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Archive for the ‘Chicago-esque’ Category

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Emanuel ordinance grants exemption for petcoke

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Mayor Emanuel
Mayor Emanuel

Gee, Rahm, did you think that nobody would notice this? Not a good way to win re-election, environmentalists are motivated voters, with long memories…

Faced with public outrage about gritty black dust blowing through Chicago’s Southeast Side, Mayor Rahm Emanuel talked of forcing towering mounds of petroleum coke out of Chicago and outlawing new piles with costly regulations.

But the fine print of a zoning ordinance unveiled Tuesday by the Emanuel administration opens the door for greater use of the high-sulfur, high-carbon refinery byproduct in the city.

Under changes outlined at a hearing of the City Council’s powerful zoning committee, companies would be allowed to store and burn petroleum coke in Chicago if “consumed onsite as part of a manufacturing process.” The special exemption also would allow companies to burn stockpiles of coal.

KCBX Terminals, a company controlled by industrialists Charles and David Koch, already is defending a lawsuit filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan that accuses the company of violating air pollution laws at its facility off Burley Avenue between 108th and 111th streets. Another Madigan lawsuit urges a Cook County judge to cite KCBX for violating water quality and open dumping laws by failing to prevent petcoke and coal from washing into the Calumet River at its 100th Street storage terminal.

A separate state order required Beemsterboer Slag Co. to remove petcoke and coal from its 106th Street storage terminal.

KCBX has a contract to store petcoke generated by the BP refinery just over the Indiana border in Whiting. To process more heavy Canadian tar sands oil, BP recently completed an overhaul of the refinery that will more than triple its output of petcoke to 2.2 million tons a year – a figure Emanuel has frequently cited when vowing to crack down on the dusty piles.

“It’s unfortunate the city is undercutting the mayor’s very clear statements,” said Henry Henderson, a former Chicago environment commissioner who heads the Midwest office of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This is a retreat.”

(click here to continue reading Chicago Tribune – Emanuel ordinance grants exemption for petcoke.)

Presidential Towers with a Benjamin
Presidential Towers with a Benjamin

I wonder if there were any Koch-Dollars involved? Sounds suspiciously like there was some back channels being worked here by somebody…

Yesterday, a hearing on Chicago’s proposed ordinance to ban new and expanded petroleum coke operations gave us a good example of why this town often deserves its international reputation for political shenanigans.

The City Council’s Zoning Committee had set a hearing to move on the ordinance that would significantly restrict transportation, disposal and use of petroleum coke in our communities. Based on weeks of discussions with the City authorities, and the stated goals of the Mayor, everyone thought they were coming to a hearing in the City Council’s zoning committee to weigh in on new rules on the handling and usage of the ashy oil refining waste (as well as coal) which has appeared in massive mounds on the Southeast Side.

But instead, John Pope, sponsor of the ordinance and Alderman of the 10th Ward where the piles reside, tried to pull a switcheroo.

But the Alderman’s new version eliminates the prohibition on petcoke and coal users. That means big facilities that burn the stuff, like cement manufacturers and dirty energy producers, are free to open and expand across many city districts.

Given recent maneuvering in the area, it is likely that he has a couple of users clearly in mind: a cement plant and the formerly aborted Leucadia coal gasification plant.

(click here to continue reading Chicago Petcoke: Alderman’s Shameful Switcheroo Undercuts His Neighbors, the Mayor and the Entire City | Henry Henderson.)

and this tidbit is troubling:

And it opens the door to expansion of the blight. While the oil refining waste has largely been seen along the banks of the Calumet River on the Southeast Side, it is important to remember that there are plenty of other potential destinations in town. In our testimony at the hearing, my colleague Meleah Geertsma noted that under current law, facilities in almost any of Chicago’s “Planned Manufacturing Districts” have the right to bring big piles of petcoke and coal. The City has 15 of these zones, which include places like the Clybourn Corridor, Goose Island, the Chicago/Halsted Corridor, Pilsen and West Pullman.

Written by Seth Anderson

April 3rd, 2014 at 4:59 am

Drapac USA Moving to West Loop – 1215 W. Fulton St

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Technicolor Haze over West Loop
Technicolor Haze over West Loop

I continue to be flabbergasted at the number of new businesses and restaurants moving into the West Loop, especially in Fulton Market, despite the large number of remaining food processing plants remaining that share the space. If you walk down Fulton St in the late afternoon, you still have to evade being splashed by bleach, or stepping on raw chicken bits. The old companies haven’t been forced out yet, in other words. It isn’t a sleek, modern neighborhood by any stretch of one’s imagination. The sidewalks are often cracked, if available at all, the train tracks are a scant couple of blocks away – with accompanying noise and diesel fumes – and yet…

NAI Hiffman represented Drapac Group, an Australian-based company with U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles, in its new lease with event planner, The Revel Group, at 1215 W. Fulton St. in Chicago. Drapac closed on the 36,730-square-foot building purchase on Dec. 31; the new lease was completed just 10 days earlier. “The collective goal of our team was to secure a tenant and stabilize the asset prior to closing,” said Kelly Disser, vice president with NAI Hiffman’s industrial services group. “The transaction was a great success for Drapac as it enters a popular Chicago market.”

The activity reflects the growing transformation of Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood as dozens of office, residential, hotel and restaurant developments are underway, including: the makeover of the Fulton Market Cold Storage Building that will be anchored by Google, a Nobu hotel and restaurant on Randolph Street, and Soho House on Green Street. 1215 W. Fulton offers a premium West Loop location on the southwest corner of Fulton Street and Racine Avenue. The property includes a 30,862-square-foot warehouse with office space and a fenced and secured parking lot.

(click here to continue reading Drapac acquires, leases 36,730-square-foot West Loop property | REJournals.com.)

This made me chuckle:

In 2010, Drapac Group USA was established with a head office in Los Angeles to invest in the rapidly rebounding US real estate market, and capitalise on the unprecedented real estate opportunities that were created as a result of the Global Financial Crisis.

(click here to continue reading Drapac Australia » Home.)

Sunset in Fulton Market, with pallets
Sunset in Fulton Market, with pallets

Cleaning Up
Cleaning Up

Nothing Ever Stays The Same
Nothing Ever Stays The Same

Fulton Market Lineup
Fulton Market Lineup

Written by Seth Anderson

January 24th, 2014 at 9:04 am

Why Yes, it Is Snowing A Bit was uploaded to Flickr

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Chicago streets a bit slick right now, be careful…

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/iRs5YG

I took Why Yes, it Is Snowing A Bit on January 02, 2014 at 03:29PM

and snow will continue for the foreseeable future:

Today: Windy…snow. Areas of blowing snow in the afternoon. Snow accumulation of 3 to 5 inches. Total snow accumulation 4 to 8 inches. Highs 16 to 20. Then temperatures falling into the upper single digits by evening. Lowest wind chill readings 10 below to 20 below zero in the afternoon. North winds 10 to 20 mph increasing to 20 to 30 mph. Gusts up to 40 mph. Chance of precipitation 100 percent.

Tonight: Windy…cloudy. A 20 percent chance of snow showers in the evening. Areas of blowing snow. Bitterly cold. Lows 15 to 19 below…except 11 to 15 below downtown. Lowest wind chill readings 35 below to 45 below zero after midnight. Northwest winds 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 35 mph.

Monday: Windy. Partly cloudy. Areas of blowing snow. Very cold with record breaking temperatures likely. Temperatures nearly steady around 13 to 17 below. Wind chills as low as 35 below to 45 below zero. West winds 20 to 30 mph until late afternoon decreasing to 15 to 25 mph late in the afternoon. Gusts up to 40 mph.

(click here to continue reading 7-Day Zone Forecast for Cook County.)

Written by eggplant

January 5th, 2014 at 10:02 am

Before Passing Judgement

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Before Passing Judgement
Before Passing Judgement

Former USPS building, now to be? Casino? who knows…

Bill Davies bought the site, but I don’t know if his plans have yet been finalized.

www.chicagogrid.com/news/dave-roeder-post-office-plans/

Bill Davies, the secretive British investor who wants to redevelop the old Chicago Main Post Office, is making a new bid for credibility with revised plans for the massive building that straddles Congress Parkway.

His latest proposal, which got its first airing at a community meeting Tuesday night, calls for making the federally landmarked building a mostly residential and parking complex and the centerpiece for surrounding hotel rooms, stores and offices.

Davies has hired Chicago architect Joseph Antunovich of Antunovich Associates to craft the plans for a first phase of 5.2 million square feet, more than what’s in Willis Tower. It would include a 1,000-foot-tall building east of the post office, and a later phase envisions a tower that would top Willis in height.

Written by Seth Anderson

December 4th, 2013 at 6:22 pm

Divvy Bike-sharing Program Off To A Good Start

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Yayyy, got my DivvyBikes key today
Yayyy, got my DivvyBikes key today

Jon Hilkevitch of the Chicago Tribune reports:

The Divvy bike-share service, less than two months old, surpassed the 150,000-trip mark Friday, according to CDOT. About 5,000 annual Divvy members are enrolled, at $75 each, and more than 37,000 24-hour passes have been sold, at $7 each.

More than 458,000 total miles have been logged on individual trips since the service was introduced June 28, and the trips have averaged roughly 18 minutes each in recent days as more docking stations have opened, according to city transportation data.

Also, the three-speed bikes painted “Chicago blue” have logged more than 11,000 miles a day in recent days this month, with some weekend days exceeding 25,000 miles, the data show, based on the start and end points for each trip.

The service, dubbed Divvy to reflect the divide-and-share nature of bike-sharing, is not designed or priced for users to hog the bikes on leisurely, hourslong trips. Customers are supposed to use the bikes for 30 minutes or less on each ride. Riders get unlimited trips lasting up to a half-hour; after that, overtime fees are charged.

While on the one hand calling the public response to the Divvy program “beyond expectations,” city officials have set a high bar for ultimate success.

(click here to continue reading Divvy bike-sharing program, almost 2 months old, getting in gear, data show – chicagotribune.com.)

You Always Have Options
You Always Have Options

I signed my company up for Divvy Bike membership about two weeks ago, wanting to wait until the opening night jitters were worked out, and have been using the bikes for short trips around my office. I’ve taken more than ten rides so far, experiencing only one incident of faulty station – but a Divvy Bikes employee was on hand and took my bike to a different location for me. Also once the station I was planning to use didn’t have any bikes in it, but the next station was less than 2 blocks away. One other minor issue I encountered was that the amount of force you have to use when docking a bike surprised me, and at first I couldn’t get the bike to dock, but eventually a fellow Divvy-rider did it for me. I returned to favor to another rider the next day.

I own a bike of my own, but having a Divvy bike membership encourages brief bike rides; times where I might have taken a cab, or walked, instead I’ll jump on a Divvy bike. Of course, it’s summer right now, and Chicago has been having a beautifully mild season, the real test will be in mid-January. I’d also like to be able to travel farther, this will be possible when more stations are installed. Currently only 160 out of a planned 400 are active, less than half.

Regardless, I’m happy to support the idea of more bikes in Chicago. More bikes on the road means less cars, in general, and also encourages the government to install more bike lanes, which encourages more bikers, and so on. 

Written by Seth Anderson

August 19th, 2013 at 9:16 am

Public Park as Part of 150 N Riverside

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Streaking Home Streaking Home

As part of an interesting discussion of the planned development on Randolph and the Chicago River, 150 N. Riverside, we read this aside about Boeing’s infamous unfriendliness to civilians and tourists…

[Alderman Brendan] Reilly has been emphatic in noting that this will be a public park, not a publicly accessible private park. When Hines finally agreed to build its park at River Point, the Texas developer tried to start negotiations over how many days a year it would be available to the public. Reilly said words to the effect of “Homey don’t play that” and sent Hines packing until it realized that Chicago isn’t Houston and you can’t just build whatever you want without regard to the neighbors.

The Hines park will now be open all year round.

Neighbors, however, are worried that the the 150 North Riverside park will be significantly less than promised. They don’t want a repeat of what’s going on one block to the south at the Boeing building. When the Seattle aircraft maker moved here, what used to be a nice, welcoming public plaza became a fortress with security guards harassing the locals for walking through what’s supposed to be a public riverwalk, threatening tourists for the imaginary crime of camera possession, and keeping the place behind locked gates more often than it is open. That is also the case up the street, where the residential development north of Kinzie Street keeps the public riverwalk locked up. If you want to legally access it, you must go to a security office and ask a guard to unlock it for you.

The developer is trying to assuage the locals fears by promising to deed the 150 park to the city. But then he repeatedly states the park will be open “dawn to dusk.” City parks are open until 11pm. And it’s not like city parks have a stellar track record of openness, access, and not trying chasing tourists away because they’re holding cameras. When it’s not snowing, there are parts of Millennium Park repeatedly locked off for private events, and some parts that are closed to the public for big corporations for months at a time.

(click here to continue reading Grand Plans for “Millennium Park Lite” Come With West Loop Office Tower | The Chicago Architecture Blog.)

Photography is not legal at Boeing either Photography is not legal at Boeing either

Really, if you are walking through this area with a camera, Boeing’s guards (some of whom have weapons on display) will come to full attention, and gods forbid if you step towards their building with your camera at the ready. A very, very unfriendly neighbor, to say the least. Many, many years ago when I was a dew-faced young lad, I worked a temporary job here, when Morton Salt’s HQ was here (or nearby, memory is a funny thing) – I remember sitting by the Chicago River eating my lunch in a pleasant, public plaza. You would probably have to duck bullets if you tried this today, or at any time since Boeing moved in circa 2001.

Golden Plowshares Golden Plowshares

Back to 150 N Riverside: we are personally not opposed to a new development here, especially if Alderman Reilly can enforce the public park aspect of the plan. The Loop, west, and the West Loop areas are drastically underserved by greenspace. In an ideal world, 150 N Riverside aka 400 W Randolph wouldn’t be a building at all, instead, the City of Chicago could construct an elevated public park above the tracks, just like Millennium Park itself! But we are realists, so that’s simply a fantasy.

For your amusement, a few other photos of the general area in question, as it looks today. Double click to embiggen…

Waiting for the 216

Waiting for the 216

Transport is Arranged Transport is Arranged

train yard train yard

Merchandise Mart Negative Scan 9-10-12 Merchandise Mart Negative Scan 9-10-12

Misdirected Remarks - Agfa Scala Misdirected Remarks – Agfa Scala

Dusk in River North Dusk in River North

Map of the block

 

 

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Seth Anderson

August 2nd, 2013 at 8:03 am

Cities Need to Weigh Costs of Private Partnerships

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The city is sucking the life out of you and you just give coins
The city is sucking the life out of you and you just give coins

The parking meter debacle will always be Mayor Daley’s legacy, and a stain on Chicago’s history. Daley made this decision, rammed it through a compliant City Council, and then decided not to run for Mayor again, leaving behind a budget in shambles. 

An after-the-fact investigation (PDF) by the city’s inspector general concluded that the decision to enter the lease contract lacked “meaningful public review” and neglected the city’s long-term interests to solve a short-term budget crisis. Specifically, it found that “the city was paid, conservatively, $974 million less for this 75-year lease than the city would have received from 75 years of parking-meter revenue.” That’s nearly $1 billion that could have been used for better police and fire protection, longer library hours and many other services that would benefit the public good rather than private profits. By Dec. 31, 2009, Chicago had only $180 million left from the $1.15 billion parking meter deal, forcing the city to consider alternative sources of revenue rather than relying on long-term reserve funds generated by the parking meter lease.

Parking rates increased to as much as $8 for two hours. The initial contract required seven-day-a-week paid parking. The city was able to negotiate out of that requirement but in exchange had to extend paid parking until 10 p.m. Downtown business owners have blamed the increase in rates for a decrease in economic activity.

Taxpayers are further harmed by the contract’s fine print, which says that they must reimburse Morgan Stanley and its Qatar-based business partner for any time the space is used for anything other than parking — including parades and festivals. The city is prevented from performing routine road maintenance that would occupy a parking space on all but a few days a year without paying a penalty.

Perhaps most egregious, Chicago cannot build parking lots for the entire duration of the contract because they might compete with the outsourced parking meters.

In fact, the “noncompete” and “compensation” clauses mean the city won’t be able to make, for 75 years, fundamental economic development, land use or environmental policy decisions — anything that would affect the revenue of the parking company. Roderick Sawyer, alderman for Chicago’s Sixth Ward, has called this parking privatization scheme “outrageous for taxpayers, undemocratic, and un-American.”

(click here to continue reading Cities Need to Weigh Costs of Private Partnerships – NYTimes.com.)

Mayor Emanuel
Mayor Emanuel

Of course, the experience of privatization hasn’t stopped the current mayor from selling off more of the city’s assets as quickly as he can find bidders.

A preliminary agreement for a 62-year lease, not yet spelled out in a contract, calls for Denver-based transportation behemoth the Broe Group to invest a minimum of $100 million, and perhaps as much as $500 million, over the next 10 years in the port to modernize its infrastructure and draw new business. In return, Broe would retain 90 cents of every dollar in new revenue generated by port operations, with the remaining 10 cents going back to the port district, a hybrid city/state entity. Broe also will pay the agency $1 million a year.

The shared revenue would be used to pay down the district’s debt, around $30 million, and its pension liability, around $5 million, Forde said.

Emanuel said the project ultimately would create 1,000 new jobs.

The district’s board approved the framework Friday and authorized Forde to negotiate the contract, which could take about 60 days. The district anticipates port improvement work would begin next year.

The move to private management is the latest step in that direction by local and state government, and bears some resemblance to the privatization of management at the McCormick Place convention center. In both instances, public boards appointed by the mayor and governor will continue to have oversight.

A major question is whether such a deal robs the public agency of potential future revenue — a major criticism of the city of Chicago’s privatization of parking meter operations. Currently, the district’s operations are supported entirely by rent and fee payments.

Transportation expert Joe Schwieterman, a professor at DePaul University, said such a negative scenario is possible, in theory, if the industrial segment of the economy were to take off, robbing government of revenue.

(click here to continue reading Private operator Broe Group to invest in Port of Chicago – chicagotribune.com.)

Increased Risks
Increased Risks

and you have to wonder at the timing of articles like this:

When Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Sunday that a private company would take over management of the Port of Chicago on the city’s Southeast Side, it was evident port operations were not shipshape. For one thing, the port lost money every year for the past decade, until last year.

Now it’s clear the port — run by a government authority — was more deeply troubled.

A blistering 155-page report by the Illinois Auditor General released this week details instances of rampant mismanagement at the port, sloppy record-keeping, issuance of no-bid contracts for sizable purchases and generally poor oversight by the Illinois International Port District. The district owns and operates the Port of Chicago as a landlord, leasing land, buildings and docks to private operators.

The report details numerous shortcomings in how the port operated, from big-picture failings such as having no long-term strategic plan for developing the port, to day-to-day operating failures, such as not having written leases with some tenants and many instances of poor or non-existent record-keeping.

It noted the district’s policies governing use of port facilities and services, including rates for dock and wharf fees, hadn’t been updated in 30 years, since April 1983, also noting the rates are the lowest among several comparable ports.

(click here to continue reading Audit of state port authority turns up widespread mismanagement – chicagotribune.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

July 26th, 2013 at 8:29 am

Google Going to Fulton Market After All?

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A Tiny Little Cog in The Machine
A Tiny Little Cog in The Machine

There were credible rumors1 that Google was going to move into the West Loop, but then Google signed a lease in River North instead. However, according to Crain’s Chicago, it still might happen:

Google Inc. is mapping new office territory in Chicago. The Mountain View, Calif.-based technology giant is in talks to move its Chicago office to the city’s meatpacking district, where it would lease more than 200,000 square feet, sources say. If a deal is struck, it would dramatically reshape the gentrifying Fulton Market-Randolph area, where foodies flock to a thriving restaurant row but major office tenants have yet to arrive. Landing one of the world’s most recognizable companies would bring instant legitimacy to an office market now made up of small tenants in low-rise loft buildings.

… “Google is an unbelievable engine,” says Chicago tenant broker Bob Chodos, a principal at Seattle-based Colliers International who is not involved in the Google deal. “Wherever they go gets bigger.” Google’s employees, mostly in sales, are outgrowing the Kinzie Street tower where the company’s lease for about 150,000 square feet expires at the end of 2015. As Google expands here, it is expected to need more than 200,000 square feet, and possibly up to 300,000, sources say.

Enter Sterling Bay Cos., which reached an agreement to buy the 10-story Fulton Market Cold Storage warehouse, the tallest in the neighborhood, in 2011. The Chicago developer is converting the existing building and an attached new structure into about 540,000 square feet of office and retail at 1000 W. Fulton St. by late next year.

In addition to Google, Boka Restaurant Group—which includes chef Stephanie Izard’s nearby Girl & the Goat and Little Goat Diner—is finalizing a deal for a steakhouse on the ground floor of the former meat storage facility, sources say. 

Already, construction of a Soho House hotel is underway near the intersection of Halsted and Randolph streets. Nobu Hospitality Group, whose owners include actor Robert De Niro, in March confirmed its desire to put another boutique hotel and a Japanese restaurant on Randolph.

(click here to continue reading Has Google outgrown River North? – In Other News – Crain’s Chicago Business.)

I’ve taken a few photos of this building over the years…

Peel Back the Sky
Peel Back the Sky

You People
You People

West Loop Castle Magic
West Loop Castle Magic

In Need of A Few Good Windows
In Need of A Few Good Windows

Greater Fulton Market
Greater Fulton Market

May You Build a Ladder to the Stars
May You Build a Ladder to the Stars

Dreaming of Fulton Market Cold Storage
Dreaming of Fulton Market Cold Storage

Greater Fulton Market
Greater Fulton Market

Fulton Market with Lounge - Red Bleach
Fulton Market with Lounge – Red Bleach

A Photographer in Fulton Market
A Photographer in Fulton Market

Footnotes:
  1. which I swear I blogged about, but now cannot find []

Written by Seth Anderson

June 4th, 2013 at 8:22 am

10-year strike at Congress Plaza Hotel is over

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On Strike
On Strike

Strikers at the Congress Plaza Hotel
Strikers at the Congress Plaza Hotel, 520 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605

Wow, that’s unexpected. Sounds like the Union caved, but perhaps I’m wrong.

A 10-year strike at the Congress Plaza hotel in downtown Chicago, believed to be the longest hotel strike in history, has ended.

A attorney for the hotel said Unite Here Local 1, the union representing cleaning and maintenance workers, has offered an unconditional return to work as of midnight Wednesday.

The union confirmed Thursday morning that it is ending the strike.

 “The decision to end the Congress strike was a hard one, but it is the right time for the union and the strikers to move on,” Unite Here Local 1 President Henry Tamarin said in a statement. “The boycott has effectively and dramatically reduced the hotel’s business. … There is no more to do there.”

Tamarin said when the strike started, the standard wage for room attendants was $8.83 per hour — a wage contract workers still make. The city wide standard for room attendants is now $16.40 an hour, he said.

(click here to continue reading 10-year strike at Congress Plaza Hotel is over – chicagotribune.com.)

The Infamous Congress Hotel
The Infamous Congress Plaza Hotel

Congress Plaza Hotel Strikers March On
Congress Plaza Hotel Strikers March On

Congress Hotel
Congress Hotel

Hallway at Congress Hotel
Hallway at Congress Plaza Hotel

Written by Seth Anderson

May 30th, 2013 at 9:18 am

Chicago Tourism Group Gets Creative With Ideas

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This Much is True
This Much is True

Make no small plans, right? Choose Chicago is floating the idea of privately financed tourist attractions.

A group of Chicago tourism officials and civic supporters who want to give the city’s image and economy a boost is examining a slate of ideas for new attractions and amenities that include light shows playing off downtown skyscrapers, airborne glass cable cars running along the riverfront and designated luxury cars on the transit line to O’Hare.

The brainstorming is taking place under the auspices of Choose Chicago, the not-for-profit that serves as the city’s convention and tourism bureau. Bruce Rauner, its chairman, is leading the push, along with significant input from hotel investor Laurence Geller, Broadway in Chicago President Lou Raizin and Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts.

The broad outlines of the vision, which aims to draw as much as $30 billion in private investment, are expected to be disclosed Thursday at the annual meeting of Choose Chicago. Other ideas include plane rides along the lakefront and perhaps an architecturally stunning casino complex if gambling is approved for the city.

“We said, ‘Let’s be aspirational and aggressive, not just incremental,’ ” Rauner said. The aim is to boost visitor numbers from nearly 44 million in 2011 to 70 million annually, which, if achieved, would blow past the 50 million Mayor Rahm Emanuel would like to see by 2020.

 

(click here to continue reading Group gets ‘aggressive’ with ideas for tourism.)

About that Road to Happiness…
About that Road to Happiness…

So what are the plans under consideration? 

Among the ideas under consideration, according to Rauner and other sources:

  • Dramatic light show-type illuminations of city buildings and structures, such as bridges.
  • A luxury casino-anchored entertainment complex, along the lines of the Marina Bay Sands, a massive resort in Singapore designed by Moshe Safdie and built for more than $5 billion. Such a project would depend on getting state approval for a downtown casino.
  • Tourism “carriages” on the CTA between downtown and O’Hare International Airport, which would be set up as sorts of club cars, where travelers could get drinks and help with their luggage, among other amenities.
  • Glass-bubble airborne cable cars — with air conditioning in summer and heat in winter — that would take visitors along the river from Navy Pier to the point where Wacker Drive turns south.
  • A float plane port on Northerly Island, where tourists could take plane rides up and down the lakefront.
  • A jazz and blues hall of fame on the Near South Side
  • A lakefront botanic garden
  • A technology park for children
  • An architecture festival, similar to Biennale cultural festivals in Europe.

Pretty much all fun ideas in the abstract. I’m not crazy about a casino, and the City hasn’t even legalized gambling yet, but I have no moral objection to people throwing away their money, so why not make it architecturally significant? 

One does have to question the motives here, however. No organization is going to donate money to the City of Chicago without some strings attached. What are they? They claim to have enough private money to create all these marvels, but I would be very surprised if there weren’t some kick-ins from Chicago, financial or otherwise. Especially because Bruce Rauner has an agenda

Written by Seth Anderson

February 19th, 2013 at 11:15 am

Posted in Business,Chicago-esque

Tagged with ,

Cable Car Remnants in Chicago

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IBEW 134 is supporting Obama

Interesting. I’ll have to get a better photograph of this place.

Much less well-known is the West Chicago Street Railroad’s (WCSR) former powerhouse, still standing in the West Loop at Washington Street and Jefferson Street. Equipment in this building drove two cables: one that pulled cable cars through the tunnel under the Chicago River along Washington Street and around the downtown and another shorter cable that pulled cars from Washington Street and Jefferson Street to Madison Street and DesPlaines Street.

This former WCSR powerhouse at Jefferson and Washington streets drove the cables that pulled West Side cable cars through the tunnel under the South Branch of the Chicago River and around two downtown loops. It is now the headquarters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134. The building was vacated in 1906, and for decades it housed the Chicago Surface Line’s Legal and Accident Investigation Department. Subsequently, it was modified—more substantially, perhaps unalterably, than the NCSR’s powerhouse on LaSalle Street. Several dormers were added at the roofline, the rear portion of the building was extended, and the smokestack was removed. Most significantly, a large stone wall covers much of the first floor. Today, the building serves as headquarters for Local 134 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which also hosts the monthly meeting of the 20th Century Railroad Club.

(click here to continue reading Cable Car Remnants | Forgotten Chicago | History, Architecture, and Infrastructure.)

Update: a better photo

Former Powerhouse of West Chicago Street Railroad

Written by Seth Anderson

December 30th, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Merchandise Mart Attracts Tech Start-Ups in Chicago

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Don't Pretend Nothing Happened On that Day
Don’t Pretend Nothing Happened On that Day

I’ve mentioned this, at least in passing, and maybe only on Twitter, but the Merchandise Mart is now home to several tech businesses, as is the entire area. Enough of a trend that the stately New York Times noticed:

Once a dormant area of empty warehouses, the River North section of Chicago has evolved into a nexus of dining, night life and, most recently, an aspiring rival to Silicon Valley. Its 45 square blocks are home to the headquarters of Groupon, the Chicago offices of Google and several hundred technology start-ups.

Now River North’s digital transformation is extending to one of the neighborhood’s most storied — and decidedly low-tech — commercial addresses. The Merchandise Mart, a Depression-era behemoth of limestone, concrete and steel that has long been synonymous with fabric bolts and furniture, is becoming a destination for the city’s digital set.

“River North as an area has become very tech-savvy and very tech-cool,” said Todd O’Hara, founder and chief executive of Toodalu, an app-building start-up that moved into the building this year. “The Merchandise Mart is definitely kind of the pinnacle of all of it because of everyone coming in.”

The biggest newcomer, Motorola Mobility, plans to relocate its headquarters from the suburb of Libertyville to four floors of the mart next year, as well as take up a big chunk of the building’s roof space for entertaining and group events.

It is the third major technology company to sign a lease with the mart since December, and 175 or so small tech businesses like Toodalu sublet space.

(click here to continue reading Merchandise Mart in Chicago Attracts Tech Start-Ups – NYTimes.com.)

I’d include the nearby West Loop area too, there are plenty of examples there too – Threadless and so on. I think it’s cool, since for the most part, tech businesses are happy with industrial-esque spaces with exposed brick and mechanicals. In other words, they are not moving in and destroying every building in their wake to build cookie-cutter WalMarts and Targets, or bland corporate HQ. Schafer Condon Carter even restored a beautiful old wreck of a building on W. Madison.1 

Streaking Home
Streaking Home

And the Merchandise Mart, while a beautiful building on the outside, does need a little bit of modernization, at least from what I’ve seen of the interior.

The new tenants also cite the proximity of commuter rail lines, the abundance of parking, bike locker storage — and the energy around the River North neighborhood. According to BuiltInChicago.org, a Web site dedicated to the tech sector, the area had nearly 7,500 tech jobs as of last month.

“This is, like, the hottest place in the city right now,” said Kevin Willer, the chief executive of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, which manages 1871, a nonprofit digital hub that provides space to start-ups in the mart.

That hub has helped convert the 12th floor into a lively area of curving sofas and people on Razor scooters, but even the mart’s new fans say the aging giant remains a place largely associated with “a lot of dark, dreary rooms,” as Mr. O’Hara, the Toodalu founder, said.

Opened in 1930 by Marshall Field & Company, now defunct, the mart had been owned by the Kennedy family under Joseph P. Kennedy Enterprises for more than a half century before being sold to Vornado in 1998. With 4.2 million gross square feet, it is among the largest commercial buildings in the world.

The recent influx of tech tenants has brought stark change. The designers of the tech offices have been allowed to gut and renovate spaces. (In the process, some historical gems, like a metal and brick fire door found at 1871, were left to meld with the newly designed areas.) The mart is installing a distributed-antenna system, to be finished by year-end, which will improve cellphone reception and wireless connectivity throughout the building.

Some of the tech companies are configuring their new spaces with a hopeful eye to the future.

Razorfish, the digital marketing and advertising company owned by Publicis, consolidated its disparate Chicago offices into the mart’s 12th floor nearly a year ago, installing conference tables of reclaimed wood and a keg refrigerator with two rotating beers on draft.

Razorfish hired about 100 more people since opening its Chicago office, which was built for a capacity of 400, according to Lori Schram, the company’s facilities manager, and plans to expand its space within the mart.

And 1871, whose name alludes to the year of the great Chicago fire and the innovation that happened during the rebuilding of the city, has so far accepted 175 companies out of 600 applications for space, Mr. Willer said. Tenants of 1871 pay monthly rent for either shared or reserved space and qualify for seminars, tech events and access to venture capital firms and angel investors in the hub.

and that’s a good excuse as any to show a few more of my favorite photos taken in the general area…

 Merchandise Mart Reflects

Merchandise Mart Reflects

Easist Thing I Ever Did
Easiest Thing I Ever Did

Dusk in River North
Dusk in River North

Caresses of Light
Caresses of Light

Sometimes The Sky Is Too Bright
Sometimes The Sky Is Too Bright

Meditation Upon a River
Meditation Upon a River

Destinations
Destinations

Fall Nocturne
Fall Nocturne

More of my photos of the Merchandise Mart, of River North, of Wolf Point

Footnotes:
  1. though SCC is not a tech company, but an ad agency. Close enough. []

Written by Seth Anderson

October 11th, 2012 at 8:57 am

A Brief Rain Storm

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A Sunday night rain storm; my soundtrack was Townes Van Zandt and bottle of decent enough red wine. And the sound of falling water.

30 Seconds of a Rainy Night in Chicago
30 Seconds of a Rainy Night in Chicago



and the actual 30 second video, theoretically… (Flash, sorry)

Not Wishing To Intrude
Not Wishing To Intrude

Rain Bokeh Number 2169
Rain Bokeh Number 2169

Out The Window Blues
Out The Window Blues

Absinthe Verte in the Rain
Absinthe Verte in the Rain

Listen to The Falling Rain
Listen to The Falling Rain

Inside A Broken Clock
Inside A Broken Clock

Youtube version:

Written by Seth Anderson

August 28th, 2012 at 8:59 am

Preckwinkle tells the truth: Reagan deserves special place in hell for war on drugs

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Nancy Reagan - Just Say Yo
Nancy Reagan – Just Say Yo

Kudos to Ms. Toni Preckwinkle for speaking the truth. Earlier editions of this story didn’t mention the subsequent dialing back…

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Tuesday said former President Ronald Reagan deserves “a special place in hell” for his role in the war on drugs, but later regretted what she called her “inflammatory” remark.

The comment from Preckwinkle, known more for a reserved, straight-ahead political style, came at a conference led by former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar, who’s now at the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs.

Preckwinkle was defending the recent move by the city of Chicago to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana by allowing police to write tickets, saying out-of-whack drug laws unfairly lead to more minorities behind bars.

Downstate Republican state Rep. Chapin Rose of Mahomet questioned whether such an approach includes drug treatment for those who are ticketed. Preckwinkle said no, arguing that drug treatment should be part of the health care system, not criminal justice. She said Reagan deserves a “special place in hell” for his involvement in “making drug use political.”

(click here to continue reading Preckwinkle regrets saying Reagan deserves ‘special place in hell’ for war on drugs – chicagotribune.com.)

If I ever have a chance to meet Ms. Preckwinkle, I’d like to shake her hand – too many politicians bend their knee to the War on Drugs, despite the facts.

Patience please
Patience please

While President Richard Nixon is generally credited with starting the war on drugs, critics contend Reagan ramped up the issue for political purposes during the 1980s.

“Ronald Reagan wasn’t the first or the last, but he was certainly the most prominent at the very beginning,” Preckwinkle told the Tribune in a phone interview.

The resulting policies have had the effect of sending young African Americans and Latinos to jail and prison in disproportionate numbers, she said. They also have driven up government costs and damaged communities, she said.

“Drug policy in this country has been in the wrong direction for 30 years,” she said. “I think that’s something they should acknowledge. If I had it to do over again, I certainly wouldn’t say anything quite so inflammatory. But my position basically remains the same.”

Shouldn't That Be a Right Turn?
Shouldn’t That Be a Right Turn?

Jeralyn Merritt, of the seminal blog Talk Left, wrote this about Saintly Ron back in 2004:

three of [Reagan’s] less-than-endearing legacies deserve to be highlighted

Mandatory minimum drug sentences in 1986. This was the first time Congress passed mandatory minimum sentences since the Boggs Act in 1951.

Federal sentencing guidelines: Under this new method of sentencing, which went into effect in 1987, prison time is determined mostly by the weight of the drugs involved in the offense. Parole was abolished and prisoners must serve 85 percent of their sentence. Except in rare situations, judges can no longer factor in the character of the defendant, the effect of incarceration on his or her dependents, and in large part, the nature and circumstances of the crime. The only way to receive a more lenient sentence is to act as an informant against others and hope that the prosecutor is willing to deal. The guidelines in effect stripped Article III of their sentencing discretion and turned it over to prosecutors.

The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988: This law established a federal death penalty for “drug kingpins.” President Reagan called it a new sword and shield in the escalating battle against drugs, and signed the bill in his wife’s honor… Did the law nab Pablo Escobar? No. The law’s first conquest was David Ronald Chandler, known as “Ronnie.” Ronnie grew marijuana in a small town in rural, northeast Alabama. About 300 pounds a year. Ronnie was sentenced to death for supposedly hiring someone to kill his brother-in-law. The witness against him later recanted.

As a result of these flawed drug policies initiated by then President Reagan, (and continued by Bush I, Clinton and Bush II) the number of those imprisoned in America has quadrupled to over 2 million. These are legacies that groups like Families Against Mandatory Minimums are still fighting today. Even George Shultz, Ronald Reagan’s former secretary of state, acknowledged in 2001 that the War on Drugs is a flop.

In Smoke and Mirrors, Dan Baum, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, provides a detailed account of the politics surrounding Reagan’s war on drugs.

Conservative parents’ groups opposed to marijuana had helped to ignite the Reagan Revolution. Marijuana symbolized the weakness and permissiveness of a liberal society; it was held responsible for the slovenly appearance of teenagers and their lack of motivation. Carlton Turner, Reagan’s first drug czar, believed that marijuana use was inextricably linked to “the present young-adult generation’s involvement in anti-military, anti-nuclear power, anti-big business, anti-authority demonstrations.” A public-health approach to drug control was replaced by an emphasis on law enforcement. Drug abuse was no longer considered a form of illness; all drug use was deemed immoral, and punishing drug offenders was thought to be more important than getting them off drugs. The drug war soon became a bipartisan effort, supported by liberals and conservatives alike. Nothing was to be gained politically by defending drug abusers from excessive punishment.

(click here to continue reading Reagan’s Drug War Legacy | Alternet.)

Written by Seth Anderson

August 21st, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Climate Change and Cities

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99 in the Shade
99 in the Shade

I moved to Chicago in 1994, and the heat-wave of 1995 surprised me. I was used to living in extreme heat in Austin, several of my cheap apartments didn’t have air conditioning. But Chicago was not culturally or politically prepared to deal with the heat of that summer. This year’s heat-wave was taken a lot more seriously by city officials, as Eric Klinenberg reports:

the most visible human drama of climate change is happening in cities. Cities are not merely the population centers where dense concentrations of people are trapped and exposed during dangerous weather events. They are also “heat islands,” whose asphalt, brick, concrete and steel attract the heat while pollution from automobiles, factories and air-conditioners traps it. City dwellers experience elevated heat at all hours, but the difference matters most at night, when the failure of high temperatures to fall deprives them of natural relief. For the most vulnerable people, these “high lows” can be the difference between life and death.

Americans began to take urban heat seriously after 1995, when a record-breaking heat wave — three days of triple-digit heat — baked Chicago. Ordinarily, heat waves fail to produce the kind of spectacular imagery we see in other disasters, like earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and floods. Heat doesn’t generate much property damage, nor does it reveal its force to the camera or naked eye. Heat waves are invisible killers of old, poor and other mostly invisible people. Until the summer of 1995, medical examiners and media outlets often neglected to report heat-related deaths altogether.

But the great Chicago heat wave changed things. It caused so much suffering that at one point nearly half the city’s emergency rooms closed their doors to new patients. Hospitals were not the only institutions stretched beyond capacity by the heat. Streets buckled. Trains derailed. The power grid failed. Water pressure diminished. Ambulances were delayed.

There were “water wars” in poor neighborhoods, where city workers cracked down on residents who opened fire hydrants for relief. There were surreal scenes at City Hall, where members of the mayor’s staff declined to declare a heat emergency, forgot to implement their extreme heat plan and refused to bring in additional ambulances and paramedics.

And there was Mayor Richard M. Daley, telling reporters: “It’s hot. It’s very hot. But let’s not blow it out of proportion,” while the morgue ran out of bays and the medical examiner had to call in a fleet of refrigerated trucks to handle the load. When the temperatures finally broke, 739 Chicagoans had died as a result of the heat wave.

Chicago learned from the disaster, and today it is a national leader in planning for the next acute heat emergency. The city compiles a list of old, isolated and vulnerable residents, and public workers contact them when dangerous weather arrives. City officials and community organizations promote awareness and encourage residents to check in on one another. The local news media treat heat waves as true public health hazards. Everyone knows how perilous the new climate can be.

Unfortunately, Chicago keeps getting reminders. In the early July heat wave, despite its improved emergency response system, Chicago reported more heat deaths than any other city or state. And this week the Union of Concerned Scientists released “Heat in the Heartland,(PDF)” a study that reports an increased incidence of dangerous hot weather throughout the Midwest in the past 60 years, including elevated evening temperatures and more heat waves lasting three days or longer. Along with Chicago, the report singles out St. Louis, Detroit, Minneapolis and Cincinnati as being at risk, but also cites public health research predicting more heat waves in towns and cities throughout the Midwest and Northeast.

(click here to continue reading Is It Hot Enough for Ya? – NYTimes.com.)

Help Me Make It Through The Night
Help Me Make It Through The Night

Rising temperatures are not just a concern for the future. Dangerously hot weather is already occurring more frequently in the Midwest than it did 60 years ago.

The report, Heat in the Heartland: 60 Years of Warming in the Midwest, presents an original analysis of weather data for five major urban areas — Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Minneapolis, and St. Louis — as well as five smaller nearby cities.

The results from the analysis are clear: Hot summer weather and heat waves have been increasing in cities in the nation’s heartland over the last six decades on average. The report documents this trend, explores its health implications, and looks at what the largest cities are doing to adapt to these changes and protect their residents.

High temperatures can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, and deadly heat stroke. Very hot weather can also aggravate existing medical conditions such as diabetes, respiratory disease, kidney disease, and heart disease.

Urban populations, the elderly, children, and people with impaired health and limited mobility are particularly susceptible to heat-related illness and death.

(click here to continue reading Heat in the Heartland: The Growing Health Risks of Heat Waves and Hot Summer Weather in the Midwest (2012) | Union of Concerned Scientists.)

Now if only someone could come up with a good (non-financial) reason for the Tea Party and other GOP factions to support a national policy dealing with climate change…

Written by Seth Anderson

August 5th, 2012 at 8:21 am