Saturday, August 06, 2011

Chase-Community Compact needed

Here is my Hillsdale News commentary on the unfolding story about JPMorgan Chase's proposal to build a branch in Hillsdale. For the story itself, go to

Communication is equal parts sharing of views, attentive listening and keeping an open mind.

But first you have to get everyone in the same room.

And if agreement is the objective, they need to be willing to meet again and again.

That desperately needs to happen here in Hillsdale as sides line up over Chase Bank's push to put a branch on the old gas station site next to Baskin Robbins.

The atmospherics surrounding Chase's surprising filing for City approval is already tense, to say the least.

We may disagree about the bank's plans, but the need for harmony and progress is such that we can't disagree over the need to communicate.

As things stand now, the community has less than two weeks to comment to the City about the proposal - this in a month when neither business nor neighborhood associations meet.

An "emergency" neighborhood association meeting has been called for Tuesday, August 9 at 6 p.m. at the Watershed building.

That's a beginning. Chase officials, to their credit, plan to attend to answer questions.

I believe they need to do more than that.

I have a proposal which I've shared with some members of the Hillsdale Main Street Board. It doesn't pretend to be a silver bullet, but it might provide a framework for a solution, better use of the lot, an attractive building and a stronger community.

Call it "The Chase/HIllsdale Community Compact plan.

Under the plan, Chase would extend the comment period until bank officials and community members can forge a partnership. The Chase-Community partners would jointly draft the compact, a document that identifies shared objectives and pledges to meet them.

After that, the representative compact group would come up with an agreed upon site design and structure. The discussion leading up to the compact should include, but not be limited to: mixed use building occupancy, more than one story, transit-pedestrian orientation, affordable housing, sustainability, community needs (meeting room, financial support, gathering places), architectural integration with adjacent properties, undergrounding utilities and streetscape aesthetics, local lending and on-going Main Street involvement and cooperation.

I'm sure others will add to the list.

After the inevitable give and take of next Tuesday's meeting, the essential next step should be to establish a framework for moving forward.

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