Union Station Technology Center (USTC) in South Bend, Indiana began its life as a train station. Now it's a data center and the state's second largest carrier hotel. As a piece of internet infrastructure, it's high tech. With the help of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, the building owners are aiming for a design to suit. The building is in South Bend's Studebaker Corridor, so named for the wagon company turned automobile titan. Before it closed in 1963, Studebaker was the fourth largest automobile manufacturer in the nation, employing as many as 23,000 people in South Bend. Union Station Technology Center is among the tech-oriented rehabs that local businesspeople like Nick Easley, director of strategic initiatives for USTC, and developer Kevin Smith are using to rebrand the area as South Bend’s Renaissance District. AS+GG was selected as the emerging district's master planner in 2012. On Sunday it was announced that the Chicago-based firm—known for energy-efficient, eye-grabbing projects around the world—would lead the redesign of USTC, as well as “a mixed-use campus consisting of more than one million square feet of Class A office, education, technology, research grade manufacturing, data center, and live-work spaces.” A press release promises to turn USTC into “a large scale, sustainably designed tech hub that promises to spur a second economic boom for South Bend and the surrounding region.” South Bend's boosters hope the cold climate—which cuts server cooling costs—and local knowledge base at University of Notre Dame will help it stand out among cities from coast to coast currently chasing tech jobs to replace manufacturing work.
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In February, a Twin Cities design firm advertised an unusual yard sale of sorts. CityDeskStudio offered to pay $5,000 to whomever could haul away and repurpose an 84-foot long section of Minneapolis' famous skyway system that once spanned South 5th Street. The skyway segment is now headed to a private residence in Brainerd, Minnesota—but not before playing host to a contemplative art installation that examines the philosophical dimensions of this defunct piece of pedestrian infrastructure. Dubbed LONGING—“an emotional expression and a verbal play on lengthening,” in the words of its Vancouver-based artists—the exhibition opens Saturday at 2:00 p.m., and will remain open through May 10, 2015. It is located at the edge of the University of Minnesota campus, northeast of the intersection of 6th Street SE and SE 23rd Ave. (44°58’39.3”N 93°13’10.2”W) “We have been working on this off and on for two years, so we are really excited to see this come to life,” said Jennifer Newsom Carruthers, principal of Dream the Combine, the artists mounting the exhibition. Their installation uses strategically placed mirrors to alter visitors' perception of the object. Per the artists' description:
LONGING reestablishes this fragment within a network of its own making. Using two inward-facing, 10’x15', moveable mirrors suspended at either end of the skyway from a tensegrity supported gimbal, LONGING creates a visually infinite environment that bridges toward distant horizons. This virtual space flexes as the wind rotates the mirrors and the audience performs with and occupies their reflections. By using just 35lbs of pressure on a dampened counterweight at the rear of the panels, people can manipulate the large mirrors and the illusion of depth within them. As the images move and infinity wanders, the space bends into unpredictable forms.After the exhibition closes, the 140-ton skyway segment heads 130 miles north to bucolic Brainerd, Minnesota where a young family has commissioned the current skyway owners, CityDeskStudio, to repurpose it as a lakeside home. Aimee and Preston Jobe plan to add a wing to the skyway segment to make an L-shaped floorplan. "It's like a dream come true," said Aimee Jobe, a photographer, in an interview with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "I'm a lover of old things and I live to renovate things." Here's a gallery of the installation, currently under construction, from Dream the Combine:
New York City's MTA has posted another collection of East Side Access construction photos to remind New Yorkers that its majorly delayed and hugely over budget project is still actually chugging along. When East Side Access is ultimately completed, at the cost of nearly $11 billion, it will connect Long Island Rail Road trains to Grand Central making life easier for about 80,000 commuters. But that's a long ways off—last we heard, the project will not be completed until 2023. As for where the project currently stands, the MTA explained in a statement, "Work continues on the Manhattan side of the East Side Access Project below Grand Central Terminal with waterproofing, rebar arch installation and drilling for couplers. In addition, temporary shoring for concrete slabs that will make up track and room levels can be seen." To see for yourself, take a look at the photos below which were captured by the MTA deep beneath city streets.
Minneapolis architects CityDeskStudio are sitting on an iconic piece of Twin Cities infrastructure. Almost a decade ago they acquired a defunct chunk of the city's elevated pedestrian network, the Minneapolis Skyway. Years later they're still wondering what to do with it, which could be to your benefit if you're in the market for a 140-ton steel box designed by Ed Baker. You don't need deep pockets, either. In fact, they'll pay you $5,000 to haul it away. Built between 1962 and 1972, the skyway system comprises more than eight miles of enclosed footbridges criss-crossing downtown Minneapolis. Though urbanists sometimes blame it for sucking the air out of street life, the skyway system serves a vital function during long Minnesota winters. But this particular segment, which used to connect the J.C. Penney and Powers stores across South 5th Street, became defunct with the demolition of Powers more than a decade ago. Bob Ganser and Ben Awes of CityDeskStudio bought the 83-foot skyway segment in 2006, winning a blind auction from its previous owner, the University of Minnesota. As Jim Buchta writes for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, CityDeskStudio's attempt to unload the 1,380-square-foot structure has attracted some interesting proposals:
In 2009, CityDeskStudio posted an ad for the skyway on Craigslist, offering the 1,380-square-foot structure for $79,500. The ad went viral, but still no takers, so they dropped the price to $49,500. “We’ve had more proposals, inquiries and exciting conversations than we could count,” said Ganser. There were four or five serious possibilities, including converting the skyway into a rental retreat near Brainerd, a nonprofit career-training program in north Minneapolis and a rooftop studio space/artist loft in south Minneapolis. Some of the ideas weren’t so serious. Someone suggested a nightclub on wheels, and just last week the duo received a proposal to turn it into a “sweet-ass mobile deer stand, complete with repurposed tank track wheels and a gun turret,” Ganser said. “This idea included the use of our finder’s fee to pay for gas and ‘a bunch of coolers of Bud.’ ”The structure now it sits on land leased by CityDeskStudio, instead of looming over 5th Street. Given its heft and sturdy engineering, it could be repurposed as a bridge. Previous plans to turn it into a Philip Johnsonesque modernist house received a lot of attention, but so far no takers. With a $5,000 incentive, perhaps the “skyway to nowhere” will finally go somewhere again.
Patrons of the Chicago Transit Authority's 91-year-old Wilson station (above) on the El's Red Line will be happy to learn the city broke ground this week on its long-planned, $203 million Wilson Station Reconstruction Project. The track structure is more than 100 years old. The Uptown station has been somewhat of a squeaky wheel in the CTA system, with neighborhood residents calling for improvements for years. The new station house will be ADA-compliant and, as CTA explained, feature myriad other improvements:
The project will also include significant track and structural work that will allow for easy and convenient transfers between the Red Line and Purple Line Express; enhance the street-level environment on Broadway; and improve CTA operations. New, brighter lighting and the installation of more than 100 security cameras throughout the stations and its three entrances will help improve customer safety. Additionally, the restoration of the 1923 stationhouse facade and former clock tower (at the corner of Wilson/Broadway) would make it a viable space for future retail or business development, thus creating an anchor for revitalization and economic development in the Uptown neighborhood.It's one of the biggest (and costliest) overhauls in CTA history, and is part of the agency's $1 billion "Red Ahead" initiative to modernize the north branch of the Red and Purple Lines. CTA rebuilt the south branch last year, streamlining construction with massive closures—a strategy that angered some area residents. Elsewhere on the Red Line, 95th Street—the line's southern terminus—is getting an inspired revamp led by Parsons Brinkerhoff and Johnson & Lee, with art from Theaster Gates.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) selected Cleveland this week for the site of their upcoming convention. Cleveland beat out Dallas with a bipartisan lobbying effort that lasted months. At their 2016 convention Republicans will nominate a candidate for President, hoping to regain the White House after eight years of Democratic leadership. But what does it mean for Cleveland? According to the city’s mayor, Democrat Frank Jackson, about $200 million. That’s how much economic activity the convention is estimated to create, mainly for utilities, hotels, airport businesses and restaurants. Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena is expected to host floor events for the convention in June 2016. It’s not free money, though. As Diana Lind pointed out for Next City, the RNC asked its host committee to front $68 million for its venues and security—standard operating procedure for the federally subsidized political meeting. Lind noted that a study commissioned by last election season’s host committee, Tampa Bay, found more than half of the direct and indirect spending the RNC brought to the city was in the form of telecommunications upgrades by AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and TECO Energy—infrastructure improvements that might have happened anyway. Cleveland has bet big on convention centers in recent years, building a Global Center for Health Innovation that aims to be the "Epcot of healthcare" at the heart of downtown’s Daniel Burnham–planned civic core. In an ongoing effort to start an urban recovery that will stick, Cleveland could use the RNC convention to show off the city’s growing trade show business in a city whose unemployment rate remains above the national average.
For a metro area as widely praised for its alternative transportation options as Minnesota’s Twin Cities, it’s surprising Minneapolis and St. Paul are only now celebrating a new light rail connection between their downtowns. The U.S. Department of Transportation called the Central Corridor, also known as the METRO Green Line, “the single largest public works project in the history of Minnesota.” The Twin Cities' Metropolitan Council says construction employed 5,500 people and created 200 permanent new operations jobs at a total cost of $957 million, $480 million of which was in federal funds, including TIGER grants. State and local governments split the rest. The METRO Green Line runs between Target Field in Minneapolis and Union Depot in St. Paul, stopping 23 times. Some 45,000 people rode the new transit line on June 14, its opening day, reminding many of the more than 500 miles of streetcar tracks that crisscrossed the Twin Cities 50 years ago. Some criticized the project for its costs, the Star Tribune reported, labeling the 11-mile route “the money train.” Others used an opening day with no major hang-ups to call for a slew of other rail projects around the city and state. Now that the Green Line's hoopla is over, as the Pioneer Press put it, “its real test begins.”
Earlier this month, workers broke ground on the largest Twin Cities real estate development project in two decades. Budding off a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, designed by HKS, locally based Ryan Companies saw an opportunity to redefine the Minneapolis neighborhood of Downtown East. Their five-block mixed-use development will include two 18-story office towers for Wells Fargo, six levels of parking with more than 1,600 spaces, about 24,000 square feet of retail space, 193 apartments and a four-acre urban park near the new stadium’s northwest corner. Wells Fargo currently has 5,000 employees scattered across more than a dozen offices throughout the area. Bordering the Mississippi River, Downtown East is already home to the Guthrie Theater, whose form mimics the defunct flour mills that comprise much of the area’s post-industrial building stock—a heritage celebrated by the Mill City Museum, also in Downtown East. And while some residential development has followed those cultural attractions, the neighborhood has so far missed out on the artistic cachet that has enlivened nearby areas like North Loop and Northeast. The New York Times took a look at what the Downtown East development could mean for the city and state, which wrestled with financing for the new Vikings Stadium before ultimately approving partial public funding. While officials are quick to tout the project’s economic potential, some residents blast its lack of low-income housing. From the Times article by Christina Capecchi:
Mayor [Betsy] Hodges said she hoped to work affordable housing into Downtown East. “The housing portion hasn’t been fully fleshed out,” she said, “so that’s a conversation we’re having.” Ultimately, Downtown East is a chance to spur the development that the 31-year-old Metrodome failed to generate, said Michael Langley, chief executive of the Minneapolis St. Paul Regional Economic Development Partnership. “This is an opportunity for a huge do-over,” he said.Minneapolis has undertaken a slew of large infrastructure improvements lately, such as a revamp of downtown's pedestrian strip, Nicollet Mall, and public transportation investments to the bike-friendly city that include a long-awaited light rail connection to neighboring St. Paul and an intermodal transit station next to Target Field.
Bicyclists and pedestrians cruising down Chicago’s 18-mile Lakefront Trail generally enjoy an exceptionally open, continuous and scenic path along Lake Michigan. But near Navy Pier they’re shunted inland, underneath a highway, onto sidewalks and through road crossings that interrupt their journey in the middle of one of the popular pathway's most congested corridors. The Navy Pier Flyover, announced in 2011, was designed to remedy that situation, and today Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the project has officially broken ground. Though it won’t be fully open until 2018, work began on schedule for the portion of the pathway between Jane Adams Park and the Ogden Slip. The first phase of construction has a budget of $22.5 million. The total cost will be $60 million, split over three phases. The Lakefront Trail and Lake Shore Drive will remain open throughout construction. To track progress and occasional detours during the work, the city has set up navypierflyover.com. Sporting bike lanes and space for pedestrians, the trail will be 16 feet wide and approximately as elevated as Lake Shore Drive. LED lighting will supplement the “ambient light of Lake Shore Drive,” according to the city's website. The city called in architect Muller+Muller after studying the problem for years. That design, from 2011, remains intact. When complete the trail will allow for uninterrupted travel over the Chicago River, through DuSable Park, the Ogden Slip, across Illinois Street, Grand Avenue, Jane Addams Park and into the Ohio Street Tunnel. (The news comes among other improvements to the lakefront trail announced recently.) More design details are available here, in a presentation by the city made available online.
Chicago’s Divvy bikesharing program wants your help placing new bicycle rental stations throughout the city. The Divvy Siting Team will consider your suggestions at suggest.divvybikes.com—they’ve already mapped many public suggestions alongside the 300 existing stations. Last month the program announced its intent to become North America’s largest bikesharing system. Divvy will add 175 stations by the end of 2014 and, pending state and federal funding, bring another 75 online after that, raising the total to 550 stations. As it expands, Divvy could address previous criticisms about equal access. Though it started by focusing on the Loop and other high-density downtown areas, the program has expanded into many neighborhoods. Still, many are unserved—Uptown is the northern terminus, while much of the West, Southwest, and South Sides have no stations.
After the fatal MetroNorth crash in New York City last week, former Obama administration Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood claimed that Washington is “afraid” to invest in transportation infrastructure improvement. On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, LaHood said the recent train tragedy was only another example of the problems lurking in America’s infrastructure and that the $48 billion set for transportation use by the economic recovery plan was “not enough money,” something Congressional members later acknowledged. Only in states where the people have voted for infrastructure referendums is progress occurring. He called for nationwide leadership to follow suit.
The Swedish Transport Administration launched a conceptual design competition in 2011 for a new bridge in Skuru, Sweden. The competition received great national and international response, including one fanciful proposal by Danish firm, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). The competition brief stated that the new bridge should adhere to high aesthetic standards and coincide with the existing bridge and the surrounding valuable cultural and natural landscape. Ingels deploys his characteristic hedonistic sustainability to bring nature onto the bridge itself. While the design only a concept, BIG has presented an innovative structure with the aim to create a symbiotic relationship between infrastructure and nature. The bridge consists of three main elements: a lower level arc-shaped bridge, a linear road bridge above this, and ultra-slim columns which connect the two. The arched bridge is a visual allusion to a hill between both sides of the strait and also responds to the arch of the existing bridge in profile. This space serves as a green pedestrian walkway filled with vegetation and creates an uninterrupted flow of parkland from one shore bank to the other. According to BIG, "Investments in infrastructure are all too often at the expense of the environment—an untouched natural landscape becomes tainted by a highway intersection...Skuru Parkbridge represents a new form of social infrastructure—which is not only aesthetic and environmentally well-integrated with the existing bridge and the natural landscape—but is also socially activating by creating a place and park for the people who live and work on both sides of the strait." All images courtesy BIG.