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Lee Bey resigns as exec director of Chicago Central Area Committee

Lee Bey

Lee Bey

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Updated: April 16, 2013 4:17PM

Lee Bey, a former mayoral aide and onetime architecture critic of the Chicago Sun-Times, said Thursday he is resigning from the Chicago Central Area Committee.

The committee, a planning and advocacy organization for downtown businesses and institutions, is refocusing its activities. Its budget and visibility have declined in recent years because of a tough economy and because its function has overlapped with other groups that get heavy corporate support.

Bey said the committee will continue to contribute to dialogue about development and other issues affecting downtown. Other sources said the group is discussing an alignment with the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, with which it has shared office space in the Aon Center.

With a history dating to 1956, the committee has participated in numerous plans for the downtown area.

Changes for the group “don’t reflect on its mandate, but on the tensions everyone is under when it comes to fund-raising,” said Bey, who has been its executive director since 2007. He said he is stepping down because the board needs someone “with a fresh set of eyes.”

Bey, 47, served as a deputy chief of staff for former Mayor Richard M. Daley.

He said a main achievement of his tenure with the committee was to make the committee more important at City Hall. It contributed to the administration’s ideas for redeveloping the former site of Michael Reese Hospital, he said.

The group’s board chairman, attorney Gregory Hummel, said that as the notion of what constitutes downtown has expanded, the membership’s interests have grown. He said he expects to enlarge the board and have it “take ownership” of particular issues.

“We are on the verge, I hope, of great things,” he said. “It’s a pretty lean organization. We all check our egos at the door.”

Bey said he plans to continue an architecture blog he writes for WBEZ-FM (91.5) and to develop an architectural photography business.

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