Elon Musk’s plans to build an underground express system for Chicago are super vague and people are mad about it. The Illinois-based Better Government Association (BGA) announced in a report yesterday that it’s filed a lawsuit against the city to release public records behind its $1 billion deal with the Tesla CEO. In June, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Musk unveiled their grand vision to create a tunnel that would allow commuters to traverse 15 miles from the Loop in downtown Chicago to O’Hare International Airport in just 12 minutes. Musk promised to use untested digging equipment to build it and to introduce the new electric rail system in as little as 18 months. But that’s pretty much all that's been publicly revealed about it. The BGA argued that the secrecy behind the proposal’s logistics goes against the statutes of public policy that require such developments to solve clear problems in a clear way before receiving approval or funding. The watchdog organization reached out to the Emanuel administration to obtain public records detailing the meetings between the mayor and Musk, but the city simply claimed the initial discussions on the project were “pre-decisional.” This means no firm deal has been struck between the two parties even though the plan went public this summer. The BGA also pointed out that Musk has already completed a short tunnel project beneath Los Angeles’s Hawthorne neighborhood, but used conventional sewer drilling technology to make it, not the as-promised, untested tech. Musk claims that he can begin construction on the Chicago tunnel by the end of this year and complete it quickly thanks to the new (non-existent) digging equipment. But the head of the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, which green-lighted the project according to the BGA, said a more realistic construction time is four years. Even so, major infrastructure projects generally take a decade or more to finish (see: New York’s Second Avenue Subway) and Chicago has already spent over $250 million under former Mayor Richard M. Daley on a failed plan to complete an underground superstation on the way to the airport. Improving upon the 45-minute commute via rail from the Loop to O’Hare is a top priority for the city, but no real plans from Musk or the mayor have been outlined as of late for locals to review. If the BGA’s lawsuit moves forward, Chicagoans could get a peek at the plans sooner rather than later.
Posts tagged with "Mayor Rahm Emanuel":
In a record year of optimism for some of the Midwest’s most notorious and perennially vacant buildings, the City of Chicago, along with Jam Productions and Fairpoint Development, has announced that the lights will turn back on at Chicago’s Uptown Theatre after almost four decades of vacancy. The $75 million restoration project will be the catalyst in one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s early campaign promises to create a sustainable and lucrative entertainment district in Uptown slated to rival others downtown. Restoration of the Uptown Theatre is enhanced by a surge in infrastructure improvements to the neighborhood, including a $203 million restoration of the nearby Wilson Avenue CTA Red Line station and forthcoming renovations to both the Lawrence and Argyle CTA Red Line Stations. An additional $6 million has been allotted for street improvements already underway. According to a press release, city assistance for the Uptown restoration includes $14 million in Property Accessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing, $13 million in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds, and $3 million from the cities Adopt-A-Landmark fund. The remainder of the $75 million is expected to come from private financing sources. Shortly after his election in 2011, Mayor Emanuel began speaking of creating a music and entertainment district anchored by the Uptown, the Riviera Theatre, the Aragon Ballroom, and the Green Mill, forming a nonprofit to back public-private infrastructure projects, the Chicago Infrastructure Trust (CIT). The organization arranged for a purchasing agreement with Jam Productions in an attempt to turn the Uptown into a non-profit, but the effort ultimately failed. Jam Productions acquired the structure in 2008 through a judicial sale. Built in 1925, the Uptown Theatre was designed by architects Cornelius W. and George L. Rapp for the Balaban and Katz theater chain. Rapp and Rapp were incredibly prolific in Chicago, designing all of the city's well-known vaudeville theaters from the time period, including the Rivera Theatre, the Chicago Theatre, the Bank of America Theatre (originally the Majestic), the Oriental Theatre and the Cadillac Palace (originally the New Palace Theatre). The Uptown Theatre was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, is a Chicago Landmark, and contributes to a landmark district. In an unlikely story of preservation by neglect, the Uptown has been dark since the J. Geils Band played a concert there in December 1981. While no immediate plans for demolition have ever faced the Uptown Theatre, a lifetime of deferred maintenance and its seemingly constant flux in ownership have kept the building on the radar of Chicago preservationists, as well as organizations like Preservation Chicago, Landmarks Illinois, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Friends of the Uptown, a non-profit organization not affiliated with the restoration, was formed by community volunteers in 1998. The Uptown Theatre found itself in the winter of 2014 with its heat turned off, causing a 30-foot icicle to form in the basement. The building’s decades of vacancy along with its size—4,600 square feet across three levels—begs multiple questions. With the effects of 37 years without general upkeep to address, $75 million may not be enough to bring the Uptown back to modern standards. Restoration has been given a 2020 completion date, a tall order for a structure with complex architectural elements in various states of disrepair.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced a new pilot program to encourage affordable housing in the city’s rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. The program would focus on areas on the Near North and Near West sides, and along Milwaukee Avenue corridor. Since the dismantling of much of the city’s public housing throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s, Chicago has heavily relied upon private development to fulfill affordable housing needs. To guide this the city passed the Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO), which sets rules for new developments over 10 units or that receive zoning changes. The current iteration of the ordinance requires that 10 percent of units in qualifying developments must be affordable, or the developer can pay in-lieu fees up to $225,000. The new pilot program would target particular neighborhoods which have shown signs of rapid gentrification. These include 9 miles along Milwaukee Avenue, incorporating parts of Logan Square, Avendale, West Town, and areas along the Green Line. The goal is to create 1,000 new affordable units over the next three years. To do this, the program proposes to raise the required affordable unit obligation from 10 percent to 15 or 20 percent depending on location. The in-lieu fee option would also be eliminated, forcing developers to build affordable units instead of paying to get out of the obligation. Lastly, the pool of eligible tenants would be expanded by increasing the threshold to 80 percent Area Median Income (AMI), 20 percent above the current threshold. “Access to affordable housing is critical to Chicago’s legacy as one of the world’s most livable big cities, especially as the real estate market undergoes unprecedented neighborhood development,” Mayor Emanuel said. “This initiative will create more affordable units in targeted areas while helping the city to assess the most effective ways of meeting neighborhood affordable housing goals.” If passed by the city council, the program will affect some of the fastest developing areas in the city. Both the Near North and Near West Sides have seen rapid growth, particularly around transit nodes. Thanks to a 2015 Transit-Oriented Development Ordinance, developers have been able to build large residential blocks with few or no parking spaces near major transit lines. The result has been a building boom, which many argue has exacerbated the gentrification in neighborhoods across the city.
Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel floats ordinance to fast-track transit-oriented development, reduce parking minimums
This week Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will push a plan to expand transit-oriented development (TOD) by easing zoning restrictions and releasing certain projects from parking requirements altogether. The city already has an ordinance providing for transit-oriented development and, as AN has previously reported, several projects have rushed to take advantage of it. Mixed-use developments with dozens of new housing units have slashed their parking lots, avoiding a longstanding code requirement that they provide one spot for every unit by building near transit stations. Chicago's Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) gave the proposed changes a favorable preliminary analysis, building off its own “TOD calculator” which the agency released recently in order to spur private developers into building on dozens of properties it labeled “ready for TOD.” Emanuel's new ordinance would give developers of such projects more opportunities to reduce their investment in parking. Here are the changes City Council members will vote on Wednesday, according to the mayor's press office:
• TOD incentives will be available within an expanded radius from a transit station: up to 1,320 feet (1/4 mile) or 2,640 feet (1/2 mile) on a Pedestrian-designated street. • A 100 percent reduction from residential parking requirements if replaced with alternative transportation options, such as a car sharing station on site, or bike parking. • A streamlined process for accessing the minimum lot area, floor area ratio (FAR), and building height incentives by allowing developers to secure these benefits through an Administrative Adjustment from the Zoning Administrator, as opposed to a zoning map amendment by City Council under current law. • For projects that trigger the city’s Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO), an additional 0.25 FAR increase (to 3.75) if the development includes half of any required affordable housing units on site, plus an additional 0.25 FAR increase (to 4.0) if the development includes all required affordable housing units on site.
Despite a smattering of gray skies, Chicago inaugurated another stretch of its revamped riverwalk this Memorial Day weekend, and visitors were eager to explore the newly expanded public space. Kayakers, pedestrians, locals and tourists alike came to check out the partially opened project, which will remain under construction through the summer. Along with Ross Barney Architects, Benesch, and Jacobs Ryan and the Chicago Department of Transportation, Sasaki Associates led design on the project—a major component of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's bid to rebrand the Chicago River as the city's “second shoreline.” Work began in 2013, and many of the storefronts built along the riverwalk's newest section—from State Street to Clark Street—still await tenants. Construction work continued right up until opening day.
https://twitter.com/DillonGoodson/status/603226446484656128 https://twitter.com/MASContext/status/602684099443105792 https://twitter.com/chrisdmerritt/status/602313220930560002 https://twitter.com/mdsmith577/status/602261780560277504 Curbed Chicago rounded up some more photos of the riverwalk from this weekend.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's announcement that Chicago would launch an international festival of art and architecture—its own take on the famous Venice biennale—drew jeers and cheers from the design community both near and far from The Second City. AN called for the show aspiring to be North America's largest architectural exhibition to go beyond tourism bromides. Now the upstart expo has a name, as well as its first show. The inaugural Chicago architecture biennial will begin in October 2015, and will be called “The State of the Art of Architecture,” in reference to the controversial conference organized in 1977 by architect Stanley Tigerman. Tigerman's show celebrated the postmodern rejection of Chicago's old masters like Mies van der Rohe, forging the position of architectural protest group The Chicago Seven. A press release from the organizing committee alludes to the upcoming exhibition's wide scope:
More than a profession or a repertoire of built artifacts, architecture is a dynamic cultural practice that manifests at different scales and through various media: buildings and cities, but also art, performance, film, landscape and new technologies. It permeates fundamental registers of everyday life—from housing to education, from environmental awareness to economic growth, from local communities to global networks.The biennial's first commission was announced Wednesday by co-directors Joseph Grima—a former curator of the Storefront for Art and Architecture, and director of the Ideas City platform of the New Museum—and Sarah Herda, director of the Graham Foundation and AN editorial advisor. Renowned photographer Iwan Baan will contribute an original photo essay about Chicago featuring aerial shots taken at sunrise. The work will “capture the city during a moment of its daily routine,” according to the press release. “Like the Biennial itself, Baan’s expansive photographs interpret Chicago as a realm of architectural possibility, past and future.” The free festival's home base will be the Chicago Cultural Center, but organizers say it won't be restricted to downtown. “Using the city as a canvas, installations will be created in Millennium Park and other Chicago neighborhoods, including new projects and public programs developed by renowned artist Theaster Gates on Chicago’s south side,” reads a press release. “The Biennial will also feature collateral exhibitions and events with partner institutions throughout the city, and will offer educational programming for local and international students.” Tigerman, whose 1977 exhibition is the inspiration for the 2015 show's title, sits on the biennial's International Advisory Committee, which also includes architects David Adjaye, Elizabeth Diller, Jeanne Gang, and Frank Gehry, along with critic Sylvia Lavin, Lord Peter Palumbo and Hans Ulrich Obrist. Ty Tabing, former executive director of the Chicago Loop Alliance and founder of Singapore River One, will serve as the biennial's executive director. Oil giant BP has agreed to donate $2.5 million for the show, but Mayor Emanuel is reportedly seeking $1.5 million more.
Chicago, in a bid to boost its tourism industry and cultural cachet, will host an international design exhibition next year modeled after the Venice Biennale, which every two years draws contributions from architects and artists from around the world. Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the Chicago Architecture Biennial Tuesday. Speaking to the Chicago Tribune’s Blair Kamin, Emanuel said he hopes to use the city’s reputation as a hub for modern architecture to encourage economic development:
"Obviously there's an economic benefit in tourism and travel. Chicago will continue to be seen worldwide as an epicenter of modern architecture… The real question is: Why wasn't Chicago doing this before?"The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) and the Graham Foundation will present the show, which will be based in the Chicago Cultural Center. The Chicago Architecture Foundation, whose annual Open House Chicago will coincide with the start of the initial biennial, will help coordinate the first exhibition, which is planned for October 1, 2015 through January 3, 2016. Oil company BP donated $2.5 million for the first show. Kamin reported that Emanuel personally solicited BP’s grant funding, and that the city’s still looking to raise $1.5 million more. While the Chicago event makes no secret of taking after its prestigious namesake in Venice, there will be several differences from that event, which reportedly drew more than 175,000 visitors in 2012. Admission to Chicago’s event will be free, and the show will not have national pavilions. It will have a theme, which has yet to be determined, and will seek to compete in an increasingly crowded field of international design exhibitions. Venice has mounted its exhibition 14 times in 34 years, deviating occasionally from its biennial schedule. If Chicago’s initial event is deemed a success, officials say they’ll duplicate it every two years. Joseph Grima, who co-curated the Istanbul biennial in 2012, and Graham Foundation Director Sarah Herda will co-direct the inaugural Chicago event. Another Chicago-based design curator, Zöe Ryan of the Art Institute of Chicago, is coordinating Istanbul’s next biennial, which will run concurrently with Chicago’s.
A short time from now in a neighborhood not far, far away… filmmaker extraordinaire George Lucas may land his art and film museum in Chicago. The move comes after the filmmaker's bid to build the museum in San Francisco fell through last year. Mayor Rahm Emanuel formed a task force last week, directing a dozen civic leaders to scout out, as the Sun-Times summarized, “a site ‘accessible’ to all Chicago neighborhoods that’s large enough to host a museum ‘comparable to other major cultural institutions,’ but does not ‘require taxpayer dollars.’” The task force is co-chaired by businessmen Gillian Darlow and Kurt Summers. Emanuel gave the group until mid-May to find a homebase for the Star Wars creator, who last year married Mellody Hobson, president of the Chicago investment firm Ariel. Lucas now lives in Chicago part-time, but Lucasfilm Ltd. and special effects company Industrial Light & Magic are still based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lucas had originally scoped out a spot in the Presidio, but was rejected by the Presidio trust—the nonprofit that oversees the federally owned land at the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge. Lucas' was one of three proposals for The Presidio's 8-acre mid-Crissy Field site, all of which The Presidio Trust rejected earlier this year, saying in a statement "We simply do not believe any of the projects were right for this location." Spokesman David Perry has described the 95,000-square-foot museum as the “history of storytelling” and the “world’s foremost museum dedicated to the power of the visual image.” Chicago is home to many museums, both well-known like the Art Institute and the Field Museum, and a bit more odd—say, the International Museum of Surgical Science. But the Lucas museum, which will include film memorabilia as well as works of art from the likes of Norman Rockwell and Maxfield Parrish, would be a big get. San Francisco is still vying for the return of its film Jedi, but we’ll see in one month how Rahm’s empire might strike back.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is reportedly considering a plan to boost capacity at Soldier Field, the city’s football stadium, in a bid to host the Super Bowl. But as the Chicago Tribune’s Blair Kamin laid out in a story Sunday, the play is a Hail Mary. Indianapolis’ new Lucas Oil Stadium, designed by HKS' Bryan Trubey [read AN’s Q+A with Trubey here], hosted the Super Bowl in 2012. Indy has also hosted the NCAA Final Four and the Big Ten football championship. The stadium, which holds 70,000 people under its retractable roof, has spurred nearby development and solidified Indianapolis’ position as a Midwest sports Mecca. The ability to seat 70,000 fans is considered a prerequisite for hosting the Super Bowl, so Soldier Field’s capacity of 61,500 falls short. Soldier Field is currently the smallest stadium in the NFL. But an additional 5,000 would still make the home of the Chicago Bears a tight squeeze for spectators of the country’s biggest sporting event. Emanuel told the Chicago Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman it’s also about other events:
“I know everybody looks at the Super Bowl. But, look at this hockey event [between the Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins], which we started last year with college hockey. You look at two years ago when we had the Mexican soccer team here. We have Liverpool coming. These things not only sell out. They sell out fast. And it’s clear that you could do more, given these super events and they would be self-financing and self-sustaining.”Dirk Lohan, who led the master plan for the stadium’s expansion, told Kamin he’s not optimistic about the preliminary expansion plans. He said the original renovations had to balance capacity and preservation, leading to a design whose structural system could not be updated today without considerable expenses. [Read AN’s Q+A with Dirk Lohan in the upcoming March issue of the Midwest edition.] Architects Benjamin Wood and Carlos Zapata modernized 1920s-era Soldier Field in 2003, but the Bears’ desire to add more seating lost out to the city’s imperative to preserve Soldier Field’s historic colonnades. The $690 million renovation lost its National Historic Landmark status anyway in 2006. It’s unclear who’s studying the possible expansion for the Mayor, but whoever reviews the plan may have to lock heads with public scrutiny as intense as the stadium’s design challenges.
Piles of dusty, black waste from coal and petroleum processing have been piling up on Chicago’s southeast side, angering residents and prompting Mayor Rahm Emanuel to weigh in on the contentious environmental issue. The Sun-Times has reported that Emanuel will introduce an ordinance at next month’s City Council meeting banning new storage facilities for so-called petcoke—a byproduct of the oil refinery process that can be sold overseas. It’s a step back from an outright ban proposed in December by Alderman Edward Burke, whose constituents were outraged by black dust clouds wafting from uncovered piles of petcoke along the Calumet River. Southeast side communities like Calumet, South Chicago, and South Deering are no strangers to industrial zoning. The Illinois-Indiana border has long been a pastiche of brownfields, residential communities, natural areas, and heavy industry. But the swirling black dust incited a class-action lawsuit filed against three storage sites last year. Chicago’s Department of Public Health shares area residents’ concerns. “We know that petcoke is a respiratory irritant and the main concern is if the petcoke is inhaled,” Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Bechara Choucair told the Sun-Times. “If you have somebody with asthma or other respiratory problems, inhaling petcoke would really lead to more problems…We are advancing this ordinance to protect our residents.” The anticipated zoning ordinance would prevent new petcoke storage facilities from entering the city, and would keep current outfits from expanding. KCBX, the largest such facility in the area, says the ordinance is unjustified, a sentiment shared by some business groups:
Mark Denzler, vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association called the ordinance “a solution in search of a problem.” … The Illinois Chamber of Commerce is also questioning the ordinance, calling it an “overreaction.” “We don’t understand what the mayor is trying to accomplish here. Petcoke and coal have been handled and stored in Chicago for decades with few issues. This seems like an overreaction to one incident – good policy rarely comes from overreacting,” Doug Whitley, Illinois Chamber of Commerce CEO said.KCBX is an affiliate of Koch Industries, the business empire of brothers Charles and David H. Koch. Their company, Koch Carbon, came under fire last year for storing the same material along the Detroit River.
A team of mayors and nonprofit foundations said Wednesday that they’ll spend enough retrofitting major U.S. cities to save more than $1 billion per year in energy costs. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s philanthropy, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and the Kresge Foundation pledged $3 million each year for three years to provide technical advisers for 10 cities across the country: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Orlando, Philadelphia and Salt Lake City. The City Energy Project, as it’s called, is intended to cut 5 to 7 million tons of carbon emissions annually, or roughly the amount of electricity used by 700,000 to 1 million U.S. homes each year. The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Institute for Market Transformation will help the cities draft plans to reduce waste and improve energy efficiency—a process the group said should not take more than one year. Chicago’s participation could lower energy bills by as much as $134 million annually and could cut about 1.3 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, according to the mayor’s office. In a prepared statement, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the investment would create jobs: “More energy efficiency means new jobs and continued economic growth, and a more sustainable City,” Emanuel said, “which will lead to a further increase in the quality of life for the people of Chicago.” Last year Illinois tightened its building code and Chicago ordered large buildings to disclose their energy use. In Chicago, like many of the nation’s older cities, large buildings eat up much of the city’s energy—together the buildings sector accounts for 40 percent of primary energy consumption in the U.S. While energy efficiency has long been recognized for its financial opportunity, major banks have only recently begun to invest. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said he hopes City Energy Project will connect building owners and private financiers, bringing more money to large-scale efficiency initiatives.
As Chicago gears up for an overhaul of the city’s Riverwalk, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has touted his architectural cause célèbre as a way for the city to reengage with its “second shoreline.” The renderings by Sasaki Associates show six new blocks of riverfront parks, effectively connecting the shore of Lake Michigan with a small park at the foot of the three massive towers planned for Wolf Point, at the confluence of the Chicago River’s three branches. Chicago Magazine scribe Whet Moser has a good suggestion for "Emanuel's latest obsession": learn from other riverwalks. The three he points to are in Indianapolis, San Antonio and London. Indianapolis has come back considerably from the depths of its urban flight. Its riverwalk should be a big beneficiary of that resurgence, but Moser quotes an Urbanophile blogger who notes Indy’s riverwalk remains relatively separate from its downtown business district. San Antonio and London took steps to integrate their riverwalks into the surrounding communities by adding mixed-use and expanding into neighborhoods beyond downtown. The plans as presented currently are ambitious in engaging the river downtown, but they focus on recreation rather than retail. While a riverside shopping mall is not ideal, a little more room for mixed-use development probably would enhance the experience. Likewise, the six blocks planned lay a framework for expanding into neighborhoods along the river to the north and south of the Loop, but are currently limited to downtown. Ping Tom Park in Chinatown is not far away, and one can even imagine (with a little optimism) that the industrial legacy of Goose Island just to the north could be reborn with a bit of greenspace. And other cities around the Midwest are renewing their riverfronts, as well. Des Moines' new riverwalk is nearing completion, and Detroit’s recently got a boost in funding to build on a design competition spotlight. Ross Barney Architects and Sasaki Associates are the designers on the project.