Though I have appreciated the Chronicle’s past coverage of the proposed destruction of greenspace at Calumet Country Club, I have been very troubled by the recent coverage that uses the property owner’s framing of both the development and the parties involved.
Although context and fact-checking were sorely missing in Carole Sharwarko’s Nov. 22, 2022 piece, the biggest issue is the idea that the recent development from the property owner’s agent is a “new” idea and that Catalyst Consulting is a “new” developer.
Some would defend the piece by saying that the Chronicle was just reporting what the consulting group said, but printing quotes without factchecking is dangerous and detrimental to the Southland.
The property is still owned by Diversified Partners, and far from being removed from Walt Brown and Diversified Partners, Catalyst Consulting’s website (until recently) listed Diversified Partners as a client.
When Scharwarko’s piece was shared to social media by a representative of Catalyst Consulting, Walt Brown reacted to the conversation in the comments, showing how intimately involved he continues to be in this development and his partnership or patronage of Catalyst Consulting.
Hazel Crest attorney John Murphey wrote a memo to the village of Hazel Crest’s mayor and manager on July 11, 2022, which South Suburbs for Greenspace obtained through a FOIA request. In it, Murphey describes the relationship between Diversified Partners and Catalyst Consulting. He explains that Diversified Partners needs annexation, zoning, and TIF funding from the Village of Hazel Crest, but DP has no means to get it because Mayor Alsberry unequivocally said on Feb. 16, 2021, “Hazel Crest will not consider annexing this property based on this development and this proposed development plan. We do not want to do business with this developer.” So, the developer needed to present themselves as a different group and this plan as a different plan.
In the same memo, Murphey points out that there is no capital available for the type of development that Catalyst is proposing. He wrote: “No lender is going to lend money to this project based on the speculative perimeter property uses,” but there is “a strong market for industrial warehousing.”
In 2019, Walt Brown told the Village of Homewood that he had done the market research and there were no viable uses for the property, other than industrial, explaining that the “demographics” of an area determine its potential uses. Brown is still the owner of the property, and the demographics of the Southland have not changed since 2019.
Gary Dingle, president of the Chicago Far South Suburban branch of the NAACP, described Catalyst Consulting’s and Diversified Partners’ relationship this way: “Diversified Properties is a white-owned company located in Scottsdale, Arizona,” which “could not even present a Black face to a Black community. So, they created a Black face company, Catalyst.” Dingle clearly states Diversified Partners’ impediment selling our communities on this proposal: “They made a bad investment based on racist beliefs.”
To plainly state the facts: The property is still owned by Diversified Partners. Diversified Partners is a client of Catalyst Consulting. Catalyst has been hired to get zoning and the establishment of a TIF district from Hazel Crest. The proposal will still require industrial zoning of a current greenspace. Any presentation of the proposal (i.e. the Nov. 22, 2022 Chronicle piece) that omits these facts works in the service of Diversified Partners’ (and the consultants they hired) that aim to bring an industrial development into a residential area.
This piece has lent liars the Chronicle’s legitimacy and reputation.