Posts tagged with "illinois":

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Chicago Breaks Ground On Elevated Bloomingdale Trail and Park System

The City of Chicago broke ground Tuesday on the Bloomingdale Trail, or the 606 to use the combined name for the elevated trail and its five access parks, fulfilling a promise and long-term planning process that dates back years. Walsh Construction Company won the $53.7 million contract, which city officials told the Sun-Times was $5.2 million lower than the closest competition. The city plans to use $50 million in federal money to pay for construction. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office said the trail is being built in phases, and “will be open end-to-end in Fall 2014, with additional construction phases continuing to embellish landscaping and other amenities.” The 2.7-mile abandoned freight rail viaduct runs through several West Side neighborhoods, many of which have brought together community groups to help plan for the project. Meanwhile Chicago Magazine’s Dennis Rodkin answers a question in his column about investing in real estate along The 606. The neighborhoods—Noble Square, Bucktown, Humboldt Park, Wicker Park, and Logan Square—have always been good places to invest, and the 606’s route is “icing on the cake,” he says. “Also, you may be coming at this late. Real estate developers have had their eye on the potential of the Bloomingdale Trail for several years.”
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Chasing Cheap money, Chicago’s Loyola University finds a building boom

Chicago’s Loyola University has wasted no time, it seems, in taking advantage of low interest loans in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The school has spent more than $500 million on building projects since 2008, reported Crain’s Chicago Business. At No. 106 in U.S. News and World Report’s 2013 ranking of national universities, Loyola could stand to improve its public profile. Though it gained 13 places since last year’s ranking, the school lags nearby Northwestern (12th) and the University of Chicago (4th) considerably. The expansion includes new buildings at both the medical campus in suburban Maywood, IL. (here's AN's coverage of a sleek new home for the university's nursing school) and in Chicago’s Rogers Park, where a $58.8 million Institute of Environmental Sustainability opens this month. Read the full Crain's report here.
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Chicago Water Tank Falls Nine Stories, Injures Three

An aging water tank plummeted nine stories from a Chicago building Wednesday, releasing “a tidal wave” of water and debris, one witness said, that injured three people and poured water into a nearby day care center. Of the three victims taken to the hospital one was critically injured, the Sun-Times reported, when the wooden tower, 8 feet across and 12 feet high, fell from the top of 2800 N. Pine Grove Ave. The building failed a Department of Buildings inspection in 2010, for reasons including issues with the water tank’s steel bands. It passed an annual inspection later that year, according to the Department of Buildings’ online records. Built in 1893 as the Lincoln Park Palace, the building is now known as the Brewster and is listed as a Chicago landmark. Water tanks proliferated towards the turn of the 2oth century, in the wake of the Great Chicago Fire. They became less popular as modern plumbing techniques took off, but remain among the city’s most intriguing architectural relics. A 2006 Chicago Tribune article said only 144 water tanks remain, quoting a Chicago company that maintains them. A USA Today report said about 130 were still in use in 2006.
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Bike Share Programs Roll Along in New York, Chicago

Chicago’s bike-for-rent made its test premiere during the annual “Bike the Drive” event on the Windy City’s Lake Shore thoroughfare Sunday, and Wednesday opened the new service for membership sign-ups. Chicago’s Department of Transportation unveiled its bike share plans in April, tapping Portland, OR–based Alta Bicycle Share, which also runs New York and DC’s bike-share programs, to roll out 400 stations and about 4,000 three-speed “Chicago Blue” bicycles across the city. Divvy,” as the Chicago program is called, recently released a map of planned stations, 75 of which the city said will be online by the end of June. But Chicago's four-wheeled share service also saw big news this week, when car rental giant Enterprise bought local nonprofit I-GO, a car-share program launched 10 years ago by the Center for Neighborhood Technology. Meanwhile Memorial Day marked the official debut of New York City’s bike-share, with more than 6,000 trips logged in a matter of hours. This video from StreetFilms captured the media frenzy, as well as testimonials from the likes of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (who mounted but did not ride a bike) and musician David Byrne:
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Chicago To Roll Out Alta’s Divvy Bike Share in June

Chicago’s bike share program will kick off in June when the city debuts hundreds of light blue, three-speed bicycles that can be rented for an hourly fee or with a yearly $75 membership. Managed by Portland, OR–based Alta Bicycle Share, which also runs New York and DC’s bike share, Chicago’s program goes by the name “Divvy.” Alta was supposed to launch the $22 million program last summer, and has since become the subject of controversy. Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein was formerly a consultant for the company, and competitors have alleged foul play, which Alta and the city have flatly denied. The first of Divvy’s 75 solar-powered docking stations will be downtown and in River North. Within a year the city’s plan is to roll out 400 stations and about 4,000 bicycles across the city.
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Waxing Poetic About Chicago’s Wells Street Bridge

Work took place in March to replace a portion of Chicago's Wells Street bridge—“the engineering equivalent of a heart transplant,” in the words of the Tribune’s Cynthia Dizikes. Work crews replaced a portion of the 91-year old double-decker bascule bridge during just two nine-day periods (a similar replacement in 1996 took almost a year). Inconvenience or not, seeing a 500,000-pound hunk of metal floating into downtown Chicago atop a barge makes one feel like a witness to latter-day Carl Sandburg paeans: “Here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities.”
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Competition Seeks Help Designing Chicago’s BRT Stations

As Chicago rolls out bus rapid transit routes, the benefits of BRT are often presented as a given. But the experiences of bus systems around the world prove design matters. It might bode well for the burgeoning BRT movement in Chicago, then, that the Chicago Architecture Foundation and Chicago Architectural Club have launched a bus rapid transit station design competition. Dubbed “NEXT STOP,” the station design contest will be the subject of the 2013 Burnham Prize Competition. Submit designs for three stations (downtown, near State and Madison; Bucktown-Logan Square at Western Avenue Blue Line ‘L’ Stop; Pilsen near 18th and Ashland) by noon May 13.
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Illinois Takes Helm of High-Speed Rail Group

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today named Illinois’ Department of Transportation the leader of a multi-state effort to advance high-speed rail. Illinois, California, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington will use $808 million from the FRA to build 35 new diesel locomotives and 130 bi-level rail cars. California led the group last year, in which 130 bi-level rail cars were procured for high-speed service. “Our goal is to offer 110-mile-per-hour service on at least 75 percent of the Chicago-St. Louis corridor—the segment from Dwight to Alton—by the end of 2015,” Illinois Secretary of Transportation Ann L. Schneider said in a statement, “and these locomotives are the key to achieving that goal.” A test run on a portion of that track last fall set a regional record for high-speed rail at 111 mph. Full service at that speed between Dwight and Joliet is expected in 2017. Illinois is also working with Michigan to provide 110-mph service from Chicago to Detroit. The trip would take roughly three hours at that speed.
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An Afterlife for DeKalb’s Egyptian Theatre

Northern Illinois may not have pyramids (you’ll have to go to elsewhere in the Midwest for that) but the Egyptian Theatre continues Pharaoh Ramses II’s reign over downtown DeKalb, IL. As this post in PreservationNation describes, the movie house has undergone a series of restoration efforts since it landed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Designed by architect Elmer F. Behrns in 1929, the theater’s pharaoh sculptures, scarab stained glass, and winged orb marquee fell into disrepair by the late seventies, when the theater closed. It reopened in 1983, but renovations continued until recently. In the last six years building rehabilitation and maintenance exceeded $1.5 million, but creative fundraising—the owners, Preservation of the Egyptian Theatre, Inc., sold the theater’s original seats when they were replaced in 2011 and even started running popular haunted tours—have helped fill the financial gap. The building owners hope to continue renovations, including replacing the carpeting and installing air conditioning.
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Floodwaters Surround Mies Van Der Rohe’s Farnsworth House

Just over four years ago, the Fox River spilled its banks, sending floodwaters into Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House and causing significant damage. Built in 1951 and located outside Chicago, the river is again rising, now fully surrounding the stilted abode turned museum, and the house, operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has shared watery photos on its Farnsworth blog, stating: "The house is fully surrounded by river water, but neither the lower deck nor the upper deck has yet to be breached." Water is not expected to enter the house, but all precautions are being taken, including elevating interior furnishings on milk crates.When the site is not flooded, tours of the house are available to the public.
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Bertrand Goldberg’s Chicago Prentice Hospital Denied Landmark Status, Again

Amid the latest in a series of temporary reprieves, Bertrand Goldberg’s former Prentice Women’s Hospital was again denied landmark status by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. Despite once again turning out a crowd of supporters who contributed hours of impassioned testimony, many preservationists were unsurprised by an outcome that they chalked up to political determinism. “I have this suspicion that [owner] Northwestern [University] has put before us a false choice,” said Commissioner James Houlihan, who nonetheless voted along with all of his fellow commissioners to deny the 1975 building landmark status. The commission Thursday reprised, in a way, a vote taken in November, in which they recognized the litany of evidence qualifying Prentice as an architectural landmark, voted to grant the building landmark status, and subsequently revoked their own decision in a second, almost unanimous vote. (The sole holdout during that vote, Christopher Reed, resigned at the end of 2012.) Their reason for doing so, said commission Chairman Rafael Leon, was a provision in municipal code that called on them to allow testimony from the city’s Department of Housing and Economic Development. The jobs and tax dollars promised by new construction, they concluded, outweighed the building’s architectural significance—logic that preservationists took issue with on several levels. In December the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Landmarks Preservation Council claimed in court that the commission “acted arbitrarily and exceeded its authority,” when it denied the building landmark status by considering economic matters so prominently. Judge Neil Cohen dismissed that suit in January, but not without raising concerns over the commission’s transparency. “The commission maintains that it did not violate the landmarks ordinance or any other law,” Leon said when it came time to discuss Prentice. To show their methods were “beyond reproach,” he said, they would again hear public testimony. Jeff Case, a principal at Holabird & Root, was among the design professionals who opposed preservation, saying Prentice had “outlived its useful life.” “The building has moved on, and so should we,” he said. “333 East Superior will not be missed.” Carol Post of Thornton & Tomasetti concurred, citing structural problems in the building’s clover-shaped concrete shell. Still many more echoed the sentiments of an open letter signed in July by more than 65 architects, calling on the commission to reject the recommendation of the Department of Housing and Economic Development that previously swayed them to withhold landmark protection. “A Walmart will always generate more revenue than a water tower,” said Preservation Chicago’s Jonathan Fine. Christina Morris, a senior field officer in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Chicago office, similarly rebuked the commissioners for appearing to sidestep their civic duty. “You have an obligation,” she said, “to protect Chicago’s cultural heritage.” Since the commission’s November decision, preservationists have also attempted to meet Northwestern’s arguments on their own terms. Architects submitted four proposals for reuse that also included new buildings to satisfy Northwestern’s stated development needs. They claimed saving the Goldberg structure would result in an additional $103 million in one-time expenditures, $155 million annually in operating costs, $1.1 million in yearly tax revenue, and create 980 new jobs. Northwestern dismissed those proposals Thursday in a statement that called their economic assumptions “deeply flawed.” The four alternatives were “not viable,” said Northwestern’s Eugene Sunshine, because of structural challenges presented by Prentice and because some of them relied on developing nearby vacant land not owned by Northwestern University, but by Northwestern Memorial HealthCare. Commissioner Houlihan asked Sunshine if it was disingenuous to suggest the sister organizations could not get together and work out a solution to that problem. Sunshine said it was not. Dean Harrison, president of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare, later testified that NMH had "long-standing plans" to build something else on the site, but did not provide a timeline for that development. Though Thursday’s decision could mark the end for preservationists in a long and heated fight, another court hearing is set for February 15.
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Downtown Chicago Eyed for Major Tech Hub

The University of Illinois and the state are pushing a plan to build on Chicago’s growing tech sector, calling for support from major institutions in the area to help support a tech lab in downtown Chicago. Details are hazy  now, but Crain's is reporting the $100 million-per-year operation would draw support from Northwestern University, the University of Michigan, and other regional engines of high-tech knowledge, as well as the corporate community, for a facility or campus in the heart of the city. Google and Motorola recently made high-profile decisions to expand operations in Chicago, and the Department of Energy named Argonne National Laboratory its national hub for battery research and technology development. What this means for the local design community is unclear just yet, but as downtown and West Loop construction picks up it is clear that some developers are banking on growing demand.