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
Could REX’s massive office/condo/hotel/art center finally be alive? We heard from Joshua Prince-Ramus that a “big announcement” about the project was coming, and now word arrives that Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson and the project’s developers have called a press conference for 10:00 AM tomorrow. Has financing been secured? Is the project being scrapped? We’ll know more tomorrow morning.
Hats off to Braden Klayko, the brains behind Broken Sidewalk and an AN contributor, who even when he isn’t blogging is still most in-the-know person about architecture, planning, and development in Louisville. Thanks for the tip.
UPDATE: Another tipster says the developers have secured a HUD loan for the project. Will the program be altered to meet the terms of the loan?
NeoCon may not have the hipster cachet of ICFF or the design world glamour of Milan’s Salone, but every year I come away from Chicago’s Merchandise Mart having seen a lot of great products, and am reminded of the vast size, scope, and importance of the show. And as the way we work and the way we live become increasingly inseparable, design trends in the contract and residential markets are becoming similarly intertwined. Further, many Midcentury classics, now popular in the residential market, were first developed for the contract market. In addition to the great products we featured in our preview, here are a few more standouts from the show.
Antenna Workspaces, Knoll
The big news from Knoll was the Antenna Workspaces (above) collection by Antenna Design. The desk system is built around a table base with clean lines. A variety of box storage, drawer units, and panels can be attached to the center rail. The system looks particularly good when used with Knoll archival surfaces, such as the natural rattan and grass fabrics used in the NeoCon showroom. Read More
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.
What’s the cliché? You can dress up a pig but it’s still a pig? I can’t remember. Some terrible former governor, who will not be named, used the line a lot. Anyway! The Great American Tower, the newest addition to Cincinnati’s skyline, was recently topped off with a giant tiara inspired by Diana, Princess of Wales. The glitzy tower could be the ugliest building in the Midwest. It’s a toss-up as to whether the Royal Family will add this to its rather lengthy list of regal embarrassments—oh Fergie!—or delight in the ghastly tribute. After all, the tower will be the tallest in the city, surpassing the Carew Tower, which reigned supreme since 1930 with its beautiful art deco interiors. The tiara’s (and building’s) design cred go to Gyo Obata, the “O” of HOK. Eavesdrop wonders why Gyo did not look to local royalty, like former mayor Jerry Springer. A skyscraper inspired by guests throwing chairs at one another could be interesting! Read More
We’ll see you in Chicago at the show—while you’re there, remember to pick up a copy of our latest Midwest edition, hot off the press! Until then, we offer you a sneak peek of our favorite finds from this year’s contract furnishings market:
Bram Boo Bench, VanerumStelter
Belgian designer Bram Boo’s bench fosters socialization, rest, and work all in one piece of furniture. Four seats arranged in a square create four desktops and multiple ways to face others. The bench is available in red and black.
The Environmental Protection Agency is urging the City of Chicago to clean up the Chicago River with the hope of meeting recreational standards, eventually even making it swimmable. The city’s relationship to the River has been evolving, as the many recent developments along it attest. But the river still serves as the Chicago’s sewage pipe, so clean-up will be an lengthy and expensive project, as this report from the Chicago Tribune details. AN recently looked at soft infrastructure strategies, including some in Chicago, that aim to mitigate storm water run-off, one of the major reasons for sewage overflow into the River. Promoting green roofs, building permeable alleys, planting trees–all of which the Daley administration has advanced–can all reduce run-off, but hard expensive infrastructure upgrades, such as the Deep Tunnel, will likely be needed to keep sewage out of the Chicago River.
Marketplace had a downright enlightening segment the other day about the potential and peril of using sustainability as a tool for economic development. New York and Chicago have been doing this with some success, and now Cleveland’s mayor wants in on the act. But instead of simply promoting sustainability through tax credits, development bonuses, and mandates, Frank Jackson took a clever approach, saying whomever built a LED plant in the depressed Rust Belt city would get the contract to outfit it with all its civic lighting needs. It was a brilliantly shrewd move, until it all fell apart. Listen in to find out what happened.
DANCING WITH STARCHITECTS
Eavesdrop got all flustered when the Chicago Dancing Festival, an annual event celebrating American dance, announced the theme for its August 27 event: “The Dancing Skyline.” Could this be like Dancing with the Stars or a Pilobolus-like pile of dancers recreating buildings from Chicago’s iconic skyline? Probably neither, as the festival’s website simply describes it as “a lecture and demonstration focused on themes of architecture and dance.” Still, we would have paid good money to see Jeanne Gang paired with the likes of Jay Franke of the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company prancing off against Helmut Jahn and Fabrice Calmels of the Joffrey Ballet. A gossip columnist can dream! Read More
Chicago may be better known for NeoCon–that’s the design show, not right-wing political philosophy–but the contemporary and modern art equivalent, Artropolis, appears to be holding ground with another solid run at the Merchandise Mart over the last weekend. Artropolis, the Midwest‘s answer to Art Basel, is comprised of three fairs: Art Chicago; NEXT, an invitational exhibition of emerging art; and the International Antiques Fair. AN’s Midwest Eavesdrop took a spin around the preview party to peep who turned out for the free booze and what was showing at the fairs. Read More
The story surrounding plans for a new Walmart on Chicago’s Far South Side keeps changing faster than the retailer’s prices. Last week we noticed that its attempts to break into Brooklyn were eerily similar to those in the Windy City, though we failed to mention how the linchpin of the current argument, that no one would dare locate in Pullman, does not hold true in East New York, as the Gateway Center already has a Target and a few other big box stores. But according to the Chicago Reader, that may not be the case in Pullman either. The paper did the unthinkable and—gasp!—called up the other retailers who the local alderman said he contacted, including IKEA, Dominick’s, and Jewel-Osco, to confirm that they had turned Alderman Anthony Beale down. Read More
The Chicago Architecture Foundation’s boat tours begin tomorrow, and they’ve added two evening “date night” cruises on Thursday and Friday evenings, beginning at 5:30. The hour and a half long tours highlights 53 architecturally significant sites. All Chicago Architecture Foundation cruises depart from the lower level and southeast corner of the Michigan Avenue Bridge at Wacker Drive. The 2010 Tour Schedule runs through November 21. Tickets are $32 and are available at www.architecture.org or