Supporters of the Portage Theater breathed a sigh of relief Thursday when it was announced a local church would withdraw their bid to acquire the 92-year-old cinema on Chicago’s northwest side. A hearing with the Zoning Board of Appeals had been scheduled for Friday, from which Chicago Tabernacle sought a special use permit to convert the theater into a house of worship.
The University of Illinois has come under fire from a state oversight board for allegedly violating state conflict-of-interest laws. A $4.6 million contract to renovate the Urbana-Champaign campus’ Natural History Building went to BLDD Architects—a central Illinois firm owned partially by a U of I planning administrator’s husband.
An advisory vote by the Procurement Board Tuesday sends the issue to the Illinois inspector general for investigation. The panel has voted twice to void the contract, but the state’s chief procurement officer for higher education vetoed the first vote.
The runner-up firms have said they will continue with BLDD’s design plans with minimal delay.
Detroit Mayor David Bing is making good on his pledge to demolish 10,000 derelict buildings in the city by the end of his first term in 2013—his administration has already taken down 4,500 abandoned structures, with another 1,500 demolitions planned by the end of September. (Five more came down this morning, and Curbed Detroit was on the scene to document the demolition.) Now the governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, is expected to announce state support to help raze more buildings in the name of public safety.
With an initial focus on Detroit’s east, southwest, and northwest sides, the governor’s administration is currently identifying neighborhoods for a pilot program. The Michigan Land Bank, Detroit Public Schools, and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority are among the many agencies and private sector actors involved in the effort to reclaim Detroit’s wealth of abandoned and unused land.
Neighborhood stabilization and economic development have been at the core of many of Bing’s proposals as mayor. But with Wayne County facing a $155 million budget deficit, efforts to transform Detroit’s well-documented decline will have to do more with less.
Union Pacific Railroad and Amtrak have sought permission from federal regulators to conduct the first test of high-speed rail in Illinois. A 20-mile track between the cities of Dwight and Pontiac could be a proving ground for the 110 mph passenger train starting October 1.
They would be testing a new system of triggers for highway crossing gates — one that uses radio signals to raise gates 80 seconds before a crossing in order to give the faster trains more time to slow down or stop if necessary. The current system uses track circuits to communicate, and allows the normal 79-mph trains 30 to 35 seconds of clearance before a crossing. The Illinois Department of Transportation will conduct a survey to determine whether motorists will tolerate the longer wait times.
Funding for high-speed rail was narrowly approved in California earlier this month, as Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and others continued to build on growing excitement for high-speed rail in the heartland.
The airline industry was hit hard by the recession—2011 had fewer takeoffs than any year since 2002. Airports in cities like Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Oakland are feeling the effects of that contraction, leaving one-time regional hubs and smaller airports with vacant and underused terminals.
A report on airport building reuse commissioned last year by the Transportation Research Board found enplanements were down more than 60 percent in St. Louis over the last decade. Growing interest in regional rail transit could place further pressure on smaller airports to get creative with their extra space, especially as they face costly demolition bills and shrinking revenue.
A Victorian house once home to Nashvillian composer and ethnomusicologist John W. Work III received a full restoration from Columbus, Ohio-based Moody•Nolan, the nation’s largest African-American owned and operated architecture firm, in 2011.
That project recently won three awards: a Citation of Excellence from the Associated General Contractors, a Certificate of Merit from the State Historical Commission and an Honor Award from the Metro Nashville Historical Commission.
Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood is surging back from disrepair, becoming the poster-child for Porkopolis’ return to progressive urbanism. After two years of construction, the historic neighborhood’s Washington Park reopened to the public Friday.
The $48-million renovation is the latest investment by Cincinnati in its urban character—much was made of Washington Park’s likelihood to attract and sustain investment nearby. A number of amenities were added, including a children’s playground, a dog park, a fountain, an event plaza and a stage for live performances.
Despite the Motor City’s notoriety as a symbol of urban decay, development is actually going on in Detroit. And with almost 40 square miles of vacant land, Detroit has the chance to redefine urban renewal outright. The city recently took note of one major way some residents are turning blight into bounty: Mayor David Bing signed off on Michigan State University’s plan to seed urban agriculture in Detroit with $1.5 million over the next three years.
The Future of Yesterday: Photographs of Architectural Remains at World’s Fairs
45th and Oak Streets, Kansas City, MO
Through September 9
In conjunction with Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs 1851–1939, the Nelson-Atkins Museum presents the first solo American exhibition of Belgian artist Ives Maes. In contrast to the technological and stylistic innovation showcased in the companion exhibition, Maes provides a study of the lasting artifacts of the world’s fair utopian aspirations. The photographs uncover fair grounds as they stand today, sometimes repurposed but often abandoned or in ruins (such as the site of London’s Crystal Palace, above), juxtaposing the optimism of the architects’ vision with the reality of the present. Co-curator Catherine L. Futter explains, “Ives’ visually compelling images and sculptural presentation lead us to examine the condition, context and activities of the sites in the present, yet evoke the magnificent and progressive ideals of these global events.”
Skyscraper: Art and Architecture Against Gravity
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
220 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago
Through September 23
The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago brings together 50 international 20th and 21st century artists for a show that investigates our enduring fascination with building into the sky. Skyscraper: Art and Architecture Against Gravity presents a history of these iconic structures and their impact on our understanding of technology, society, and myth. The exhibition is divided into five themed sections. “Verticality” reflects the optimism of building upward and the pursuit of iconic form. “Personification of Architecture” juxtaposes human and architectural form, placing the body in terms of building and vice-versa. “Urban Critique” examines the effects of modern housing on its inhabitants and the dislocation and alienation that can result from architecture’s utopian impulse. “Improvisation” records occupants’ responses to their built environment and the ways they transform and humanize buildings as documented in Marie Bovo’s courtyard perspective, above. “Vulnerability of Icons” considers our changing relationship to tall buildings post-9/11.