Walmart, Wages War in Chicago (Guess Who Won)

Midwest
Thursday, July 1, 2010
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These pro-Pullman protesters got what they wanted. (Ira and Andrea/Flickr)

After years of trying to land a second Walmart in Chicago, the world’s largest retailer succeeded in a big way yesterday when the City Council unanimously endorsed a Supercenter on the Far South Side, the anchor of a 270-acre mixed-use development. While only a few months ago the outcome of that store seemed uncertain, it all broke last week, when the unions reached a tentative agreement with Walmart to pay $8.75 an hour in its stores, more than the current minimum wage but less than was initially sought. On top of that, the retailer has cast doubt on whether a surefire deal has been set. Meanwhile, the city is bracing for the prospect of dozens of stores, through a deal arranged by Mayor Richard Daley, both a bane and a boon as it could mean an investment of $1 billion though also a costly one if it undercuts current retailers. The Sun-Times‘ incomparable Fran Spielman spells it all out for us: Read More

A Hub-bub in the Bronx

East, East Coast
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
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The city wants to turn the two lots bisected by the subway into a new mixed-use commercial center—a hub for the Hub.

Of all five boroughs, the Bronx arguably fell the furthest during New York City’s 1970s collapse (the decade that saw the infamous burning) while it has not seen nearly the revival of Brooklyn or Queens in recent years. There’s the new Yankees Stadium, and the Grand Concourse remains resurgent, but there is still much to be done. The city’s Economic Development Corporation is hoping to nudge things along just a bit east at the Hub, an architecturally and historically rich area centered around the intersection of 149th Street, Third Avenue, and Melrose Avenue. On two lots covering 112,000 square feet where the 2/5 Trains shoot out of the ground, the city is hoping to create a new mixed-use retail center that can anchor the area’s continued redevelopment. Read More

Boston Arch Taking Off?

East
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
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Massport approved of Don Chiofaro's Boston Arch project, so long as it ditches the skyframe that pushes it to 690 feet, above the 625-foot limit. The condos at left are 590 feet tall.

UPDATE: Yanni Tsipis, a Chiofaro critic, counters: “In addition to the 625 foot limit on the Harbor Garage site, which was to be expected, note that [Massport flight paths] would also allow a 900 foot building in the middle of the Boston Common or a 1,000 foot building in the middle of the historic Back Bay brownstone district… certainly doesn’t mean any of these would be a good idea!”

Ever since the Boston Redevelopment Authority finalized its study setting heights along the post-Big Dig Rose Kennedy Greenway, the fate of developer Don Chiofaro’s Boston Arch has been very much in question. The city is recommending no more than two towers rising to 200 feet on the site, saying it will cast shadows on the politically sensitive park. This did not prevent Chiofaro from presenting his own claims earlier in the month that the 40-story office and 59-story residential towers designed by KPF that he wants to build will have no negative impacts, that the claims are overblown. Now, Massport, Read More

Beekman Tower Has Bad Back

East, East Coast
Monday, June 28, 2010
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Baby don't got back. (Courtesy A. Fine Blog)

We’re not sure where the rumor started—most likely Curbed—but for a while now, it’s been going around that the southern side of Frank Gehry’s Beekman Tower isn’t faceted because it got smoothed out during a value-engineering process in 2009 that saved the project after it nearly stalled out (at half its planned height no less). The latest iteration is a lament on ArchDaily. We called Gehry’s people, many of whom were out of the office, but when they finally got back to us, the answer was a definitive “Nope.” This baby’s backside was always flat. We asked why but were told that this is “a question for Frank, only Frank,” who happens to be on vacation with his family in South Africa. Which can only mean one thing. World Cup. Who knew we had such a soccer fan in our midst? Maybe he’s checking out all those cool stadiums? Anyway, our guess is it has something to do with zoning envelopes. And now, consider the record corrected. For the second time.

The Most Fun at P.S. 1?

East, East Coast
Monday, June 28, 2010
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There was a party in the Citi Thursday night. (All photos by Matt Chaban)

Admittedly, we’ve been pretty darn obsessed with this year’s P.S.1 Young Architects Program, Pole Dance. But after last week’s party, the enthusiasm appears to have been justified. Not because this is the first one ever with its own interactive component, where you can log-on to the Pole Dance site and manipulate its sound (also a first) with your phone, or watch visualizations, or upload your own pictures. Not because of all the beautiful and architecturally famous people who came out, as our photos clearly document. No, this may just be the best damned pavilion in the program’s decade-long history because it’s the most damn fun. Your proof is after the jump. Read More

Last Columbia Hold Out Hung Out to Dry by Top Court

East, East Coast
Thursday, June 24, 2010
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Sprayregen outside one of his Tuck-It-Away storage facilities, which Columbia may now seize unless the Supreme Court says otherwise. (Courtesy blockshopper.com)

Nick Sprayregen, the last remaining holdout in the way of Columbia University’s Manhattanville expansion project, has just had his fortunes reversed—quite literally, as now it appears the school has a good chance of taking Sprayregen’s land through eminent domain to make way for its new 17-acre campus. Last December, Sprayregen won an unexpected court decision, which was overturned today in a unanimous decision by the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court. The Observer astutely points out that even justice Robert Smith, the lone dissenter in the major Atlantic Yards case, sided with the majority this time out.

At issue was whether the Empire State Development Corporation has the right to take private land and convey it to Columbia, which the lower appellate court found it did not, as in the judges view there was no clear public purpose. In today’s reversal, the justices found that the agency made a clear and compelling case for the project, and it was not the place of the judiciary to overule them: Read More

The Perils of Subway Naming Rights

East
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
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Can you see me now? (brettisrael/Flickr)

Our favorite wonky MTA blog has an interesting and funny post about how quickly and easily naming rights on a public transit system can get, in this case down in Philadelphia. While we all know transit systems are in trouble and should probably go about getting money wherever they can—short of more draconian fare increases, let’s hope—it is easy to go too far on the naming rights front, not only into parody but confusion. While it may be a bit unseemly that the MTA tried to charge the Yankees for the rights to have their name at a refurbished 161st stop last year, and that Barclays is actually paying up for the rights in Brooklyn, yet another advertising assault on our public lives. But SEPTA has gone a step further, renaming its Pattison Avenue Terminal to AT&T Station. Unlike the Barclays annoyance, this could be downright confusing because there is no geographical relevance here, nothing AT&T about this station. As another blogger puts it on SAS: “The whole situation raises the frightening prospect in the near future that, instead of riding the Broad Street Subway from City Hall to Pattison, people will take the Coca-Cola Trolley from Pizza Hut to AT&T.”

Detroit Plants Seeds for Innercity Entrepeneurs

Midwest
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
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Forget school-top farms for privileged Manhattan children. You want something truly radical? How about taking over abandoned lots in Detroit so poor single mothers can make a living growing organic produce. That is in part the focus of Grown in Detroit, a new documentary about how the Motor City, on both the large and small scale, is trying to become the manure city. The film is currently screening at a few locations in town as part of the Detroit Windsor International Film Festival. For those of us not in the shrinking city, though, there’s an ingenious option to stream the doc on its website, albeit on a pay-what-you-will basis, which is almost as clever as the idea to turn Detroit into one giant, happy farm.

Bloomberg Taps Third Banker for Economic Development

East, East Coast
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
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Steel and Bloomberg, at the announcement of his appointment today. (Courtyesy NY Observer)

Maybe that headline is self-explanatory, even makes a good bit of sense. Or it did when Robert Steel’s two predecessors took the job of Deputy Mayor for Economic Development. Dan Doctoroff and Robert Lieber, like Steel, used to work on Wall Street before joining the Bloomberg administration. But nowadays, appointing someone who spent three decades at Goldman Sachs (before heading to the Treasury Department earlier this decade and then on to unwinding Wachovia) is a bit of a head scratcher. This has nothing to do with populist fervor and Goldman still being more hated than BP despite the catastrophic oil spill. No, this is about the future direction of the city. Read More

Mess With the Imagination (Playground) of David Rockwell

East, East Coast
Monday, June 21, 2010
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For the past few years, David Rockwell, that master of stage and scene, has been developing the Imagination Playground, a deployable playground-in-a-box that has been finding its way across the country. Now, he is just finishing a larger playground, sort of a showcase for the concept, at Burling Slip in Lower Manhattan. (As the rendering after the jump shows, it’s quite literally a flagship.) To celebrate the opening of the new playground at the end of July, the Parks Department is taking imagination playgrounds on a pop-up tour, which kicked off this past weekend in Staten Island, with stops in all five boroughs to follow. It truly is a revolutionary concept in recreation, Read More

Design Writer Has Sweet Dreams for New Domino

East
Thursday, June 17, 2010
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You can do better! (Manu_h/Flickr)

The simmering opposition to the New Domino plan from the local community and especially its City Council rep has been well-noted, but the reaction from the design community has been more muted. And while the approval from the City Planning Commission, and the forthcoming showdown at with Councilman Steve Levin mean the project is pretty much headed for an up-or-down, maybe slightly tweaked if not entirely scrapped vote, design writer Stephen Zacks had made a bolder proposal, calling for the plan to be scrapped not because it is too dense and under invested, but because it is not visionary enough. “These unique sites are opportunities to generate new forms of urbanism and orders of magnitude greater revenue, instead producing the high volumes of similar units that are now languishing on the market,” Zacks declares in a letter to the Council (in full, after the jump). He has a few ideas of his own, something called Domino University, but is also soliciting them from others. Feel free to leave them in the comments section, or on his Facebook page. Read More

BIG on Bikes

International
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
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How to make the Danish Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo truly a national symbol? Add some bike lanes, of course. Bjorke Ingles, head of BIG Bjorke Ingles Group and designer of the pavilion, takes us on a tour, via Archinect. (Be warned, though. Instead of soundtracking this with the Raveonettes or Kashmir, whoever put this together went with arguably the worst song ever, “I Got a Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas. You may want to mute your sound before hitting play.)

Terrible music aside, why is Scandinavian architecture so much fun?

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