Posts tagged with "Chicago":

Chicago slashes trees for Obama Presidential Center

Up to 40 trees, some of them decades old, were reportedly cut down in Chicago’s historic Jackson Park on August 6 as part of construction associated with the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) campus. Despite a pending lawsuit and ongoing federal review, construction crews were reportedly spotted demolishing baseball fields in Jackson Park to make way for an OPC-funded track-and-field facility in the same spot. The new field is being constructed at a cost of $3.5 million to compensate the city and Chicago Park District for the current track and field that will be swallowed up by the 19.3-acre campus. The $500 million campus, master planned by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, has already seen its fair share of pushback from the community since its unveiling in 2016. First, a controversial parking facility was moved underground after complaints that its presence would spoil the Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux-designed landscape and the accompanying Midway Plaisance. The buildings themselves were redesigned to sit within the park better the next day. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, OPC executives had pledged not to cut down any trees until the project had passed review and they had obtained the proper permits. However, this promise appears to have only counted work on the main campus, and not associated work. As The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) points out, the new field is inextricably linked to the main project and is tied to the OPC’s construction timetable. When the Sun-Times asked about the discrepancy, Obama Foundation officials reportedly declined to confirm that the new field was part of the OPC, telling the paper that “the construction schedule put forward by the Chicago Park District ensures the new track will be ready for students and fall sports leagues.” Additionally, the federal lawsuit filed in May by preservationist group Protect Our Parks was rebuked by lawyers from the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District in June, who argued that as the City Council hasn’t given the project approval yet, any lawsuit was premature. The Chicago City Council won’t vote on the project until the fall, and no construction is supposed to occur until the twice-delayed federal review concludes. According to the Chicago Tribune, the groundbreaking for the campus has been pushed to 2019. No update has been given on whether this will change the projected 2021 opening date. On August 8, TCLF delivered a letter with their concerns to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, a federal advisory body on historic preservation. The felling of the trees in a park listed in the National Register of Historic Places and what the Foundation feels is a lack of due diligence by the City of Chicago to look into the site’s archeological significance were addressed. AN will follow this story up as more news about the Center breaks.

Historic preservation battles in Chicagoland turn to Trumpian tactics

Two controversial community battles in Chicagoland could redefine how historic preservation crusades are fought and won in our overheating national political climate. Both issues highlight how earnest and ethical historic preservation advocacy efforts are being overshadowed by those that are no more than thinly disguised manifestations of NIMBYism supercharged by a culture of divisiveness. In Pullman, originally a planned community outside of Chicago built for Pullman Palace Car Company employees, some residents have banded together to oppose proposed affordable housing for artists over concerns that the construction would destroy an archaeological site: the foundation of ‘Tenement B,’  one of the historic workers' homes. Members of this group, the Pullman National Monument Preservation Society (PNMPS), have gone after public-sector historic preservation entities and the Section 106 regulatory process, arguing the proposed artists' housing will have an ‘adverse effect’ on the site. Pullman became Chicago’s first National Monument in 2015, and it is one of the oldest. At Pullman’s peak, 20,000 factory workers lived and worked under an autocratic system, controlled wholly by the Pullman Palace Car Company, which owned the town's housing, factories, stores, and churches, all planned and designed in the 1880s by architect Solon S. Beman. After workers rioted over wage decreases and the company’s refusal to reduce rents, the Illinois Supreme Court ordered that all non-factory buildings be sold in 1897. Faced with demolition in 1960, the Pullman Civic Organization (PCO) was formed, establishing a foundation for future preservation efforts. By 1973 Pullman had been added to federal, state, and local landmarks lists and the Historic Pullman Foundation was formed, which went on to restore the Hotel Florence and organized the ever-popular house and garden tour. In the summer of 2015, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives (CNI) along with VOA Associates (now part of Stantec) introduced a plan to construct the first new rental housing in Pullman in over 50 years. Artspace Lofts would bring affordable artist housing and studio space to an empty lot on Langley Avenue just south of 111th Street. The new development would join two existing historic tenement houses, with the overall project scope including the restoration of both tenements to federal historic preservation standards. The project's site was once the home of a tenement building, demolished in 1938. A fragment of the original limestone foundation is present, as the site was never redeveloped. Pullman residents generally supported the Artspace Lofts plan. Pullman’s status as a National Historic Landmark meant that the project required a detailed federal and local review, but a small group of residents called foul, claiming that not enough was being done by historic preservation organizations to prevent the new development from being constructed and that the sanctity of the landmark was now at risk. The PNMPS was formed. Among the PNMPS’s original claims is that the Artspace Lofts will destroy the limestone foundation and “the associated artifacts” of the tenement building, the remnants of which PNMPS believes to be an archaeological resource, yet PNMPS has also stated that they would accept a reconstruction of Tenement B using the existing limestone foundation. Unlike the recent discovery of remnants of Mecca Flats underneath the IIT campus, which revealed never-before-seen colors and textures of the long-demolished building, further investigation or preservation of the remnants of Tenement B would not enhance existing knowledge of Pullman. PNMPS has gone after the regulatory processes of the National Park Service, the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office, and the City of Chicago, calling out staff members by name for what they claim to be a botched Section 106 review for the Artspace Lofts. This includes PNMPS's unsubstantiated claim that the Section 106 review did not include African-American groups as any of the forty local consulting parties, with PNMPS playing a game of virtue signaling within the neighborhood that grew the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

WALK OF SHAME The developer, representatives from Stantec (project architect), engineers, and a "consultant" on the Pullman Artspace Lofts project site today. The representative from Stantec wasn't aware of the 153' x 33' ruins of Tenement "B" located on the project site. I spoke with them about the history of Pullman's tenement block houses and the importance of this cultural landscape to the Pullman National Monument. Do these companies really want to be associated with the destruction of a 137 year old ruin of the Town of Pullman located within the boundaries of a National Monument and a National Historic Landmark? Time will tell. Learn more about how this project went so wrong... http://www.gofundme.com/savepullman #SavePullman #PNMPS #PullmanNationalMonument #CulturalHeritagePreservation

A post shared by PNMPS, Pullman Preservation (@pnmps) on

On social media PNMPS has dragged the National Trust for Historic Preservation for supporting the project and has posted photos to Instagram of developers and architects working at the site, presumably to expose their identities. Despite the complex explanation of the National Historic Preservation Act and the Section 106 process posted to its website (as well as this bizarre video, including footage from a South Park episode about gentrification and Donald Trump’s inauguration) and other thinly veiled claims attempting to draw attention away from NIMBYism, quotes by Mark Cassello, the president of PNMPS, to the Chicago Tribune in 2016 distill the organization’s real objective: “Pullman doesn’t need to attract artists, they are already here. Pullman doesn’t need affordable housing.” With CNI and Stantec having received all of the necessary approvals, ground is expected to be broken on the Artspace Lofts this fall. Across town, the Evanston City Council recently moved forward with a plan to allow the Evanston Lighthouse Dunes (ELD), to pay for the demolition of the Harley Clarke Mansion, a local historic landmark on Sheridan Road. While the 1927 Tudor revival mansion, designed by architect Richard Powers, boasts impressive architectural features, Evanstonians remember it as the place where they learned to dance, paint, and draw, and when the building was a lakefront art center. Harley Clarke housed the Evanston Art Center for fifty years, providing people of all incomes with their own opulent lakefront mansion. As the city prepared to close the art center over deferred maintenance costs in 2015, several offers were made to take it off the city's hands, including one that proposed a hotel on the property, and another by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. A committee was formed to study uses for the mansion, and a request for proposals was introduced. Late in 2015, a non-profit volunteer group, Evanston Lakehouse & Gardens (ELHG) formed to restore and repurpose Harley Clarke as a public space, initially working closely with city staff to develop a plan that would work similarly to the lease held by the Evanston Art Center, but would include a stipulation that allowed ELHG to build a capital campaign, as the organization lacked the funds upfront for repairs. The City of Evanston initially approved a lease agreement with ELHG in early spring of 2018, but the plan was redacted at the council level, with the city council claiming that ELHG did not present a sound financial proposal. ELHG counterclaims that the city never allowed them to use pledges as fundraising benchmarks, placing the organization in a difficult position, but one that they worked with the city directly to negotiate. Despite this setback, ELHG continues to advocate for the Harley Clarke Mansion, a contributing property to a National Register of Historic Places landmark district, and a City of Evanston local landmark. In May of 2018, Evanston aldermen introduced a proposal by ELD to pledge $400,000 towards the demolition of the mansion. ELD has justified the demolition as a way to absolve Evanston of the financial burden of deferred maintenance and upkeep, as well as a way to open up the lakefront to the public, restore the natural setting of the beach and dunes, and improve the viewshed of the neighboring Grosse Point Lighthouse. According to ELD, demolition of the mansion would also honor the City of Evanston’s Lakefront Master Plan.  Conveniently, the demolition of Harley Clarke would also ensure that no public or private entity could gain ownership or operation of the mansion, be it a boutique hotel or a public art center. While ELD has not disclosed a list of funders, those that have publicly aligned themselves with the organization live nearby, leading to speculation that the demolition of Harley Clarke might provide ELD members with precious views of the lakefront. Views of Lake Michigan would be a boon to real estate values in a neighborhood where home values hover just below $2 million. This has led to the speculation that the 41 individuals, couples, and one family organization that have provided money to ELD may include city leaders, explaining the ability for a previously unknown organization to get out in front of city government so quickly and so easily. The ELD has recently offered to pay for the full price of demolition and restoration of the dunes and Jens Jensen garden, but has stated that the money will only be available to the City of Evanston for two years. Recently softening their preservation ordinance yet still welding substantial power to prevent new construction in historic districts, the City of Evanston needs only to remove the mansion from their list of local landmarks in order to capitalize on private funds for demolition. This differs from the complex matrix in play to review the proposed Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park, which includes consultation with local and federal agencies. Perhaps the cases in both Pullman and in Evanston echo a larger national political trend of Trumpian normalcy now seeping into historic preservation. Attacking long-standing organizations and entities when they come down with a less than ideal determination is becoming acceptable behavior, and the public sector can be increasingly enticed with private money to do things that affect a greater population that lack the funds to influence political decisions. These changes, combined with historic preservation’s tendency to turn a blind eye to any accusation of NIMBYism, whether accurate or not, weaken the field's ability to protect historic resources for the good of our collective culture. As the larger field of architecture works towards a long-overdue reset of abusive practices within it and associated with it, historic preservation, too must take a timely look at how its tactics are implemented, and who will benefit from them.

The Rock ’N’ Roll McDonald’s replacement opens in Chicago

Eight months after Chicago’s iconic Rock ’N’ Roll McDonald’s was torn down (likely to the chagrin of the late Wesley Willis, who immortalized the building in song), the Ross Barney Architects-designed replacement has opened. The new building in River North bucks the campy, retro look of the original 1983 building, which was hemmed in by golden arches on either side. Instead, Chicago native Carol Ross Barney has designed the flagship McDonald’s with an eye towards sustainability and airiness as part of the company’s McDonald’s of the Future rebranding. The corporate offices have paid for the entire project instead of the local franchisee as part of a wide-ranging renovation scheme, including the installation of self-ordering kiosks, that will affect locations across the U.S. through 2020. Carol Ross Barney’s design wraps an industrial steel-and-solar-panel canvas around the central building, recalling Renzo Piano’s most recent institutional projects. The new McDonald’s is only 19,000 square feet and a single story, which is 20 percent more compact than its predecessor, but the ceiling soars to 27 feet high. Cross-laminated timber was used for the building’s roof and was left exposed on the underside. McDonald’s is heavily touting the project’s sustainability bonafides. Carol Ross Barney also designed the building’s HVAC system and kitchen to use less electricity, and a McDonald’s representative claims that the new store uses 50 percent less energy than its rock and rolling forbearer. The serrated solar pergola shades the plaza around the entrances and is expected to generate up to 60 percent of the building’s electricity needs. Plants have been integrated throughout the project site as well as inside of the building, and diners can eat under cascading green walls suspended from the ceiling. A sunken green roof in the middle of the restaurant provides guests with views of the apple trees, arugula, broccoli, kale, and native grasses being grown on the building’s exterior; McDonald’s has said that over 20,000 square feet of the site is landscaped. It’s more metal than rock and roll, but as of yesterday Chicagoans can once again get their burger fix in River North. As of August 8, the McDonalds will be open 24/7.

Chicago proposes experiment with pop-up urbanism

Chicago is on the verge of implementing a novel way of enlivening streetscapes. To combat the spread of vacant storefronts across the city and particularly in economically-challenged neighborhoods, a proposed ordinance would let entrepreneurs test pop-up concepts in empty spaces for anywhere from only five days to a full year. New licenses, the first of their kind in the nation, would require no on-site inspection, would not be tied to a location, and would allow the holder to operate throughout the city for the length of the license. The current model requires business owners seeking to operate pop-up establishments to obtain a full two-year license. Introduced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in partnership with the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, the ordinance would allow landlords looking to rent out their space for retail pop-ups to do so without a license. Landlords interested in renting out space for restaurants would be able to obtain a low-burden pop-up host license. The ordinance is one of several introduced by Mayor Emanuel, one of many after declaring his candidacy for a third term in 2019, to assist in incubating small businesses in Chicago. “It would incentivize owners to rent or sell instead of sitting on their properties while letting them deteriorate,” noted Lynn Basa, artist and founder of Corner Chicago, an organization working to revitalize Milwaukee Avenue in Avondale, the traditional core of the neighborhood’s immigrant and working-class business and commercial district. “I think it would only work best on a commercial corridor like ours where there are people who want to buy our buildings or rent storefronts but are met with impossible demands by the owners.” With Chicago neighborhoods like Avondale experiencing a surge of development, many existing vintage storefronts along arterial streets remain vacant while owners await high-price rental tenants or the opportunity to sell. The pop-up ordinance could allow building owners to take on new tenants at a low level of risk, while animating commercial corridors with foot traffic. It's difficult to properly evaluate the long-term effects provisional development may have on communities. Operating at a significantly lower cost, pop-up concepts could give traditional brick and mortar operations direct competition. There is no guarantee that a successful lean retail or pop-up business will stay in a given neighborhood once it has run out its lease, and no guarantee that the storefront will experience another round of occupancy once the pop-up closes. As the ordinance passes, Chicagoans could expect to see a range of food and beverage pop-ups of the Netflix and nostalgia type, similar to the Stranger Things and Saved by The Bell themed establishments in Logan Square and Wicker Park, but the ordinance also has the potential to bring original creative concepts to neighborhoods. Since 2009, Pop-Up Art Loop has used vacant storefronts downtown for temporary gallery and exhibition spaces, and it has proved successful in driving traffic during non-business hours, a concept that could be replicated in neighborhoods with the pop-up ordinance. The success of the four-day long Chicago edition of Refinery29’s 29Rooms interactive art pop-up, held in a warehouse in West Town, could encourage similar short-term installations in spaces that are underutilized. An additional scope of the ordinance allows spaces to be used for alternative purposes during off hours.

Lincoln Yards could bring an “instant neighborhood” to the Chicago River

Developer Sterling Bay released additional details and renderings by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill for the Lincoln Yards mega-development during a packed public meeting in Chicago’s 2nd Ward on July 18. A master plan of the site was also introduced, as well as some eyebrow-raising figures: 5,000 residential units, 500 hotel rooms, 23,000 on-site jobs, 13 acres of public space, 1 mile of new riverwalk, and a 1,300 feet extension to the 606, as well as the potential for the construction of multiple skyscrapers reaching up to 800 feet, or approximately 70 stories. The project currently encompasses 52 acres of the industrial corridor between Lincoln Park and Wicker Park, the result of three years of calculated land purchases by Sterling Bay along the Chicago River and within the area of the north side bordered by North Avenue, Elston Avenue, Webster Avenue, and Clybourn Avenue. If implemented as proposed the project would have a prodigious effect on the north branch of the Chicago River and multiple north side communities, businesses, and pieces of infrastructure. It would be an instant neighborhood created by a single developer. The development is presented with two distinct spatial components: The residential and commercial structures, as well as the proposed skyscrapers, will be constructed north of the bend in the Chicago River, while the south side will house the entertainment venues and recreational space. While the north side is now vacant land, cleared of the former A. Finkl & Sons steel plant last year, the south still has existing buildings with an enclave of small businesses immediately to the west, a combination of mixed-use manufacturing buildings, retail, restaurants, and bars, including Chicago’s iconic Hideout music venue. Despite the long transition to contemporary development, old-line manufacturing is still prevalent within and along Lincoln Yard’s proposed borders, and the General Iron Industries scrapyard is located prominently across the river. While General Iron Industries plans to move operations to the southeast side in 2020, some local businesses have made it clear that they intend to stay as the development of the project begins, as the Chicago Tribune reported. Sterling Bay has pledged to conduct traffic studies and congestion mitigation at area intersections but is also proposing to remove several small streets and easements in favor of a new diagonal thoroughfare, Dominick Street, that would cut across the center of the development. However, the development's approach of creating Loop-style density from scratch has yet to be tested, and with congestion already a nuisance at the existing site, the addition of 5,000 residential units, hundreds of hotel rooms, and a 20,000-seat soccer stadium will likely prove problematic for those living in surrounding communities that are defined primarily by two– and three–story vernacular structures and are the result of an ever-evolving architectural and cultural narrative. Sterling Bay has pledged to provide affordable housing and retain some of the historic industrial features of the area, such as truss bridges, but has not articulated how that will occur outside of the development following applicable laws. Sterling Bay intends to pursue local and federal funds to make infrastructure improvements, including changes to roadways and mobility systems. The federal assistance would require that the project complies with all local, state, and federal environmental and historic preservation laws before ground is broken, a process that will ultimately resemble the review required to construct the Obama Presidential Center in South Shore. The developer has also yet to provide additional detail on the proposed 23,000 permanent jobs, or whether the project area will increase as additional land becomes available. The proposal is expected to be filed to city council as soon as the end of July.

Chicago’s Gold Pyramid House damaged by fire

While the internet wrung its hands this week over the potential curses that could be unleashed by opening an ominous black sarcophagus in Alexandria, Egypt, an Egyptian-themed tragedy was occurring several thousand miles away just outside of Chicago. The Gold Pyramid House in Wadsworth, Illinois, a six-story recreation of a pyramid (complete with a moat) caught fire and may need to be torn down. The house was originally built in 1977 by contractor Jim Onan and his wife Linda as a private residence ostensibly to channel the magical energies that pyramids attract, according to their website. Though the 17,000-square foot pyramid sits on a private “island” complete with a triple-pyramid garage and 55-foot-tall guard statue of Ramses II. Inside, the Onans decorated with copious amounts of gold trim and even installed a replica of King Tut’s tomb. The house was originally covered in 8,000 24-karat gold plates, costing an extra $1 million, but neighbors complained that the gilded structure was reflecting too much light. The building later opened to public tours and had become a tourist attraction. Unfortunately, a fire broke out on July 17 that, judging from the photos, appears to have burned away an entire face of the building. According to Gold Pyramid spokesperson Yolanda Fierro, the pyramid sustained heavy water damage during the firefighting effort. The owners have estimated the cost of damages may total up to $3 million, and the building might have to be taken down. According to Fierro, the current homeowners have pledged that if the building is razed, they will rebuild the pyramid bigger than before.

Historic Mecca Flats apartment building unearthed in Chicago

Summer term at Chicago's Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture is typically uneventful, but excitement recently percolated to the surface after a maintenance project uncovered a bit of history beside the school's home in S. R. Crown Hall. The existing building, widely regarded as one of Mies van der Rohe’s masterpieces, stands on the site of the former Mecca Flats (or Mecca Flat), a storied residential building that once stood at the intersection of 34th and State streets. As workers were digging a trench for a new condenser pipe along the west side of the building, they uncovered the tiled floor of the basement of the Mecca Flats, which revealed the building's design in bright and vivid colors. The Mecca Flats was built in 1892 and was expected to house visitors to the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. At that time State Street was a line of racial division with white residents to the east and African American residents to the west. The building’s location immediately west of State made it challenging to attract upper middle-class white tenants as originally intended, and in 1911 the owners of the building retracted their all-white tenant policy. Thereafter the building quickly became populated by African American tenants who were eager to rent sizable apartments in a relatively new and well-designed building. The building’s innovative design (by the Chicago architecture firm Edbrooke and Burnham, no relation to Daniel) featured a pair of quadruple-height skylit interior courts surrounded by stacked open corridors with ornately-detailed iron guardrails. Residents could enter the building directly through these interior courts, prompting the central space to become an extension of the street life along “the Stroll,” as the entertainment strip on State Street was known, and which by the 1920s had become a destination “jammed with black humanity” and brimming with jazz clubs and cabarets. The open interior also contributed to an atmosphere of irreverent social drama in which residents could observe each other’s comings and goings. The vibrancy of the building inspired musician Jimmy Blythe to write “Mecca Flats Blues” (1924) and, later on, Gwendolyn Brooks to write “In the Mecca,” (1968) a long narrative poem reflecting on the Black experience in the building’s later years. As the building fell into disrepair, IIT purchased the Mecca and spent 15 years fighting with residents and housing advocates who opposed the university’s plan to demolish the structure as part of the expanding campus. The Mecca was finally demolished in 1951. Knowledge of the design of the Mecca Flats was relatively limited because the building survived only in black and white photography. The recently exhumed tile reveals new information about the vibrancy of the building's color. For instance, because the uncovered basement tile matches the same pattern as the court flooring, it shows us more detail about what that distinctive court looked like, including the presence of a dazzling blue tile in the mix. Other rubble found in the dig site includes warm orangey-brown exterior facing brick that was concealed by a layer of grey pollution at the time of the building’s demolition. Aside from providing new information about the Mecca Flats’ design, this recent discovery is also a test case for the emerging field of urban archeology. Among other consultants, IIT approached Rebecca Graff, an assistant professor of anthropology at Lake Forest College working in this field, to help determine next steps for this new archeological site. The university is pursuing a recommendation to document the conditions as found, and to remove, reassemble, and preserve the tile. A selection will be installed on site at the Graham Resource Center in the basement of Crown Hall in a permanent exhibition. Others will be donated to national and local cultural institutions to be conserved and shared with future generations.   The IIT College of Architecture invites the public to view these artifacts for the first time since their excavation at a program entitled Shared History: The Mecca Flat Revealed at IIT Architecture. The event will take place in S. R. Crown Hall on Tuesday, August 7, at 12:30pm. Part cultural and part educational, the event will include talks and readings with community leaders, local historians, authors, and members of IIT, and will provide an opportunity to share and reflect upon how the unearthed artifacts activate collective memory. Many thanks to Tim Samuelson, Chicago’s official cultural historian, for his insight and knowledge that contributed to this article.

International competition for Chicago’s O’Hare expansion takes off

On the heels of the news that Elon Musk’s The Boring Company will dig a high-speed rail link from Chicago’s Loop to O’Hare International Airport, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has kicked off an international competition to design O’Hare’s massive expansion plan. The city has issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to potential lead architectural designers—available here—for what Mayor Emanuel has coined O’Hare 21. All of the proposed work falls under O’Hare’s Terminal Area Plan (TAP), a sprawling plan to modernize the airport with a new global terminal (OGT), global concourse (OGC), and Satellite Concourses One and Two. The $8.7 billion expansion plan of O’Hare is the first in nearly 25 years and will increase the total terminal coverage from 5.5 million to 8.9 million square feet. To get there, O’Hare’s aging Terminal 2 will be torn down and replaced with the new “O’Hare Global Terminal,” an updated terminal that can handle larger international planes. Terminals 1 and 3 will undergo renovation, and Terminal 5 will be expanded. The resultant global terminal would house both international and domestic flights from United and American Airlines, the first terminal in the country to do so. Passengers flying out of O’Hare eight years from now will also be met with dozens of new gates and a streamlined security system. “This is an opportunity to write the next chapter in Chicago’s legacy of architectural ingenuity,” said Mayor Emanuel, according to the Chicago Sun Times, “while sharing the iconic architecture and design Chicago is famous for with visitors from across the country and around the world.” The Chicago City Council has already approved $4 billion in loans to get the project rolling, which will eventually be paid back through higher landing fees and terminal rents for United and American. Interested firms have until August 9 to apply, and the City of Chicago Department of Aviation’s evaluation committee will recommend teams for the shortlist. Those invited back will be given the opportunity to answer the Request for Proposal, as well as a $50,000 stipend.

Will a proposed addition turn Chicago’s Union Station into the new Soldier Field?

In 2004, Chicago watched historic Soldier Field become a toilet bowl. In 2019, Union Station will become a self-inked address stamper. During a public meeting on June 25, Chicago-based architects Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB) unveiled plans to construct a seven-story glass addition to the 1925 Graham, Anderson, Probst & White train station in the West Loop. Along with Riverside Investment & Development and Convexity Properties, SCB outlined the details of the proposal, including a hotel, apartments, an office complex, and retail. If implemented, Union Station would rise in height from 150 to 245 feet, with the proposed glass rectangle atop the existing office tour delivering 404 apartments. The multi-story main building, or headhouse, would become 330 hotel rooms. Along with landmarks review, the redevelopment will need both aldermanic and zoning approval before moving forward with what will be the first phase of changes for Union Station. A second phase will add an office skyscraper south of the headhouse, while a third phase will build an apartment tower over an existing train platform nearby. With Union Station in the middle of a $22 million skylight restoration, the plan released on June 25 deviates dramatically from the one outlined in the station’s 2012 master plan, calling for two new twelve story residential towers above the headhouse. Other aspects of the master plan have already been implemented, including the restoration of the grand staircase and the Burlington Room. Listed as a Chicago Landmark in 2002, the new plans for Union Station will also require a review by The Commission on Chicago Landmarks (CCL) before a permit is provided. While Riverside Investment & Development and Convexity Properties, along with SCB, have been careful in their attempt to show that the addition will do no harm to the components of the building that make it architecturally significant, the addition reads as out of scale and context for the existing building. With the CCL charged to examine the appropriateness of proposed work on Chicago Landmarks in relation to the spirit of the Landmarks Ordinance, the plan as presented should be considered by the CCL as an adverse effect on a designated local landmark. If approved, the addition on Union Station could cause a paradigm shift in the way Chicago Landmarks are approached by potential developers, broadcasting a message that cultural and architectural resources are only of value if they are monetized to their fullest extent, and that the Landmarks Ordinance can soften in the face of economic motivators. The proposed addition is not only an imbalance in terms of design, it’s also condescending to the station itself, the architectural equivalent of a head patting, or worse. Ringing out like the 2004 renovation of Soldier Field (a project that curiously won an award for design excellence by the AIA the same year it was recommended to be stripped of its National Historic Landmark designation), this is new bullying old.

Anish Kapoor sues the NRA over shot of The Bean

British artist Anish Kapoor has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the National Rifle Association over an advertisement featuring his iconic public sculpture in Chicago’s Millennium Park, Cloud Gate (2006). The video, titled “Freedom’s Safest Place,” is part of the NRA’s “The Violence of Lies” campaign, which features multiple series of videos claiming to expose supposed irrationalities of liberal arguments and ostensible media untruths. The videos are narrated by right-wing commentator Dana Loesch and populated with images of civil unrest and violent clashes of protestors and police set to dramatic music. Kapoor claims in his complaint that the video's entreaty to meet liberal “lies” with the “clenched fist of truth” by the pro-gun organization amounts to “a clear call to armed violence against liberals and the media.” The video features a brief black-and-white timelapse cutaway of people walking in front of the sculpture, which is popularly and affectionately known as “The Bean.” Kapoor had already spoken out against the ad in an open letter this past March, demanding that the “nightmarish” NRA remove any visual references to his work. Three months later and with no action taken, Kapoor has filed suit demanding that the NRA cease using his work to support their “despicable platform for promoting violence” and is seeking $150,000 plus attorney fees for each infringement,  as well as a percentage of the money made through donations and membership sign-ups resulting from the offending ad.  

Chicago offers up historic Chicago Avenue bridge for free

Looking for a gift that truly shows you care? Give the gift of infrastructure! The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) has announced it is offering up one of its historic bascule bridges for free to any state, local or responsible entity willing to haul it away. Built in 1914 by the Ketler-Elliot Erection Company of Chicago, the Chicago Avenue Bridge spans the north branch of the river and is one of many pony truss style bascule bridges. The bridges’ leaves are suspended on axles underneath the street, with the counterweight hidden within a riverbank pit tucked behind a limestone enclosure. This type of bridge was developed in Chicago in 1900, with the first one constructed in 1902 still in operation at Cortland Street and the Chicago River. Bascule bridges opened easily and did not obstruct the river with a central pier, a must to accommodate a busy early 20th century waterway serving Chicago’s commercial route to the Mississippi River system. The bridge replacement is a component to proposed traffic improvements along Chicago Avenue in advance of the construction of One Chicago Square, a massive 869 residential structure proposed at State Street and Chicago Avenue. Designed by Goettsch Partners and Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture, One Chicago Square calls for two glassy towers atop a podium, the tallest of which tops out at 1,011 feet, making it what could be Chicago’s sixth tallest building. The future owner of the bridge assumes all costs for moving the bridge and maintaining historically significant features. The City of Chicago intends to replace the bridge with a modern concrete and steel structure this fall. Those interested must submit a proposal by July 13.  Thus far, the CDOT has received no offers for the bridge. The bridge comes with a determination of eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), which requires the City of Chicago to make a reasonable effort to offer the bridge up for restoration to interested parties. The gift includes the embedded counterweights and the two bridge houses.

Chicago chooses Elon Musk’s Boring Company for high-speed train connecting the Loop to O’Hare

Ahead of a formal announcement later today, the Chicago Tribune has confirmed that Elon Musk’s The Boring Company has been chosen to dig a high-speed train route from Chicago's Loop to O’Hare International Airport. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration has selected Musk to build out an underground rail system from Block 37 in the Loop to O’Hare, potentially cutting the transit time from an hour by car or 40 minutes on the Blue Line down to 12 minutes each way. The route is part of the recently announced $8.5 billion O’Hare rehabilitation. Under Musk’s proposal, The Boring Company would dig two tunnels along an as-of-yet undetermined route under the city, and transport passengers in autonomously-driven pods that would “skate” on electrified rails. Each pod would carry up to 16 passengers, and Musk has promised that pods would leave each station every 30 seconds. The promotional video for the proposal seems nearly identical to the one Musk previewed in March for traveling to the LAX, except with different station names. While no timeline has been proposed yet, the Tribune reports that unnamed sources have cited the potential cost as under $1 billion. The Boring Company will be paying for the project out of pocket using revenue from advertisements, the $20 to $25 ticket costs, and selling merchandise on the trip itself. Boring will also fund the construction of a new station at O’Hare and finish the scuttled Block 37 station, and ownership of the tunnels themselves is currently an open question. Boring has pitched the system as being buried 30 to 60 feet underground with 12-foot-wide tunnels, but there are still serious feasibility hurdles that will need to be cleared before the project gets the go-ahead. The route still needs to be approved by Chicago’s City Council, and Boring technically hasn’t completed any full-scale route yet. While the company is building out a similar network of tunnels in L.A. and has received an exploratory permit for their D.C. to NYC hyperloop, the autonomous pods being proposed haven’t been tested in real-world conditions. Another concern is capacity; a 16-person pod stopping every 30 seconds means that the system would run at a capacity of about 1,900 passengers per hour. For comparison, the Blue Line, which Boring’s link is meant to compliment, likely handles twice as much hourly traffic for $5 each way.