Monday, January 09, 2006

Last word on landmarks

What's left to say about the East Village Landmark District after a year of debate? With one final hearing left to attend, I put my reporter's training to work and pulled the clips.

In 1989 it was feared that the Wicker Park landmark district, as reported in the Tribune, would boost property values so high that gentrification would displace the district's residents. A few years later, the calculus involving South Side neighborhoods was whether they were viable enough to reap the economic benefits of landmark status.

How strange that the debate over landmark protection is now whether it will retard development.

Local history suggests that communities thrive or wither for factors quite apart from landmark protection. Benefits are limited to the districts' intended purpose: to protect the characteristics that make a neighborhood unique and invite its growth. Neighbors propose landmark designation not for how it will make their property more valuable, but for what they value in the neighborhood.

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