The city of Pasadena, California is commemorating a residence once occupied by President Barack Obama while he was attending Occidental College in the nearby city of Eagle Rock. The apartment residence, located at 253 Glenarm Street, is being adorned with a special plaque honoring the president’s stay, which lasted from 1980 to 1981. Obama spent two years attending Occidental College before transferring to Columbia University in New York City for the 1981-1982 school year. The Dingbat-style, six-unit apartment structure was built in 1967 and measures approximately 4,418 square feet in size, according to property data obtained via Redfin. The two-story structure features an exterior gallery along the western edge of the ground floor as well as punched openings populated by sliding windows along that facade. The structure is marked by a double-height entry portal along the street-facing facade. The building will become eligible for the National Register of Historic Places next year, 50 years after its construction. Efforts to recognize the residence began during Obama’s first administration and required research assistance from Pasadena city and library employees who scoured old telephone books to find the appropriate address. On the topic of Occidental College, LAist quotes Obama as saying “It’s a wonderful, small liberal arts college. The professors were diverse and inspiring. I ended up making some lifelong friendships there, and those first two years really helped me grow up.” At an event celebrating the plaque installation, Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek told KPCC, “There is tremendous interest that there is sort of a living link between Pasadena and the President of the United States.”
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Two designers are among the 21 Americans chosen this month to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. President Barack Obama selected architect-artist Maya Lin and architect Frank Gehry to receive the medal, presented annually to individuals who have made “especially meritorious contributions” to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. The medals will be presented at the White House on November 22. “The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not just our nation's highest civilian honor—it's a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better,” Obama said in announcing the recipients. “From scientists, philanthropists, and public servants to activists, athletes, and artists, these 21 individuals have helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way." Lin was cited in the White House announcement as “an artist and designer who is known for her work in sculpture and landscape art. She designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. and since then has pursued a celebrated career in both art and architecture. A committed environmentalist, Lin is currently working on a multi-sited artwork/memorial, What is Missing? bringing awareness to the planet's loss of habitat and biodiversity.” Gehry was described as “one of the world’s leading architects, whose works have helped define contemporary architecture. His best-known buildings include the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the Dancing House in Prague, and the Guggenheim Museum building in Bilbao, Spain.” Obama’s 2016 list includes 19 living Americans and 2 who have died, and is heavy on figures from the entertainment and sports industries. Others joining Lin and Gehry include: Ellen DeGeneres, Robert De Niro, Robert Redford, Lorne Michaels, Diana Ross, Vin Scully, Bill and Melinda Gates, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Bruce Springsteen, Cicely Tyson and Tom Hanks/David S. Pumpkins.
The Barack Obama Foundation has announced the seven offices from which it is requesting proposals for the design of the Obama Presidential Library in Chicago. The seven firms include four New York–based offices, one London-based office, one based in Genova, Italy, and one local Chicago office. The offices named are:
- Adjaye Associates of London, headed by David Adjaye
- Diller Scofidio + Renfro
- SHoP Architects
- Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects
- Renzo Piano Building Workshop
- John Ronan Architects
President Barack Obama has announced that in tandem with a program by the National Endowment for the Arts, ArtPlace America will invest $18 million in six place-based organizations, four of which focus on place-making. ArtPlace America is a national collaboration among private foundations, federal agencies, and financial institutions. Its executive director Jamie Bennett has said the money will be used to "incorporate arts & culture into their community development work." In the announcement, Bennett went on to say: “these six organizations will demonstrate the unique value that artists and arts organizations can bring to the full spectrum of community development priorities, including community resiliency, economic development, housing, open space, public health, and youth opportunity.” Each organization will receive $3 million each over the course of three years. In the last four years ArtPlace America has invested over $67 million in 227 creative place-making projects in 152 communities spreading across 43 states. The winning organizations were selected from a list of 21 and include:
- Cook Inlet Housing Authority (Anchorage, AK) - focuses on affordable housing development and broad neighborhood revitalization strategies
- Fairmount Park Conservancy (Philadelphia, PA) - champions the role parks play in strengthening civic life and economic development
- Jackson Medical Mall Foundation (Jackson, MS) - promotes local economic and community development opportunities with a health-based lens
- Little Tokyo Service Center (Los Angeles, CA) - focuses on affordable housing development, social services, and community organizing and planning
- Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership (Southwestern Minnesota) - looks at comprehensive housing and community development
- Zuni Youth Enrichment Project (Zuni Pueblo, NM) - promotes healthy lifestyles among Zuni youth and families
Chicago's historic Pullman neighborhood will become a national monument, perhaps putting it into the National Park Service's portfolio—the first Chicago property to receive such a designation. President Barack Obama is expected to name the Far South Side area a national monument during a visit to his adopted hometown next week, invoking his presidential authority under the Antiquities Act for the 14th time. White House officials said it is part of Obama's efforts to diversify the nation's collection of historic places. An analysis by the liberal Center for American Progress found fewer than one-fourth of 461 national parks and monuments had a focus on diverse groups. The home of Pullman Palace Car Co., which made sleeper cars for rail passengers, the Pullman area retains a collection of Queen Anne–style architecture left over from Pullman's worker housing and administration buildings. That collection is considered one of the country's first “company towns.” Once prairie land, Pullman became part of Chicago in 1907. An 1894 strike cemented its place in labor history, when U.S. marshals killed several workers participating in the country's first industrywide walkout. That strike led to the creation of the nation's first African American union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Illinois lawmakers said in a letter to the President that Pullman “helped build the black middle class and laid the groundwork for the Civil Rights movement of the mid-20th century." The boundaries of the district will be 103rd Street on the north, 115th Street on the south, Cottage Grove Avenue on the west and the Norfolk & Western rail line on the east.
Not to be outdone by proposals in Chicago and New York, Snøhetta and WCITARCHITECTURE have thrown their hats into the ring for the Obama Presidential Library, sketching a unique building in the President's home state of Hawaii. If selected, their Barack Obama Presidential Center, affiliated with the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, would take its cues from the forms of both a coral reef and the area's undulating topography. The building would curve around a central courtyard and emerge from the ground with a sloped, planted roof. According to Dawn Hirai, a spokesperson for the presidential center, the proposal is meant to be conceptual, providing the Obama Foundation "an 'idea' of what can be done on the ocean front site." Other ambitious concepts for the 8-acre, state-supplied site were created by Allied Works, MOS with Workshop-HI, and Ferraro Choi. An elevated public terrace of the Snøhetta and WCIT building would provide unobstructed views of the famous Point Panic surf break, the Honolulu skyline, and the crater-like Diamond Head State Monument, the island's most famous landmark. Lifting the building will provide space for an attached park, containing local fixtures like fish ponds, taro fields, and salt pans. Inside the building would contain exhibit spaces, meeting rooms, a restaurant, and facilities for affiliated organizations. According to ABC News, the Obama Foundation, which is overseeing the library competition, has accepted four final proposals. The president and first lady are expected to select the winning bid for the roughly $500 million project by March.
While speculation around the Barack Obama Presidential Library continues to swirl, plans for one of the project's four potential sites just became a bit clearer. The University of Chicago, where the President taught law, made public this week new renderings and details of their bid for the nation's 14th such library, trotting out sunny images that show the economic development potential of investment in the South Side areas surrounding Washington Park. The University of Chicago is among four finalists selected to vie for the library, whose governing nonprofit is expected to deliver a decision later this year. (Hawaii, New York City, and the University of Illinois Chicago also submitted proposals in December.) They proposed two sites, according to the Chicago Tribune: one in western Jackson Park, bounded by South Stony Island Avenue to the west, South Cornell Avenue to the east, East 60th Street to the north and East 63rd Street to the south; the other in western Washington Park and 11 acres outside of it, stretching as far west as South Prairie Avenue, and encompassing the Garfield Green Line stop. Both areas include land not owned by the University, which an anonymous source close to the deliberations previously told the Tribune could make the committee “hesitant to commit” to the plans. The sites each measure in excess of 20 acres, but only a fraction of that is slated for the library itself and accompanying structures. Nonetheless some open space advocates have accused the proposal of cannibalizing park land. Charles A. Birnbaum, president of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, penned an op-ed in the Huffington Post lamenting, “we still have to deal with retrograde thinking that views parks as dumping grounds and places to put 'stuff.'” Washington Park, which borders the University of Chicago's Hyde Park campus, was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and his partner, Calvert Vaux, the designers of New York City's Central Park. But Susan Sher, who is leading the the University of Chicago's library bid, told the Tribune's Melissa Harris it's common for such projects to include existing park space. “When you look at the possibilities and the criteria of having enough space for the legacy of a major historical figure, you can't just plop it in the middle of a shopping center,” she said. The University's hometown competitor, UIC, proposed a park that would bridge the Eisenhower Expressway, as well as economic development and community resources for underserved West Side areas. While UIC's proposal is more straightforward in its ownership, it also faces obstacles. Illinois' new governor, Republican Bruce Rauner, is expected to appoint a new chancellor of the public university system, which could sow uncertainty about the institution's library plans. Despite the new images and site boundaries, plans for the hotly anticipated library project remain unclear. In addition to selecting a host institution, the library foundation committee will also need to hire an architect, who will ultimately decide on the library's form and exact location. The plans newly made public by the University of Chicago are scant on details for that reason, although they do allude to an "education corridor" along 63rd Street, and a "cultural ribbon" that would connect Washington Park with a "renewed Jackson Park."
And then there were four. The committee in charge of picking a site for President Barack Obama’s presidential library and museum narrowed the playing field to four illustrious institutions of higher learning, with two in Chicago. The University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, Columbia University, and the University of Hawaii have until December 11 to submit their bids, just in time to kick back and sip some eggnog while the president gears up for his last two years in office.
You don’t often hear Mayor Rahm Emanuel utter these words, so when Rahmbo admitted he “made a mistake” in proposing naming a Near North Side school after Obama, his former boss, we thought it worthwhile to get him on the record here. Earlier this year Emanuel threw $60 million in TIF funding to the planned selective enrollment school, offering up the name apparently without consulting local leaders, including the head of Chicago Public Schools. They didn’t like the idea, as it turns out, probably only a little more than Emanuel didn’t like every local reporter committing his rare self-effacement to print.
President Obama will reportedly nominate San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. If confirmed by the senate, Castro will succeed Shaun Donovan, a trained architect, who has been at the agency since 2009. Donovan is expected to head the Office of Management and Budget. Since the news about Castro broke, there has been very little discussion about what this appointment means for the future of HUD. Instead, the Chattering Class has been entirely focused on what it means for national politics. And that is not surprising given that Castro is a “rising star” in Democratic politics. He gave the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, is seen as a possible vice presidential candidate in 2016, and has been referred to as the "next Obama" in countless columns. Many political observers believe this nomination is a way for President Obama to increase diversity in his cabinet, and for Castro to build a national profile. But back to the task at hand: What will Castro mean for the future of HUD? That is a hard question to answer because, again, this appointment is so wrapped up in politics. His background at the helm of a major Southwestern city brings its own distinct qualifications to the job. One possible glimpse into Castro’s legislative priorities is SA 2020, an initiative his administration launched in 2010 as a community-based approach to city planning. According to an SA 2020 progress report, by 2020, the city plans to add 5,000 new apartments downtown, reduce vehicle miles traveled per individual by 10 percent, and double attendance at cultural programs. As HUD Secretary, Castro will be tasked with setting somewhat similar goals, but on a much larger scale. Implementing any big plans, though, will be difficult considering the president has less than three years left in his term. One immediately pressing topic on his agenda will be Rebuild By Design, a design challenge led by the agency to create a more resilient Eastern seaboard. AN recently reported that the competition's winner would be announced in the coming weeks. A possible change of leadership at HUD is not expected to change that. An official involved with Rebuild, who is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, told AN "everything is moving as planned with full dedication and speed."
After President Barack Obama leaves office, he’s expected to announce the location of a Presidential Library in his name. Its location has been a topic of debate for some time already, years ahead of Obama’s return to civilian life in 2017. His birthplace, Hawaii, has made a push, as has New York’s Columbia University, where Obama got his undergraduate degree in political science. Chicago, the President’s adopted hometown, is a natural frontrunner in the preemptive race, as it’s where Obama made most of his political ties and first launched his career in public service. Michael Sorkin said as much in a column for The Nation:
Chicago is clearly to be preferred. Not simply is it the city where the Obamas will presumably live post-presidency, but it is where Obama made his first deep contributions in public service and the place to which he returned to begin and advance his political mission. More, the neighborhoods bruited as choices in Chicago (half a dozen have appeared on one list or another) might all strongly benefit from the injection of institutional activity and investment.That column ended up in a proposal from Sorkin’s studio that positioned the library in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood, where several large vacant sites along 63rd Street lie waiting. Just to the north is the University of Chicago, where Obama taught law. Woodlawn’s relationship with its wealthy neighbor, the University of Chicago, is famously strained. While the most contentious days of that story may be in the past, Woodlawn suffers from the same entanglement of poverty, segregation, and violence that snarls many South Side communities. As Curbed editor Sarah Cox noted, a high-profile development like the Obama Presidential Library could be a shot in the arm:
@Cementley I'm really pulling for Woodlawn now. This could be huge for the South Side. — Sarah F Cox (@xoxoCox) January 9, 2014Sorkin’s proposal attempts to address this with “the revival of Woodlawn’s main street,” 63rd Street, between Ellis and Woodlawn avenues—a three block stretch of vacant lots just steps from a Metra stop:
The Obama library has the opportunity to become a genuinely local player and to contribute to the improvement of everyday life for the neighborhoods that surround it. This will require a physical and social architecture that is supportive, not aggressive or standoffish. It offers the chance to build a model environment.It would be "the first Presidential Center to be truly urban," the proposal says. Sorkin told AN his studio drew up the proposal in preparation for a National Design Award reception at the White House. He said he handed the brochure to Michelle Obama. But it’s not the only South Side site that has drawn attention. Paula Robinson, president of Bronzeville's Black Metropolis National Heritage Area Commission, recently argued in the Chicago Tribune that Obama’s presidential library should land in the Michael Reese Hospital site. View the proposal, which Michael Sorkin Studio describes in the text as “highly conceptual plans,” here: MSS_Obama Library proposal
Midwest train travelers will enjoy a quicker passage, as Amtrak approves a new top speed of 110 mph for a section of its Chicago-St. Louis route. Though trains will only accelerate to the new top speed over a 15-mile segment, officials said another $1.5 billion investment over three years of upgrades will bring the rest of the track up to speed. The current top speed is 79 mph over most of the route. Instead of 5 and a half hours, future trips could be under 4 hours. Union Pacific Railroad and Amtrak tested a new system of triggers for highway crossing gates earlier this year. Amtrak's Midwest presence has seen a significant ridership boost, following trends around the country. Transit in general may be enjoying a small renaissance, with the CTA counting 16 months of rail and bus line increases. Despite setting ridership records, Amtrak is losing money and faces an uncertain future.