Could that hulking behemoth, Chicago’s Main Post Office, see new life at last? According to the Sun-Times’ David Roeder, developer Bill Davies is betting on it, and he has brought Antunovich Associates to the table. If talk of a downtown casino has any merit, the Post Office could be the right place for it.
The massive 1921 building (expanded in 1932) comprises 2.5 million square feet downtown, looming over Congress Parkway. Davies’ fanciful plans for the facility have grabbed headlines since 2009, when the US Postal Service first put it on the auction block. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is still pushing the state legislature for a casino license, touting the potential revenue as a much-needed influx for school construction and repairs.
An artistic selection committee Thursday selected three semi-finalists for the Ohio Statehouse Holocaust Memorial in Columbus. Jaume Plensa of Chicago, Columbus’ Ann Hamilton, and Daniel Libeskind will visit the site, meet with the committee and then have six weeks to submit a proposal for review. The committee will pick the final project artist in May.
Libeskind designed Berlin’s Jewish Museum, one of the most prominent memorials of its kind. Ann Hamilton has home-turf advantage, so to speak, and is coming off a spectacularly reviewed show at the Armory, The Event of a Thread. Spanish-born Jaume Plensa’s evocative sculptures are pensive and humanistic, often involving glowing lights, and seem well suited to such a project.
After a few administrative hurdles and several packed community meetings that aired downtown residents’ concerns, Chicago’s Wolf Point is poised to turn perhaps the most prominently underdeveloped piece of land in Chicago into a billion-dollar suite of skyscrapers along the Chicago River.
The University of Illinois and the state are pushing a plan to build on Chicago’s growing tech sector, calling for support from major institutions in the area to help support a tech lab in downtown Chicago.
Details are hazy now, but Crain’s is reporting the $100 million-per-year operation would draw support from Northwestern University, the University of Michigan, and other regional engines of high-tech knowledge, as well as the corporate community, for a facility or campus in the heart of the city.
Google and Motorola recently made high-profile decisions to expand operations in Chicago, and the Department of Energy named Argonne National Laboratory its national hub for battery research and technology development.
What this means for the local design community is unclear just yet, but as downtown and West Loop construction picks up it is clear that some developers are banking on growing demand.
Belle Isle is a 985-acre island in the middle of the Detroit River originally designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. While details are still being negotiated, it appears the plan could save the City of Detroit $8 million per year in operating costs. Though Detroit would still own the land, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources would operate the island as a state park, charging motorists an $11 entry fee. Bicyclists and pedestrians would still get free access.
The potential deal comes on the heels of some good news for Motor City urbanists. In addition to filling out the gaps in the city’s riverwalk, Detroit is moving forward with its M-1 Rail plan, as well as an ongoing $300 million renovation of its Cobo convention center.
Peavey Plaza, downtown Minneapolis’ celebrated modernist square completed in 1975, fell into disrepair—two of its three iconic fountains are no longer operational, and its sunken “garden rooms” have helped harbor illegal activity. Landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg’s plaza became the focus of a high-profile preservation battle two years ago, with The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) leading the charge to rehabilitate Peavey and city officials pushing for demolition.
Now TCLF has announced the plaza has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The “park plaza” style Friedberg forged is evident in Peavey’s blend of hard concrete squares and American-style green spaces. It joins 88,000 sites of architectural heritage on the list, only 2,500 of which have significance in landscape architecture.
Preservationists sued the city last year to contest city council’s claim that there were “no reasonable alternatives” to demolition, hoping to win protection under Minnesota’s Environmental Rights Act.
Chicago Magazine’s Elly Fishman has an interesting story on Lands’ End founder Gary Comer’s efforts to save his old neighborhood. Pocket Town, a portion of Greater Grand Crossing on the Far South Side, suffered a 25 percent unemployment rate and longstanding poverty when septuagenarian Gary Comer popped into his alma mater Paul Revere Elementary School. Shortly after he began writing checks to the principal for improvements to the aging red brick building. That philanthropy snowballed into millions of dollars each year for Revere and the neighborhood. In 2010, Gary Comer College Prep moved into a John Ronan-designed school that has garnered praise from the design community.
Google’s grand experiment on the Great Plains, dubbed “Silicon Prairie” by some, is to revitalize Kansas City with superfast internet. That network hookup could make KC a hotspot for new businesses, too, according to some entrepreneurs eyeing the new “fiberhoods” where the infrastructure exists.
Kansas City may not have aspirations to be the next Silicon Valley, but Google’s investment has invigorated the city’s startup culture. On top of efforts to clean up the region’s vacant land and the highly-anticipated return of KC’s streetcar, startups are just one reason that Kansas City will be a city to watch.
Cook County Judge Neil Cohen swatted down Friday a lawsuit preservationists filed to save Prentice Women’s Hospital, but ordered an extension of the threatened Goldberg building’s stay of demolition for another month.
Preservationists sued to overturn a decision by the Chicago Commission on Landmarks that ultimately denied protection for Prentice in November, asserting the commission violated its own rules of conduct by considering economic concerns over architectural merits.