Tuesday, January 30, 2007
It's gone. From right in front of our house. Our Honda Accord Hybrid. Picked off the street last night. Damn. That car rocked. The thieves are no doubt enjoying the excellent gas mileage and quiet ride.
Our friend's car was stolen on Saturday night out of his garage near Racine & Diversey. Apparently, the thief had a remote control and drove up and down the streets seeing if a garage door would open.
Maybe that Lojack isn't such a dumb-sounding product after all.
If you all see a car that looks just like this one in the photo driving around with bad guys in it, please let me know. I'm announcing this as kind of like an Amber Alert but for our car.
Monday, January 29, 2007
Apparently the mayor is for them if your block is.
Essentially, you need to have 67% of your street's residents approve it before it goes to the city for review. If you don't muck up fire department, police, and CTA routes, and you're on a residential street, you're probably good to go.
The mayor says cul-de-sacs promote community. But, he doesn't explain how.
He also believes they reduce noise.
But he doesn't mention that's just on the block that gets the cul-de-sac.
My brother-in-law and sister-in-law live on a cul-de-sac in Lincoln Park.
I would say it brings them no more and no less "Community" than our through street two blocks away.
I will say it brings a lot of frustrated drivers to the street who think they can get to the main artery. Then, when they realize they are wrong and begin to cuss, they have to circle back. That's not very fun to watch, particularly when they're driving trucks. Perhaps that's the feeling of community the mayor is talking about.
Personally, I find cul-de-sacs annoying. I always thought of them as suburban accoutrements, and never as a good thingfor a bustling city to do.
I grew up on two different suburban cul-de-sacs in the Midwest. My father used to think they were the safest location for children, and he was probably right.
The one we moved to when I was in the fifth grade was right next to a second cul-de-sac at the end of a long street. My friends used to tell me I lived on "big balls" court.
Perhaps that's the real reason why I'm not a fan of them.
Aside: The Wonders of the Internets
So, I googled images of cul-de-sacs and by chance landed on this painting by Ellen Wixted. I found it at the Sev Shoon Art Center website. The Center is located in Seattle.
Ellen's other paintings are just as contemplative about the intersection of nature and development as this one. She states,
"Using the formal language of representational painting, my work explores the tension between our expectations of landscape painting and the unsettling landscapes that are the by-product of development."
Find more of her work here.
I have thought about this A LOT -- ever since North Avenue began looking like a suburban mall zone.
"I wonder what is being done to handle new
traffic patterns and the added congestion from
building going in south of North Avenue?
Whole Foods -- the British School---Twin
condo towers that will be thirty stories tall--
All this added traffic will be pouring onto North
Avenue and Clyborn and Halsted Street.
Who is planning this stuff? Where's the city
Here are my hunches.
At least three different alderman's wards converge in that area: Burnett, Matlak, and Daley. Maybe some others.
And, there is almost no one living there. So, there is no citizen base to fight the changes, question them, or encourage design improvements. Furthermore, the aldermen are not requiring that developers include housing in conjunction with all those shopping malls. That would have the benefit of making that area a truly mixed-use community. Thus, all possibility of a civic life has been drained from the area.
As the area lacks a complete voice, the developers get to do whatever they want, more or less, and traffic will not be addressed until it is too late.
Matlak touts the new North Avenue bridge and several new traffic lights along North Avenue as the cure for the congestion, but I don't get how that will be, except for the first few hours after the bridge officially opens.
Finally, over here in Lincoln Park, the citizenry has been sliced, diced, and roto-chopped into such small subgroups of community organizations that no one has the collective power to say: "Hey, enough is enough! Have some vision and build something that is vibrant, alive, and HOUSES PEOPLE AND CITIZENS."
Aaaarch. The whole thing frustrates the heck out of me. They had an opportunity to enhance that small part of the city and make it really thrive all the way to the expressway. Now, it's just another ugly shopping strip devoid of human presence when the shops are closed and enabled by a bunch of alderman who are all too free to say, "Not my ward."
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Whole Foods is packing up and moving out, according to the lady who packed my orzo, feta & spinach salad into a plastic container this morning.
Apparently, they're building a new structure just a bit south of their current location.
Why? I asked.
Her answer spoke volumes about the nature of change in our neighborhoods: "Because the building is old."
Old? Didn't you just move in like a decade ago? (I've since double-checked -- they moved in in 1993.)
Yeah, she said, but they didn't build it. "Whole Foods likes to build its own buildings."
It's true and confirmed on the Whole Foods website right here.
"In the near future we will be relocating to a new facility which will nearly triple our size and allow us the opportunity to better serve our customers (sic) needs with cutting edge food venues and lifestyle options." -- Rich Howley, Store Team Leader
It's no wonder that buildings have so much pressure on them to come down right after they've been put up. No market-strategy-carrying company wants to shoehorn themselves into a space meant originally for another purpose.
I can't fully blame Whole Foods for making strategic decisions and wanting to build a facility that helps them achieve their competitive goals. They obviously retro-fitted themselves into their current space, which at one time belonged to Sam's Warehouse.
But, egads, TRIPLE its current size? I'm surprised by that. I love Trader Joe's in part because it's easy to get in and out so quickly.
I avoid those giant stores as much as I can less I get sucked in and am never seen by my family again.
And -- drum roll please -- here is the Tally of Contact my home has received from the campaigns via regular mail and phone calls.
(I'm not including e-mails because I don't think we want our candidates contacting us this way less we all get death-by-spam from every government official in the state. But, if I were a candidate, I'd sure as heck be trying to e-mail you guys.)
43rd Ward Aldermanic (Drumrolland big echoey voice again, please) TALLY OF CONTACT
Vi Daley: 3 Mailings
Notes: These feature her "Vi" logo and revolve around themes of commitment to the ward, holding the line on property taxes, and protecting seniors and retirees.
[Has anyone else noticed that our aldermen are getting logos? I think Walter Burnett has one, too. In Vi's, the left side of the V sweeps around her name kind of like an @ sign. Maybe I should do that with my name. . . ]
Tim Egan: 1 Brochure Delivered to my Front Door
Notes: "Vote Tim In" is the slogan, and yours truly was gratified to see a photo of Tim helping out at the North Avenue Beach Clean-up earlier this summer. (See post here.) [For the record, Vi Daley and her staff attended that day, too. So, bonus points all around for those of you keeping score at home.] Tim also emphasized that he'll take "positive actions" and create a "rational commonground."
Michele Smith: 1 Phone Call and 1 Mailing
Well, unfortunately, when the phone rang I was in the middle of dinner with one screaming toddler refusing her soup, a six-year-old asking for a cup of juice, and a dog whining at the back door.
Why I answered in the midst of all that, I'll never know. It was a very sincere young woman calling named Melissa, and she asked if she could tell me why she had volunteered for Michele Smith.
Now, of course, I'm the type who actually did want to talk with Melissa. But I had two choices: avoid Melissa or have a Mommy meltdown. You know which one I chose, but I'm sorry I didn't talk with her that night.
A couple of days later, she sent me a campaign flyer with a hand-written note that included, "We in the 43rd ward deserve an alderman that listens to her constituents and will let their voices be heard in City Hall." She also invited me to Smith's website.
I have not received anything yet from Zelchenko or Goodstein. Although, Zelchenko does have a PDF of his flyer on his website, but you have to be a highly motivated voter to track it down. I'm pretty motivated, so I hope to get to it soon.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
So many of the mega-mansions built around here seem to completely forego any kind of outdoor element in favor of fortifying their fortresses. But, this house always struck me as getting it right. There are loads of windows yet it's incredibly private at the same time.
Unfortunately, the house is a bit like the Wonka factory. No one goes in and no one ever comes out. Sometimes a golden retriever sits in the window on the second floor gazing at everyone walking by below like he's the only king in the kennel.
The rumor is that the house is a guest abode for a Hyatt heiress (as in just an extra house she has lying around in case company jetted into town), but that's just a rumor. I have no idea if it's true.
The most wonderful thing is that because it's on the market (at $5.2 million with Heather Bilandic as its listing agent), I got to see some photos of the interior on the web and learn a little bit more about it. It's a 37' x 37' courtyard!
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
The conference will take place on Saturday, March 3 between 9 and 5. It will feature more than ten topic tracks:
Advocacy/ Constituency Building
Arts, Culture, History
Birds & Bird Conservation
Entomology & Aquatic Life
Land Management &
Volunteers/ Community Building
Find the schedule, registration information, and more here.
Monday, January 22, 2007
"Saturday, Jan. 27, 10 a.m. Citizen Action endorsement session, at the Chicago Hilton, 720 S. Michigan.
Thursday, Feb. 1, Thursday, February 8 at 6:30 p.m. Mid-North Assn., Park West Community Assn., Diversey Harbor-Lakeview Assn. candidate forum, probably at the Notebaert Nature Museum.
Update: See link for more information on this one at Mid-North's website here.
Thursday, Feb. 15, 7-8:30 p.m. Lakeview Action Coalition, United Power for Action and Justice, Jane Addams Senior Center, Metro Seniors in Action candidate forum, at Church of Our Savior."
Sunday, January 21, 2007
We saw it last night. Here's a plot summary (borrowed from The Goodman Theater's website):
"Aunt Ester's house at 1839 Wylie Avenue is scheduled for demolition to make way for Bedford Hills, a slick new real estate venture designed to revive Pittsburgh's depressed Hill District--and boost Harmond Wilks' chances of becoming the city's first black mayor.The play was very strong, but I have been stopping short of raving about it. The entire two hours of the script took place in a single room. I felt the script demanded that the characters confront the physical house in some way. They never did. I also felt like the script contained a lot of explaining and reminiscing, which kept the characters at a bit of an arm's length. I couldn't really get engaged in their world. I could only sit back and be told about it.
But first, the government must declare the historic neighborhood blighted, unleashing federal money for its development. All goes according to plan until a mysterious stranger, claiming ownership of the house, forces Wilks to reconsider his path to success."
Nonetheless, the importance of many of the issues it touched upon can't be denied. The acting was superb, and the staging was over-the-top. It felt meaningful to see the issues of development vs. demolition brought to the stage in this way, and I thought Wilson gave both sides a fair shake. He's equivocal on his resolution, and I was grateful for it.
Photo courtesy of The Goodman Theater.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
If you're just picking up the story, dear neighbors, our alderman, Vi Daley, has four tough-minded competitors who sincerely want to take her to the Lincoln Park mat. So to speak.
For the record, we here at The Place Where We Live headquarters have determined that we will act as Switzerland and will not endorse any candidate. This is due to three main reasons:
- I'm actively looking to move out of the ward because most of the single family homes in my price range do not fall within this ward's boundaries. ('Tis a shame and not a surprise, right?)
- To date, I've briefly met three of the five candidates, and I believe that each is acting in good faith to serve our community. I really respect that.
- What do I know?
That being said, I certainly have some opinions on the matter.
So, let's begin with a simple introduction to the candidates, culled from their websites. More to follow in the coming days and weeks. I do hope you will chime in and comment as you see fit.
I also welcome more information, tips, and thoughts via e-mail at ThePlaceWhereWeLive (at) Gmail.com
Vi Daley (Incumbent)
Vi has been serving as our alderman since 1999. Her ward office can be found here.
Her reelection campaign site can be found here. One sentence on why you should vote for her (excerpted from her website):
"She has always understood what gives our neighborhood its character, strength and historic feel. She has always had a common bond with the community."
Tim Egan works as the Director of Outpatient Services and Managed Care Contracting at Norwegian American Hospital on the far northside. He's also an active community member.
His campaign website can be found here.
Why he believes he'd make a good alderman (excerpted from the campaign website):
"Tim Egan possesses a passion for two things that will make him a successful and respected Alderman of the 43rd Ward in the City of Chicago; his family and community involvement. "
[Note to Egan Campaign: Please put election photo in your gallery for media use.]
Unfortunately, I could not find a website for Goodstein. If I have overlooked it, please e-mail me at ThePlaceWhereWeLive (at) Gmail.com.
According to this Sun-Times story, Goodstein is a lawyer and the former president of the Meigs Action Coalition.
UPDATE: Rachel Goodstein's site can be found here.
One sentence on why she's running: "(Mayor Daley's illegal bulldozing of Meigs Field) galvanized my commitment to the cause of good government in Chicago. "
Michele is a former federal prosecutor, business leader, and active community member. Her campaign website can be found here.
One sentence on why she's running (excerpted from her campaign website):
"I'm running for alderman of the 43rd Ward because this neighborhood deserves better. Lincoln Park, Old Town and the Gold Coast need a proven leader who will protect what is best about our communities and prepare for the future."[Same note to the Smith campaign -- please put your campaign photo in the gallery for media use.]
Peter Zelchenko is a technology and design expert and community activist.
You can find his campaign website here. He also writes a blog about the ward. You can find it here.One sentence on why he's running (excerpted from his website):
"If I want to prove anything, it will be to use Lincoln Park's better nature to set an example. To develop a mission with those generous ones among us who believe we can do much, much better. "
[Note to Zelchenko campaign, please make a photo available for media use on your site that is not tied to the masthead.]
Stay tuned, everyone, this is going to be a good one!
More 43rd Ward Election Information for You
Aldertrack - 43rd Ward Coverage (including signature tracking)here.
Inside newspaper's recent coverage of the race here.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
The pro-water conservationist Debra Shore has been sworn in as a Commissioner at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. She's on the left and a fellow Commissioner, Pat Horton, is on the right.
Shore and Horton now help oversee the largest fresh water natural resource on the planet. Shore is making how we manage our storm water - better known as our drinking water -- the vital topic of environmental interest that it should be.
She writes in her newsletter:
A month ago, I was sworn into office and began work immediately. (For a look at the remarks I shared at my installation, go to debrashore.org/remarks.html).
Last week I was named chairman of the Research & Development Committee and the State Legislation & Rules Committee. I’m also Vice-Chair of the Stormwater Management and the Municipalities Committees.
Stay tuned. I bet there will be more good news coming from her way for years to come.
Mark your calendars now to roll out of bed and caffeinate at Navy Pier from Friday, February 23 til Sunday, the 25th.
$20 per person if registered by Feb. 9. $30 thereafter. If the weather is as nasty as it is today, this sounds like something worth leaving the house for.
Friday, January 12, 2007
Obviously, this photo has been borrowed from Picture History, but I'm using it anyway.
It's a moment of rest for the civil rights marchers on August 28, 1963 -- the day MLK delivered his dream outside the Lincoln Memorial.
I love how so many of them have their feet in the water and seem to be just hanging out. There was, of course, no way they could have known then where they'd be in their journey by now, nor can any of know how far we'll progress in another 44 years.
"And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back." - Martin Luther King
See you on Tuesday.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
"Stop using the blue bag," their January 2007 newsletter, What Goes Around, advises. "Never worked, still doesn't."
"Start using one of the many city and private drop-off sites for recycling, although it may mean finding a friend with a car."
"If you're lucky enough to get a blue cart in 2007, use it -- and encourage your friends and neighbors to recycle, too! If not, contact your alderman to ask that the program expand quickly citywide."
The Coalition is clearly trying to create a tipping point to their already building momentum to oust the blue bags in favor of a source-separated alternative.
I suspect only the most die-hard recyclers will heed their words to drive their recycling to the nearest facility, but the CRC is probably right in guessing that abandoning the blue bag immediately is a wash in its net effect on recycling.
Bring on the buckets!
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
"It seemed a tad unfair as a first-timer to the scene to criticize Jonathan Fine as somehow missing an opportunity to defend the Farwell Building.
Mr. Fine has been an outstanding advocate and a consistent voice at CCL.I have personally watched him plead at CCL mtgs. and know he has attended every one for five years (without pay) to defend the Landmark Ordinanceand introduce new ideas including the demoliitiondelay ordinance.
Preservation Chicago, and in particular Jonathan, are often the only advocates for our increasinglythreatened architectural legacy. The group works tirelessly in public and behind the scenes.
Perhaps phone calls and letters aboutthe ill-advised project produced little sympathy in the days leading up to the CCL meeting. Maybe there was an impression the heavily-cloutedJon Rogers projected would pass. . . . Fine is not part of the problem.He is a hero. But he is also human and entitled to moments of disappointment and fatigue. . . . Hope you will check out preservationchicago.org and get involved.
First, thanks to the commenter for stopping by and taking the time to write this thoughtful rebuttal.
Second, what I wrote was an honest and truthful account of what I heard and what I felt at the meeting. As a first-timer who heeded the call that something big was shaking down, the concession, as I've already noted, was disappointing. One of my first thoughts was, "Well, if they knew there was no chance of defeating it, why the heck did they bother sounding the alarm?"
That being said, I'm perfectly happy to agree that the comment was a tactical error and nothing more. In retrospect, I have no doubt it came from a place of genuine frustration and, likely, exhaustion.
The preservation issues in this city are challenging, sticky, and incredibly relevant. Fine and his organization are to be lauded for their efforts and commitment.
I've got no argument there.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Chicago blogsphere, The Broken Heart of Rogers Park has been waxing on Fine's virtues as well. Read more here.
- Skyline named an accurate and commendable list of top stories from our neighborhood in 2006. They are:
- Children's Memorial Hospital Announces its Leaving Lincoln Park
- Setback for the Tax Cap Bill
- The Chicago Historical Society's Revamp
- Columbus Hospital's Demolition to Make Way for Condos and Townhomes
- The Approval of the Lincoln Park Community Shelter
- The Immigration Reform Marches
- Daley's Shutting of the "Big Box"
- Wrigley Field's revamp
- The Displacement of Affordable Housing
- 'Bad' Heroin Killing more than 260 in Cook County
- Sheffield Neighborhood News reports that the number of real estate transactions in the Sheffield Neighborhood Association area has declined by 15% (2006 vs. 2005), but single-family home prices rose by 17%. Time on the market also edged up by 9%. Condos fared more poorly. Their sales price increased only 2% over the previous year while time on the market jumped 25%. (This stats were reported by Rubloff realtor Paula Arnett.) . . . SNN also reported that DePaul University has begun a master planning process that will consider the future of the Lincoln Park and downtown campuses.
- N'Digo columnists Ziggy and Wanda Wright report that Governor Blagojevich appointed Louanner Peters as Deputy Governor at the end of last month. They write, "No other African American woman in the country has ever served at such a high level of authority." That can't be right given Condoleeza Rice, Carol Moseley Braun, et al. Maybe they mean state government or Illinois state government? . . . Also N'Digo features an intriguing recipe for Bananas with Pecans and Whiskey on page 17. Serve it over ice cream. Mmmmmm. Inside Newspaper has a great, year-end wrap-up of Chicago Landmarks issues in 2006.Find it here. (See pages 14 and 15).
- Inside Lincoln Park reports that DePaul University snagged a "Number 1" rating from Princeton Review for student diversity. Minority students enrolling in fall 2006 made up 28% of their freshman class. 71% of the class came from Illinois.
- Go Veggie! editor Kay Stepkin reports they have a newly designed website. You can visit it here. (Note to Kay: would love to see some recipes, too.)
- Northerly Island will host Polar Adventure Days on Saturday, January 20 and Saturday, February 24 from noon to 4 p.m. They're featuring snowshoeing, a live coyote, hot chocolate and more. (Go see Northerly Island before they do something dumb like build all over it.)
UPDATE: So sorry. I meant to include this link to Inside newspaper's year-end issue. This is where you'll find a very strong round-up of landmark issues.
Image courtesy of johnnyroadtrip.com
Monday, January 08, 2007
Here's a representative snip from the affidavit off the Trib's website. (Note: The Trib marked the affidavit with the warning "Offensive Language.")
Also, looks like Alderman Troutman is getting her monthly "Accountability Meeting" early. Look here on the "Ward 20" web page. It's the only event on the alderman's city website.
TROUTMAN responded, "Tell him [the investor] this is what I want out of it. Now you don't say that." CW2 said, "Right, you just tell me." TROUTMAN continued, "I'll tell you 'cause you don't want to put me int it. . . " CW2 said, "No, no, no... " TROUTMAN continued, "Don't ever put me in any of it." Later in the conversation, TROUTMAN asked CW2 what the investor planned to build at the proposed location, and CW2 indicated that the development would be commercial and residential above the commercial space. . . .
CW2 informed TROUTMAN, "I'll see the guy tomorrow to tell him what it's gonna take, um, for the building. Give me to Thursday to order the title report on the building you want then we gotta brainstorm on how we gonna. . . gettin' it is not gonna be your problem, the financial part on paper. Do you want this (Unintelligible) or you want to keep it private?" TROUTMAN responded, "What the building?" CW2 said, "Yeah, the one on the east side of the street." TROUTMAN said, "I'll create some shit, we'll think about it."
Over on her personal ward website, she states:
"Always remember that I'm your neighbor, too. This is where I am raising my own children and where they attend the Public Schools. This is where my family lives, and it is our choice. We're glad it is your choice, too!"'Tis a shame.
The Trib reports here. Troutman's role with the city's landmarks at Lynn Becker here.
The back page features Emerson Dameron's "Top Ten Pilsen Attractions." They are:
The paper is published by The Machine Media. They say it took them 16 months to get it out. So that means you should look for the next copy around May 2008.
1. The 18th Street El Station
2. Cafe Jumping Bean (at 1439 W. 18th Street)
3. The Neighborhood Kids
4. Cristo Rey (A Jesuit School near Cermak and Wolcott)
5. Gang Graffiti
6. Satan's Disciples (Not sure what the attraction is here. The note says his Jewish roommate had a giant, blinking Star of David that she couldn't hang near the window, less rival gangs confuse it as a Satan's Disciples' marker. )
7. The Activists (All left un-named.)
8. The Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum
9. Dia De Los Muertos
10. The Pods. (The attraction here, according to Dameron, is that you will appreciate everything that is not owned by the Podmajersky family.)
P.S. I found my copy at one of my favorite spots as of late -- the delicious and wireless Swim Cafe.
They're promising that those wearing jumpsuits will get free, temporary back-up singers. It's soooo tempting.
Nice photo of James in some circa 1970 Spandex here.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
He said it was the single most read story in the history of the Trib's Internet presence. They're estimating it garnered more than 1 million page views.
"They were all dead serious about what they saw, and the accounts -- whether made from the tarmac or from 25 feet up in the cockpit of a Boeing 777 -- were consistent.
The unidentified aerial phenomenon was dark gray and shaped like a disc, it hovered in a fixed position above Concourse C of the United Airlines terminal, and it vanished with a burst of energy that cut a hole in the overcast skies. "
"How is it that someone smuggled a camera cell phone into a Baghdad execution chamber to chronicle the hanging of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein last month, but no one among the thousands of airport workers and travelers at O'Hare snapped a picture for the cosmic family photo album?
"The answer, along with an explanation about how the universe works, remains a mystery. We earthlings possess inquisitive minds, but we are, after all, only human."
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Good thing, too. I've got gobs of old paint, some fertilizer, and a mercury thermometer I've been wanting to get rid of properly. But, the only opportunities before this were random, 2-times-a-year events or driving to the far south side.
Here's the scoop:
What They Take & What They Don't
UPDATE: The links I originally posted went dead. Here is a new link with information about the Goose Island drop-off site.
I'm pretty amazed the cameras have received such a high level of acceptance. These are the ones that Daley has put in the highest crime areas.
(Interestingly, just about a month ago, my sister-in-law drove me by a house she and her husband were seriously considering buying. But, when I saw one of those giant blue light cameras at the intersection closest to the house, I said, "You can't buy here. They only put those in the most crime-ridden neighborhoods. " Now, how is that area supposed to turn itself around economically if the cameras frighten away home buyers and suppress property values and opportunities?)
These are not the smaller, less obvious cameras poised all over the city that snap photos of cars blowing red lights and generate traffic tickets. Those, no doubt, have generated even fewer friends and due to their smaller size, they're even less comfortable. Or, maybe not.
"We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men (and women)."
-- George Orwell
Here's a nice summary at Smart Cameras about the march of camera installations in our city.
Friday, January 05, 2007
What would happen if someone took the real estate transactions listings, Googled the buyers and sellers, and then posted what personal information he could find about them on the web?
It would look like this. Eew.
Lynn Becker's follow-up here and here.
Blair Kamin's commentary in the Trib here.
Johnathon Briggs overview in the Trib here.
Kevin Nance in the Sun-Time here.
My play-by-play of the meeting here.
Plus, two more notes from the meeting that I think are relevant to throw into this mix:
- The Streeterville Organization of Active Residents, who are known as SOAR and are highly active in the Michigan Avenue area, supported the proposal, albeit reluctantly. They also actively supported the building's landmark designation two years ago. Their prepared statement, read by a member of the organization, suggested that they felt they had little choice based on the building's poor repair. They also expressed remorse at not having considered the building's poor condition as part of the designation process.
- Toward the end of the hearing, after the opportunity for public comments was over, one of the representatives of the development team (maybe Jon Rodgers but I'm not sure) attempted to speak to the council. The Chair denied him the opportunity, but he did manage to blurt out, with a bit of exasperation, "It's not going to be a parking garage." Perhaps this means they'll be back again with reconfigured sound bites?
Thursday, January 04, 2007
Play-by-Play of Commission on Chicago Landmarks' Meeting Today regarding Fate of the Landmarked Farwell Building
The city's Commission on Chicago Landmarks, who today sounded to me a lot more like the city's Commission on the Promotion of New Development, failed to pass a proposal that would basically gut the meaning and effectiveness of the landmark designation in the city, and likely the country, as we know it.
Thanks go to Commissioners Edward I. Torrez,
But, the play by play, true to Chicago politics, was the best thing about the afternoon. I just wish I had brought a bowl of popcorn.
Everyone agreed that the building was in disrepair. Everyone agreed that the city did a fine job of inspecting the status of the building and commissioned excellent engineering reports.
One of the people speaking on behalf of the proposal before the commission, an engineer, I believe, whose name was Ken, said stuff like this about the plans for turning the landmarked building into an add-on to a luxury condo-highrise:
"We want to get some of the age in there and have it look like an age structure."
"(The building is made out of) the same materials flower pots are made of, and I don't think we want a building made of flower pots."
I'm not kidding. He actually said that.
Then, Burton Natarus, the colorful alderman of the ward where the building resides, stood up.
"This is a very tough issue. If I were a member of a preservation group, I would oppose it, too. If you're a preservationist, your position is to do nothing. It's one of the biggest problems we have today. Not only choosing which buildings to landmark, but how to keep them up and maintain them."
"They should not call themselves preservationists, they should call themselves 'landmark people' because they give no recommendations on how you should preserve the buildings."
Then, to my personal delight, he said that if the proposal passed, he wanted to make sure that something was done for the "very nice man" who has owned the "very fine shoe store" in the building for 30 years.
Rick Wendy followed on behalf of the development team and said he would answer questions at "the committee's pleasure." So, the committee threw him a few balls as soft as cotton.
But, one surprising detail leaked out. They were spending only $5 million dollars on deconstructing and reapplying the facade -- an amount so low in construction circles that it began to seem like it wouldn't be that hard to find a better choice for protecting the landmark -- despite all the blowharding about how few economic options face the 80-year old building. (That, to me, was especially not credible given the building's prime location.)
Lucien Lagrange, who truly must have been delivered in a box from Central Casting marked "French man," came to the podium and talked a bit about parking garages and square feet. He did little to help his cause, and I was quite struck by his seeming indifference to the fate of a fellow architect's landmarked work.
Finally, those sympathetic with the building's fate, the integrity of landmark designations, and the preservation of the contextual history of Michigan Avenue had a chance to stand up and fight back.
What, my friends, did Mr. Jonathan Fine, the President of Preservation Chicago, do with his opening salvo against this nationally significant and ominous abuse of our landmark designation?
Yup. Threw in the towel.
He gave up 20 minutes before the vote.
He made a few excellent points, then he expressed his frustration at, oh gosh, all the preservation losses our city has had lately, and then, before sitting down, he offered, "I know you're going to pass this. You always do."
Not exactly the kind of speech that rallies a city to defend its treasure or even a few hyper-preservationists. What in the world was he thinking?
Fortunately, a few speakers later, Lynn Becker arrived. Now, this is rich, so stick with me. When they first mentioned earlier in the session that he was coming to the microphone soon, they mis-pronounced his name as "Lion."
So, he gets up, and I've never met the man nor seen him before other than his photo on his blog (and for the record, he did not have a bird on his shoulder today), and he admitted he was quite nervous. As you know, he's already my kind of writer, but today he was more so because he clearly feels more comfortable behind a keyboard than in front of people, but he cared so deeply about this issue that he got up and, in his reticence, had an even greater impact.
He conveyed gravitas and delivered his words as eloquently as he writes them. I was so engaged by his talk that I have only his first point written down in my notes -- "What is a landmark if we take the facade and dismantle it and put it on another building -- is that the Farwell Building?"
He did just a great, great job in sounding the alarm and speaking on behalf of protecting our collective history and the visual fabric of our city against a really dumb choice, but there was one other hero I must point out before I have to log off. That was Bob Ritter.
He introduced himself as a "private citizen and businessman" and made a lovely, thoughtful, diplomatic statement on just how wrong-headed the project was. He lauded Lucien Lagrange and the developers for investing in this city and making it better, and he noted that the condos they propose to build will draw some of the highest real estate prices in history.
He then noted that "it took his breath away" that the second "parking podium" on our famed Michigan Avenue would be put in a landmarked building. His and Becker's were the kind of firm diplomacy that I hope other citizens and activists will emulate.
In the end, the vote was made and the Chairman announced the motion had failed, and a murmur went through the room. The Chair deferred to his Corporation Counsel (city lawyer) who confirmed a simple majority was needed, and 4 votes with 8 commissioners wasn't going to cut it. I think everyone was surprised and didn't know what to think.
I bolted for the door right behind Fine (and who I'm guessing might have been a reporter from the Trib). Fine was saying, "Um, I'm really surprised. Shocked really."
Me too. It's a clear win for the integrity of the landmark designation, but it won't be the last time a landmark comes under pressure from misguided development plans.
No doubt more valuable commentary will be cropping up at Lynn Becker's blog here. I hope he'll post a copy of his comments before the committee today, too.
Update: I had my commissioners wrong according to Lynn Becker's account. Strike through shows correct vote.
The Commission failed to get a simple majority when 4 members voted for the proposal, 3 against it, and one abstained.
More color details in a moment or two from your faithful flygirl who attended today's session at the Cook County Building.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Lynn Becker Sounds the Alarm - Landmark Protection for Chicago's Historic Architecture about to be Gutted
One more note: It's a damn fine piece of writing, too. As passionate as it is tailored. Here's a good sample:
Why is this wrong? (demolishing landmarked buildings under the guise of saving their facades in pieces) The fact I even have to pose the question gives me the shakes. Reassembled fragments are not buildings; they're what you find lining the stairs of the Art Institute, pinned to the walls like butterflys to a board. Buildings are lived in. They are not a "perfected" Empire State Building, reassembled as a come-on to a Vegas casino.
Man, I'm with him. Do you think it will be okay if I just say that at tomorrow's meeting?
Allerton Building - Main Building
- Built in 1893
- Designed by Boston architects Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge
- Renamed Allerton Building in 1968 after long-time Trustee
- Collection now needs to be "resintalled"
- Architect for reinstallation is Vinci/Hamp
- Built in 1962
- Just south of the Allerton Building
- Architect not noted on AIC website
- Collection now needs to be reinstalled there, too.
- Architect for the reinstallation is Workshop Hakomori Yantrasast (wHY)
- Due to open in 2009
- Designed by architect Renzo Piano
- Will add 65,000 square feet of exhibition space, a 30% increase
Please, please, never ever any "MoWi" OK?
Photo Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago. The image is of a "flying carpet" sunscreen planned for Piano's addition.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
First, my thanks to my good friends over at Apartment Therapy-Chicago, who were generous enough to mention my absence from cyberspace during a holiday drink on Christmas Eve, and who had the insight to note, with irony, that my disappearance came on the heels of a post entitled "Why I Blog."
Thanks also to the very fine folks over at Ecology of Absence for also kindly wondering of my whereabouts in the midst of their amazing this old house renovation.
Now, on to the biggest of the big news, which, of course, is the UFO sighting over O'Hare last November. The Trib's John Hilkevitch broke the story on the front page of yesterday's paper (story here).
The details are gripping, in part, because of the number of witnesses (about a dozen), the specifity of the time and location of their sighting, and their general agreement about what they saw.
"The Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (the term that extraterrestrial-watchers nowadays prefer over Unidentified Flying Object) was first seen by a United ramp worker who was directing back a United plane at Gate C17, according to an account the worker provided to the National UFO Reporting Center.
The sighting occurred during daylight, about 4:30 p.m., just before sunset.
All the witnesses said the object was dark gray and well defined in the overcast skies. They said the craft, estimated by different accounts to be 6 feet to 24 feet in diameter, did not display any lights.
Some said it looked like a rotating Frisbee, while others said it did not appear to be spinning. All agreed the object made no noise and it was at a fixed position in the sky, just below the 1,900-foot cloud deck, until shooting off into the clouds."
Well, damn, I love a mystery and that's as good as they come. There's more:
The best part is that the FAA denied knowing anything about the saucer, but once Hilkevitch filed a Freedom of Information Act request, their story changed. They acknowledged that a United Airlines sueprvisor had contacted the control tower about what s/he saw.
"I tend to be scientific by nature, and I don't understand why aliens would hover over a busy airport," said a United mechanic who was in the cockpit of a Boeing 777 that he was taxiing to a maintenance hangar when he observed the metallic-looking object above Gate C17.
"But I know that what I saw and what a lot of other people saw stood out very clearly, and it definitely was not an [Earth] aircraft," the mechanic said.
There's likely more to come. Hilkevitch's story seemed to imply that he did not receive all the documentation he was anticipating from the FAA under his FOIA request. So, stay tuned.
Note to self: Aliens much more fun to think about than terrorists.
Photo courtesy of niftyfiftyscifi.com