Wright's weak Trust

Opinion: Editorials

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The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust has negligible talent for public affairs, for making a case, and selling it to any constituency. In a corollary to that failing, the organization seems fully confrontation-averse.

So here we are. The Trust bought an old house adjacent to its campus, spent a lot of time and, we suppose, a good bit of money commissioning notable architects to design a sleek and necessary new visitor center. They get pushback from neighbors opposed to any change and from a Historic Preservation Commission where the criteria for any vote is preserving what's sitting there.

This began with the Trust dropping this hatched plan from 30,000 feet, hoping that a page one plaudit from the Tribune's Blair Kamin would carry the day. Their strategy since has been to issue press releases which always say, "This will be the only comment the Trust will make on this subject."

The last such release announced they were giving up on the current plan, would not push it forward to the village board, which actually gets to decide such things. And they implied they might come back around with another plan that presumably leaves every blade of grass intact.

If they come back around, they ought to be ready to get their nails dirty. Either engage in discussion with critics on the front end or be prepared to mount a defense on the back end. 

Or some combination.

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Christine Vernon  

Posted: September 10th, 2019 3:04 PM

It is doubtful The Trust wants to get their finger nails dirty. I know from living in the surrounding neighborhood for 47 years that the neighbors have better things to do than spend time in an adversarial proceeding with the Home and Studio. It's a kind of a marriage, the neighbors and the Home and Studio. Since its founding in 1976, there has been both harmony and issues to overcome. There are always wrinkles in every relationship, are there not? Over the years, it worked out pretty well. Whether this epoch fail will end peaceful coexistence remains to be seen. It is as if one spouse made an extravagant plan, without consulting the partner to give away a huge portion of their joint personal assets without asking the significant other. It is as if, suddenly, one of the spouses was found out to be having an dalliance with some other entities. Ahhh, the old betrayal scenario, while the silent partner was acting in good faith. It is obvious that The Trust is good at Public Relations by all of the media coverage they garnered for their grandiose proposal. It is also obvious that they are terrible at Community Relations when, at the Historic Preservation Commission their Chairman said that The Trust, contacted stakeholders in the surrounding neighborhood. One Historic Preservation Commission member, owner of a house near the Home and Studio, responded that he lived 500 feet from the Home and Studio and had never heard word one about The Plan. Neither did any of the other neighbors to his knowledge, some of whom would be most impacted. The other example of The Trust's failure was the night the HPC unanimously rejected The Trust's proposal. Among the public written or spoken 90 comments were approximately 5 for the project and 85 against - including prominent historians, architects, and two prominent historic preservation advocacy agencies. The National Trust for Historic Preservation and The Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy. Yes, a weak trust.

Blair Kamin from Chicago   

Posted: September 10th, 2019 1:38 PM

There was no "plaudit" from me in the front page news story about the Trust's visitor center plan. In fact, the Tribune was the only news organization to get to the bottom of the Trust's obfuscatory press release and identify that the plan would require the demolition or removal of one of the houses in question. Subsequently, I critiqued the plan, pointing out both plusses and minuses. You're right about the Trust's failure to commit transparency, but wrong about the Tribune's coverage.

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