Posts tagged with "Chicago":

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Historic abandoned Sears complex transformed into affordable housing

Sears and Roebuck Company may no longer be the giant it once was, yet its physical presence is still all over the city of Chicago. As the company had no brick and mortar retail stores until nearly 30 years after its founding in 1886 as a mail-order catalog, many of its earliest buildings were for logistics and storage. One of those old structures is its large original headquarters and catalog printing facility. Abandoned for 40 years, the epic building has now been converted into 181 affordable housing units. Located in the North Lawndale neighborhood on the city’s West Side, the complete renovation was lead by Solomon Cordwell Buenz Architects, James McHugh Construction Co., and Denco, for client Mercy Housing Lakefront. The six-story brick complex will house upwards of 300 residents in 79 one-bedroom units, 52 two-bedroom units, 40 three-bedroom units, and 10 four-bedroom units. Other amenities include a community room, laundry facilities, a computer center, and an exercise facility. The redeveloped complex will now be known as the Lofts on Arthington. Limestone and terracotta details throughout, as well as many of the other original details, were restored in the process of converting the campus. Nearly the entire roof and over 100,000 square feet of flooring had to be completely replaced. Much of the structure had to be updated as well, along with filling in underground tunnels once used by Sears to move across the complex. In recent years, Sears has continued its decline, with an announcement from the company’s leadership expressing “substantial doubt” about its future. Famously, the company’s namesake supertall tower was renamed the Willis Tower in 2014, though most Chicagoans still refer to it as the Sears Tower. The Old Chicago Main Post Office, which was once the largest post office in the world thanks to Sears’s mail-order business, was vacated in 1997. Now with many of Sears’s old buildings being refurbished, and the Old Main Post Office being completely renovated, some of Chicago’s largest structures, from the golden age of mail-order merchandising, are getting a second chance at life.
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Chicago uses Airbnb fees to house 100 homeless families

While many cities struggle with their relationship with house-sharing micro-rental companies, Chicago is looking on the bright side of the relatively new phenomenon. The city has announced that it will use $1 million raised from fees paid by homeowners who use home-sharing platforms, such as Airbnb, to help house 100 homeless families. The Housing Homeless Families program is a joint initiative with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, one of the city’s primary resources for information on and advocacy for the homeless population. The program will focus on families in areas of the city with high violent crime rates, including Austin, Englewood, West Englewood, and Humboldt Park. Working with shelters that specialize in family services and the Chicago Public School system, the program will focus specifically on families with school-age children. “The goal of this initiative is to help our most vulnerable families to establish stability so that their children can succeed,” said Department of Family and Support Services Commissioner Lisa Morrison Butler. "Thanks to collaboration with our partners at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, the city will deliver a coordinated response to ensure the needs of our most vulnerable families are met, and to prevent families on the cusp from experiencing homelessness.” The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless recently released a report on the number of homeless people in the city. The count includes data on those who “double-up,” referring to people that do not have their own home but stay with friends or relatives. The report, which looks at 2015, found the city to have 82,000 homeless individuals, which includes nearly 10,000 homeless families. It is estimated that 87 percent of those who identified as homeless were “doubled-up.” The money for the new program was raised through a $1 million investment by the Chicago Low Income Housing Trust Fund, with matching funds from a four percent surcharge leveled against homeowners using Airbnb and other home-sharing programs. That money will go towards providing housing vouchers to families and provide additional transition services. Those services will include helping families set up appointments, navigate the housing application process, and work with housing providers. The ultimate goal is to find permanent housing for the participating families. “Around the city, children should be able to focus on their studies, and not where they are going to sleep at night,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the announcement of the initiative. “Working with our partners at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless on this new initiative, we will work to ensure that more families experiencing or on the verge of homelessness can find and maintain the housing and stability they need to thrive and provide for their children.”
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Gensler designs affordable housing TOD for Chicago’s South Side

While transit-oriented developments (TOD) have become ever more popular on the near Northwest side of Chicago, the latest such project is on the complete other side of town, and it offers something the others don’t. The Woodlawn Station development will be located at the 63rd and South Cottage Grove station of the CTA L Green Line, and will include 70 units of mixed-income housing, in three buildings. The main building of the development will have 55 market-rate and affordable housing units. The four-story building was designed by Gensler with Chicago-based Nia Architects as the architect of record. The base will include 15,000-square-feet of retail and commercial space, and other amenities include a rooftop deck, a play garden, and community room. As a transit-oriented development, it will have limited car parking, and extra bike storage space. A digital transit info screen will let residents know when trains are approaching, as they will only have a few steps to take to get to the station. The importance of the Woodlawn Station project is in the role it will play in the quickly revitalizing neighborhood. Earlier this year it was reported that, for the first time in 50 years, Woodlawn had seen an increase in population while simultaneously a decrease in crime. A great deal of emphasis is being put on the neighborhood by the city, as it will also soon be home to the Tod Williams Billy Tsien-Designed Obama Presidential Center. In recent years, other projects, from the Woodlawn Resource Center to University of Chicago student housing, have all added to the improvement of the neighborhood. The developers of the project, Preservation of Affordable Housing, Inc. (POAH), specifically focus on developing affordable housing. Along with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); City of Chicago; Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC); JP Morgan Chase; BMO Harris Bank; and the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) the project is an example of how multi-layered public/private financing is often used to build affordable housing in Chicago. Yet local officials are quick to point out that federal funding may soon be a smaller part of the equation. "The developers of this project were able to leverage more than $400 million in additional investments from the private sector after receiving $30 million in federal funding from the Choice Neighborhood Grant Fund—a HUD program that would be eliminated in President Trump’s budget blueprint," ‎said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) at the project's groundbreaking. "Programs designed to help revitalize struggling communities are smart investments that yield great benefits for the neighborhood and nation alike. They should receive more federal investment, not less.”
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Chicago tower gets 150-foot-long LED art installation

A new art installation has recently been illuminated in the epic lobby of the Goettsch-designed 150 North Riverside. At 150 feet long and 22 feet high, 150 Media Stream is an ever changing digital installation comprised of 89 LED blades. Commissioned by the building's developer, Riverside Investment & Development, the installation was closely integrated with 150 North Riverside's design. “150 Media Stream represents an interesting convergence of art, architecture, and technology, and we believe it celebrates the transformational experience of media art,” said Yuge Zhou, creative director at Riverside Investment & Development. The physical components of 150 Media Stream were designed and constructed by McCann Systems, who worked with Digital Kitchen. Chicago-based Leviathan produced the initial artwork and content delivery system. “We set out to build a flexible, intelligent system of endless digital content that would make 150 Media Stream look exceptional, every moment of every day,” explained Jason White, executive creative director of Leviathan. The artwork that will be displayed on the installation will be commissioned from artists and students. A series of collaborative projects have been specifically created for the piece in classes sponsored by Riverside. Partnering cultural and educational institutions also contributed. The first prominent artist to be featured on the installation will be Chicago-based new media artist Jason Salavon. Coupled with its site specificity, this will be one of the largest pieces Salavon has ever done. “The opportunity to explore these aspects of this project was intriguing. There is no other video wall in the world that looks like this one,” Salavon said.
The 150 Riverside tower will officially open Thursday, April 20, 2017, with the lobby being open to the public starting Friday, April 21, 2017, at 6pm.
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Chicago plans to power public buildings with 100% renewable energy

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, along with other top city officials, has announced the city’s intention to power every one of its public buildings with 100% renewable energy by 2025. This would make Chicago the largest city in the U.S. to power its properties with renewable energy. The announcement comes in direct opposition to recent policy proposals put forward by the Trump administration. “As the Trump administration pulls back on building a clean energy economy, Chicago is doubling down,” Mayor Emanuel said. “By committing the energy used to power our public buildings to wind and solar energy, we are sending a clear signal that we remain committed to building a 21st-century economy here in Chicago.” The announcement was made atop the roof of the Shedd Aquarium, which is not a public building, but recently installed 900 solar panels. The Shedd is participating in the mayors Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge, which also involves installing high-efficiency lighting and large on-site batteries. The combined energy use of the city’s buildings in 2016 was approximately 1.8 billion kilowatt-hours, which accounts for about 8% of the city’s total electricity use. This is also the equivalent of powering about 295,000 Chicago homes for the same amount of time. In recent years, the city has made significant moves towards its renewable energy goals by eliminating coal use from over one billion kilowatt hours in 2013 alone. The city also reduced its carbon emissions by 7% between 2010 and 2015. Chicago was also named the 2017 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Award winner by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Today's action is a historic step forward in establishing Chicago as a clean energy leader,” said Jack Darin, Illinois Sierra Club President. “By moving boldly to repower its public buildings with renewable energy like wind and solar, Chicago is leading by example at a time when local leadership is more important than ever. While President Trump and his administration would reverse America's progress on climate change and clean energy, Mayor Emanuel is ensuring that Chicago will move forward, and that its residents will benefit from the good jobs and cleaner air that come from renewable energy projects. We look forward to working with the Mayor, community leaders, and the people of Chicago to achieve this bold goal on the path to eventually powering all of Chicago with 100% clean energy."
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Football-field-sized party barge for Lake Michigan unveiled

Chicago is getting closer to having a new piece of offshore architecture. Breakwater Chicago is the football-field-sized floating pleasure island designed by Chicago-based Space Architects + Planners for Lake Michigan. With the original capital coming from a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014, the project is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Coast Guard for approval to move forward. The project takes its name from, and will be located within, the Chicago Harbor breakwater, a 5,321-foot-long structure surrounding the downtown. Renderings show the Breakwater located specifically in the area of the harbor locally known as the Playpen. The area is filled with pleasure boats throughout the few months weather permits. The promise of the Breakwater is that it will make this area more accessible, as currently it is almost exclusively large yachts enjoying the calm water. Breakwater president and co-founder Beau D’Arcy said he wants the project to cater to families as well as those looking to party out on the water. The Breakwater will include pools, three restaurants, and docks for pulling up in a boat. Those that do not have their own boat will be able to take a water taxi service out to the floating attraction. “We wanted it to look like something rising out of the water. Something rather than a boat or a barge that is placed on the water. Almost like an island or an oasis in a desert,” said Jay Keller of SPACE Architects + Planners about the design. The proposal also includes a multi-part sustainability plan in an attempt to be “truly [in] harmony with its environment.” The hull of the craft will include an underwater garden to help absorb potentially dangerous nutrients from the water, a common problem in the Great Lakes caused by runoff. The Breakwater is also planning to use renewable energy sources including photovoltaics, solar water heating, aqua thermal cooling, and potentially even kinetic wave power. And despite not being a building, the project will also follow LEED. standards when at all possible. While no expected launch dates have been announced, a new video gives the most complete look at the proposal so far. You can learn more about Breakwater Chicago on its website.
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Landmarks Illinois releases list of most endangered places

Landmarks Illinois has announced its 2017 list of Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois. The list includes ten structures ranging from buildings to infrastructure across the state. Launched in 1995, the Most Endangered list highlights historic sites in severe need of “responsible stewardship, creative reuse plans and/or advances in public policy” “This year’s most endangered list includes a variety of iconic places that define our Illinois communities and our state’s heritage,” said Bonnie McDonald, president & CEO of Landmarks Illinois. “From historic bridges, to a round barn, to mid-century modern buildings, the sites on our 2017 Most Endangered list are wide-ranging and demonstrate the need for financial incentives and private-public partnerships. Landmarks Illinois stands ready to help all of these historic properties find productive and creative reuse opportunities.” The 2017 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois list includes:
  • James R. Thompson Center, Chicago, Cook County. Designed by Helmut Jahn.
  • O’Hare Rotunda Building, Chicago, Cook County. Design by Gertrude Kerbis.
  • Singer Pavilion, Chicago, Cook County. Designed by Loebl, Scholssman, and Bennett.
  • Ryan’s Round Barn, Johnson-Sauk Trail State Recreation Area, Henry County.
  • McKee House, Lombard, DuPage County.
  • Norway Temperance Hall, Norway, LaSalle County.
  • Federal Historic Tax Credit, Statewide.
  • Historic Bridges, Statewide.
  • Route 66, Statewide.
  • World War I Monuments, Statewide.
Each of these sites is threatened by neglect or purposeful attack. The James R. Thomson Center, the post-modern civic building in Chicago’s downtown, has been targeted by Illinois’s Governor Bruce Rauner. If the governor has his way, the building, which contains the state’s government offices, would be demolished or sold to make way for a new skyscraper. Of note, the Federal Historic Tax Credit is not a specific site, but a program that affects historic places across the country. The tax credit is part of the National Parks Service which is facing major budget cuts under the current federal administration. Route 66, which begins at the steps of the Art Institute of Chicago and runs to the Santa Monica Pier, faces a similar challenge. The National Park Service’s Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program is due to expire in the next three years. If the program is not renewed, the historic highway, which is already in despite need of maintenance, faces an uncertain future. You can learn more about all the sites at the Landmarks Illinois website. You can find the complete list here.
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New grant initiative will fund explorations into Chicago’s art and design history

The Terra Foundation for American Art has just announced the launch of ART Design Chicago, a grant initiative which will explore Chicago’s diverse history of art and design. Focusing on the work produced from the time of the Chicago Fire, in 1871, through the close of the last century, the program is set to include dozens of exhibitions, academic programs, public programs, and publications. The Terra Foundation is a granting institution “dedicated to fostering exploration, understanding, and enjoyment of the visual arts of the United States for national and international audiences.” Terra provides funding through grants and fellowships to institutions and individuals. Funds can be used for exhibitions, academic programs, academic fellowships, publications, as well as for primary education and public programs. While the events and exhibitions will take place in Chicago, organizations from around the world were asked to participate. Those awarded grants will be expected to produce exhibitions and public programs for the second half of 2018. Grant winners will be announced in June. Though proposal deadlines have passed for most of the categories, a second round of public program grants will open for application later in 2017. The wide range of grants being offered by the Terra Foundation includes publication grants, expected to range from $3,000 to $10,000, and academic program grants for up to $25,000. In all cases, grantees are expected to dig deep into archival resources and include contributions from scalars from Chicago, as well as across U.S., and abroad. The Terra Foundation is based in Chicago, with an additional center in Paris, France. The foundation is behind shows around the world, including current exhibitions in London, Mexico City, Denmark, Barcelona, and around the United States. Art Design Chicago will be primarily funded by the Terra Foundation with additional support from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. Click here to learn more!
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Chicago moves forward with lakefront 41st Street bridge project

After multiple delays, the City of Chicago is set to move forward with the construction of a new pedestrian bridge over lake shore drive. The 41st Street bridge would connect the Oakland and Bronzeville neighborhoods to the lake over multiple railroad tracks and eight lanes of high-speed traffic. The project, which was initially announced to begin last fall, is part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to build multiple Lake Shore Drive pedestrian crossings on the city’s South Side. The new bridge will join a recently completed suspension bridge at 35th Street. In the original announcement of the bridge, a second “twin” bridge was also announced for 43rd street. Aurora, Illinois–based Cordogan, Clark & Associates is responsible for the design of both bridges; the firm's proposal won the “Bridge the Drive” competition in 2004. The bridges will be double-curved mono-truss structures that will echo the curves of the walkways in Burnham Park, where they will land. The building of the bridge highlights the tension between the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois as portion of the money will be coming from the state. Earlier this month plans to move forward with the bridge were delayed due to the state’s refusal to contribute an extra $2 million to the project. Since the initial proposal and budget, the project has seen a sharp rise in estimated cost. Early estimates by the city were 33% lower than the current estimate of around $34 million. Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld told the Chicago Tribune that the city would seek “alternative sources” to fill the funding gap. Currently, a large portion of the money will come from federal and state grants, with the remainder coming from the federal Surface Transportation Program. The F.H. Paschen construction company, who has worked on other projects for the city, was the low bidder at around $29 million. Once a contract with them is reached, the project is expected to begin in late spring.
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John Ronan Architects designs Blu Dot’s Chicago outpost

Minneapolis-based furniture company Blu Dot has recently opened its first Chicago outpost. The company—founded by two architects and a sculptor—sells clean-lined contemporary domestic furniture online and in nine stores across the U.S., Mexico, and Australia. To match its design sensibilities, Blu Dot tapped Chicago-based John Ronan Architects to overhaul a decidedly mundane strip mall space in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. To differentiate the 7,500-square-foot structure from the row of franchise fast food joints it is connected to, Ronan wrapped the building in a facade of thin vertical aluminum tubes. The effect is a mass separated from its immediate surroundings.

The interior is also set apart from the strip mall aesthetic. A polished clear resin on the concrete floor shows the history of past tenants, while clean white walls and a black-painted exposed utility ceiling let the furniture be the focus of the space. “The challenge was to utterly transform what had been a nondescript diner into something unique and memorable,” John Ronan explained. “And to employ an economy of means doing it. Our strategy was to bleach out the existing structure, create new openings and enlarge existing ones, and layer on a new identity.”

Blu Dot 1953 N. Clybourn Avenue, Chicago Tel: 872-315-3339 Architect: John Ronan Architects

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School of the Art Institute to host discussion series on architecture’s afterlife

As part of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Spring 2017 Mitchell Lecture Series, the school’s Architecture, Interior Architecture and Design Objects (AIADO) Visiting Artist will moderate discussions about the afterlife of architecture. Entitled "Trash Talks," the panel discussions will take place on Thursday, April 4th and Saturday, April 8th. The first panel entitled, "Trash Talks: Re:Industrial City," will be moderated by FT Visiting Artist in architecture/interior architecture Eric Rothfeder. Participants will include Dora Apel, Clare Lyster, and Brian Rosa. "Re:Industrial City" will explore the post-industrial city through strategies of preservation and demolition. The discussion will address the effect of imagery of industrial ruins on our relationship to the post-industrial city, and the potentials of new modes of urbanism. The second panel will be moderated by FT Visiting Artist in architecture/interior architecture Ang Li and will include Andrew Balster, Dennis Maher, Thom Moran, Eric Nordstrom, David Schalliol, Anne Sullivan, and Chicago artist/architect Amanda Williams. The discussion, "Trash Talks: The Afterlives of Buildings," will be an open conversation among artists, designers, and thinkers hoping to find a more optimistic dialog concerning the architectural refuse. Participants will share their thoughts through built and unbuilt works, ranging “from second-hand salvage economies to the political agency of ruins.” Trash Talks: Re:Industrial City will be held on Tuesday, April 4, 2017  from 4:15pm to 5:45pm in the SAIC Ballroom at 112 S Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL. Trash Talks: The Afterlives of Buildings will be held on Saturday, April 8, 2017 from 1:00pm to 5:00pm at the LeRoy Neiman Center at 37 S. Wabash Ave., Chicago, IL.
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New sky-high attractions proposed for Willis Tower

The battle of the observation deck attractions continues as new information was revealed about possible improvements to the Willis Tower’s Skydeck. Following last month’s unveiling of a $500-million plan to upgrade the tower, which includes major improvements to its base, it is no surprise that the top of the tower would get some love too. Following the major success of the Skydeck’s “Ledge” attraction, a set of glass boxes suspended off the side of the building, the new plans include even more high-flying theatrics. One of the new attractions would allow for guests to descend from the 103rd floor to the 102nd floor by rope in a glass enclosure on the side of the building. Another, called the “Ledgewalk,” would allow guests to walk along a glass ledge cantilevered off the side of the building. The rendering also includes a new glassed-in staircase attached to the corner of the building. The new attractions were revealed in a report by Morningstar Credit Rating. They would be part of a $20 million overhaul of the Skydeck which would include expanding the observation deck to accommodate double its current 600 guest capacity. The 102nd floor would be added to the space, which currently is contained completely on the 103rd floor. The Skydeck is in direct competition with the John Hancock Center’s 360 Chicago observation deck that includes the "Tilt" attraction, which suspends guest face-first over the side of the building. The attractions also are reminiscent of the Los Angeles’s US Bank Tower’s “Skyslide,” which lets guest slip from the 70th floor to the 69th. It would seem that Blackstone, the Willis Tower’s owner, is betting that the annual 1.5 million guests might be just as interested in being terrified as they are getting a good view.