of progress and development in Hyde Park has been tainted by the University’s broken promise.

Co-op members took the University at its word when they voted in December. But now, six weeks after the Co-op closed its doors, residents—some of whom, like students, are without the means to shop exclusively at the area’s high-end specialty stores or drive to supermarkets outside Hyde Park—are still without a suitable grocery option. According to University administrators and Treasure Island, the delay was caused by difficulties in securing permits from the city and unexpected complications in moving into and cleaning up the East 55th Street location.

The University could have successfully sold the community on the merits of a new grocer without the unrealistic promise of an exceedingly quick turnaround. Not accounting for the time it would take to secure city permits in creating its estimate was, at best, willful ignorance. Had shoppers—especially those on tight budgets or those who relied on the Co-op’s shut-in service—been given a realistic timeline for Treasure Island’s opening, they could have better prepared for the six-week void.

Far from being an isolated incident, the inaccurate timeline provided by the University represents part of a larger trend. The highly touted new website was released years behind schedule, and the new dorm will likely open a full year behind schedule and be substantially reduced in size. The consequences of some delays extend far beyond campus. The U of C planned to replace former Vice President of Community and Government Affairs Hank Webber by March 1, but now administrators say the search for his replacement is still in its initial phases and will take months to complete.

The broken pledges challenge the University’s credibility, especially in light of the omnipresent stress in town–gown relations. The U of C is currently leading a number of important development efforts, from a proposed hotel on the site of the Doctors Hospital to retail revitalization on 53rd Street, and will now have an even harder time defending those ambitious projects when activists question the University’s veracity. Rather than being able to point to Treasure Island as a shining example of the success possible when the U of C works to improve the neighborhood, the University has given the already incredulous anti-development crowd new ammunition.

It would benefit the University to exercise more caution when approaching future projects, so as not to alienate its neighborhood. It is tempting to make attractive promises, but the U of C needs to learn how to keep them first.

The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.