Attending the community meeting on Sterling Bay’s Lincoln Yards development, which threatens the Hideout and all of independent Chicago music by partnering with Live Nation to build two to five new venues.
The Sterling Bay executives’ excessive reiteration that they live in the same neighborhood, take their kids to the same parks, and sit in “the same traffic” as all of us.
Their barely concealed disdain for us, which would come out in snickers or bad faith answers some of the time. There was something so disgusting about it. We (as independent venue advocates) have humor too (I swear!) and we can come to the table with maturity and respect for Sterling Bay’s interests. (Katie Tuten, co-owner of the Hideout, said outright, “I do believe—I hope—you have the best interests of the city [at heart].”) But they seemed completely disinterested in approaching the meeting that way. They can be frustrated or annoyed by our perspective; those meetings are full of angst and poor communication and I would be exasperated by them, too. But it seems like they view the meetings as a bone they throw, rather than as a totally reasonable, justified part of the process of building a neighborhood from scratch. It wasn’t an earnest, “Let’s figure out how to do this together and make it better” thing (in tone at least; they incorporate some community ideas like graduated/shorter buildings, but some say they planned to do that all along, anyway). They were flippant.
Their insistence that they would hand over the “public open green space” to the Chicago Park District and even set up a trust for its maintenance, but their glossing over the fact that they set the price too high for the Park District. They told us that we can’t have the things we want (like publicly owned park land) because no one can pay for it, but no one—on Sterling Bay’s side or ours—ever spoke about a lower price. Of course, they have a bottom line and it’d be unreasonable to demand that they just give their property away. But if they’re as interested in turning over the park land as they say they are, they might be more willing to budge on the margins. It’s hard to say for sure without seeing the terms of the proposal, which, characteristically, we haven’t seen.
The managing principal’s recognition that it’s hard to build an “authentic neighborhood” all at once.
How building a better rapport could be as simple, in some cases, as avoiding uses of jargon. Few things alienate people more than trade-specific buzzwords and that the executives couldn’t foresee that seems to show they have empathy-deficient tunnel-vision.
Katie and Tim (of the Hideout)’s admirable speeches about slowing down the development’s tax package approval until after Rahm Emanuel, whose brother is a Live Nation board member, is succeeded as mayor in February.
I will say it takes vision to look at a land site like the completely barren, industrial area it is now and imagine a whole new neighborhood rather than the more modest goal of building a single new building. I think there should be a (social) space for big, ambitious projects like that, but they should be heavily constrained by local government—more than just by zoning laws and a city council vote, i.e., government should prescribe a process whereby super-developers are required to consider other stakeholders and maybe where limits are put on the concentration of equity in the project.
Beyond the threat to the Hideout, a bigger picture where Live Nation and a few other companies own most tours, festivals, and venues—and where booking agents, venue owners, and artists lose control of their livelihoods. It’s scary but I’m hoping for a future (better antitrust laws? actual enforcement of antitrust laws?) where we figure it out.