Posts tagged with "Rahm Emanuel":

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Elon Musk’s high-speed Chicago rail project could hinge on the mayoral election

Elon Musk’s plan to dig 18-mile-long underground tunnels between Chicago’s Loop and O’Hare International Airport was never a done deal, and after the February 26 mayoral election to replace Rahm Emanuel, the project may never be realized. On the surface, Musk’s pledge to fund the $1 billion high-speed train system through the Boring Company at no cost to the city seems like a win-win, but as a new report from The Verge revealed, momentum may be building against the O’Hare Express System. With Mayor Emanuel on his way out, his pet project might not survive. As the Verge noted, Emanuel hasn’t used his veto power once in his nine-year tenure as mayor, and Musk had chosen Chicago for the first practical application of Boring Company technology thanks to the permissive regulatory atmosphere. The plan went public in June last year, but no firm details on what the city has agreed on have come out yet and at least one lawsuit has already been filed to release any public records. It appears that public communication on the project has gone silent, and an official contract between the Boring Company and nonprofit Chicago Infrastructure Trust—a body created to facilitate public-private partnership projects—has yet to materialize. The Boring Company can’t sign a contract with the city until a National Environmental Policy Act review is complete, but the review can’t commence unless the Boring Company releases concrete project details. The tunneling company may be laying low until after the election. Other than the mayor’s departure, the city council has been hit with a set of scandals that have made it reluctant to vote on new projects. Alderman Ed Burke was arrested in an FBI raid last month on charges of extortion—a raid made possible thanks to fellow alderman Danny Solis, who wore a wire for two years as part of the investigation. Now, Solis is retiring and refusing to vote on any development in his district until his replacement is elected, meaning that the council is down two members who have historically voted in lockstep with Mayor Emanuel. Of the 15 candidates on the ballot for mayor, many of them appear opposed to the high-speed rail line. The project was a point of contention at a candidate forum earlier this month, and many of the surveyed mayoral hopefuls told the Chicago Tribune that they would consider quashing the tunnel. Only candidate Bill Daley provided support for the rail tunnel, and even that was measured, as he called for a thorough evaluation of the project's cost. Many of the concerns were about the untested nature of the technology being used, as the Boring Company has only completed one test tunnel thus far, as well as cost and density concerns. While electrically-powered shuttles would be able to move people downtown at 150-miles-per-hour and cut transit times from Block 37 in the Loop to O’Hare to only 12 minutes, the system would only be capable of moving 1,900 people per hour. Tickets could cost up to $25. For comparison, the Blue Line is able to move twice as many people per hour along that same route for only $5.
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Illinois Governor ransoms Thompson Center for public school money

In an act of political wrangling that typifies the relationship between the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner announced that if the city would allow the sale of the Helmut Jahn–designed James R. Thompson Center, he would provide the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) with additional funding. Last week Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that he would block the sale of the postmodern building out of fear of having to replace the large CTA subway station beneath it. Over the past few years, the city and state have played tug-of-war over funding for the often-beleaguered public school system. In his address, Governor Rauner promised to provide an additional $45 million a year through 2040 if the city permitted the sale of the building. It was only a few months ago that Rauner has vetoed a bill that would have provided $215 million to CPS’s pension fund. The battle over the Thompson Center officially began back in October 2015, when Rauner announced his intention to sell the building. He called the building “ineffective,” and “just not useable for much of anything.” The building is facing a deferred maintenance bill of over $100 million and costs the state roughly $12 million a year to operate. Despite that cost, the building contains one of the largest interior public civic spaces in the city, and many fear selling the building to a private developer would be a major loss for the city.
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Five gathering spaces announced for Chicago’s lakefront

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago Park District ,and the Field Museum of Natural History have revealed five designs that will be implemented along a stretch of South Side lakefront as part of the Field Museum’s “Roots and Routes” initiative. The five “gathering spaces” were the result of an RFP issued by the Park District and the Field Museum to artist and community organizations. Located in the 100-acre ribbon of The Burnham Wildlife Corridor (BWC), the spaces will be integrated into a series of paths which will connect neighboring communities to Lake Michigan through the largest stretch of natural landscape along Chicago’s lakefront. “These gathering spaces along the south lakefront are part of our effort to give children and residents in every neighborhood the opportunity to learn about nature and to enjoy and experience nature right in their own backyard,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “These unique gathering spaces will add to the vibrancy of Chicago’s south lakefront while helping to inspire the next generation to preserve and protect Chicago’s natural wonders.” The BWC extends from the McCormick Bird Sanctuary, just south of the McCormick Place convention center to the Burnham Sanctuary near 49th Street. “The objective of the Burnham Wildlife Corridor is to create healthy, vibrant and native habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife; and to meaningfully connect visitors, especially those from neighboring communities, to a revitalized public green space in ways that inspire exploration, enjoyment, and stewardship of the area,” said Chicago Park District Superintendent and CEO Mike Kelly. “We are pleased to partner with these organizations to create spaces where community members can gather and take advantage of nature in this bustling city.” The teams involved with the projects include local artists and community organizations, with ties to the Bronzeville, Chinatown, and Pilsen neighborhoods. The organizations include the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago, Bronzeville Community Development Partnership, the South Side Community Art Center, and Pilsen-based Contratiempo and Casa Michoacán. The gathering spaces are also one part of the Mayor’s "Building on Burnham" initiative, a comprehensive plan to invest in the Lakefront, the Chicago River, and recreational areas in neighborhoods throughout city.
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Chicago Mayor proposes to leverage downtown development for neighborhood improvements

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed an initiative aimed at driving neighborhood development by leveraging downtown development with Neighborhood Opportunity Bonuses. These bonuses would exchange added square footage for funds that would be invested in business development in struggling neighborhoods. The proposal would reform the current Zoning Bonus Ordinance, which enables additional square footage in downtown development in exchange for public amenities such as public plazas, water features, sidewalk improvements, and affordable housing units. The mayor’s proposal hopes to update the current system by “eliminating outdated bonuses, closing loopholes and establishing a new funding source for economic development projects in underserved neighborhoods.” The mayor’s office claims the updated ordinance could produce tens of millions of dollars over the next several years. Neighborhoods named in the mayor’s announcement as examples that could benefit from the initiative include Greater Englewood, Auburn Gresham, and Garfield Park. Examples given of what the funds could be used for include “reviving a commercial retail corridor or bringing a new grocery store to a food desert.” “The new system would directly extend the benefits of a strong downtown to neighborhoods with unrealized potential,” David L. Reifman, commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development said in the initiative's press release. Mayor Emanuel announced the initiative at the Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards (CNDA) to an audience of neighborhood advocates, developers, and architects. “One developer’s density bonus will not become another struggling neighborhoods economic opportunity, he said. “The whole goal is not to pit one part of our city against another, but to see those that are seeking density bonuses, and want to build taller, we’ll work with you. But means with that opportunity there are funds we are going to see, so when a neighborhood gets housing, there will be a grocery store. When another developer wants to build a hotel, apartment buildings, or condos, or an office building, that becomes in that neighborhood an opportunity for retail portion that have not seen.” As with how current zoning bonuses function in the city, projects will work through their aldermen and the city council for approval. The funds will be distributed through “an open process for development proposals,” with will work with residents and stakeholders. The allocated money will be outlined, with information of supported projects, in a public report provided annually to the City Council. The proposed initiative will be reviewed for approval by the City Council in the spring.
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Eavesdrop> Rahm Emanuel, Archi-critic

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune’s Blair Kamin, Mayor Rahm Emanuel rattled off a few of his favorite buildings in the fair city of Chicago. Rahmbo steered clear of the supertalls—no Sears, Hancock, or Trump—and he’s apparently a thoroughly modern guy, skipping the old Water Tower, the Board of Trade or any classical designs. Nope, it’s Kohn Pedersen Fox’s 333 Wacker Drive, clad in curving, reflective green glass, that leads off his list. He also gave shouts out to Frank Gehry’s fittingly bombastic Jay Pritzker Pavilion and the industrial-turned-condo buildings of Printer’s Row in the South Loop. Makes sense that Mr. Tourism-and-Development would gravitate towards buildings with real estate stories as interesting as their designs. No qualms with his picks, but we’d like to see old, pre-sweater wearing Rahm pen a screed dropping f-bombs on his least favorite buildings. Now that’d be something.
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Exclusive Video> Paddle along with Jeanne Gang as she kayaks the Chicago River

If you start at Studio Gang’s acclaimed Aqua Tower and follow the Chicago River about six miles north you will find yourself at another eye-catching building by the increasingly in-demand firm. The WMS Boathouse at Clark Park, completed in 2013, sits along the very polluted north branch of the river and has a dramatic profile inspired by the rhythm of rowers’ oars. (The building is named for the gaming technology company that contributed to the project and has offices directly across the river.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJsaAPfZX50&feature=youtu.be The boathouse is one of four commissioned by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to help draw people toward—and hopefully onto—the city’s industrial and neglected waterways, which he calls Chicago’s “next recreational frontier.” The idea is that if Chicagoans come to see the rivers as an urban asset it will create momentum to get them cleaned up. And any environmental revitalization would go hand-in-hand with economic revitalization, especially outside of the city's core where the first phase of the Riverwalk opened this summer. Studio Gang—which designed two of the structures, the second of which recently broke ground on Chicago’s south side—was an obvious choice for Emanuel’s bold river vision. In 2011, the firm, working with the Natural Resource Defense Council and students from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, published Reverse Effect—a 116-page book that lays out the waterways’ history and proposes innovative ways to renew them. (The Chicago-based Johnson & Lee oversaw the other pair of boathouses.) The Architect’s Newspaper recently visited the WMS Boathouse with Studio Gang founder Jeanne Gang, and went kayaking with her to talk about the boathouse, the river, and how her firm plans to continue producing unique architecture as its influence expands around the Midwest and beyond.
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Eavesdrop> Rahminator Remiss

You don’t often hear Mayor Rahm Emanuel utter these words, so when Rahmbo admitted he “made a mistake” in proposing naming a Near North Side school after Obama, his former boss, we thought it worthwhile to get him on the record here. Earlier this year Emanuel threw $60 million in TIF funding to the planned selective enrollment school, offering up the name apparently without consulting local leaders, including the head of Chicago Public Schools. They didn’t like the idea, as it turns out, probably only a little more than Emanuel didn’t like every local reporter committing his rare self-effacement to print.
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Eavesdrop> Sign of the Times: Reflecting on Chicago Summer-Long Trump Tower Saga

Mr. Donald Trump has bestowed upon fair Chicago an ode to his own self-worth, spurring an architectural debate that’s pulled in Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Jon Stewart, and plenty more. Grab a bag of popcorn and we’ll catch you up. In June, Trump International Hotel & Tower gained an array of 20-foot-6-inch-tall stainless steel letters spelling T-R-U-M-P, which Curbed called a “big, dumb sign” and Blair Kamin called “as subtle as Godzilla.” Trump didn’t like that, and bashed Kamin as “a lightweight” in the press—Trump, critic of architecture critics! Already reduced in size about 20 percent from its original plans (The Donald makes no small plans), the sign was always part of the 2008 SOM building’s design, although architect Adrian Smith apparently “had nothing to do” with it. It’s a gaudy bit of self-promotion along Chicago’s most visible strip of real estate, but it’s Trump’s name—not his sign itself—that’s really got us riled up. After all we put up with corporate intrusions on our public field of view all the time. In fact, all this public indignation over design has us hopeful: Let’s rise up and take back our public spaces! Or at least sarcastically Instagram the new sign with its ‘T’ strategically cropped out.
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Mortgage fraud money to remake historic homes in Chicago’s Pullman area

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced Tuesday $1.9 million—most of which comes from the state’s portion of a federal settlement with banks over mortgage fraud—will go to rehab historic homes in Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood. Some $1.5 million of the money comes from a 2014 settlement with mortgage lenders including JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi, Bank of America and Ally over fraudulent behavior they are alleged to have encouraged during the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis. Most of the money will go toward renovating homes in the Far South Side neighborhood, which was created as a company town for Pullman’s once-ubiquitous traincars. The city will kick in an additional $400,000 to help finance the purchase of rehabbed homes as part of an “affordable historic home revitalization initiative,” according to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office. That effort is part of a larger state program to battle blight in communities with lots of vacant and abandoned properties. Pullman has seen new development in recent years, including a contentious Walmart in 2010, and ongoing work from the Historic Pullman Foundation to preserve the neighborhood’s architectural heritage. Local preservationists are even hoping to win National Park status for the neighborhood—the National Park Service said late last year that the district “appears likely to meet the national significance and suitability criteria” for further study.
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George Lucas Museum will be in Chicago

Columnist Michael Sneed of the Chicago Sun-Times quotes “reliable sources” who tell her George Lucas has picked Chicago for his planned museum devoted to movie memorabilia, visual arts, and culture. Mayor Rahm Emanuel in April charged a task force with finding a site for the museum, once San Francisco’s Presidio was ruled off-limits for the California-based Luasfilm magnate's “museum dedicated to the power of the visual image.” San Francisco and Los Angeles are also vying for what Lucas has said will be an investment of at least $700 million—an infusion of economic activity that squares with Emanuel’s other efforts to develop Chicago’s cultural tourism industry. Lucas had wanted to house his extensive art collection near San Francisco’s Crissy Field, but The Presidio Trust rejected his proposal along with two others for development on the Golden Gate Bridge-adjacent site. Chicago’s proposal identified a parking lot in downtown’s Museum Campus—land that Emanuel critics like Alderman Bob Fioretti said the Mayor was trying to hand off to private interests without ample negotiation or public input. That debate may now get a lot more real for power brokers in Chicago, as City Hall officials have reportedly confirmed that Lucas will land his museum on Lake Michigan. The proposal still needs to go through the Chicago Plan Commission, but could open as soon as 2018.
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Construction of Chicago Riverwalk Underway; City Looks at Funding Options

Chicago’s Riverwalk extension is underway, and the city is looking for contractors to help plan and operate concessions along what promises to be a major downtown attraction. Applicants have until April 7 to reply to the city’s request for qualifications. Chicago Riverwalk 1 The project got a major infusion of federal cash last year, but now Chicago is looking for private entities to help arrange for concessions—think bike rentals, kiosks, cafes, retail—along the riverside promenade, which will expand the Riverwalk six blocks. Federal transportation loans to be paid back over 35 years won’t be enough to fully finance the project, so the city is still considering sponsorship and advertising. Last year the city’s then-transportation chief Gabe Klein promised "Any additional advertising would be very tasteful and very limited.” Conceptual plans establish identities for each of the Riverwalk extension’s six blocks from State Street west to Lake Street: The Marina (from State to Dearborn); The Cove (Dearborn to Clark); The River Theater (Clark to LaSalle); The Swimming Hole (LaSalle to Wells); The Jetty (Wells to Franklin); and The Boardwalk (Franklin to Lake). Chicago’s plan to reengage its “second shoreline” follows similar efforts that have had success in Indianapolis, San Antonio and London, among others.
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Is expanding Chicago’s soldier field a hail mary pass?

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.