Wake Up and Smell the Coffey | Letters | Chicago Reader

Wake Up and Smell the Coffey 

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To the editors:

After some thought, I felt compelled to write to you about the extensive article about Daniel Coffey ["The Architect Who's Rebuilding Chicago," August 27].

I feel your reporter did not do an adequate job of either research or reporting. I am also wondering how the typical people-friendly style of the Reader became so adjusted into producing a public relations ad for so controversial an architect as Mr. Coffey. He certainly does adequately fund a public relations company, and it would read that the company has an influence on either your reporter, Mr. McClory, or elsewhere.

Mr. Coffey seems to be well connected politically, with family in City Hall, and therefore gets a shoo-in to possible plum projects, such as the State Street Mall and the Chicago Theatre. He apparently has no job history making him a candidate for either of these projects.

The Chicago Theatre project is particularly odorous. Mr. Coffey admitted being given the plans from the city, which were produced and copyrighted by the Chicago Theatre Trust, a citizens group you should be able to find in your files. The trust was a grass-roots group that actually brought the fight for the Chicago Theatre to public attention, and produced the plan, shared with the courts, to preserve the theater.

That plan therefore fell into the public domain, and it wonders your poor overlooked readers how fat cats like Messrs. Coffey, Holleb, Ordman, Renshaw, and Ms. al Chalabi get brought in, make millions, and give the taxpayers a badly done theater, bereft of integrity, and architecturally made very useless.

Mr. Coffey did not evidently study the building's extensive historical legacy (just check the vintage photos--where does he create a King Tut basement in a former Italian-designed space--and get an award for restoration?).

Why did he remove the balcony partitions--which the late, former Chicago Landmark Commission selected to ignore as a violation of landmark designation? Why was the functioning orchestra lift removed, providing a huge pork barrel to the stagehands union, and severely compromising both acoustics and function?

Experts from across the country laugh at this boondoggle; is the Reader falling in line to adore "The King's New Clothes" of public disgrace?

You had a chance to tell truth. Was it an err, oversight, or plan?

Vicky Hamman
N. Oakley

Robert McClory replies:

Ms. Hamman's suggestion that a public relations agency had any influence on the reporting or writing of the story is absolutely false, as is virtually every other statement in her sour-grapes letter.

Dan Coffey has no relatives in City Hall--now or in previous administrations.

The Chicago Theatre restoration would not have occurred unless some "fat cats" had become involved.

Far from making millions, most of the investors have taken a financial beating; as the story noted, the theater's ongoing problems are connected with its management, not the restoration.

The merits of individual aspects of the restoration are subject to interpretation; no one compelled the National Trust for Historic Preservation to give the project an award.

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