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Old May 8th, 2005, 06:39 AM   #61
geoff_diamond
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I'll try to be there, but, I'm sure as hell not speaking in front of anyone Unless the nimbys get my blood boiling!
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Old May 8th, 2005, 10:37 AM   #62
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geoff_diamond
I'll try to be there, but, I'm sure as hell not speaking in front of anyone Unless the nimbys get my blood boiling!
Well, there will be quite a few preservationist combating this one. The only way you get to speak is if you sign up before the meeting begins I believe. I am certainly going to talk, because I want this tower built. Hopefully the fact that I've been giving public tours over the past several summers will help to lessen my nervousness wwhile speaking before the council members. No matter, I'M DOING IT...

Besides this gives me the opportunity to meet the developers of th project and get information about the buildiing, seeing that they have to present before the council.
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Old May 8th, 2005, 09:21 PM   #63
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BVictor1
Well, there will be quite a few preservationist combating this one. The only way you get to speak is if you sign up before the meeting begins I believe. I am certainly going to talk, because I want this tower built. Hopefully the fact that I've been giving public tours over the past several summers will help to lessen my nervousness wwhile speaking before the council members. No matter, I'M DOING IT...

Besides this gives me the opportunity to meet the developers of th project and get information about the buildiing, seeing that they have to present before the council.
If I was in Chicago, I would go in a heartbeat. I urge as many of you to go as possible. COME ON, GUYS!

And don't be scared of speaking. I always get nervous about public speaking as well, but here's an easy solution. Write down everything you want to say the night before, and just read it to them!
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Old May 9th, 2005, 08:32 AM   #64
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Well, just don't forget to post a reminder for us when it gets closer to the date At any rate, after my last design presentation, I don't think I'll be speaking in front of a group for a while
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Old May 10th, 2005, 03:34 AM   #65
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Urban Politician
^????

Why is the city letting these lousy retailers take up space?

This is a major corridor for pedestrians between Millennium Park and Block 37/theatre district. They should push for some sort of high end apparel stores, entertainment, etc.
Unfortunately, there is still vast amounts of vacant space along Wabash... Too much space to entice the kind of retailers I would like to see. While we don't really need yet another bank branch to open up (unless it is my bank), it is better than nothing. At least if there are bank branches it will help draw people which may assist in drawing other retailers to the empty spaces along Wabash.
The space at Heritage is still mostly empty, there is a McDonalds that opened up a couple of months ago (This is just replacing the McD's that was there before.) I suspect the space at the new sight on Jewelers Row will have small retail spaces with a hidden parking structure behind the second and third floors, which is better than the vacant space on the second and third floors that is there now.
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Old May 10th, 2005, 05:47 AM   #66
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geoff_diamond
I'll try to be there, but, I'm sure as hell not speaking in front of anyone Unless the nimbys get my blood boiling!
Don't be nervous, I had to overcome my public speaking issues when I first begin giving tours. It's no big deal. Besides you'll never see these people again anyway, so what do they care about your nervousness.

If you want to speak before the commission, you must sign up before the meeting starts, you just can't interject your opinion, even if that's what you're use to doing...
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Old May 10th, 2005, 07:12 AM   #67
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Sure, I could sign up like a chump, but, at the same time, nobody can stop me from standing up and yelling out something that makes the whole crowd erupt in applause! I've seen it in movies... so that must be how it works!
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Old May 12th, 2005, 01:17 AM   #68
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[QUOTE=Marvel 33 ]Parkitecture 2005


Grant Park Advisory Council
Tuesday, May 17, 2005 at 6:30 pm
Daley Bicentennial Plaza, 337 E. Randolph (Grant Park's Fieldhouse)


THERE is currently a trio of high-profile, residential high-rise projects being planned facing Michigan Avenue but not directly on it. The 72-story high-rise planned for 21-29 S Wabash, the 830 S Michigan Avenue high-rise (planned for behind the YWCA Building), and the Fourth Presbyterian Church high-rise are generating both much praise and criticism. Given the cultural, economic and environmental virtues of downtown high-rise living with all its resultant energy and active street life, why the controversy? This question and others will be addressed in our continuing Parkitecture series.

The community surrounding Grant Park is a world-class community with many new residents energizing both the park and the city. The dream of making Chicago's downtown a 24-hour, 7-days-per-week community is quickly becoming a reality. We are seeing things never seen before around Grant Park. People are walking at all hours and on weekends along South Michigan Avenue, quality restaurants and retail establishments are moving in, there are more parents with young children, and dogs are being walked in many areas of Grant Park - all positive signs that there is a vibrant and significant Grant Park residential community taking hold. Grant Park with its much-improved beauty, nature, maintenance and culture is a very important catalyst to creating this vibrant community.

Please join us and our distinguished panel for this important discussion. The panel will include:

Jack Guthman, Partner, Shefsky & Froelich.

John Lahey, President, Solomon Cordwell Buenz & Associates.

Thomas Kerwin, President, AIA Chicago and Partner, Skidmore Owings & Merrill.

James Peters, Director of Preservation Planning, Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois.


Thank you for your participation,

Bob O’Neill

Phone: 312-829-8015
Fax: 312-243-4095


I will certainly be attending this meeting, is anyone else interested in going?
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Old May 12th, 2005, 02:07 AM   #69
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Oh man, can someone PM me on monday or something to remind me about this? I gotta be there!
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Old May 14th, 2005, 03:46 AM   #70
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These two images are from Lynn Becker's Repeat website:


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Old May 14th, 2005, 04:49 AM   #71
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wow, that is a great looking tower. I really hope that gets built.
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Old May 14th, 2005, 05:22 AM   #72
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That is an interesting rendering! I kinda like it! Good work, wrabbit!


Addition: http://www.lynnbecker.com/repeat/awabash/wabash.htm

Last edited by Chi_Coruscant; May 14th, 2005 at 05:28 AM.
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Old May 14th, 2005, 05:51 AM   #73
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I LOVE IT.
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Old May 14th, 2005, 03:02 PM   #74
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Lets post the writings and articles that go along with the renedrings:


Slicing and Dicing the Past to Get to the Future
-by Lynn Becker

Plans to slip a sparkling new condo tower behind vintage facades spurs debate on the nature of architectural preservation.

(Originally published in slightly different and far better edited form under the title "Know When to Fold Them" in the Chicago Reader, May 13th, 2005)

How do you strike a balance in architectural preservation?



Compromise too much and you wind up with an entry arch standing in a park beside the Art Institute, a forlorn remnant of Louis Sullivan's Monroe Wabash Tower, 72 stories of condos, Chicago, Illinois; Solomon Cordwell Buenz architectsdemolished 1893 Stock Exchange Building. Compromise too little and you wind up with "protected" buildings rotting away without purpose or relevance.

Last week the permit review committee of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks was considering Mesa Development's proposal to build a 72-story, 812 foot high residential tower behind four historic loft buildings, the oldest dating back to 1872, on the east side of Wabash between Madison and Monroe - a stretch that's part of the Jewelers Row Landmark District.
Mesa just finished the Heritage Millennium, a 57-story condo tower at Randolph and Wabash, where three historic buildings, including the old Blackhawk restaurant, were demolished except for their facades. Those facades became the front of a new garage, though they were restored to their original luster. It's an often-troubling approach that's become so common that a painfully clinical-sounding term has emerged to describe it: “Facadectomy.”



Mesa's plan for the South Wabash buildings is a bit more complex. The facades would be saved, though a garage entrance would be incorporated into one of them. The new building, designed by Solomon Cardwell Buenz, would be constructed behind the facades. At their rooflines, it would emerge as a glass skyscraper, set back 28 feet from Wabash.

At the permit-review meeting the battle lines were drawn in the usual way. In one corner were the developer; 42nd Ward alderman Burton Natarus; and the city's planning bureaucracy. In the opposite corner were representatives of Preservation Chicago, the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois, and community groups such as South Loop Neighbors and Friends of Downtown.

"We see this as a real slippery slope," said David Bahlman, president of the Landmarks Preservation Council, at the permit review meeting. "We have no objections to the quality and the design of the building...[but] we can find no instance in Chicago or the U.S. where a new building has been permitted to be constructed in a local landmark district that is so completely out of scale with the heights of the surrounding historic structures. The landmarks commission's own rules and regulations state that new construction in a landmark district must respect the 'general size, shape, and scale of the features associated with the district.' We therefore find it difficult to imagine how a 70-story building can be considered respectful of the urban fabric of an historic district...[where] all but one of the tallest structures in this district are less than 280 feet high, or about one-third the height of the proposed condo tower."

"The question before you is whether a landmark district means anything," said preservation activist Martin Tangora . "How are you going to tell the owners of 20 N. Michigan-an eight-story building that's one of the oldest in the street wall-how are you going to tell them that they can't build a 70-story tower on the back all but 30 feet of that lot? How are you going to stop anything on the street wall or in the Jewelers Row district or any other district in Chicago if you allow this to go through?"



Jonathan Fine, president of Preservation Chicago, voiced a concern that was echoed by several other groups that testified. "The issue really is, why is this being rushed?" he said. "We're actually objecting on the basis of process. I found out yesterday that the reason I had not seen the drawings, the reason I was not aware of what the design looked like, is that the design has not yet been publicly released."

“Trump Tower”, Fine continued, "“which was not in a landmark district, which did not involve the facadectomies or the demolition of a historic building-that process was completely open and had the luxury of public scrutiny for months and months and months. Yet this project, which is in a historic district, which does abut a designated Chicago landmark by one of the finest architecture firms in the entire country"”-meaning Louis Sullivan's Jewelers Building-"“somehow this project is being fast-tracked. That disturbs me to no end.”

Mesa attorney John George disputed Fine's contention, saying the application for the development had been filed last November and indeed, Bahlman's group knew enough about the project to begin denouncing it in January. Yet the city clearly wanted to move the project along unimpeded, proof of which was the presence of the commissioner of planning and development, Denise Casalino, who seldom attends permit review meetings and who left as soon as the proposal was approved. Joining her in voting for the project were Ben Weese, the committee's chair, and John Baird, of Baird and Warner, who both praised the sensitivity of the design.

The sole dissenting vote came from committee member Phyllis Ellin, a National Parks Service historian. "What I'm being asked to do today," she said, "is not to give my opinion of whether I like it or not, as a matter of taste, but whether I think it meets the standards and guidelines of the commission. And I have to say I can't say that I feel that it meets the standards.... It's not in keeping with the size and scale of this particular district."

No building is ever declared a landmark down to every brick, window, or tile. Chicago's landmarking ordinances always clearly list those features being afforded protection, most commonly something like "all visible exterior elevations." If other features- such as the Palmer House lobby or the atriums in Marshall Field's-are to be protected, they have to be listed specifically. Other parts of the buildings are considered "noncontributing." Landowners, after a commission review, are generally free to renovate or remove them. In landmark districts, where buildings are protected as a group, entire buildings deemed to be without historic or architectural merit can be designated noncontributing.



The first major issue surrounding the Wabash Avenue project is whether the proposed alterations destroy the features that made the buildings landmark quality. The plan is for the fourth and fifth floors of the facade to front a parking deck, leaving the kind of "blind" windows that make preservationists cringe. But the first floors, now a jumble of unfortunate alterations, would be restored to their historic state and the space behind them returned to retail use. More importantly, behind the second- and third- floor windows would be new classrooms and offices for the School of the Art Institute, which would be linked to the school's Champlain Building to the south; the architects would also restore that building's storefronts, now a dowdy mix of glass and dulled metal, to their original appearance. The new building would also add squash and handball courts for members of the University Club, to be linked by a bridge over the alley to the club's Gothic 1909 Holabird and Roche building on Michigan Avenue.

On principle, I think preserving just the facades of old buildings is bad, but the facades of these Wabash buildings are their only distinguished feature. Their north and south walls are invisible, alley elevations along south Wabash avenue in Chicagobutting up against the adjacent buildings. The rear elevations are as ugly and inchoate as you'd expect for walls facing a narrow, dark alley. The interiors, changed numerous times down over the decades, have no landmark protection and wouldn't seem to deserve it.



The second major issue is whether the new project would be out of scale with the other buildings in the landmark district. When he said the proposed tower's height would be three times that of the surrounding buildings, Bahlman was excluding both the 551-foot Pittsfield Building and the 438-foot Willoughby Tower; Mesa's building would be 816 feet high. Bahlman also said the Pittsfield and Willoughby were too "slender" to be intrusive. But Mesa's building would be a marked improvement on recent towers such as the Heritage Millennium, a massive slab of concrete and glass, set on a north-south axis, that looms over the Cultural Center. Mesa's new tower would be faced with a glass curtain wall, and it would be oriented east to west, tapering down to a thinner facade facing Michigan Avenue and thereby creating a slender profile with a lot of blue sky to the north and south of it.

Bahlman was also excluding nearby megatowers such as the 631-foot Heritage Millennium a block to the north, the 600-foot CNA tower a few blocks south, and the 582-foot tall 55 E. Monroe, right across the street. These buildings are in fact outside the landmark district, but this is the kind of blinders-on analysis only a lawyer could love. A great city like Chicago is not an atomized collection of unrelated parts. It's a continuous urban fabric whose strength lies in the way the components draw on and enrich one another. The Michigan Avenue Landmark District - quiet, dowdy, and a bit dilapidated - has exploded with renewed energy since Millennium Park opened across the street. The modernism of Frank Gehry, Jaume Plensa and Anish Kapoor didn't compromise the patrician tone of their older neighbors-it allowed us to see them with a fresh eye.

Wabash presents a tougher challenge. When State Street was King, the east side of Wabash enjoyed the spillover, with vibrant, long-lived attractions such as the Blackhawk Restaurant and Kroch and Brentano's bookstore. Both are long gone. As State Street declined, east Wabash declined harder - there's been a constant churn of The Chicago Loop L elevated structure over Wabash avenueretailers coming and going, with few displaying real staying power. The mass of the L continues to dominate the streetscape. “I was part of a movement many years ago to take down the L,” 42nd ward alderman Burton Natarus reminded hearing attendees, in what seemed a subtle dig at preservationists. “Some people think it is a landmark . . . but what it's done to the street is made it dark, and it has a negative effect, not only from the standpoint of appearance, but from the standpoint of noise. I always thought the L should have been taken down and we would have had some beautiful streets. I think that what this project does is that it livens things up a little bit. It beautifies the area.”



With over 350 units, the Mesa project could help increase pedestrian traffic and make Wabash more attractive for retailers. As for the Wabash L, the best way to neutralize its toxic effects would be to celebrate its status as an undesignated landmark. Pry some cash from the Central Loop TIF, get some architects and lighting designers involved, and come up with a plan to repaint and light up it's undercarriage in a way that not only eliminates the darkness from the avenue beneath, but makes an attraction of the beautiful intricacy of the structure, itself.

The permit-review committee's decision comes before the Chicago Plan Commission on May 19 and the full landmarks commission in June; the final decision will eventually be made by the City Council, giving opponents plenty of time to organize. There will be a lot more discussion of slippery slopes, and rightly so - the last thing anyone wants to do is set a precedent that starts demolition-hungry lawyers salivating. But the continued vitality of Chicago architecture depends on regular injections of the contemporary into the traditional - and on preservation efforts that don't descend into a kind of architectural taxidermy

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Old May 14th, 2005, 04:33 PM   #75
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What Do People Say at a Landmarks Hearing?
-by Lynn Becker

Excerpts from the May 5th Chicago Landmarks Commission Permit Review Hearing on the demolition of all but the facades of four loft buildings in Chicago's landmark Jeweler's Row District to allow for the construction of a new 72 story condo tower.


Slicing and Dicing
the Past to Get to the Future
What Do People Say
At a Landmarks Hearing?
- read the transcript




Alderman Burton Natarus of the 42nd ward, in which the proposed development would be located:

I know that there's a great deal of controversy concerning this review, especially in the light of the fact that there is being, going to be some restoration and a lot of changes. I am hopeful that the permit review committee with their expertise will be able to restore these conditions in terms of the standards that should be in place. I think that this is an important project from an altogether different point of view than just landscaping, and that is it will help Wabash avenue.

I don't know if you noticed or not, I was part of a movement many years ago to take down the L. I always thought the L should have been taken down and we would have had some beautiful streets. It was part of what we called the Franklin Street connector. We lost that battle with the federal government . . . But we could have done it, and we didn't. We were going to build a third level of the subway .

And so we have the L, which some people think is a landmark, and some people could be beautified, but what it's done to the street is made it dark, and it has a negative effect, not only from the standpoint of appearance, but from the standpoint of noise, and I think that what this project does is that it livens things up a little bit. It beautifies the area. It may bring a lot of people to Wabash to do business. And the reason I suppose that we have the height of the building, is that you've got to build a building tall to get away from the environment of the L.

Now everybody's concerned about Jewelers' Row, and I know that the architecture of Jewelers Row is important but there was another facet of Jewelers Row that no one seems to talk about, and that is Alicia Berg, the former Commissioner and I, when they were going to be rehabilitating the buildings and evicting people on Wabash Avenue. We called a meeting in the Palmer House of all the jewelers. And we got them all together, and the reason this Jewelers Row is because we persuaded all of them to stay, so it would be like a Jewelers Market, a jewelers craft area, so all of the jewelers would be in one spot, and then when you took your wife, you know, and looked for a wedding ring, you went to 20 places and got the best deal on the diamond.

But that was another purpose of the Jewelers Row, it wasn't just architecture. It was an economic, artisan, type concept. And so there's going to be a lot of criticism here from people who are the landmark motif or philosophy, I would imagine, but I would think we have to think of it in terms of not only landmarking, but I think we have to think of it in terms of restoring the street, and I think that's what it does.

And as far as the work that Art Institute is concerned, I'm certain that everyone has the faith in the Art Institute of Chicago to do the right thing in terms of remodeling or refacing or what have you. So I support the project. I think it will be good, and I'm trustworthy of this review committee and Brian Goecken [of Landmark Comission staff] and his staff to police this thing so that it's done right. After all, with all due respect, the landmark people were responsible for the rebuilding of the McGraw Hill building. That was very interesting, where they took apart a building entirely and they put it back together and through their policing efforts you have to have confidence in their ability to rebuild and restore various architecture features.

Oh, one other thing, one other thing. We have a big struggle throughout the city of Chicago as to where to build highrise buildings. If you talk to most of the people out in the neighborhoods, they don't want any high-rise buildings, at all. And we have to have high-rise buildings, because whether we know it or not, highrise buildings are very much responsible for our tax base, and so someone will say to me that's an artisan, why is it always money? Why do you always talk about money? The point of the matter is what we don't have very much in the way of revenue sources. Most of our income tax, if not all of our income tax dollars go to Washington, to pay for national defense and national safety, what have you, and so the property tax remains the major source of revenue that we control in terms of how we can spend remodeling the infrastructure and pay for our police department and our fire department, and what have you. This building will do that. This building will enhance our tax base.

And also, if you looked at that view from Lake Michigan, it's beautiful. If you're out on a boat and you look at Lake Michigan, and you look at the Chicago skyline, one of the first things that hits you is our beautiful skyline in terms of our highrise buildings, I don't care if you're out on the Lake, you're coming in from the South, in Indiana, or you're coming in from O'Hare field, the Chicago presence in terms of high-rise buildings located in the central city is a very, very outstanding feature. Finally, these high-rise buildings will be a source of residents coming down and living in the Loop, and the people want to live in the Loop now. They want the amenities of the parks, and the services, and what have you, and those are the people who are going to living in this highrise buildings, so it makes a very, very unique, a beautiful society.


David Bahlman, Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois.

This has been a very important issue for us. We actually put Jewelers Row as a district on our list of Ten Most Endangered list this year. Our position on this project has been presented in two letters and a detailed analysis that we sent to the Chicago Department of Planning and Development on January 14th and February 2nd.

As a brief summary of those comments, we would like to make the following points. Only a small fraction of Chicago's Central Area , just 1.6% of the land area, is protected by protected by Chicago landmark district designation. Within the historic Loop area, the area we're talking about here, that area of percentage is less than 10%. .

The Jewelers Row district, which was designated by the City Council in 2003, is one of those very few protected areas. According to the city ordinance designating it as a local landmark, this district displays a distinct visual unity based on consistent building setbacks, overall design, use of building material and detailing, and in many cases, size and scale. Furthermore, the Chicago Central Area Plan, which was also adopted two years ago, strongly encourages preservation and re-use of as one of its principal development recommendations for the East Loop. To quote from this plan, “renovations and new development in the East Loop must respect its historic character and urban fabric.” The landmarks Commission's own rules and regulations state that new construction in a landmark district must respect the general size, shape, and scale of the features associated with the district.

We therefore find it difficult to imagine how a 72 story building can be considered respectful of the urban fabric of an historic, especially when all but one of the tallest structures in this district are less than 280 feet high, or about one third the height of the proposed condo tower. The Pittsfield Building setback tower is, I think between 400 and 500 feet.

We can find no instance in Chicago or the U.S. where a new building has been permitted to be constructed in a local landmark district that is so completely out of scale with the heights of the surrounding historic structures. Our research includes discussion with the Historic Districts Council in New York City, and staff planners in Boston, Denver, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, all communities where landmark districts are located in high-rise zoning districts. On a much smaller scale, we would also like to also note our concerns about the proposed curb cut on Wabash Avenue, which we feel does not respect the historic character of the pedestrian oriented district, and of the Louis Sullivan design building which is an individual Chicago landmark immediately adjacent.

Finally, and perhaps most important from the standpoint of official city policy, and this is really where this got listed in our ten most, we are especially concerned about the precedent that this project would have on other landmark districts in Chicago. As you know, one of the reasons why property owners have supported the creation of landmark districts is the protection it provides against demolition and incompatible new development. If approved, this project will send a clear message that zoning, not landmark criteria, is the only thing that matters in a Chicago landmark district. This would be shocking news for owners in Chicago's other historic landmark districts, which are located in higher-density zoning districts, including Astor Street, East Lake Shore Drive, Motor Row, Printers Row, Washington Square, and historic Michigan Boulevard District. It would also send a similar message, though to a lesser extent, to the city's dozens of residential landmark districts from Longwood Drive, and Kenwood on the south, to Jackson Boulevard and Wicker park on the West Side.

We strongly urge your committee to vote to either deny this project, or to defer a decision until the policy implications of your decision can be discussed by representatives of the city's many other Chicago landmark districts. We see this as a real slippery slope. We have no objections to the quality and the design of the building. It simply is it's placement in the middle of an historic district where the prevailing height is only about 280 feet. So we're going from 280 feet, to 800 feet.

Jonathan Fine, President, Preservation Chicago.

I'm here representing my board today. Preservation Chicago cannot support this proposal, and contrary to Alderman Natarus's presumptions, we're actually objecting on the basis of process. I found out yesterday that the reason I had not seen the drawings, and I consider myself relatively well read - I read both papers cover to cover every day - the reason I was not aware of what the design looked like is that the design has not yet been publicly released.

It has been shopped to different interest groups, and it was shopped to our organization last night, and I really appreciate you guys coming by to show us the concept, but the issue really is, why is this being rushed?

The interesting thing about is that the Trump Tower, which was not in a landmark district, which did not involve the facadectomy's or the demolition of a historic building, that process was done completely open, and has the luxury of public scrutiny for months and months and months. Yet this project, which is in a historic district, which does abut a designated Chicago landmark, by one of the finest architecture firms in the entire country that was practicing in that time, somehow this project is being fast-tracked. That disturbs me to no end. What we would recommend is that the Landmarks Commission defer this until at least next month, so there can be more public scrutiny, so this process can be the transparent process that it was designed to be. Mr. Bahlman talks about the slippery slope. I believe the slippery slope here is that when one makes, when one acts in haste, one tends to make waste.


Laura Jones, Associate Director, Greater State Street Council.

I'm Laura Jones, I'm representing the newly merged Greater State Street Council and Central Michigan Avenue Association, as well as the State Street Commission. Those three entities have a redevelopment committee, which has reviewed this project, and they've written a letter of endorsement to Commissioner Casalino which I believe is contained in your packets. I wish to reiterate part of that letter - I will not read that whole letter, that our committee applauds the manner in which Mesa is contributing to the Loop neighborhood. The residents of the 340 new units in the proposed structure will bring more 24/7 activity and life to the area, and Mesa is bringing solutions to problems that local businesses and institutions have wrestled with for years. The School of the Art Institute will finally be able to have an arrival center and the use of a dock. The University Club will be able to expand and add a squash court to its amenities and attract more members. And operations for these buildings, including trash removal will be consolidated, making that alley more functional. We have also had input from Chicago Architecture Foundation and they concurred that Mesa Development's project provides a stunning addition to the Chicago skyline. The height and density of the building will add interest and balance to the other planned developments such as Trump Tower, while preserving while preserving Wabash Avenue's historic facades and street level character. Both the nearby 55 East Monroe and the CNA building would appear less squat and monolithic next to such a structure. We are pleased to endorse Mesa's development


Bob O'Neill, President, Grant Park Advisory Council.

We supported the historic Michigan Boulevard Historic District, and a lot of other preservation projects. This project is, I think, an incredibly well though out compromise to a lot of restrictions that have been put on development downtown and a lot of those in regard to historic districts. In this case, we have the facades of the buildings, which are pretty much obliterated in their current condition. I've photographed them. The area is definitely blighted on Wabash. Those will be restored by a developer who has a strong track record of doing so just to the north at Randolph and Wabash, Not only that, but there is I believe absolutely no contradiction is having a tall, beautiful slender, elegant modern building juxtaposed near and next to historic buildings.

I think there's a precedent for that. Comparing it to Millennium Park, does it elegantly with the historic Chicago Cultural Center right in front of this - it's very visible from Grant Park and Millennium Park. Another precedent is the Hancock Tower, right across the street , Michigan Avenue , from the Fourth Presbyterian Church, and another beautiful contrast does very well. And the Hancock Tower, what it has down for North Michigan Avenue, these type of buildings will do the same for the downtown area. I think that they're incredibly important to Grant Park as well. What we have seen over the years is that more and more people move to downtown Chicago, the park is rejuvenated, it's integrated into the community, has become a Grant Park community. A lot of people want to live downtown . This affords them that opportunity, beautiful views.

I think it's a really good compromise. I think that from a historic preservation standpoint, this is a win-win situation. If we don't encourage this type of redevelopment, how are we going to finance the restoration of these historic buildings. The ones we're currently talking about have been dilapidated for decades. There are a lot of other Class C buildings downtown, office buildings, that are being renovated into condos, that have to be financed, and one of the ways you do it is connecting highrises, and encouraging more and more development downtown. Chicago is a world class city. It's becoming more so, and we need people downtown. We need them living downtown, supporting the culture downtown, the restaurants . . .

Another issue that doesn't get talked about two often with high-rises is it's very important, the environmental impact of them. The high-rise is incredibly good land use. It prevents suburban sprawl. It makes it an irresistible alternative to building out in the suburbs and far-reaching areas, rather than to live in these high-rises are within walking distance of just about anything you would need on a regular basis, or a cab ride, public transportation or biking. And I think that we really need to encourage it, and this particular project takes all of that into account and I think it addresses it very well.

And the other issue is, we like to see from Grant Park, the framing of the park, and the high-rises are very beautiful. I think when they are very tall, they're more visible, and this is another reason why we support it.


John George, attorney for Mesa Development, LLC

The only point I'd like to make is, in response to Mr. Fine's comments concerning the timing of this, this was filed, this application for a planned development was filed in November of 2004. We had met with the Department of Planning before we filed it, and since that time, we've had numerous meetings with the Department of Planning staff, with various people in the community who have asked to see this project. In addition to that, we've met with the Department of Transportation, the Mayor's office for People with Disabilities, so we have had - we're now in May, and we started back in November. We filed it in November, so this is not on a fast-track. This is a normal-track event, which has gone through all the processes that are required by the City of Chicago Department of Planning.


Leslie Sturino, South Loop Neighbors

I've heard a lot of things here that we support completely. We actually are downtown residents, and do take advantage of all the wonderful downtown area has to offer, but in our area, we have two other historic districts. One at Printers Row, and one at South Michigan Avenue. The two things that concern us, and its outline in the letter that hopefully we have in your packet, is the process, which all due respect to the excellent work that has been done by the developer. We are just hearing about this, this week. We believe that, especially when it comes to the public trust that is vested with the protection of historic landmark districts, that a certain amount of publicity and broad participation is necessary to really get everybody behind what's the broader goals of this very vital project, that is bringing people downtown, revitalizing what is in the historic district now.

We can't comment on the architectural merits of it, because we haven't seen it. We can comment, though, that we believe that unless this is designated by the City Council as a similar case to Bush vs. Gore, it could set a precedent that we would not like to see implementing similarly in either Printers Row or South Michigan Avenue, that is while we're the city of broad shoulders, we're literally building towers on top of our historic buildings. So we'd like to understand a little bit more about what that sets as a precedent, what the policy implications are, and I would echo another person's comment in this room that we respectfully ask that maybe this could be deferred a month, so that others who may not have had a chance to hear the merits of this proposal might have a chance to do so and get behind it.


Dennis McClendon, Friends of Downtown

I'm here on behalf of Friends of Downtown, a citizen based advocacy group that advocates for good planning downtown. We found out about this yesterday morning, and are a little upset about the process, but more about the precedent that would be set. We had a lot a talk today about what a wonderful place as a residential district downtown Chicago is. I certainly concur. I live downtown, myself, but it's being falsely set up as somehow in opposition to Chicago's wonderful heritage of architectural treasures that are presumably one of the reasons that so many of us want to live downtown to begin with. The folks at LPCI have already pointed out - I've prepared a map that shows what a tiny proportion of downtown Chicago is actually protected by landmark designation. The percentage when you look at the entire central area is about 1.6%.

There's no need for us to force new residential development on top of these few districts that we thought had been protected by this Commission and this Commission's own regulations that say that nothing that's out of , wildly out of height, would be approved in those districts. So I'm not sure if my letter setting this out in a little bit more detail reached the Commission in time to be included in the packets. I have a copy with me, and also copies of the map. But we believe that allowing a building three times the size of other buildings in the district sets a very dangerous precedent that we hope this committee will reject.


Craig Norris

I live in the Wicker Park neighborhood. Because of a neighborhood issue eight months ago, I jumped on the internet, and I read the Penn Central case, and the St. Bartholemew case, and when this came up, it dawned on me that these facts are remarkably similar. I think that what Mr. Bahlman is saying is true, and I think the city leadership is badly underestimating the people who are able to gather this information, and make these comparisons, and I think we might be making a mistake by compromising the integrity of this district, and I think that the general population, it might quickly be able to see that, if not immediately, than maybe down the road.


Martin Tangora

I'm Martin Tangora, of course long associated with LPCI, but I'm not speaking for LPCI. I don't want to be as polite as they were. The question before you is whether a landmark district means anything, and this case, Mr. Goecken has just argued that id doesn't, because this is a unique district where there are no criteria. There is supposed to be a 40% criterion [note: refers to a provision of the landmarks law that requires proposed changes that entail demolition of 40% or more of a designated landmarks to receive special approval from the Chicago City Council] , and I can't imagine how you believe that's not violated when the setback for the new construction is less than 30 feet.

I've seen these plans. Windows will be blinded in contributing buildings in the district to accommodate parking. A parking garage of 12 stories will be built behind the Sullivan and Holabird & Roche Gage Group which is an officially designated Chicago landmark. Louis Sullivan is the most important architect in central Chicago - I think everyone takes that for granted - and, of course, his two most important buildings here are the Auditorium and Carson's , and the two next most important buildings are the two between which this 800 foot tower will be shoehorned. On this, we will have 450 cars going into a driveway that's adjacent to his designated Jewelers building, and then the parking garage will be towering over the Gage Group - not literally the Sullivan part of the Gage Group, but the other two parts of the Gage Group are only six stories high, so this is not only in a landmark district and towering over the other Michigan streetwall district, but it's right in the heart of the most important architecture in downtown Chicago.

. . . . and then the height issue. Mr. Goecken says he's not worried about 70 story buildings in Beverly. Of course not. What I would be worried about, if this goes through, is the precedent that would allow somebody to tear down the average size house in Beverly and build an enormous house. How can you turn him down? I'm worried about the millionaires that have been coming to you for 25 years with a cottage in Old Town asking to put 5,000 square feet on top and in back - how are you going to turn them down? How are you going to tell the owners of 20 North Michigan, an eight story building that's one of the oldest in the street wall - how are you going to tell them that they can't building a 70 story tower on the back all-but-30-feet of that lot? How are you going to stop anything on the street wall or in the Jewelers Row district or any other district in Chicago if you allow this to go through? .


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Old May 15th, 2005, 02:25 PM   #76
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ARCHITECTURE
The lofty stakes of putting high-rises in historic districts

Building in landmark areas presents far-reaching issues

By Blair Kamin
Tribune architecture critic
Published May 15, 2005

There is give and take in life, and there is give and take in building cities. You hope each project gives more to the cityscape than it takes. That is why the controversial plan for a 74-story, 822-foot luxury condo tower on South Wabash Avenue is so difficult to weigh. It promises to be a distinguished addition to the skyline. Yet it also sets a dangerous precedent, one which could open the door to ungainly skyscrapers shoehorned into downtown historic districts.

The plan got a crucial go-ahead from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks on May 4 and is expected to come before the Chicago Plan Commission on Thursday. It has been designed by Chicago architects Solomon Cordwell Buenz & Associates for Mesa Development. The same firms are behind the handsome Heritage at Millennium Park, a Wabash Avenue condo tower where Mayor Richard M. Daley plans to move. There are other Daley connections. The developers have hired the law firm Daley & George, whose lead partner Michael is the mayor's brother. Perhaps as a result, the deal is speeding toward approval.

That's too bad because there are some far-reaching issues to deal with, especially whether a tower of such height should be permitted in a landmark district. The landmark commission's own rules state that new construction in such a district must respect its "general size, shape, and scale." Yet this tower would be more than 500 feet taller than all but one of the buildings in the Jewelers Row Historic District, a corridor along Wabash that recognizes the rich history of Chicago's jewelry makers. The Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois, an advocacy group, is understandably frightened by the pattern this deal would set. And the city's behavior -- as opposed to its soothing words -- can only deepen the council's anxiety.

Typically, when preservationists object to a building's height, the city will knock a few stories off in an attempt to mollify them. Not this time. Since February, when news stories about the project surfaced, the tower grew more than 25 feet taller. Why? Because city planners encouraged the developers to add a pair of "sky gardens," or indoor parks, in the tower's upper reaches. The "sky gardens" will be available to the condo owners. You wonder when City Hall will have the gumption to prod developers to provide the same amenity for the thousands of office workers who toil in Chicago's high-rises.

Not for public consumption

I sat in the front row at last week's landmarks commission hearing, a detail I mention because, even from that vantage point, it was impossible to see drawings of the tower. They were turned away from the audience and toward landmark commissioners who sat at a conference table. Only a visit to the architects revealed the tower's contours.

The design calls for a wedge-shaped, glass-sheathed high-rise that would turn its narrow side toward Grant Park. It would be attached to three buildings that date from the post-Chicago Fire construction boom and extend from 21 to 29 S. Wabash. Roughly their front 30 feet would be preserved, including their now-scruffy Victorian, neo-classical and Chicago School facades. Their backs would be demolished. 21 S. Wabash would house the entrance to the condo complex's 12-story-tall parking garage.

The tower itself would rise immediately to the east of the three buildings, sandwiched between them and an extremely narrow alley. In every other direction, the surroundings are extraordinary. At 19 S. Wabash is the Jewelers Building of 1882, a tattered but richly ornamented structure that is the oldest surviving design of Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan. East of the alley, at 18, 24 and 30 S. Michigan Ave., stands the Gage Group, the great trio of steel-frame loft buildings by Holabird & Roche, with a dazzling facade (at 18 S. Michigan) by Sullivan.

This context is made even more special by the everyday sights and sounds of Wabash: the exposed steel of the elevated tracks, the roar of the elevated trains and the rainbow of ethnic and economic groups that parade down the sidewalks. There are no median planters here. This part of Chicago hasn't been gentrified or "Daley-ized."

One has to ask: Is this the right place for luxury condominiums? You half-wonder if the residents, following the lead of Yuppies who move into apartments alongside factories, will someday urge that the "L" come down because it makes too much noise. There is also the troubling question of scale: Even though it will be set back from Wabash, the tower could loom oppressively above the street.

Curbed enthusiasm

Of equal concern: the prospect of a driveway, or curb cut, on Wabash to serve the tower's parking garage. Not only would this mundane feature be a poor neighbor for Adler & Sullivan's Jewelers Building. It also threatens to disrupt the flow of pedestrians on Wabash's sidewalks. This curb cut may be necessary because the alley in back of the three buildings is so congested. But more curb cuts along Wabash will surely deaden the now-lively streetscape.

Still, only a fool would ignore the benefits this project promises: More density to promote a "24-hour downtown," a bigger property tax base and new facilities for the School of the Art Institute, which will sell the three historic buildings but get space of its own in the complex. And the design, by John Leahy and Gary Klompmaker of Solomon, Cordwell Buenz, is promising on many counts.

The planned renovation of the older buildings is better than a "facade-echtomy" that saves only a building's skin. The parking garage podium underneath the tower would form a sensitive backdrop for the Gage Group, its east-facing side an attractive composition of aluminum panels and bands of windows.

The tower smartly avoids the trap of mimicking the historic buildings on Wabash and Michigan in a facile attempt to "fit in." It is far more appropriate, as the architects suggest, to contrast new with old. Wrapped in a taut glass skin, their building could float above the skyline, recalling the subtle abstract statement made by Boston's John Hancock Tower. Nothing could be more different from 55 E. Monroe, the modernist behemoth that rises like a tombstone behind the cliff of historic masonry buildings along Michigan.

While it is true that this skyscraper would be very tall, the point is that it would be elegant and tall -- which is infinitely preferable to short and stumpy. A tower of 500 or 600 feet might sound less threatening, but it would, in reality, be far more massive, extending the wall-like presence of 55 E. Monroe rather than turning it into a foil for a gracefully narrow skyscraper.

A green giant

The chief architectural caveat is the building's glass skin, which appears to be a light blue-green in the architects' renderings. If it winds up looking too green, the Chicago skyline will be marred by a giant asparagus stalk.

The chief urban caveat is the way this project tramples on the city's standards for historic districts, though city officials dispute that view. Jewelers Row is a special case, they say -- not an isolated neighborhood district where all you see is graystones or bungalows. The perspective from City Hall is that this is a downtown district where skyscrapers are always coming into view, so adding this one will not seriously disturb it.

Yet it's not hard to imagine shrewd real estate lawyers citing the same rationale to jam far-less-attractive, out-of-scale towers in other downtown historic districts, such as Printers Row. And how could the city stop them after letting this one go through? Certainly not on aesthetic grounds. That is this tower's disturbing, double-edged sword. Seen as an isolated case, it gives more to the city than it takes. But if you value human-scaled historic districts, the example it sets could wind up taking very much away indeed.
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Old May 15th, 2005, 09:07 PM   #77
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Wow, LOOONG reads.

Short story: I love that tower and any qualms I might have before (I had epsilon qualms, for you math dorks, or very little) have been cleared away.
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Old May 16th, 2005, 07:11 PM   #78
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I think the article makes many great points. One thing that I like is that the fronts of the buildings (30 feet) are being preserved, rather than just the facades. Therefore there will at least be some depth to what is preserved.
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Old May 16th, 2005, 08:03 PM   #79
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I don't know that I really care about there being any depth. It's not the glazing that makes an old structure important, it's the arrangement of those windows within the larger structure and the detailing of the structure itself. I could honestly care less if I can see through the windows or not.
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Old May 17th, 2005, 05:13 AM   #80
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Where do they ever support the idea that Wabash Ave. or the so-called "Jewlers Row" are historic? Those blocks are now and always were a rather uninteresting and unsightly hodge-podge of trivial structures lacking in any significant architectural presence. The jewelers left along with the Blackhawk restaurant and dozens of other small run-of-the-mill commercial venues, and they left for sound commercial reasons. I'll wager that none of those who abandoned Wabash Ave. had any sense of a historic loss or that there were part of anything of historic significance. They plied their trades and passed on. Facadectomies pay homage to misplaced nostalgia, nothing more. Cities, like architecture itself, are new poems in the making. Let's enjoy our time under the sun, and let the future anguish over what we built.
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