DePaul arena: Architects not allowed to consult community

DePaul's new arena, funded largely through $125 million in taxpayer money, has been an adventure from the get-go. First, a study was funded which showed how the $125 million public investment was actually a good deal for the citizenry. Of course, those numbers were cooked. Oh well. This served to stir up the debate as to why tax dollars were being used to build an arena for a private university. It got so bad that even star players from DePaul were signing petitons against the new arena.

The newest development is right out of old-school Chicago politics. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has decided to fast track this thing, and in order to expedite the process he's barred potential architects from consulting the community prior to submitting their bids. Never mind that it is being built in an historic, dense neighborhood.

Community leaders want to know how the arena, also planned as a venue for concerts and convention meetings, would work, not just how it would look. Would it be a blank-walled urban fortress (think the United Center) on days when no events are scheduled? How will cars be routed through the historic district's narrow streets? Where will loading docks go? Will there be enough transit to handle the crowds for concerts and DePaul men's and women's basketball games?

Originally the Mayor wanted all the bids by August 13, but that has been pushed back two weeks because the competing firms couldn't put together a package that quickly.

Why not push it back a few more weeks so that the public – who is funding much of the construction – isn't left in the dark?

That's a good question.