This was my response to the Tribune's series on how City Hall lets much critical development/preservation decision-making take place at the ward level (see the series at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-code-overviewjan27,0,6181305.story). They didn't run it, so I'm posting it here!
"It was disheartening to read Mayor Daley’s assertion that architectural preservation is handled best at the most local level or becomes a perceived City Hall power grab. There is a third choice – actually creating a much-needed city-wide master plan for preserving our great architectural legacy. There are three critical reasons the Mayor should seriously reconsider this position immediately:
1. Preservation fosters community identity. Research shows that people feel a stronger connection to their community when the historic fabric is respected and preserved. They find more comfort in the area and become more civically engaged.
2. Preservation leads to investment. Research also shows that where architectural preservation is valued, investment follows. From restaurants to renovations, tourism to the film industry dollars tend to follow.
3. Preservation is Green. Sustainability is all about valuing existing assets.
Destroying our architectural legacy – whether the neighborhood icon buildings (movie theatres, stores, churches) or worker cottages – flies in the face of the Mayor’s wonderful ambition to make Chicago a truly green city. In addition, demolition debris makes up one of the largest categories of urban waste.
These questions are simply too important to be decided by a process so vulnerable to influences that do not take into account the city’s best interests. City Hall completed an ambitious Chicago Historic Resources Survey in 1995 that painstakingly evaluated all buildings constructed prior to 1940. To date this resource has essentially led only to minor delays in demolition. It’s time to use this valuable grid to help lay the foundation for a city-wide plan for preserving our neighborhood fabric.
After all, the city's job is not just to attract investors to Chicago - but to guide their dollars to projects that have a lasting, positive impact on our neighborhoods."