Archive for the ‘Chicago-esque’ Category
Chicago related, duh
We’ve mentioned this proposed historical district plan before, and we’re still enthused by it. However, not everyone is.
While it maintains the existing zoning, the plan provides guidelines for how the neighborhood should be developed so that officials deciding the fates of the many projects being proposed can follow a strategic vision, said Steven Valenziano, assistant zoning administrator with the Department of Planning.
The part of the plan that imposes historic landmark status on buildings within a section of the district — along Fulton Street between Racine Avenue and Green Street, along Randolph Street between Carpenter and Halsted streets, and the swath of Sangamon Street from Fulton to Randolph — is being met with staunch resistance from some Fulton Market business and property owners.
They worry the preservation restrictions will handcuff them to obsolete buildings, making it hard to do business if they need to make building improvements, or reduce the resale value if they decide to leave.
“It turns my business into an exhibit in this theme park,” said Melissa Otte, part of the family that owns the butter, cheese and egg distributor Meloney Cunningham & DeVic at 1114 W. Fulton St., which is one of the buildings that would be landmarked. “It’s really upsetting to hear that you’re history when you still work there.”
(click here to continue reading Fulton Market historic district could kill what it honors, critics say – chicagotribune.com.)
Seems like Melissa Otte’s long term plan was to raze her building, and sell it to developers to build generic condos on. So sorry.
My photo was used to illustrate this post
My photo of Boston Store used here, sans credit. I don’t care, much, because there are a lot of fun photos here. Though, it is unfortunate that this dude didn’t give credit to most of the photographers who took the photos.
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There is a new proposal to turn the Fulton Market corridor into an historic district, meaning that real estate developers would not be able to tear down existing structures here willy-nilly to put up cookie-cutter condos or boring square box stores. No more McDonald’s, in other words, unless they are put in an existing structure.
In general, I’m for this idea, I think it is intriguing, but the details are always key, of course. How heavy handed will the City be? Where is the money going to be coming from? Who will be the decision maker? How soon will the National Register of Historic Places act if asked?
Dozens of buildings along major stretches of Randolph Street and Fulton Market — including ones that house some of the city’s best-known restaurants — would become part of a historic district under a city proposal that the Commission on Chicago Landmarks will consider Thursday.
The proposal — presented at a community meeting Tuesday night — calls for granting historic designation to a six-block stretch of buildings on Randolph between the Kennedy Expy. and a property just west of Carpenter Street and along Lake Street from Peoria to Morgan streets. An eight-block stretch on Fulton Market between Halsted Street and Racine Avenue would also be landmarked.
The 75 buildings that would be affected by the historic designation currently house restaurants including the Girl and the Goat and the Publican and multiple restaurant supply businesses and butchers.
The proposed historic district is part of a larger land-use plan that would regulate building construction and designs in the area and also bring streetscaping and other improvements to create a “distinct sense of place,” documents say.
The proposal stated the plan would help preserve “an area of historic buildings occupied by new and traditional food business that showcase Chicago as the culinary epicenter of the Midwest.”
It’s also an area that “has attracted innovative industries” — including Google — which the city believes will continue.
(click here to continue reading Randolph Street, Fulton Market to Become Historic Districts Under City Plan – West Loop – DNAinfo.com Chicago.)
I’ve taken a few photos of Fulton Market over the years, click here for some of them…
If you’ve ever visited Pike Place Market in Seattle, the River Market District in Kansas City, or the Gansevoort Market District (Meat Packing District) in New York, you’d have an idea of what the City of Chicago is thinking about.
Here’s the presentation itself if you are interested.
The presentation mentions the transformation of the CCP Holden Building on W. Madison as an example of what could be done, and it is true, there are several older buildings left on Fulton Street that could use a little loving care and restoration after years of neglect.
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.)
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.
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.)
embiggen by clicking
I took Why Yes, it Is Snowing A Bit on January 02, 2014 at 03:29PM
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.)
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.)
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.
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
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.)
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.)
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.)
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…
- which I swear I blogged about, but now cannot find [↩]
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.)
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.)
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…
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
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
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
- though SCC is not a tech company, but an ad agency. Close enough. [↩]