Yerkes to be sold for $8 Million... Jun 8, 2006 10:21:52 GMT -6
Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Jun 8, 2006 10:21:52 GMT -6
U. of C. agrees to sell historic Yerkes Observatory site to N.Y. developer for $8 million
Published June 7, 2006, 8:54 PM CDT
Ending years of hand-wringing over what to do with a glorious part of its history that had become obsolete, the University of Chicago on Wednesday announced a contingency-filled plan to sell its historic Yerkes Observatory.
The deal with a New York developer would provide more than $8 million to the university while safeguarding the future of the century-old stargazing center along Lake Geneva in southern Wisconsin, U. of C. officials said.
But the transaction depends on a small lakefront village overcoming local opposition and establishing a special exposition district to take over the one-time research hub.
The village of Williams Bay, Wis., already is preparing for hearings on the proposal, which calls for a luxury resort and dozens of homes to be built on the property. President Don Weyhrauch predicted that public review will take at least a year.
"It's not going to be cut and dried," he warned.
The university's decision to put Yerkes on the block last year touched off an outpouring of concern among residents opposed to large-scale development around the lake. It also worried astronomy buffs who regard Yerkes as something of a shrine, where Edwin Hubble and other giants of science once plied their trade.
The University of Chicago needs to sell Yerkes to redirect resources into teaching and cutting-edge research, said President Don Randel.
"Modern astronomy long ago moved on, and the university needs to stay focused on what we do best, which is advancing the frontiers of knowledge," he said.
Proceeds from the sale will help fund a new building on the Hyde Park campus to house the university's astronomy department, and pay for research using state-of-the-art telescopes far from population centers. Yerkes' famed 40-inch refracting telescope dates from the late Victorian age, and its use is hampered by the relatively cloudy and light-polluted skies over southern Wisconsin.
While Yerkes has been obsolete for years, the university's Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics has long debated what to do with it, said Angela Olinto, department head. "It's taken decades," she said. "People have been talking about this since the '70s."
As it considered its options, the university struggled to balance competing interests, said Hank Webber, vice president for community and government affairs.
"This is really a hard problem," he said. "There will be people who say, 'I wish it was the way it was.' If we did that, it would raise questions about whether we're being responsible as a university."
Mirbeau Cos.' plans call for a luxurious 100-room spa and 72 new homes on a portion of the 79-acre property. That would provide tax revenue needed to maintain the castle-like Yerkes structure and some 30 acres of park-like grounds immediately surrounding it, which would go to the village.
More here: www.chicagotribune.com/business/chi-060607yerkes-observatory,1,3075954.story?track=rss
I think it's a very bad move, and putting the fate into the hands of a profit based developer and the surrounding citizens may prove it's doom.
Yerkes Oberservatory...Soon to be auctioned off at Ebay... #shootme#