Detroit Light Rail Back On Track With $25 Million Grant

Midwest
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
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What light rail could look like in Detroit. (Courtesy M1 Rail)

What light rail could look like in Detroit. (Courtesy M1 Rail)

Outgoing U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced recently that Detroit’s M-1 Rail project, aka the Woodward Light Rail Line, will receive $25 million in federal TIGER funding. The plans for this 3-mile long light rail system along Woodward Avenue will include 11 stops running from the city’s downtown to New Center. According to the Detroit Free Press, $100 million has already been raised of the light rail line’s $140 million price tag. Officials said the first trains could be running by the end of 2015.

View the light rail route map after the jump.

Post Modern Roulette: Chicago’s Thompson Center Eyed For Casino

Eavesdroplet, Midwest
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
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Inside the rotunda of Chicago's Thompson Center. (John Picken / Flickr)

Inside the rotunda of Chicago’s Thompson Center. (John Picken / Flickr)

The Thompson Center is an easy target. Most Chicagoans only know it as that Po-Mo Behemoth where we transfer between L lines and occasionally visit the DMV in the basement food court, perhaps the only location in America where you can get a slice of Sbarro and a new driver’s license. It’s a beast of a building—so bad, it’s almost good­—and has been plagued with problem after problem, most recently the removal of the granite panels along the plaza. Tackling its so obviously deferred maintenance and adapting it for future use would be no small task. That’s why, according to the Sun-Times, the president of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and a major labor chief have proposed building a casino in the lower level and first floor of the building.

When we think of downtown casinos, we think of Detroit. Look, Eavesdrop loves Detroit and is rooting for its revival on a daily basis, but Chicago doesn’t want to be using Detroit as its urban development role model. If this nutty scheme comes to fruition, there would be a casino in a building located across from City Hall, which also houses hundreds of state government employees. They better get ready to beef up their Employee Assistance Program, as the state might have a few more gambling addicts on their payroll.

Surprise Cuts Could Devastate Detroit Parks System

Midwest
Friday, February 1, 2013
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a vintage postcard depicting Detroit's belle isle (courtesy catherine of chicago via flickr)

a vintage postcard depicting Detroit’s belle isle (Courtesy catherine of chicago via flickr)

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced Friday that the city will close 51 parks. The Detroit Free Press’ Matt Helms has the full list of parks here, including an additional 37 parks that will receive limited maintenance.

The closures are the result of massive cuts to the city’s parks and recreation budget due to the City Council’s rejection this week of a plan to lease Belle Isle to the state. Details of the council’s decision were evidently worked out late Thursday night, so the devastating cuts came as a surprise to many residents. The move recalls closures announced, but avoided, in 2010.

St. Louis’ Last Gasometer is No More

Midwest
Friday, February 1, 2013
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The last gasometer in St. Louis bites the dust. (Courtesy Michael R. Allen / Preservation Research Office)

The last gasometer in St. Louis bites the dust. (Courtesy Michael R. Allen / Preservation Research Office)

A collection of strange industrial relics in St. Louis has gone the way of many before it, as the city’s last gasometer has fallen.

Gasometers are storage devices for natural and coal gas, built during the 20th century but abandoned after 2000 when underground storage became the preferred method. The Laclede Gas Company Pumping Station at 3615 Chevrolet, built around 1920, was the area’s last. Michael R. Allen wrote an epitaph for the bygone piece of infrastructure, providing a remembrance that asks, are industrial relics worth preserving?

Basically silos for gas, the structures leave behind industrial skeletons that are sometimes stunning, always intriguinga Flickr group devoted to their documentation has more than 1,000 entries. They are more common in Europe than in the U.S., but Laclede’s St. Louis structures were the most notable on this side of the Atlantic. In Vienna they are celebrated, with four architectural teams currently converting four gasometers for new uses.

Developer Eyes Chicago Post Office for Casino, Retail Center

Midwest
Friday, February 1, 2013
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chicago's old main post office (courtesy ian freimuth via flickr)

Chicago’s old Main Post Office. (Ian Freimuth / flickr)

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.

Chateau Hotel is Latest in Long Line of Chicago SROs At Risk

Midwest
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
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The Chateau Hotel in Chicago. (Chicago Crime Scenes / Flickr)

The Chateau Hotel in Chicago. (Chicago Crime Scenes / Flickr)

Single Room Occupancy hotels are a dying breed in Chicago. Notoriously undermanaged and generally unpopular among immediate neighbors, the majority of these base-service dwellings have been condemned or rehabbed into other residential uses over the past decade.

The fate of the Chateau Hotel, one of the last SRO hotels on Chicago’s North Side, looks to be leaning toward the latter.

Continue reading after the jump.

Reviving Chicago’s 1893 Glory with Seven Ferris-ish Wheels

Midwest, Newsletter
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
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Wheels of Chicago. (Courtesy Hapsitus)

Wheels of Chicago. (Courtesy Hapsitus)

Chicago’s 1893 Ferris Wheel—the world’s first—inspired visitors at the World’s Columbian Exposition and helped establish the burgeoning city’s reputation for big dreams and hard work. Although it’s unlikely to have quite the same impact as its historical touchstone, a new proposal for seven wheels in Navy Pier’s Gateway Park could rekindle a semblance of that awe in modern day passersby.

Continue reading after the jump.

Libeskind, Hamilton, Plensa Finalists for Ohio’s Holocaust Memorial

Midwest
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
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Columbus, Ohio. (Howard Jefferson)

Columbus, Ohio. (Howard Jefferson / Flickr)

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.

AIA Michigan Needs a New Executive Director.  Detroit, on the water. (Image courtesy Bernt Rostad via Flickr.) AIA Michigan is looking for a new executive director. The 126-year-old, Detroit-based organization needs someone to act as its “ambassador to the broader business and civic community.” Dennis M. King, the search committee chair, is accepting submissions at dmking@hedev.com until the close of business Friday, March 1. More information is available at aiami.com. (Image: Bernt Rostad / Flickr)

 

Wolf Point’s Phase One is a Go Along the Chicago River

Midwest
Friday, January 25, 2013
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Wolf Point on the Chicago River. (Courtesy Pelli Clarke Pelli)

Wolf Point on the Chicago River. (Courtesy Pelli Clarke Pelli)

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.

Continue reading after the jump.

Downtown Chicago Eyed for Major Tech Hub

Midwest
Thursday, January 24, 2013
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Downtown Chicago could have its own tech hub, if plans from the University of Illinois and the state come to fruition. (Courtesy Langham Chicago)

Downtown Chicago could have its own tech hub, if plans from the University of Illinois and the state come to fruition. (Courtesy Langham Chicago)

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.

Detroit’s Belle Isle Could Become a State Park, Save City Millions

Midwest
Monday, January 21, 2013
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Detroit's Belle Isle park. (Courtesy Liza Lagman Sperl via Flickr)

Detroit’s Belle Isle park. (Courtesy Liza Lagman Sperl via Flickr)

The Detroit Free-Press is reporting Belle Isle could become a state park. A public hearing is expected Thursday, and city council could vote on the plan as soon as January 29.

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.

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