The VOCAL activist preservationists love to hate

Dee Grant has become the activist that preservationists love to hate. Chicago Magazine raised her profile this month with a feature about Grant and her aptly named group, VOCAL, the Voters and Owners Coalition Against Landmarking. In shrill tones, Grant rails against government intervention mostly, though not exclusively, in the form of landmarking, or as she calls it, “government-sanctioned theft.”

Any good gadfly needs a nemesis, and for Grant, it’s Preservation Chicago, the local non-profit that tries to preserve historic architecture and has fought to landmark buildings and districts in a variety of neighborhoods.

We checked out the VOCAL Web site, where the lead post laments the loss of some small retailers around Armitage and Halsted. Grant mentions the letter of a 14-year-old girl who asks — cue the violins — why all the cute little stores have left. Grant’s answer, of course, is that the onus of landmarking is what drives such businesses out.

A reader comments that the local hardware store Grant mentions left for three reasons:

#1 Home Depot @ 2665 N Halsted St
#2 Home Depot @ 1232 W North Ave
#3 Home Depot @ 2570 N Elston Ave

“The cute little stores have left the neighborhood because people like yourself prefer to shop at Tarjay-on-Elston,” the reader commented, referring to a previous Grant post in which she mentioned her shopping preference. “Others will shop at Costco and the list goes on.”

Landmarking, like most issues, is complicated, with valid points on all sides, but it’s hard to imagine Grant’s tone is winning her many converts in Lincoln Park, where several blocks on and around Sheffield Ave have been considered for landmark status.

So, leaving aside the vitriol (or not), how do Yo Chicago readers feel about landmark districts, which also have been considered lately in West Town and Andersonville? Social good or evil intervention? Somewhere in between?

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