WBEZ | Chicago's South Side http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicagos-south-side Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Converting empty buildings: a template on Chicago’s South side? http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-16/converting-empty-buildings-template-chicago%E2%80%99s-south-side-94094 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-November/2011-11-16/FishatThePlant.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Vacant industrial buildings dot the Midwest and swallow up chunks of some neighborhoods. But instead of blight, one Chicago man sees opportunity. All this month, we’ve been reporting on empty places. It reminded me of a man I first met last year, when I reported on brownfields. I thought I would check back in with him to find out, a year later, how his experiment to cultivate new life on Chicago’s South Side was turning out.</p><p>Deep inside the basement of a former meat packing plant on the edge of Chicago’s Stockyards, rows of giant plastic barrels are neatly lined up. Inside, hundreds of dark grey and pink speckled fish are quietly swimming around.</p><p>“We breed all of our own tilapia,” said urban farmer John Edel, as he gestures to a series of tanks full of guppies in one corner of the basement.</p><p>Edel calls this building “The Plant”.</p><p>It’s a big space – at 93,000-square feet, The Plant is bigger than most department stores. Inside is Edel’s urban farm as well as other tenants, including a brewery.</p><p>The building was the home of Peer Foods, which had smoked and roasted meat here since 1925. It sat empty for years before Edel bought it in 2010.</p><p>Today, he’s escorting around team of engineers around the building. They’re planning to design a new heating and cooling system for the facility – which he wants to be completely energy self-sufficient.</p><p>Edel bought the building for $500,000 to create a vertical farm. Originally, he said he was just thinking of creating creating an aquaponics systems that he combined with light manufacturing and shared office space.</p><p>That’s what he did his first building conversion. Originally, Edel was a video game designer. He paid his way through school by doing construction work. Then he got into converting buildings.</p><p>His first project was a former paint warehouse in Bridgeport, on the South Side. It’s now the Chicago Sustainable Manufacturing Center – with 16 businesses tenants.</p><p>When he found this building, which was already fitted for commercial food storage, Edel saw it as a new opportunity.</p><p>“The plan behind the Plant began to change,” he said.</p><p>That’s one of the biggest lessons Edel would impart to anybody who’s interested in converting one of the thousands of empty buildings across our region – be flexible.</p><p>When he tried to buy his first building, he said the banks laughed him out the door. His realtor arranged an owner-financed sale – basically, Edel paid a mortgage to the building’s owner – until he owned it outright.</p><p>His family helped buy this building – so he pays them a mortgage. And Edel uses profits from the first building to help finance operations at the Plant.</p><p>While the building is being converted, Edel rents out three acres out back for tractor trailer parking. Some parts of the building are rented as storage space.</p><p>He reuses whatever he can, and does as much of the construction work himself – along with an army of volunteers, who help him salvage everything from the building that can be reused, like floor tiles.</p><p>Edel’s also had help from local and state governments. He’s taken advantage of some City of Chicago Small Business Improvement program to help finance things like replacing all those windows.</p><p>Having a green project also helped secure state grants. He got $1.5 million from Illinois to buy an anaerobic digester that will convert plant and waste matter into energy.</p><p>“This model isn’t spending huge amount of money as fast as you can to get the building done as fast as you can,” Edel said. “It’s about slow money and about doing what you can with what you have.”</p><p>Lee Bey is executive director of the Chicago Central Area Committee, a downtown civic group that focuses on urban planning. (Full disclosure: he also writes a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey">blog for WBEZ on architecture</a>.) Bey said someone like Edel almost creates magic in that he’s a rare person who tackles problems like vacant commercial properties.</p><p>“Even if its not a blight, the absence of something commercial means an absence of jobs, the absence of a dollar turning around in the community,” Bey said.</p><p>Although it’s required by law to keep track of vacant residential buildings, the city of Chicago doesn’t actually track vacant commercial properties. Neither do smaller cities like Gary, Ind.</p><p>So Bey says the key with someone like Edel is using him as a blueprint.</p><p>“I think the real magic is to pull him aside – the City, an Alderman, a city official – and say, ‘What did you do, and how can we do that for that building over there?”</p><p>Bey says every city has people like Edel. The key is figure out how their work can be replicated – that’s when seeing fewer and fewer empty buildings.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="338" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/31628140?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=b30000" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="601"></iframe></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.changinggears.info/" target="_blank"><em>Changing Gears</em></a> is a public media collaboration between WBEZ,<a href="http://michiganradio.org/" target="_blank"> Michigan Radio</a><a href="http://www.michiganradio.org"> </a>and <a href="http://www.ideastream.org/" target="_blank">Ideastream</a> in Cleveland. Support for <em>Changing Gears</em> comes from the <a href="http://www.cpb.org/" target="_blank">Corporation for Public Broadcasting</a>. </strong></p></p> Wed, 16 Nov 2011 15:33:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-16/converting-empty-buildings-template-chicago%E2%80%99s-south-side-94094 Architectural sketches of South Shore http://www.wbez.org/blog/lee-bey/2011-05-16/architectural-sketches-south-shore-86632 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-May/2011-05-17/South Shore blgd_Lee Bey.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-May/2011-05-17/P5073342.jpg" style="width: 497px; height: 323px;" title=""></p><p>I took a photostroll recently through a section of South Shore.</p><p>The neighborhood has a wealth of fine residential and pre-war commercial architecture that goes largely unsung--at least by many of those who aren't from the area. The folks who live there know what they've got, but more on that later.</p><p>Let's begin at the top of the post with a two-story retail building--with second story apartments--on 71st Street.It is a handsome brick-and-terra-cotta structure. The rounded first floor store entrance is a welcoming presence on the wide intersection. The Metra Electric travels on the rails in the foreground.&nbsp;</p><p>The home below is in South Shore's Jackson Highlands subsection, where the broad lawns and larger homes resemble the stuff you'd see in Oak Park, Beverly or other largely middle-to-upper middle class areas built before World War II.&nbsp;</p><p>I'm digging that Dutch gambrel roof and the well-cut shrubbery (although depending on your monitor, you might be getting unfortunate <em><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moir%C3%A9_pattern">moire</a></em> lines across the brickwork):</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-May/2011-05-17/P5073351.jpg" style="width: 472px; height: 420px;" title=""></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Look at this Florentine beauty at 70th and Constance, also in the Jackson Highlands. The 84-year-old home boasts a Mediterranean tile roof and some traffic-stopping exterior brickwork.</p><p>Louis Richardson, vice president of the Rock Island Railroad, built the house in 1927, but died four years later. His widow, Mahala, died in 1934 at the age of 56:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-May/2011-05-17/P5073356.jpg" style="width: 507px; height: 592px;" title=""></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The home is the work of architects Betts, Holcomb &amp; Baron. Holcomb &amp; Baron is a firm that also designed movie theaters.&nbsp; Looks like the house suffered some interior fire damage. Workers were their either cleaning it or fixing it when I walked by.</p><p>Meawhile, gaze (because mere "looking" hardly suffices) at the home's main entrance:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-May/2011-05-17/P5073359.jpg" style="width: 439px; height: 658px;" title=""></p><p>I took the photostroll with South Shore residents who are newly-trained as neighborhood docents by the <a href="http://caf.architecture.org/">Chicago Architecture Foundation</a>.</p><p>It's a <a href="http://www.southshorechamberinc.org/blog/?p=361">new program</a> in which the organization partners with community leaders to raise up local experts--the folks who already know what they've got--and give them the docent skills to lead tours, identify and talk about the buildings and important places in their neighborhoods. In their own voice. And with their own stories.</p><p>The program soon will expand to include Chatham and other neighborhoods.</p></p> Tue, 17 May 2011 04:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/lee-bey/2011-05-16/architectural-sketches-south-shore-86632 A trip on the Metra Rock Island reveals vast emptiness on the South Side http://www.wbez.org/blog/lee-bey/2011-03-29/trip-metra-rock-island-reveals-vast-emptiness-south-side-84407 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-March/2011-03-29/untitled shoot-022.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2011-March/2011-03-29/untitled%20shoot-022.jpg" style="width: 599px; height: 330px;" title=""></p><p>Travel through some parts of the South Side these days. The emptiness is startling.</p><p>The void is particularly noticeable along the Metra Rock Island line. I&nbsp;take this line daily between downtown and my house. The ride begins at LaSalle Street station at Congress at LaSalle, where tall buildings peer down on the train platform and ends 20 minutes later in the Beverly neighborhood. In between--largely between Gresham station at 87th and the Illinois Institute of Technology campus at 35th--there is a breathtaking void.&nbsp;</p><p>And not just vacant lots. That's <em>so</em> 1980s. These days, there are entire sections of neighborhoods, ripped up, grassed-over and gone. The now-demolished Robert Taylor and Stateway Gardens housing projects occupied two miles of this space and new housing has been slow to reemerge there. The 2010 demolition of Kennedy King College at 69th and Wentworth left a crater in the city grid (see the photo above) two-and-half blocks wide and three blocks deep. In other areas along the ride, bits and pieces of neighborhoods just ebbed away...</p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-March/2011-03-29/untitled shoot-032.jpg" title="" width="507" height="380"></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2011-March/2011-03-29/untitled%20shoot-038.jpg" style="width: 640px; height: 298px;" title=""></p><p>The much-discussed 2010 U.S. Census disclosed the city lost 200,000 people over the past decade. That's like the entire population of Little Rock AR, or Des Moines IA just packing up and leaving.&nbsp;The view from the ground not only shows what some of that loss looks like; it underscores the need for something to be done about it as well.</p></p> Tue, 29 Mar 2011 12:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/lee-bey/2011-03-29/trip-metra-rock-island-reveals-vast-emptiness-south-side-84407 Jennifer Beals is top cop on new TV show 'The Chicago Code' http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-02-04/jennifer-beals-top-cop-new-tv-show-chicago-code-81776 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Jennifer Beals 2.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000884/" target="_blank">Jennifer Beals</a> has had the good fortune of playing not one but two iconic roles: an eighties-era welder slash exotic dancer, and a very 21<sup>st</sup> century career-oriented but commitment-challenged lesbian. Now the Golden Globe nominee has another potential break-out role - Chicago's top cop Teresa Colvin. Beals stars in <a href="http://www.fox.com/chicagocode/" target="_blank"><em>The Chicago Code</em></a>, which premieres next Monday on Fox. The show is set in Chicago and the production has plenty of other local ties.<br /><br />The Chicago Code&rsquo;s creator is <a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0752841/" target="_blank">Shawn Ryan</a>, who hails from Rockford, Illinois, and a Chicago detective is on staff to check the show&rsquo;s accuracy and atmosphere. Of course Jennifer Beals has her own Chicago connection &ndash; she&rsquo;s a native of the South Side.</p><p><em>DJ Ron Trent Music Button: Omar (feat. Reel People), &quot;Outta Love&quot;</em></p></p> Fri, 04 Feb 2011 15:41:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-02-04/jennifer-beals-top-cop-new-tv-show-chicago-code-81776 The Gilded Lady of Jackson Park http://www.wbez.org/bey/2010/02/the-gilded-lady-of-jackson-park/15175 <p><p style="text-align: center;"><img height="601" width="500" alt="" src="/sites/default/files/archives/blogs//2106945.jpg" class="size-full wp-image-15196" /><br /><em>(photo by Lee Bey)</em></p><p><code> </code> I was driving through Jackson Park a few days ago and spotted--as I have for years--the 30 foot tall goddess of gold watching over the park as she has done since 1918.<em> </em> </p><p>Even though she's had a little work done here and there, the old gal looks pretty good for a 92-year-old.&sbquo;&nbsp; I decided to hop out with the camera and get a closer look at <em>The Republic</em>, designed by Daniel Chester French, best known for his sculpture of Abraham Lincoln seated at the <a target="_blank" href="http://z.about.com/d/dc/1/0/j/LincolnMemorialStatue.jpg">Lincoln Memorial</a> in Washington, DC. </p><p><em>The Republic</em> is a replica of French's original<a href="http://www.sgnhs.org/Augustus%20SGaudens%20CD-HTML/ArtandInfluence/ArtandInfluence2.htm"> plaster colossus</a> that stood in the Court of Honor at Chicago's 1893 World's Columbian Exposition held in Jackson Park.&sbquo;&nbsp; The figure wears a laurel around her head and holds a staff in her left hand that reads &quot;Liberty&quot; and a globe and an eagle--the fair's symbol--in her right. But here's what I didn't know about the statue until I stayed up too late last night doing research (and can you believe it leads to Andy Warhol? More later):<!--break--></p><p style="text-align: center;"><img height="642" width="434" alt="" src="/sites/default/files/archives/blogs//2106947.jpg" class="size-full wp-image-15197" /><br /><em>(photo by Lee Bey)</em></p><p>*The original fair statue was 64ft tall, not including the 30 ft base, and at the time was the tallest statue built in America (owing to the fact that much taller Statue of Liberty--a gift of the French--was built in France. But still:&sbquo;&nbsp; It was the second-tallest statue in America. </p><p>*<em>The Republic</em> was also called <em>America</em> at the time of the Fair. It was referred to as <em>Columbia</em> during the statue's planning stages.&sbquo;&nbsp; They should have kept &quot;Columbia.&quot; </p><p style="text-align: center;"><img height="567" width="500" alt="" src="/sites/default/files/archives/blogs//2106946.jpg" class="size-full wp-image-15198" /><br /><em>(photo by Lee Bey)</em></p><p>*Daniel Chester French considered rendering the original with bronze garb and a face and arms of ivory.&sbquo;&nbsp; Instead, it was plaster-coated wood like most of the fair buildings.&sbquo;&nbsp; But a version of <em>The Republic</em> that he did for Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale CA following the fair comes pretty close to what French imagined for Chicago--only it's in marble and bronze: <a href="http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.forestlawn.com/Images/Vistas/ContentCourtOfFreedom1.jpg&amp;imgrefurl=http://www.forestlawn.com/About-Forest-Lawn/Glendale-Court-Of-Freedom.asp&amp;usg=__2BfUewwNMS0DlgeUIX1j6ycjW-Y=&amp;h=525&amp;w=350&amp;sz=127&amp;hl=en&amp;start=3&amp;um=1&amp;itbs=1&amp;tbnid=PkhnlFMxLy0kwM:&amp;tbnh=132&amp;tbnw=88&amp;prev=/images%3Fq%3D%2522the%2Brepublic%2522%2B%2522forest%2Blawn%2522%26hl%3Den%26safe%3Doff%26sa%3DN%26um%3D1">Check it out here</a>. </p><p>*The original plaster World's Fair statue turned dilapidated and was torched at daybreak in August, 1896 on orders of South Park District commissioners as part of a park clearance program. The<em> Chicago Tribune</em> at the time said witnesses saw black smoke coming from <em>The Republic</em> and then &quot;a red cloud&quot; where the head of the statue had been. </p><p>*French also designed the <em>The Republic</em> replica. It was built to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Columbian Exposition. The statue sits where the fair's administration building once stood. </p><p style="text-align: center;"><img height="642" width="489" alt="" src="/sites/default/files/archives/blogs//P10768701.jpg" class="size-full wp-image-15199" /><br /><em>(photo by Lee Bey)</em></p><p><code> </code> Oh yes. About Warhol: </p><p>Edith Minturn Stokes, the wife of architect Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes was French's model for <em>The Republic</em>. This 1897 painting of her with her husband <a href="http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/sarg/hod_38.104.htm">does show a resemblance</a>. A niece of Edith's--born after her death--was <a target="_blank" href="//www.youtube.com/v/QySjJHV7th0&amp;hl=en_US&amp;fs=1&amp;&quot; type=&quot;application/x-shockwave-flash&quot; allowscriptaccess=&quot;always&quot; allowfullscreen=&quot;true&quot; width=&quot;425&quot; height=&quot;344&quot;&gt;&lt;/embed&gt;&lt;/object&gt;">Edie Sedgwick</a>, 1960s actress/socialite/fashionista and member of the Andy Warhol retinue.&sbquo;&nbsp; She was born Edith Minturn Sedgwick. <span style="font-family: Georgia,Times New Roman,Times,serif; font-size: small;"> </span></p></p> Tue, 16 Feb 2010 07:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/bey/2010/02/the-gilded-lady-of-jackson-park/15175 A real life snowglobe: Winter comes to the Pullman neigborhood http://www.wbez.org/blog/lee-bey/real-life-snowglobe-winter-comes-pullman-neigborhood <p><p style="text-align: center;"><img height="377" width="503" class="size-full wp-image-14443" src="/sites/default/files/archives/blogs//1071771.jpg" alt="" /> <code> </code> <br /><em>Hotel Florence, 111th just east of Cottage Grove (photo by Lee Bey)</em></p><p style="text-align: left;">A blanket of snow has fallen on the city. S0 take a drive--better yet, a ride on the Metra Electric commuter rail--to the city's historic Pullman neighborhood on the far South Side.&sbquo;&nbsp; Few places in Chicago are as picturesque after a snowfall.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img height="336" width="512" class="size-full wp-image-14448" src="/sites/default/files/archives/blogs//1071779.jpg" alt="" /><br /><em>111th Street Metra Electric platform looking north. <br />Pullman Clocktower on the left (Photo by Lee Bey)</em></p><p style="text-align: center;"><!--break--> <img height="350" width="500" class="size-full wp-image-14455" src="/sites/default/files/archives/blogs//P10768471.jpg" alt="" /> <code> </code> <br /><em>(Photo by Lee Bey)</em> </p><p>The neighborhood was originally a planned industrial town--America's first--built in the late 1880s by railroad car magnate George M. Pullman.&sbquo;&nbsp; The former factory was nearly lost in a spectacular extra alarm fire more than a decade ago,&sbquo;&nbsp; but has been almost rebuilt, down to the functioning clock tower (even if the time isn't quite correct). The town pretty much stands looking&sbquo;&nbsp; the way it did in the 1890s, with its sturdy brick home and rowhouses in remarkably good condition.</p><p>This <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/travel/destinations/2008-04-30-chicago-pullman-district_N.htm">USA Today story</a> gives a pretty good primer on the area.&sbquo;&nbsp; Better still,&sbquo;&nbsp; my pal Geoffrey Baer at WTTW takes a walk through Pullman beginning at the 15:40 mark of his <a href="http://video.wttw.com/video/1348295180/chapter/3/">Hidden Chicago 2 </a>documentary. And the neighborhood makes an appearance in the 1990's Harrison Ford film &quot;The Fugitive.&quot;&sbquo;&nbsp; Ford's Richard Kimble makes a call from a Pullman row house at 112th and St Lawrence, and the coppers pull up in front of historic Greenstone Church looking for him. No snow, but you get the idea..</p><p style="text-align: center;"><object height="300" width="500" classid="clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000" codebase="http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=6,0,40,0"><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" /><param name="src" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Tp_nLl3q5k4&amp;hl=en_US&amp;fs=1&amp;" /><param name="allowfullscreen" value="true" /><embed height="300" width="500" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Tp_nLl3q5k4&amp;hl=en_US&amp;fs=1&amp;" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed> </object></p></p> Tue, 09 Feb 2010 06:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/lee-bey/real-life-snowglobe-winter-comes-pullman-neigborhood