Marjorie Isaacson on Division/Ashland development

August 5, 2011

Dear Alderman Moreno:

I am writing in regard to the redevelopment of the former Pizza Hut site, at Division Street and Ashland Avenue. This six-corner intersection is an important gateway to our community, and also has the highly valuable attribute of being a transit hub.

Real estate development at this site can either enhance these assets or simply take advantage of the site without contributing to, or even undermining, other uses and qualities of this locale. Automobile-centric developments are a prime example of the latter phenomena. The convenience of drive-ins and parking lots for a few adds congestion, reduces air quality and imposes restrictions on transit users and pedestrians.

I know you understand the importance of reducing practices that add greenhouse gases to the environment. Tackling the issue of climate change will require re-examining many "business as usual" practices, both large and small. I've enclosed an article from the July 30th New York Times, where the difference between how Europeans deal with congestion and greenhouse gas buildup is compared to US policies. The Europeans turn urban centers into pedestrian zones. American cities "remain manacled to the car." There are real differences in quality of life connected to making these choices.

I visited City Hall more than 20 years ago, when this corner was rezoned to allow the drive-in uses there now. Our objections were met by contempt -- we were told our ideas for a higher use of that corner were ridiculous, because we were lucky anyone was considering investing in our blighted neighborhood. Things are different now. As one of those pieces of disposable architecture is gone, we have another chance to get it right. I urge you to do everything in your power to make sure any development on this corner is of a quality and character that will contribute to our community.

Sincerely yours,
Marjorie Isaacson
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