May 21, 2004

Limestone proves feasible

The mediator in the Promontory Point dispute, Jamie Kalven, asserted on Monday that a renovation plan including limestone would be cheaper than the city's all-concrete plan.

Kalven's report, released on May 17, compared the feasibility of the city's plan to renovate the Point and a renovation plan called Figure 1. The report acknowledges that Figure 1 will generally be recognized as a "preservation design." Promontory Point protects the Lake Michigan shoreline at 55th Street.

The city put the cost of an all-concrete structure at $24,278,317.36. Kalven put the cost of Figure 1 at $22,816,466.69, including a $2 million "maintenance reserve." "This is a great opportunity for the city and community to work together," said Jack Spicer of the Community Task Force for Promontory Point."The cost of limestone was the city's last concern."

The report states: "In view of the flawed analysis on which the City has relied, we recommend that it reanalyze maintenance costs, giving proper weight to the history and current condition of the existing structure. This will yield a more realistic statement of probable maintenance needs. It will not, however, eliminate all uncertainties."

The report recommends that the City create a maintenance reserve as part of the budget. The maintenance reserve, proposed to be 10 percent of the total budget, would be held in escrow, earning interest. "This is a common practice for addressing precisely the sorts of maintenance needs and uncertainties that the City confronts at Promontory Point," the report said.

Julian Green, a spokesman for the Chicago Park District, said that his agency was still reviewing the report. "We'll have a reaction early for you next week," he said.

Spicer said that he hoped the city took as long as it needed. "It's a complicated report and deserves a lot of time," Spicer claimed.

The features of Figure 1 include four limestone steps and a promenade that incorporates limestone on the outer (lakeside) edge.

According to the report, Figure 1 has "comparability with the current Community Task Force proposal, the City's current proposal, and other design options assessed by the consulting firm STS."

The main differences between Figure 1 and the Task Force proposal are that the former has no consideration of wheelchair access and no limestone on the inner edge of the revetment.

The report predicts that the cost of limestone would be $178 per ton. This is the low-end of the $150 per ton to $350 per ton range predicted by STS.

A step-stone structure was to be incorporated in the design of the revetment. Kalven's report calls STS assertions regarding the steps "inexplicable." STS implies that the cost per stone would go up by 400 percent.

Kalven's report has several problems with the maintenance projections supplied by STS, beyond the actual projection of $100,000, called excessive for a maintenance need described as "possible, though unlikely."

"Maintenance costs for the stone options are treated as above and beyond the maintenance costs for the all-concrete option. Unless the assumption is that there are no maintenance costs associated with the all-concrete option, this approach necessarily inflates the maintenance costs for the stone options," the report wrote.

Also, STS does not define maintenance, according to Kalven. He asserts that irregularities in an all-concrete structure are a serious problem but in a limestone structure they are part of the aesthetic appeal. STS did not try to use past history of maintenance costs in the projection of future costs.

The report states that the costs of set-up and break down of the construction site, set by STS at eight percent of the total construction budget, is higher than the standard practice of two to three percent.