The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today named Illinois’ Department of Transportation the leader of a multi-state effort to advance high-speed rail. Illinois, California, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington will use $808 million from the FRA to build 35 new diesel locomotives and 130 bi-level rail cars. California led the group last year, in which 130 bi-level rail cars were procured for high-speed service.
Northern Illinois may not have pyramids (you’ll have to go to elsewhere in the Midwest for that) but the Egyptian Theatre continues Pharaoh Ramses II’s reign over downtown DeKalb, IL. As this post in PreservationNation describes, the movie house has undergone a series of restoration efforts since it landed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
Designed by architect Elmer F. Behrns in 1929, the theater’s pharaoh sculptures, scarab stained glass, and winged orb marquee fell into disrepair by the late seventies, when the theater closed. It reopened in 1983, but renovations continued until recently. In the last six years building rehabilitation and maintenance exceeded $1.5 million, but creative fundraising—the owners, Preservation of the Egyptian Theatre, Inc., sold the theater’s original seats when they were replaced in 2011 and even started running popular haunted tours—have helped fill the financial gap.
The building owners hope to continue renovations, including replacing the carpeting and installing air conditioning.
In June a full-block surface parking lot in downtown Flint, Mich. will house a ghostly, floating home — a monument to the ravages of the foreclosure crisis and a nod to the revitalization public art projects like this one hope to further in the one-time home of General Motors.
London-based Two Islands took first place in the inaugural Flat Lot Competition, which comes with a $25,000 prize, for their design, Mark’s House. The story of an imagined Flint resident named Mark Hamilton, whose family loses their home to foreclosure, Mark’s House takes the form of a Tudor-style house clad in reflective panels and set atop a mirrored pedestal. The structure can hold 1,500 gallons of water to be used for cooling mists for visitors to the structure’s canopy and event stage on hot summer days.
After a neighborhood church announced it would withdraw its bid to acquire the northwest side cinema, preservationists celebrated. But a September acquisition by Congress Theater owner Erineo “Eddie” Carranza left some of them with lingering doubts. WBEZ’s Jim DeRogatis reported theater owners Dennis Wolkowicz and Dave Dziedzic may have been served with a 60-day eviction notice, noting the Portage has no new bookings after mid-April.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is reportedly considering building a 40-foot high, double-decker highway through Milwaukee’s Story Hill neighborhood. At six or eight lanes, preliminary plans for the split-level freeway show a massive project intended to help relieve the I-94 bottleneck. As Urban Milwaukee reported, residents of the Story Hill Neighborhood Association are not happy about the plans:
“The political decision will be to sacrifice this neighborhood for the commuters,” predicted Ald. Michael J. Murphy, who both represents and lives in Story Hill.
Story Hill’s view of downtown would be blocked by the tall freeway as designed, but Wisconsin transportation officials say the high-set design is less expensive than building the freeway lower.
Casinos have landed in Ohio’s three largest cities, now that Cincinnati’s $400 million Horseshoe casino is open for business. Eric Douglas, a member of the Congress for New Urbanism, has an interesting post as a guest blogger for UrbanCincy on the casino’s supposedly urban character. While Horseshoe casinos in Cleveland and Cincinnati have been billed as “truly urban” establishments, he writes, “casinos are not known to be particularly friendly urban creatures.”
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.
Community development in design was the topic at hand Wednesday at the 19th Richard H. Driehaus Foundation’s Community Neighborhood Development Awards. The award was established in 1995 by Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago (LISC).
UrbanWorks received first place for La Casa Student Housing. A dormitory for 100 students in Pilsen, La Casa responds to the neighborhood’s growing vibrancy, as well as its working-class roots — created at the behest of The Resurrection Project, La Casa is affordable housing for neighborhood students attending college, many of them the first in their families to do so.
Despite once again turning out a crowd of supporters who contributed hours of impassioned testimony, many preservationists were unsurprised by an outcome that they chalked up to political determinism.