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The City
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
There is a lot of friggin vacant post-industrial land on the south and southwest sides. Sure, we should secure some of it as planned-manufacturing districts. But come on, lets face it--manufacturing probably isn't gonna come back.

So why hold back? I propose that the city free up huge swaths of land, attach it to the city street grid, and sell it at cheap prices to developers. Let's create huge neighborhoods, but even bigger than what has been built now. Burnham once said "Make no small plans", but that doesn't just pertain to Millennium Park or the the bridges, etc. This would certainly be a major plan in revitalizing the city--perhaps bigger than any other in Chicago's recent history.

Just like the great bungalow-building craze of an earlier generation, Chicago should shoot for large numbers of housing--perhaps 50,000 to 80,000 units.

The city could then break the land down into smaller regions and put them up for bid to, perhaps, 15-20 developers. The ultimate goal would be to create a mix of single-family homes, townhomes, apartments/condominiums, offices, and commercial space.

In this way, the city could have a lot of control. They could appoint a committee to oversee the project, a committee related to the Dept of Planning and Development, and perhaps hire a company (SOM, anyone?) to draw up a master plan. That master plan would address the following things, for example:

Pedestrian-orientation
Parking issues
Density issues
Street orientation
Creating higher density around transit stops and creating more transit stops
Creating more mid-rise mixed-use districts around certain designated boulevards to create commercial boulevards that rival those seen on the north side (ie Clark St, Lincoln Ave, Halsted, etc)
Affordability
Architectural variability (ie requiring external brick as a major component of most structures, requiring a variation of styles)

etc, etc, etc.

Why not? I think by creating massive amounts of tract-housing the city will be able to improve affordability, increase its population, and bring those vacant acres of land back into the tax rolls. It can also boost transit usership, provide more housing for its downtown workers, and ultimately make downtown a more attractive place to locate a business. After all, isn't the north side too saturated now? Perhaps that is why it's so unaffordable, and transit on the north side is become quite congested.

Anyway, if I could share my 2 cents with the mayor and city council, that's what I would suggest
 

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I think I can agree with all that you wrote. There is a huge land area in the city that is either underused rail yards or industrial. I especially like the idea of extending the city grid back through some of these areas. Gotta have the grid.
 

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TUP, there's much merit to what you would propose to the mayor's office. They could start with the grid, for that brings life back into the areas; the rest is location, location, location. It might make economic sense to restore grid and infrastructure via the TIF funds prior to commitments, i.e., built it and they will come.
 

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The high cost of living in some Chicago neighborhoods is not because we have run out of property or land.

Also, wonder how much it will cost to clean up all that land that use to be manufacturing. Who will pay for that?

And if the north side was too saturated...then the current building boom wouldn't exist. But it does exist. So it isn't saturated.
 

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Land like near South Calumet, or south of Pershing Ave, have many post-industrail factories that arent in use anymore.

I say turn the lands into housing neighborhood, a mall, some attractions, or even more parkland.
 

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C.B.P.
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ThirdCoast312 said:
how about we fill in the empty lots we already have in our own neighborhoods before we create whole new ones!!!
Because it's more fun to play God than to play Bob Vila! :runaway:
 

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ThirdCoast312 said:
how about we fill in the empty lots we already have in our own neighborhoods before we create whole new ones!!!
Which lots get filled in or lie fallow for years is strictly an economic decision; perhaps you could look into the "history" of a lot or two that have lain fallow to see if my contention holds water. :)
 

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The City
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Opening the floodgates--revisited

I revived this thread because of this article. Okay, so it came out last September, but it certainly is pertinent and is the closest thing to what I am proposing. After all, 284 acres is quite ambitious, worthy of the city that makes "no small plans". I so far haven't seen any updates on this massive development:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Southworks Development Names Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Sasaki Associates as Master Planners for Former U.S. Steel Site
Planners of Chicago’s Millennium Park and Beijing Olympics to bring world-class design to Chicago’s Southeast side

CHICAGO September 23, 2004 – The architectural and planning firm that brought Millennium Park to Chicago along with the firm that created the master plan for the 2008 Beijing Olympics in China, are teaming up to develop the master plan for one of the most significant urban redevelopment projects in the United States: turning 284 acres of the former U.S. Steel South Works site into a thriving community of homes, businesses, offices and recreational space.

After a nationwide search, Southworks Development LLC announced today that the world-renowned design firms of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and Sasaki Associates (Sasaki) will partner to create the master plan for the redevelopment along Lake Michigan on Chicago’s Southeast side.

“These two firms are absolutely at the forefront of innovative community planning, urban development and architecture,” said Dan McCaffery, one of the principals of Southworks Development. “Combining the talents of these two teams will bring world-class urban planning all the way to the neighborhood level. This site, long a vacant eyesore in the community, will soon be transformed for the benefit of the community and the city, and will live up to Chicago’s reputation as the greatest architectural city in the world.”

The master plan is projected to include a marina, retail shopping environment, restaurants, community centers and residential properties all in a new and integrated community along the lakefront. The plan will, for the first time in more than a hundred years, open the lakefront to the communities of Southeast Chicago.

"This is a very exciting development for Chicago. It will create a vibrant community out of an old industrial site and expand the city's open space on the lakefront," said Denise Casalino, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Planning and Development. "We will work closely with Southworks to help develop a master plan that reflects the needs and desires of the greater Southeast side."

Southworks Development, a joint venture formed to redevelop the property ten miles south of downtown Chicago, is comprised of Lubert-Adler Real Estate Fund IV, McCaffery Interests, Inc., and Westrum Development Company.

A key element of the redevelopment is the extension of Lake Shore Drive and US Highway 41, through the South Works site from 79th street to 87th street. With the completion of the new Highway 41, the site will be immediately accessible and only ten miles from the Loop. The extension of this critical road will increase access to the site and the community and is vital to the overall development of Chicago’s Southeast side.

Founded in 1936, SOM is one of the world's leading urban planning, architecture, engineering and interior design firms. SOM is responsible for many of Chicago's largest and most important urban plans, including the Central Area Plan and the master plans for Lake Shore East and Stateway Gardens. SOM also created noted master plans for London's Canary Warf and the Washington Mall in the nation's capitol. The firm also designed world-renowned buildings including the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Chicago's Sears Tower and John Hancock Center.

“As a Chicago-based firm we are very excited to be working on the South Works project,” said Richard F. Tomlinson II, a managing partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. “This project will help shape the future of Chicago’s Southeast side, and we are honored to play a role in reintegrating this lakefront land back into the fabric of the city.”

Sasaki, founded in 1953 with offices in Boston and San Francisco, has designed projects around the globe. Sasaki was awarded first prize in the international design competition to build the Olympic Green – the primary site of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Sasaki is acclaimed as a firm for its design of award winning, vibrant urban waterfront districts across America and around the world.

“This project represents a great urban design opportunity. The planning and design challenge for South Works is to create a unique and vibrant urban district, integrated with Southeast Chicago, to become a southern icon for the magnificent lakefront park system and all of Chicagoland,” said Dennis Pieprz, urban design principal for Sasaki.

The two firms already share some history. Fred Merrill, the Sasaki principal who leads the planning and urban design group at the firm, and is overseeing the Southworks project at Sasaki, is the grandson of John Merrill, a founder of SOM. “Combining the experience and resources of Sasaki and SOM will result in an extraordinary forward-looking development,” said Merrill.

The South Works site also has a special relationship with SOM. Two of the firm’s landmark skyscrapers—the Sears Tower and John Hancock Center—were built with steel manufactured at the South Works plant.

“I think the shared history between these firms and the South Works site bodes well for this partnership,” said John Westrum, principal of Southworks, LLC. “We could not be more excited to be moving forward quickly to revive this property, and bring an active thriving community to Chicago’s Southeast side.”
 

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Formerly InTheLoop
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Chicago3rd said:
The high cost of living in some Chicago neighborhoods is not because we have run out of property or land.
Agreed! The high cost of living in some Chicago neighborhoods is because everybody wants to live there. The reason they want to live there is because the neighborhoods offer a quality of life you just can't create overnight. That is the problem with new neighborhoods (ie... Museum Campus, University Commons...) While these new nabe's are nice, and have nice pretty new housing, they lack amenities and qualities that have developed over many decades in desirable nabe's.
 

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C.B.P.
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InTheLoop said:
Agreed! The high cost of living in some Chicago neighborhoods is because everybody wants to live there. The reason they want to live there is because the neighborhoods offer a quality of life you just can't create overnight. That is the problem with new neighborhoods (ie... Museum Campus, University Commons...) While these new nabe's are nice, and have nice pretty new housing, they lack amenities and qualities that have developed over many decades in desirable nabe's.
Very true IdaL! Museum Campus especially has very quiet steet life. It's almost like being in a res. neighborhood on the far NW side. Maybe in another 5-10 years the street retail will establish itself and create a thriving street atmosphere.
 

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Pragmatist
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"In this way, the city could have a lot of control. They could appoint a committee to oversee the project, a committee related to the Dept of Planning and Development, and perhaps hire a company (SOM, anyone?) to draw up a master plan."

Nice idea, but... the problem is that each ward is a fief controlled by its own alderman, and planning is less lucrative than dealmaking. Some of the better aldermen will initiate community plans like you're speaking of--hence, new or reborn residential neighborhoods in areas like Central Station, Fulton River, North Kenwood, the Paulina Corridor, and west River North.

However, most aldermen won't do this; they either have to cave to NIMBYs (including, in working class neighborhoods, residents who fear outsiders and want those old industrial jobs back) or intentionally keep a lid on development so that they can extract favors ($) in return for lifting the lid. I'm not naming names publicly, though.
.pc
 

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Cook County has an annual tax sale each summer where properties with back taxes owed are auctioned to developers and other bidders (the delinquent taxes are auctioned, and if the original owner doesn't reimburse the "buyer" within two years, the "buyer" actually assumes deed and title to the land). Many, many of these undeveloped properties, especially on the far South Side and along the Sag/Calumet are abandoned, tax-delinquent sites that have been in the auction for years but that no developers want.

Developers could pick up many of these sites for a dollar at the sale, but they just don't. Especially sites along the Sag/Calumet are in marginal areas with few services, a lot of industrial polluters, and public housing (which developers interpret as negatively affecting potential property values).

I know this because my organization is working to preserve land along the Calumet that has historic significance as a station on the Underground Railroad. Sure, the steel companies might come in and trade land with the Forest Preserve to build more industrial facilities, but for years the case has been that developers won't touch these vacant parcels with a stick.
 

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Pragmatist
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Yep, one thing that floored me was seeing an old plat map of the Lake Calumet area was that entire quarter-section subdivisions were platted and sold off down there--but never built, and eventually fall into tax delinquency. Heck, the city's "heat receivership" program sells off hundreds of buildings each year--just for the price of old gas bills. There are still large parts of Chicago for which there's almost no market demand for property, even at supercheap prices. Spurring market demand will require pretty substantial investments in basic infrastructure in many cases.
.pc
 
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