Archive for the ‘Riverside and Olmsted’ category

Big Olmsted Panel @ FRED, Saturday, August 18, 1:30pm…

August 7, 2012

Please come if this is your kind of thing:

Frederick Law Olmsted Society


“Olmsted’s Design Lessons for Today”

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Riverside Town Hall

1:30 to 2:30 pm

Randy Blankenhorn, Executive Director, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning

Ed Uhlir, FAIA, Executive Director, Millennium Park Inc.

Beth White, Chicago Area Office Director, The Trust for Public Lands

Ferhat Zarin AICP, Ginkgo Planning and Design Inc.

This lively forum will discuss how Olmsted’s naturalistic and community-focused designs are relevant for today’s communities.

“These panelists bring an extraordinary depth of experience in today’s issues of sustainability, population growth, land use and historic preservation,” says Cathy Maloney, FRED Co-Chair and author of Chicago Gardens: The Early History.

“Having their knowledge of Olmsted’s lessons and Chicago’s challenges promises an insightful and informative discussion.”

Questions from the audience encouraged.  Please register for the panel discussion — and any other FRED activities — by visiting:

More on the forum — 2/18/2012

May 7, 2012
  1. this forum is exactly what we make of it. i stand by all of my contributions to its many threads. this particular thread was established to decry the republican takeover of the u.s. house.  [the thread’s founder] has had free reign. most of my posting is not here, but over on the RBHS thread. that means considerably more to me — because RBHS is a local issue, and this is a local forum. same was true in the anti-tif days, the planning days, and further back.

    it may not be immediately apparent, but in 99 percent of the cases, i have not engaged don’s partisanship. nor have i complained about it. nor have i replied with equivalent numbers of GOP-oriented posts. because i have opportunities to discuss those issues elsewhere, i don’t do a lot of that here, and frankly i don’t intend to.

    regardless of my use or non-use of the forum on those issues, i would remind all that policy proceeds from politics and vice versa. they are not independently self-sustaining. and, frankly, contrary to the FT econ writer at Ted (God complex), i think first principles are more important today than ever before. orientations — like his — matter. claiming not to have one is — typically for me — an alarm bell that someone has one, and they are not disclosing it. as ludwig mies van der rohe famously — and actually — said, “we don’t invent a new architecture every monday morning.”

    another quick point — this phrase appears above: “I would think it entices users to be more considerate and thoughtful…” i have not a clue to whom that’s directed, but as the author of a significant number of posts dealing with a deeply troubled public institution, i would say that consideration and thoughtfulness are shown far more by accuracy over time and consistency of contribution than by any a priori agreement not to sound partisan or other notes.

    simply said — get on with it and let the solid ideas prove up and the rest will fall by the wayside. that’s what i have done with RB, and all of the “RB is perfectly OK, you are a jerk to question it…” posts and posters have melted away. not because of me, mind you, but because the arguments stacked up.

    my tiny beef with don was that we were told by admin NOT to copy articles into these threads. i defended don when he did a while back and someone called him out. then don started up again. and he has continued to do so willy-nilly. oh well, if it does not matter to admin, it’s OK w me. don’s partisanship simply does not reach me. i doubt mine reaches him.

    cheers, c

    POSTED THURSDAY FEB 16, 2012 15:23 #
  2. TomJacobs


    “orientations — like his — matter. claiming not to have one is — typically for me — an alarm bell that someone has one, and they are not disclosing it.”

    What orientation of his (English economist Tim Harford) are you referring to?

    Here is why I believe you are a victim of partisanship capture (compare with “agency capture”, a fabulous post you contributed a few years back on this forum):
    When Bob Lutz was CEO of GM, one of their goals was to reposition and re-establish Buick. Once they had a new prototype model, they conducted customer interviews in three separate groups. All groups saw the exact same new prototype version of the new Buick, with one small variant: one car displayed the Buick sign, another a Lexus sign, and the third didn’t have a sign at all ( i.e. no-name car).

    Want to guess which car customers liked most?

    No. 1: Lexus

    No 2: No-name car

    No 3: Buick

    I submit that in these hyper-partisan times, the messenger (brand) has overtaken the content of the message, and frequently prohibits the message from being evaluated on its merits. I believe the RBHS discussion was great evidence for this occurrence.

    POSTED SATURDAY FEB 18, 2012 14:27 #
  3. chrisrobling

    Um, i do not know what you mean. RB’s better today, and will be far better in the future, because folks listened and saw for themselves what was going on there. That’s the discussion in which i have been involved.

    Harford’s orientation appears about five minutes in, to paraphrase, ‘the world is vastly more complex than anyone can imagine, so bringing a preconceived approach to policy and problem-solving is anachronistic and self-defeating…’ His point boils down to, ‘any preconception is valueless, one must learn from experts, there is too much for any of us to know.’

    For one, it is self-referentially inconsistent, a nice way of saying it suffers from what philosophers call, ‘inevitable falsity.’ Since he is a smart guy (i have read him in the FT since he started his column), one has to assume he knows this and is plowing ahead, because the other alternative is he is a fool. So, knave he must be — but knave must not be liked by me. Predicating a talk on this kind of flimsyness is my world’s equivalent to you using plywood for a foundation.

    Second, his point is a bland restatement of the c1890 progressive era elevation of data over values. People have been arrogantly believing their era is more complex / demanding / unknowable / challenging than all other prior eras since Chinese traders plied the waters off east africa in 2500 b.c., iow, Harford is historicism at work once again. He would be far more significant if his talk was, “why data will help us now after a century in which people like me promised it would, but instead we ended up seeing some 100 million die from totalitarianism, much of which was predicated on data…”

    Or, if you take ‘morning star’ as ‘data source,’ as Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher wrote in 1979,
    Who said that ev’ry
    Wish would be heard and answered
    When wished on the morning star?
    Somebody thought of it,
    And somebody believed it
    Look what it’s done so far.

    Third, this approach inevitably gives weight to a status quo that i believe deserves contempt and suspicion. “Experts” are that way because they know what is. What is is less important to me than what ought to be. All actors in the public sphere are bringing about something. Are they bringing about the good? Not sure. But i am sure they are not waiting to hear from experts, they are on their way, and the status quo is merely a means to their end. Ironically, I quote Marx, a strong second-tier Hegel scholar who observed, “Philosophers have been trying for centuries to understand the world. The point is to change it.” It’s one of the few things he wrote that resonates.

    Drawing in point #3, above: What is the expert on whom Mr. Harford wants us to rely trying to accomplish? You see, it is an infinite regress: We are not supposed to have a preconception, so we rely on the expert. Has the expert a preconception? “Oh no — he mustn’t!” OK, but maybe his professor did — or the professor before — etc. Someone, somewhere, said “i think things should be this way…” Why not us ?

    Do we need data to know what is going on? Sure. For instance: Without pesticides and herbicides, we will not be able to feed the 9 billion expected on the planet by 2040. Today, with pesticides and herbicides, 950 million of us are severely malnourished. Approximately 25,000 children die every day because of it. Worst of all? There is plenty of food to feed these 950 million, and save the 25,000 kids, if the folks in charge wanted them to eat.

    Or, to bring it home, RB’s board agreed in 2008 to a five-year contract providing seven percent raises on average, after ten percent raises for three years. It did not have the money to pay for the contract. It borrowed $5 million via working cash bonds. When those funds began to run out, it proposed a referendum. When voters learned what the referendum would do, it lost almost four votes to one.

    POSTED SATURDAY FEB 18, 2012 15:50 #

Confidence, courage and creativity about Riverside — 11/25/2006

May 7, 2012

dear riverside info reader: below please find an 11/25/2006 email that i sent after a weekend of exchanges which have been grouped together in a pdf and called ‘the thanksgiving email.” you will see them referred to below as totalling 30 pages. if you would like a copy please let me know at and i will send you the file. in any case, i believe the following makes additional points that are important to bear in mind as we confront the issue of fostering appropriate and scaled development in riverside. thank you for your time, chris robling
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

dear all,

i have re-read my wed. (11/22) email and to the extent that i failed to say the tif cabins the increment on the designated pins, or that — with possible exceptions — the other taxing bodies do not receive their assessment on the incremental eav, i thank charlie for pointing out that failing of mine. my apologies to any readers who were confused by my imprecision. such is the result of dashing something off as i did. i will be more attentive next time.

there’s a lot to be said based on the exchanges of the last four days, which filled close to 30 pages when strung together one on top of the last.

rather than get into the very specifics right now, let me propose the following:

1. new development downtown would be advantageous

2. a tif may be the right way to go

3. tif’s require planning elements we do not have

4. no matter what, an above-grade parking ramp in downtown riverside is anathema to our community and all that it represents

5. the village should abjure takings of single-family homes for redevelopment purposes

6. the village has not created a consensus vision for riverside in the 21st century

7. the village has not produced a comprehensive plan for riverside

8. the village has not communicated what this tif would actually be, what it would do, how it would accomplish those things, etc (i refer here to dan sommers’ email observation of no metrics established)

9. some people who support the tif, such as charlie, think that planning could be done concurrent with tif establishment

10. other people who support the tif think 99 percent of this planning talk is a waste of time that’s diverting us from our pressing fiscal issues which a tif — say what you will — is intended to help alleviate

11. some people who support a referendum on the tif do so in the hope that it will be defeated and thus go away forever

12. some of us in riverside see olmsted’s central park, with its museum, zoo, restaurants, refreshment stands, tee-shirt salespeople, and more, and yet think it is fundamentally wrong to imagine a riverwalk in swan pond.

13. harlem avenue is the rodney dangerfield of riverside redevelopment. it gets no respect. yet, like dangerfield, it has a lot to offer, especially in re a tif.

with people riled up as we are now, why not harness the interest and commitment to do the visioning and planning that is necessary?

and in so doing, let’s find within us the creativity to fashion solutions that befit this masterwork; and the confidence that we — riverside — can seek the appropriate established experienced and proven inner-ring suburban infill developers who understand what this place is and how best to accentuate its unique strengths; and the courage to say no to developers who would blight the face of our town, or landlords who would allow their property to sit unused, or to deteriorate before our eyes.

frankly i am troubled by some of the points that my friend charlie made. i think dale expressed many assessments with which i agree. i am more convinced than ever that we must do what we can do encourage the trustees to stop this tif now and do the planning homework we have skipped on an accelerated basis. if the downtown tif is a good idea, it will still be a good idea. if it does not fit we will all be relieved we did not pursue it.

can we do that? dan z. says he is concerned that the trustees may already have decided this issue. i hope he is wrong, but he may be right. i think that increases the burden those of us urging better planning must meet. where our advocacy goes from there, i do not know.



POSTED THURSDAY DEC 28, 2006 10:41 #

Early TIF Opposition — 12/29/2006

May 3, 2012

Chris – I find your input valuable, but do want to make sure I understand your global position. As I read through your posts, my summary is that 1) you recognize a need for a re-development of portions of the CBD, 2) you are not necessarily against a pay-as-you-go TIF, and 3) you obviously feel there was insufficient planning in the current Redevelopment Plan. Do you feel that a TIF with the proper Redevelopment Plan is something you would support? I apologize for the paraphrasing, but do want to make sure I understand your position.

POSTED THURSDAY DEC 28, 2006 16:57 #

reply to mike sedivy querie of 06-12-28, 17:57:

thanks for reading my stuff.

i think a ‘tif with the proper redevelopment plan,’ as you put it, is something i could support — but i emphasize could, not would.

i think the administration has fallen back many yards on this play. in one of my november emails, which is posted above, as well as in my personal remarks to the board back at that time, i raise the judgment issue as well as planning and financials. it is my opinion that this administration has credibility ground to make up just to return to the prior line of scrimmage, so to speak. katy’s january 8 planning process must be fully elaborated, well-managed, inclusive and befitting a global landmark masterpiece of planning, design and architecture. the kane-mckenna document, as i hope to explicate soon, was an insult.

so, the administration’s new commitment to the sort of openness, transparency and uniformity of rule application that i think is rightly questioned based on recent history must be clear throughout this process.

for riverside to thrive, whatever we decide to do, tif or no tif, we must end up with both the right plan and the right people to implement it. frankly, i doubt we have the right individuals on board to implement a tif, should we as a village in due course become convinced that the comprehensive plan, financials, specifics and alternatives analysis all end up grounding an appropriate tif solution.

i may be wrong. commitment to a rigorous and thorough visioning and planning process, with a first-rate alternatives analysis and a clear statement of how and under what procedures funds would be expended will show if current staff is up to it. based on the village center debacle, i am skeptical, but i would love to be shown otherwise.

so i guess i seek three distinct but interrelated indices: sound plan, compelling financials and proven judgment in historic preservation redevelopment. i think the first two are possibly achievable through our new process. the third is in my opinion reasonably implicated and at best, as yet to be determined.

i hope this helps. here’s to the forum.



POSTED FRIDAY DEC 29, 2006 10:36 #

Stop This [TIF] Plan — 11/28/2006

May 3, 2012

dear riverside info reader: this is an 11/28/2006 email that built on widespread negative reaction to the TIF document’s eligibility memo. more on that later. best regards, chris robling
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

dear (recipient),

my opinion:

1. stop this plan
2. re-direct to a truly comprehensive visioning and planning
process, which will take one year and will thoroughly thrash out every
point we need to cover
3. hold the administration accountable for this outrage.

i agree with your point re downtown.

but their assertion is in my opinion even more insidious and thus more
deeply troubling. if you read the ‘eligibility memo’ carefully, as i am
sure you have, you find it is the most anti-preservation doc published
by riverside certainly since the 1970 nhl designation. it is anathema
to EVERYTHING the place is and stands for. it grounds a repudiation of
the preservation ethic because it equates age with obsolescence. here
is a flavor: ” As a whole, the area suffers from poor design and layout
which is manifested in several instances…”

i am almost at the point of saying it grounds a clear-cutting of the


i do not think we have yet developed the basis on which to determine
whether a tif in downtown is / is not called for. i am prepared to
support a pay-as-you-go tif for downtown, but NOT before all of the
appropriate steps are taken, and CERTAINLY NOT on the basis of this
outrageous doc (pls see below).

i think a tif right now for harlem avenue might be a brilliant idea, and
i wish i had thought of it. i just learned on sunday from jim louthen
that berwyn is now — under its reasonable new administration —
initiating a sub-area plan for its side of the harlem / bnsf
intersection. this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for us to
better develop a neglected part of our town which has the traffic to be
successful in concert with our neighbor.

i am appalled at the notions of increasing traffic and ‘modernizing’ our

the more i read, the worse this gets.



POSTED THURSDAY DEC 28, 2006 11:07 #

Interpreting “An Evening of Olmsted” — 4/5/2007

May 3, 2012

dear all,

i regret that the very clear thrust of monday’s “Evening of Olmsted” program seems to have eluded some who want a tif, any tif, and the sooner the better.

david bahlman spoke of riverside’s uniqueness and stature among all olmsted sites, which is at the top of residential, near the top of all sites, and seminal for the ensuing century of town design.

“first, do no harm,” he advised.

vicki added considerably to our knowledge of the historic context of olmsted’s illinois work, including riverside.

susan appealed for planning to avoid results such as the series of buffalo decisions which, imperceptibly at first, drained away an olmsted park’s character. she also said that conscientious and inclusive planning builds a constituency of support which is vital in the debates over subsequent proposals.

susan also advised building up a list of principles that would guide development. such a list not only may serve as a starting point for planning, but also would be a first framework against which any proposal would be measured.

i think that to have attended the NAOP / riverside preservation commission program monday night, and then cite it as support for moving enacting a tif on tuesday, is akin to attending a baseball game and declaring later the sport is all about hot dogs and peanuts.

well, yes, hot dogs and peanuts do show up with baseball. but they are not the point. the point is the players on the field.

here the point is, do no harm by building consensus principles and moving on to a real planning process, because even among olmsted sites, ours by its history and achievement, is unique.

thanks and best,


POSTED THURSDAY APR 5, 2007 15:29 #

Report on “An Evening of Olmsted” — 4/3/2007

May 3, 2012

dear all,

we had about 60 attendees, got underway at about 6:40, and adjourned a little after 8:30.

program was opened by jack wiaduck. charlie pipal spoke briefly and had to leave soon after. i think the presentations by david bahlman, vicki ranney and concluding with susan west-montgomery were truly first-rate.

network 6 / cable commission broadcast live and i was told it will be rebroadcast for a while. presumably their schedule is on the village web site.

questions went about an hour. there must have been about 20. i think it was a lively discussion.

in a very pleasant pre-event reception, the speakers, charlie, diane, jim, members of the flos board, jack and several trustees, katy and some of our village staff got together in the village offices for some relaxed conversation.

for anyone interested in naop, there are brochures at the village office and all are welcome

this is naop’s second riverside visit in less than a year. we dedicated a tree in honor of ed straka with jack, joan, ted and connie at dean and ella mae’s last may. all of us are looking forward to our next event here, whenever that might be.

thanks and best,

POSTED TUESDAY APR 3, 2007 16:14 #

dear david / all, here is the first, will post the more up-beat closing quote later:

”I have done a good deal of good work in my way, but it is constantly
and everywhere arrested, wrecked, mangled and misused.”

Frederick Law Olmsted, approx 1870s.

POSTED TUESDAY APR 3, 2007 16:51 #

What artist so noble, as he, who,
with far-reaching conception of beauty and designing-power,
sketches the outlines, writes the colors, and directs the shadows,
of a picture so great that Nature shall be employed on it for generations,
before the work he has arranged for her shall realize his intentions.

Frederick Law Olmsted
The Spoils of the Park

POSTED TUESDAY APR 3, 2007 19:29 #