Kansas City, recently outfitted with superfast internet courtesy of Google, is on the move. And KC taxpayers voted to keep up the momentum this week, authorizing a special taxing district to help fund a downtown streetcar.
A transportation development district would cultivate the 2-mile, $101 million route from Union Station to the River Market. The line was shortened by 300 feet after a scramble to make up for $25 million in TIGER grants that the city applied for and was not awarded. Funding for the modified plan came from the Mid-America Regional Council.
Now efforts turn to finding an operator. Kansas City will work with the Port Authority to create a Streetcar Authority—a step which has become a hang-up for similar efforts in Detroit. But Wednesday’s vote is a clear signal of public and political support for expanded public transit in the city.
KC is also lining up funding for a second phase of streetcar lines, totaling 22 miles of track crisscrossing the city.
Gazing at Chicago from the east, it’s impossible to ignore the city’s towering skyline. But the latest gem on the southwest shores of Lake Michigan won’t be made from glass and steel—it’s prairie grass and wetlands.
Northerly Island, a 91-acre peninsula that juts into Lake Michigan just south of the Loop, was promised a visionary makeover from Studio Gang and landscape architects JJR in 2010. Now the Chicago Park District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are preparing to break ground this fall.
Seven years after the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation embarked on its resuscitation of downtown’s signature Fountain Square, a vacant 86-year-old tower one block away is getting a $27.3 million makeover.
The former home of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the 14-story building will now house 12,000 square feet of street-level retail and a 238-room hotel. Once slated for condos, the limestone tower will instead be downtown’s fifth largest hotel, bringing the total number of rooms downtown to more than 3,000.
Ohio City, Cleveland’s self-described artisan neighborhood, also hopes to become one of the city’s transportation hubs. A new plan proposes “a 21st Century transportation strategy” for the mixed-use area, which is home to popular destinations like the West Side Market and the Great Lakes Brewing Company.
It looks like Mies van der Rohe’s Lafayette Towers in Detroit may avoid the auction block a little longer. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) foreclosed on the high-rise apartment buildings in February, and HUD had planned to put them up for auction this month (albeit with a litany of multi-million-dollar renovations required of the lucky winner).
Detroit exercised its first right of refusal on that course of action, wary of the iconic towers falling into the wrong hands. New York-based Northern Group bought the buildings in 2008 for $16 million in cash, but stopped making payments on its loans by 2010. The towers were transferred to HUD soon after. Now the city’s group for planning and facilities is seeking a private owner to bring the buildings back from disrepair.
More than 60 architects flocked to the side of Bertrand Goldberg’s embattled Prentice Women’s Hospital Wednesday, calling on Mayor Rahm Emanuel to ensure the concrete cloverleaf’s permanent place in Chicago’s skyline.
“The legacy of Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital is unmistakable. It stands as a testament to the Chicago-led architectural innovation that sets this city apart,” reads the open letter, whose cosigners include Frank Gehry, Jeanne Gang and the partners of SOM. “Chicago’s global reputation as a nurturer of bold and innovative architecture will wither if the city cannot preserve its most important achievements.”
For many years much of Detroit’s riverfront was an industrial utility, characterized by derelict manufacturing sites. But efforts to reclaim public spaces on the waterfront have made considerable progress in recent years. Now a $44 million boost from the federal government and the state of Michigan ensures transformation along the Detroit River will continue.
The Illinois Institute of Technology announced last week that they will break ground next year on a 5-story “innovation center” at the university’s Bronzeville campus in Chicago. The new 100,000-square-foot building will overlook the Dan Ryan Expressway and will house academic classrooms as well as resources for entrepreneurs.
“It will combine the power of higher education,” said IIT President John Anderson, “with Chicago-style imagination, determination and boldness to fuel innovation.”
The center will house IIT’s Interprofessional Projects Program as well as high-tech workshops and computer labs. IIT will also provide space for companies at University Technology Park.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel was present for the announcement, eager to tout Chicago’s growing business community. City support will provide cost savings that Anderson said will translate into twice as many Chicago Public Schools students in its summer programs for high school students.
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.