WBEZ | Architecture http://www.wbez.org/sections/architecture Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Highrise Construction in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2016-02-02/highrise-construction-chicago-114672 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Highrise Construction-Flickr-reallyboring.jpg" alt="" /><p><div><p>The city of Chicago seems to be a never-ending construction site. Currently, there are 34 active construction projects in and around the city, many of them being apartment buildings.</p><p>What does that mean for the condo market that was dominating the scene? What does this building boom mean for the city? We answer these questions with AJ LaTrace, Curbed Chicago Editor and Dennis Rodkin, Crain&rsquo;s Chicago Business Reporter.</p></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Mon, 01 Feb 2016 10:54:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2016-02-02/highrise-construction-chicago-114672 Swinging Times: Why Chicago has so Many Revolving Doors http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/swinging-times-why-chicago-has-so-many-revolving-doors-114058 <p><p>Sometimes, it takes a visitor to notice something unusual and special about your city. That was the case for Flora Alderman, a lifelong Chicagoan who, in her retirement, leads walking tours in downtown Chicago. She turned several observations from her tour-goers into a question, and then sent it our way:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Why does Chicago have so many revolving doors?</em></p><p>At first, Flora thought her tour-goers may have been from smaller towns, where revolving doors were less common; but she&rsquo;s even heard the same question from a tourist from New York City, which made Flora start noticing just how many revolving doors we have.</p><p>We quickly learn that she is on to something.</p><p>Angus MacMillan, the national sales manager for <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcGV2_EgNUk" target="_blank">Crane Revolving Doors</a>, says Chicago and New York are the biggest markets for revolving doors, and that Chicago was the No. 1 market for decades. He thinks downtown Chicago may have more revolving doors per block than New York: &ldquo;I get my [sales] reps in from all around the country, and I&rsquo;ll take them to downtown Chicago, and they&rsquo;ll count more revolving doors in one block there than they have in their whole city.&rdquo;</p><p>But the <em>why </em>part of Flora&rsquo;s question &mdash; why the revolving door found such a hospitable home in Chicago &mdash; takes a bit more digging and is even more interesting.</p><p>The bottom line is that revolving doors have been solving several of the city&rsquo;s architectural challenges for about 115 years and, though the basic technology hasn&rsquo;t changed, the reasons people install them have actually expanded.</p><p>If you think these seemingly simple devices aren&rsquo;t worth considering, we have a question for you: Can you think of another century-old invention that works the same way as it did when it was created, but has only become increasingly relevant?</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">When this invention took its first revolution</span></p><p>While there&rsquo;s evidence of revolving doors in Chicago just after the turn of the century, they were actually invented twelve years earlier. In 1888, Theophilus Van Kannel of Philadelphia filed a U.S. patent for his new invention, an improvement on an earlier German invention. In his patent description of what would soon come to be known as a revolving door (most commonly now with four leaves), Van Kannel touted the many benefits over a swing door. For one, crowds of people could easily move in and out of the building in a continuous flow, without anyone having to wait. Beyond that, snug weather stripping around the doors could stop air from directly passing from the outside to the inside. The doors also prevented dirt and noise from getting inside as well.</p><p>Despite the practical benefits, the new contraptions took some getting used to. Revolving doors debuted in New York City in 1899, and early accounts include stories of people (New Yorkers, no less!) afraid of using Van Kannel&rsquo;s invention. Tourists visiting from small towns were even mocked in the newspapers for their revolving door naïveté.</p><p>&ldquo;Laws a-me!,&rdquo; a New York Times essayist claimed to hear from a visiting woman. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s dreadful like a threshing machine. &hellip; These new-fangled things&rsquo;ll kill me yet!&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="600" scrolling="no" src="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1959/08/09/page/238/article/peoples-dizzy-doings-in-a-revolving-door" width="650"></iframe></p><p>Still, the &ldquo;revolving threshing machines&rdquo; caught wind in other cities, particularly Chicago. By 1901, they&rsquo;d become a bit of a local, pop culture curiosity. That year, the first mention of revolving doors in the Chicago Daily Tribune tells a fictional (perhaps?) tale entitled &ldquo;The Romance of the Revolving Door.&rdquo; In it, two young lovers have quarrelled and broken off their engagement, only to be reunited months later in a downtown department store. Of course, when they are suddenly trapped face to face in a stuck revolving door. (Spoiler alert from the young lady: &ldquo;There isn&rsquo;t any use of us trying to quarrel, John, when even these awful revolving doors conspire to keep us together in this way.&rdquo;)</p><p>While we don&rsquo;t know exactly how many revolving doors were installed in Chicago during the early 20th century, brochures from the period suggest the city was the major market in North America.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/VAN%20KANNEL%20FOR%20WEB%202.png" style="height: 345px; width: 620px;" title="A Van Kannel revolving door installed at the Pittsfield Building at 55 East Washington. (WBEZ/Jennifer Masengarb)" /></div><p>You can still see some of the originals today. Just walk through the Loop or Streeterville: Plenty of the buildings date back to the early 20th century with <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/rinses/6069531531/in/photolist-69pnFa-7wwk6b-yYsuV4-wBoaU-8DoMrg-RKMC2-tdz999-s9TPh7-3p1VBD-6rT7Na-n1k52L-ANge1-9a7ew6-7c7sex-4rRJPb-7pdY1J-4dyiS-afkWgn-qC18jU-kjj6uX-5HoksX-9rA9YC-4ayYSv-6cUhgi-9yfFa-JgKA5-vP8Vo-7bgT2r-7YCK22-fjVgM-9fevy4-cxNXrs-9KXbYT-iXHZ3n-brf1Vy-8cFhhD" target="_top">classic revolving doors</a>, including a few from the original Van Kannel Company. But the doors&rsquo; initial appeal and utility to keep coal dust and soot out of buildings soon gave way to other useful applications, particularly as Chicago&rsquo;s skyline grew taller.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Chicago stacks up</span></p><p>Architect Patrick Loughran of <a href="http://www.gpchicago.com/profile/leadership/" target="_blank">Goettsch Partners</a> says Chicago&rsquo;s still got a lot of revolving doors because we have so many tall buildings.</p><p>&ldquo;Any high rise building is going to have to have elevator cores that take people from the bottom all the way up,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Those big open tubes create the stack effect where heat and air rise, and it creates this suction at the base of the building.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/STACK%20EFFECT%20FOR%20WEB.png" style="height: 624px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>The stack effect, or suction, comes from the air pressure differential between the inside and outside. On very cold days, that differential is extreme. Warm air collecting at the top of the elevator shafts is much lighter than the denser cold air at the base. The low pressure area pulls air into the first floor lobby and actually makes it difficult to pull swing doors open.</p><p>Revolving doors don&rsquo;t have this problem, because they block air that would otherwise rush in from the outside. As such, Loughran says tall buildings either need a revolving door or a vestibule with two sets of doors. The vestibule solution doesn&rsquo;t always effectively counter stack effect.</p><p>Loughran explains that while revolving doors are more common in cooler climates, warm climates have their own version of this problem. &ldquo;In Southern climates, you get the reverse effect, where doors are pushing out,&rdquo; he says. That can make it difficult to close outward swinging doors, allowing cooled air to escape.</p><p>Whether the effect is pushing inward or outwards, as the doors reach the closed position, the air rushing through can be audible.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s almost like a flute,&rdquo; Loughran says. &nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">We hate cold air in the North</span></p><p>Concerns about the stack effect in highrise buildings only partially explain why the revolving door is so common in the Chicago landscape. Because, if you take a stroll around the Loop, you&rsquo;ll see contemporary low rise buildings with revolving doors as well: drug stores, restaurants, cafes, and clothing retailers. The likely reason doesn&rsquo;t have to do with countering the stack effect. According to MacMillan, it comes down to comfort and economics &mdash; the need to maximize floor space.</p><p>Consider a restaurant in the winter. If it&rsquo;s got tables right next to a regular swing door, MacMillan says no matter how great the food is &ldquo;those first tables are going to really cold. That&rsquo;s the last thing you want for a dining experience.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Restaurants could solve that problem with a vestibule and two sets of swing doors, but that option takes up valuable space. The revolving door&rsquo;s smaller footprint, on the other hand, keeps cold out while allowing space for two or even three extra tables. MacMillan says that bit of extra profit can help offset revolving doors&rsquo; higher initial costs. The same principle applies to retailers, who want to protect customers from winter chills and maximize floor space at the same time.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe data-aspect-ratio="undefined" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="600" id="doc_4217" scrolling="no" src="https://www.scribd.com/embeds/292130274/content?start_page=1&amp;view_mode=scroll&amp;show_recommendations=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Space isn&rsquo;t the only thing saved by revolving doors, according to MacMillan. He says in Chicago and other cold cities, the doors cut heating bills by keeping out so much cold air. He&rsquo;s convinced revolving doors could also save money for building owners in warmer climates, too. He says it&rsquo;s actually cheaper to heat a building during a cold Chicago winter than it is to cool a similar building in the midst of a hot summer in Atlanta or Houston. But, he says, Southern building owners typically don&rsquo;t follow through by installing revolving doors &mdash; mostly because building owners are driven by whether people feel comfortable: &ldquo;People in the South, they don&rsquo;t mind if their cold air is blowing out. Up in the North, we mind if the cold air is blowing in. That&rsquo;s what we hate.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>MacMillan says if you&rsquo;re looking for one last reason to explain why some regions might not install revolving doors, consider that some people might still be a little afraid of them.</p><p>&ldquo;You look at California. They really look at revolving doors like a meat grinder,&rdquo; he says, echoing the woman in 1899 who likened New York&rsquo;s newfangled doors to a thresher.</p><p>MacMillan says builders in warm climates are finally catching on to revolving doors, and he says the industry is selling and installing more than ever. But Chicago remains a city with a very high, if not the highest, density of revolving doors in its downtown.</p><p>When you think about what factors make revolving doors attractive to developers and building owners, Chicago covers all the bases. A history of soot and smoke? Check. Supertall buildings and stack effect? Check. A high density of retail and restaurants? Yep. Temperature extremes? Got that one, too. Minneapolis might be colder and New York may have tall buildings, but Chicago uniquely combines all the important factors.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Still revolving, still evolving</span></p><p>Today&rsquo;s revolving doors look sleek and modern, designed to complement transparent building entrances like the eye catching lobby at the UBS Building at <a href="http://www.conferencecenteratubstower.com/" target="_blank">One North Wacker</a> designed by Goettsch Partners. But if you compare those doors to the sketches in <a href="http://i2.wp.com/99percentinvisible.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/van-kannel-1-1.png" target="_top">Theophilus Van Kannel&rsquo;s 1888 patent</a>, you can see the basic principal is the same.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/SLEEK%20DOOR%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Light passes through the revolving doors at UBS Building at One North Wacker. (WBEZ/Jennifer Masengarb)" /></div><p>One hundred thirty seven years later, and revolving doors keep on spinning (get it?). That long life cycle (groan) strikes us as neat. That same principle of creating an efficient air lock, first designed to keep out dust and soot, now helps buildings counteract the stack effect, keep customers comfy, and save on heating and cooling costs.</p><p>Angus MacMillan, revolving door salesman, says that&rsquo;s OK by him.</p><p>&ldquo;Every building should have a revolving door,&rdquo; he says.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Our Questioner, Flora Alderman</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FLORA%20ALDERMAN%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" title="Flora Alderman turned over questions she received from Road Scholar tour-goers into a Curious City question. (Photo courtesy of Flora Alderman)" /></p><p>Flora Alderman lives in Chicago&rsquo;s Harbor Point, aka, New East Side. She&rsquo;s a retired Jewish Community Center Director and still leads trips for<a href="http://www.roadscholar.org/" target="_blank"> Road Scholar, a project of Elderhostel</a>. &nbsp;</p><p>She splits her time between Chicago, and Delray Beach, Florida. She&rsquo;s there now, and we asked her to be on the lookout for revolving doors, especially since they could save building owners and businesses in Florida on air conditioning costs.</p><p>She says she hasn&rsquo;t seen a single one.</p><p><em>Jesse Dukes is Curious City&rsquo;s Audio Producer. Jen Masengarb is Director of Interpretation and Research at the<a href="http://www.architecture.org/" target="_blank"> Chicago Architecture Foundation</a>. Follow her on Twitter at<a href="https://twitter.com/jmasengarb" target="_blank"> @jmasengarb</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 04 Dec 2015 17:14:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/swinging-times-why-chicago-has-so-many-revolving-doors-114058 Painting a brighter future for Chicago’s blighted neighborhoods http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/painting-brighter-future-chicago%E2%80%99s-blighted-neighborhoods-113170 <p><p>The Chicago Cultural Center was a hive of activity as designers and architects set up for the first-ever Chicago Architecture Biennial.</p><p>Amanda Williams exhibit features a series of photos, showing the abandoned houses she&rsquo;s painted in eye-catching colors - monochrome purples, blues, and yellows. She hopes the houses can revitalize a community fatigued by poverty and racism.</p><p>&ldquo;On a very simplistic level, I think it achieves that ability to really do more than lip service to this idea that architecture is not just skyscrapers or what I call architecture with a capital-A,&rdquo; Williams explained. &ldquo;It is questions of space, and race, and density--and all these things that we talk about in abstraction but are very real. And that people in these areas are experts in and don&rsquo;t realize it.&rdquo;</p><p>Williams is something of an expert herself. She grew up on the South Side, in Auburn Gresham - where her parents still live.</p><p>Away from the excited, is a very different scene at 56th and LaSalle, in Washington Park. It&rsquo;s full of empty lots - and one eye-catching feature.</p><p>&ldquo;Everybody always wants to know why that house is pink,&rdquo; Glenda Bush said.<br /><br />She&rsquo;s lived in the neighborhood for eight years.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t like it at all. Gangs and drug dealers. Killings. Racing up and down the street. There&rsquo;s nothing good over here but a few people,&rdquo; Bush said</p><p>On this block, more than half the lots are empty.</p><p>Bush talks about the block in terms of what&rsquo;s gone, rather than what remains.<br /><br />&ldquo;I think this house that was on the corner came down, if I&rsquo;m not mistaken, last year. That one burned,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Each of these homes was abandoned, fell into disrepair and was demolished. So Williams&rsquo; paint jobs are quite the change.</p><p>And Bush thinks, Williams&rsquo; plan is working.<br /><br />&ldquo;We need to address tearing down abandoned houses, and if people make a statement with paint, just maybe, that&rsquo;ll happen. I don&rsquo;t know,&rdquo; Bush said.</p><p>Not everybody likes it - Williams said some neighbors have complained that the houses are an eyesore and draw too much attention.</p><p>But, she added, that&rsquo;s good: at least they&rsquo;re talking.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Paintedhouses2.jpg" title="(WBEZ/Sean Kennedy)" /></div></p> Mon, 05 Oct 2015 08:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/painting-brighter-future-chicago%E2%80%99s-blighted-neighborhoods-113170 Confronting community problems through architecture and design http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/confronting-community-problems-through-architecture-and-design-113169 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/JuanMoreno1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Anyone who drives on the Kennedy has likely seen Juan Moreno&rsquo;s work. The Northeastern Illinois University El Centro building is mostly glass, with vertical dividers turning it from yellow to blue to yellow, depending on the direction on the expressway.</p><p>Moreno&rsquo;s office building on Wabash Avenue is a frenetic space under the &lsquo;L&rsquo; tracks, surrounded by the noise of nearby road repairs. The lively business district gets constant care and attention, unlike Gage Park on the city&rsquo;s Southwest Side.</p><p>&ldquo;In the corporate world, there isn&rsquo;t this kind of desire to go into our communities of need,&rdquo; said Moreno. &ldquo;And give our gifts as architects, our ideas, our vision &mdash; to try to uplift the community.&rdquo;</p><p>And an area like Gage Park could use the help. It has different kinds of infrastructure problems: Its streets are punctuated by potholes, bridges crumbled to where the rebar steel peeks out from the concrete. Weeds grow tall and wide through sidewalk cracks in front of a multitude of empty buildings.</p><p>Moreno noted the differences between the rapid repairs happening near his office that might inconvenience commuters downtown, and the visible neglect in this mostly working-class Latino community. He believes that lack of attention can affect a resident&rsquo;s psyche.</p><p>&ldquo;Because they walk by it and those buildings talk to them. And it makes them feel like people don&rsquo;t care about them,&rdquo; said Moreno. &ldquo;That they (problems from neglect) are in communities of color. And it&rsquo;s a constant reminder when they look at that.&rdquo;</p><p>Rows and rows of one and two-story brick, pre-war homes line the streets of Gage Park: Brick homes and vacant lots. But a gleaming structure pierces the horizon &mdash; a giant, modern, glass-and-metal building &mdash; and in its shadow, kids played at its feet on the artificial turf.</p><p>The UNO charter Soccer Academy Elementary School could easily be mistaken for a museum or airport terminal. Moreno said he&rsquo;s happy his design gets that kind of reaction.</p><p>&ldquo;They don&rsquo;t always have to be the same prototype. We can think about their role in the community, the way learning is approached,&rdquo; said Moreno. &ldquo;And I think this school does a great job in doing that.&rdquo;</p><p>Punctuating the past with designs for the future isn&rsquo;t for everyone. Just north, in Pilsen, there&rsquo;s been lots of talk about gentrification in recent years. The Mexican neighborhood is known for its European-styled buildings dating back to the 1800s.</p><p>Crystal Quintero was peering into a soon-to-opened Giordano&#39;s restaurant on 18th Street, across from a Subway restaurant. The new pizza place is going into an old building that once housed a youth art studio. Some residents might see the chain going in and think, &lsquo;there goes the neighborhood.&#39; But Quintero didn&rsquo;t see it that way.</p><p>&ldquo;I was going to fill out an application,&rdquo; said Quintero. &ldquo;I want to work here so I&rsquo;m going to fill out an application online.&rdquo;</p><p>And that&rsquo;s one of the fundamental challenges for today&rsquo;s architect &mdash; how to transform space for the future while preserving the integrity of its past.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ reporter Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter </em><em><a href="https://twitter.com/yolandanews">@yolandanews</a></em></p></p> Mon, 05 Oct 2015 08:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/confronting-community-problems-through-architecture-and-design-113169 The unsung hero of urban planning who made it easy to get around Chicago http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/unsung-hero-urban-planning-who-made-it-easy-get-around-chicago-112061 <p><p><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">Editor&#39;s note: This was piece was produced in collaboration with the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.architecture.org/" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); outline: 0px;" target="_blank">Chicago Architecture Foundation,</a>&nbsp;which provided research, expertise and other assistance during its development.</em></p><p>Jessica Fisch and Paul Toben are engaged to be married this fall. But before the two new arrivals to Chicago start a new life in a new home, they want to solve a mystery with roots in the city&rsquo;s early history.</p><p>Toben and Fisch bought a house in the Edgewater neighborhood last year, and they&rsquo;ve been fixing it up since. But they discovered something odd about the address displayed on their siding.</p><p>&ldquo;It was underneath the vinyl siding that was here before and it shows our current house number, which is very visible,&rdquo; says Toben, pointing to metal numbers nailed into the wood slat. It spells out 1761. &ldquo;But then two boards below, there&#39;s a sort of ghosted, painted-over paint.&rdquo;</p><p>That number, barely visible in the 110-year-old wood, reads 615.</p><p>&ldquo;We want to know when we went from 615 to 1761,&rdquo; says Fisch. She and Toben asked Curious City:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>&ldquo;Where did the old number come from? When and why did they renumber the streets?&rdquo;</em></p><p>Fisch and Toben aren&rsquo;t the only Chicagoans with two house numbers &mdash; in fact, any building in the city built before 1909 probably had a different number than it does now.</p><p>These are the result of a massive shift in how the city handles street names and addresses. Today Chicago is known for having one of the simplest street systems of any big city in the world, with every address emanating out from a central origin point at the intersection of State &amp; Madison Streets. It wasn&rsquo;t always going to be that way, though, and many people fought the change. But Edward Paul Brennan, an unsung hero of urban planning, spent much of his life taming the navigational chaos of Chicago&rsquo;s adolescence, and his legacy lives on more than a century later &mdash; even if few people know his name.</p><p>So answering the &ldquo;when&rdquo; of our questioners&rsquo; inquiry is easy: September 1, 1909. But to answer &ldquo;why,&rdquo; we need to go back to some early Chicago history, when a map of the city looked very different.</p><p><strong>The expanding city</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/gulp-how-chicago-gobbled-its-neighbors-109583" target="_blank">Chicago was booming in the late 19th century, gobbling up neighboring towns and annexing them as new neighborhoods of the city</a>. Hundreds of thousands of European immigrants poured into the city, helping triple the city&rsquo;s population between 1880 and 1910. It ballooned in both population and physical size, quadrupling in area in 1889 alone.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/CityLimits/cityLimitsGIF.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chicago%20grow%20graphic.jpg" style="height: 356px; width: 620px;" title="Chicago's population grew tremendously throughout the mid-to-late 19th century. There was hardly an effort to standardize street names and addresses until Edward Paul Brennan came up with a plan. (Click to watch animation of how Chicago grew)." /></a></div><p>&ldquo;That was great for those communities because they got the promise of a good infrastructure, but it also created logistical problems obviously for managing a city that size,&rdquo; says Andrew Oleksiuk, secretary of the Illinois Postal History Society.</p><p>Every town that folded into Chicago, from Lake View to Hyde Park, had its own system for naming and numbering streets. Some towns counted out addresses starting from the Chicago River, while others started from Lake Michigan. Some placed even numbers on the north side of the street, others put them on the south. Some even let developers choose their own street names or numbers if there wasn&rsquo;t a lot of local opposition.</p><p>Oleksiuk says the topsy-turvy numbering system contributed to mailmen&rsquo;s struggle to keep up with changing tech, such as the telegraph, streetcars and a new entrant: the telephone.</p><p>&ldquo;The post office really did see itself as being challenged by these new technologies,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;So doing something like straightening out the numbering system and making it more efficient for mail delivery made them able to compete better in this world of new technologies.&rdquo;</p><p>As city limits swallowed up existing towns, no one bothered to standardize street names and addresses. Not surprisingly, this system frustrated Colonel LeRoy D. Steward, superintendent of city delivery for the Chicago post office, who spoke at an Industrial Club meeting in April 1908.</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;Chicago is suffering from improper mail delivery because of improper street arrangement. ... At present there are 125 towns within the city limits, and all have local street names and numbers. At present there are 511 streets of practically duplicate names. No one knows how many duplicate street numbers there are.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>In a later speech Steward asked: &ldquo;What is the use of spending large sums in beautifying the city when one cannot find one&rsquo;s way about it?&rdquo;</p><p>Such critiques emerged alongside the so-called <a href="http://xroads.virginia.edu/~cap/citybeautiful/city.html" target="_blank">City Beautiful movement</a>, whose proponents believed societal ills would evaporate with the development of rationally designed cities. Private groups like the <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/290.html" target="_blank">City Club</a> and the <a href="http://www.commercialclubchicago.org/" target="_blank">Commercial Club</a> banded together to improve the city, promoting ideas like <a href="http://burnhamplan100.lib.uchicago.edu/history_future/plan_of_chicago/" target="_blank">Daniel Burnham&rsquo;s famous Plan of Chicago</a>, which was published in 1909 &mdash; the same year Brennan&rsquo;s system for rationalizing city addresses first took effect. Celebrated architects and engineers built the Loop, standardized the city&rsquo;s cable car system and carved out green spaces that we still use today. But the elegance of our street system is taken for granted.</p><p><strong>New solutions from a man with a plan</strong></p><p>It wasn&rsquo;t a postal worker or even an urban planner that smoothed out the system. It was a man named Edward Paul Brennan.</p><p>Brennan was a delivery boy for his father&rsquo;s grocery store, and later a bill collector for the music company Lyon &amp; Healy. He was so frustrated with the chaos of Chicago&rsquo;s address system that in 1901 he came up with his own. But it would take him years to get it implemented.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Brennan 1910 courtesy Adelaide Brennan.jpg" style="height: 385px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="Edward Paul Brennan in 1910, who devoted his life to crafting a perfect plan for Chicago street nomenclature. (Photo courtesy Adelaide Brennan)" /></div><p>Brennan wasn&rsquo;t the first person to recognize the problem, but he was the most persistent at arguing for a solution. As early as 1879, the <em>Chicago Daily Tribune</em> reported on an ordinance for renumbering South Side streets based on Philadelphia&rsquo;s plan, where addresses increased by 100 with every block. It didn&rsquo;t pass.</p><p>&ldquo;His daughter told me that when he was delivering groceries for his father. Before he was even a bill collector, he was running into this problem,&rdquo; says Patrick Reardon, an author and journalist who has researched the history of Chicago&rsquo;s street grid. &ldquo;So this was not something that Brennan uncovered &mdash; it was what everybody lived with. It was like snow in the winter &mdash; it was just part of the nature of the city.&rdquo;</p><p>But Brennan wouldn&rsquo;t accept the status quo. Beginning in the 1890s he started a scrapbook, collecting newspaper articles about problems with city navigation or delays due to address confusion. Articles had headlines like &ldquo;Streets in a Tangle. Visitors Lost.&rdquo; One report tells about a doctor who couldn&rsquo;t find a patient during a house call emergency. Brennan lobbied business leaders and newspaper editors for decades, needling them with letters that began like this one:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;Dear Sir, Do you think a city should have two streets with the same name? Do you think a city should have one street with two or three, or even ten names? You agree that such naming of streets is ridiculous and an insult to the intelligence of any city. Yet Chicago, your city, has hundreds of such streets. This confusion costs you and the other citizens of Chicago hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. &hellip;&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>Like many Progressive Era activists, Brennan was motivated by the spirit of the time, devoting his life to crafting &ldquo;a perfect plan for Chicago street nomenclature.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;So let us go forward with the spirit that built the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/your-ticket-white-city-108994" target="_blank">World&rsquo;s Fair</a>, correct our error and present the people of Chicago with a perfect house numbering plan,&rdquo; he said in one of many letters lobbying Chicago aldermen and local business leaders.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Thompson_Chicago_plat_1830.jpg" style="height: 491px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="James Thompson's plat map of Chicago, 1830. (Wikimedia Commons)" />Brennan&rsquo;s plan benefitted from the grid system laid out by James Thompson&rsquo;s official plat map for the city in 1830. Because of the regular spacing of Chicago&rsquo;s city blocks, the continuation of the grid despite any geographic features, and the absence of curved roads, Brennan&rsquo;s 1901 plan could be highly logical and mathematical. &ldquo;In this way,&rdquo; Brennan wrote, &ldquo;the numbers will indicate the locality at a glance.&rdquo;</p><p>With the help of an independent alderman named Charlie Byrne (who happened to be Brennan&rsquo;s cousin) he presented his &ldquo;Street Nomenclature Plan&rdquo; to the City Council in 1901. It included four big ideas: All addresses would be centered around a 0,0 point at State and Madison Streets; street names would include the direction; even-numbered addresses would always be on the west and north sides of any street, with odd numbers on the east and south sides; house numbers would increase by 800 (or 8 blocks) every mile, although Brennan had originally proposed 1000 addresses per mile.</p><p>Brennan&rsquo;s plan would also involve renaming many streets in order to cut confusion caused by duplication and other problems.</p><p>After his initial proposal, Brennan argued that Kinzie and State should instead be the new 0,0 baseline street, in honor of early settler John Kinzie. Alternate plans from other map enthusiasts proposed Western and Madison, because of its proximity to the geographic center of the growing city.</p><p><strong>A new address for every house in town</strong></p><p>After more than seven years of petitioning, the City Council passed Brennan&rsquo;s house numbering plan in 1908 and it went into effect on September 1, 1909. Businesses within the Loop fought the change early on, arguing that &mdash; among other things &mdash; it would cost too much to reprint their stationery. They received an extra two years to adopt the same system as the rest of the city.</p><p>The process of converting the address of nearly every household in Chicago was a daunting task. Newspaper accounts in the days and weeks leading up to the mandatory changes indicate confusion, resignation, and also humor. City directories published maps and thick new guides that residents and businesses could purchase, listing every old address and its new equivalent. Residents sent illustrated postcards with poems or cartoons to friends, notifying them of the change.</p><p>&ldquo;If you had your Aunt Matilda in Kansas who&#39;s sending you a letter, she doesn&#39;t necessarily know about the re-numbering system,&rdquo; says Oleksiuk. &ldquo;You have to write her a letter to tell her, &lsquo;My new address is such and such.&rsquo; &lsquo;Oh you moved?&rsquo; &lsquo;No I didn&#39;t. They&#39;re just re-numbering the streets.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Trouble lived beyond the initial confusion, though, as some people actively fought the change.</p><p>&ldquo;There were people who saw what [Brennan] was doing and what the city was doing in changing street names as meddling with the historic nature of their streets,&rdquo; says Reardon. &ldquo;So it was not a simple or an uncontroversial thing.&rdquo;</p><table border="0" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="1" style="width: 620px;"><tbody><tr><td><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/addresses/1.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/old_residence_1_thumb.jpg" style="height: 203px; width: 203px;" title="" /></a></div></td><td><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/addresses/5.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mailman_newspaperclip_6_thumb.jpg" title="" /></a></div></div></td><td><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/addresses/3.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/town_5_thumb.jpg" title="" /></a></div></div></td></tr><tr><td><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/addresses/2.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/newhomenumber_3_thumb.jpg" style="height: 203px; width: 203px;" title="" /></a></div></td><td><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/addresses/4.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/sameoldhammock_4_thumb.jpg" style="height: 203px; width: 203px;" title="" /></a></div></td><td><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/addresses/6.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mayor_newspaperclip_7_thumb.jpg" title="" /></a></div></td></tr></tbody></table><p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:10px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Above: Postcards and newspaper clippings show the humor and confusion the city felt after the house number changes. Click on an image for large view.</span></span></p><p>Some residents banded together, lobbied their aldermen, and fought the city&rsquo;s proposed street name changes.</p><p>Under Brennan&rsquo;s plan, the tiny streets of Arlington Place and Deming Place in Lincoln Park should have been renamed as Montana Street and Lill Avenue, because they aligned east to west with those longer streets, despite not having a continuous block of streets.</p><p>&ldquo;Deming Place and Arlington Place residents joined Bellevue Place residents yesterday in expressing indignation at the cold-bloodedness of the council committee on street nomenclature which has threatened to rob them all of their euphonious titles.&rdquo; &mdash; <em>Chicago Daily Tribune</em>, Dec. 19, 1908</p><p>Others in the city were upset that they were losing a familiar house number. Mrs. Charles E. Pope, a resident along Chicago&rsquo;s Lake Shore Drive, wrote to the <em>Chicago Daily Tribune</em> in early 1909:</p><p>&ldquo;Really, I don&rsquo;t see how we shall be able to bear the burden of four numbers after being used to only two. Besides, most of us have lived here many years, and we don&rsquo;t like to see things changed.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.chsmedia.org/househistory/1909snc/start.PDF" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/map%20showing%20house%20number%20cutout.PNG" style="height: 153px; width: 220px; float: right;" title="Click for full document of Chicago's 1909 street name and number changes." /></a>But even after the city-wide address renumbering, Brennan&rsquo;s work wasn&rsquo;t done. For the next 30 years he rooted out duplicate street names and inconsistencies, lobbying incessantly as part of the City Club&rsquo;s two-man Street Nomenclature Committee.</p><p>Brennan didn&rsquo;t get everything he wanted. He publicly lamented when aldermen wouldn&rsquo;t take his suggestions for new street names, all of which he said should reference &ldquo;meaningful&rdquo; things like art, literature, history, poetry, and &ldquo;illustrious names from many foreign lands.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;It is for us of the present day to continue the work so well begun by the pioneers of Chicago instead of being looked upon as iconoclasts by future generations,&rdquo; he said in 1913. &quot;With a history rich in meaningful names there will be no need of our innocent thoroughfares being rechristened Hinton, Dunmore, Dennison, Empire, or Limerick.&quot;</p><p>As always for Brennan, it was a matter of historic importance.</p><p>&quot;We are about to do something which will last as long as Chicago does,&rdquo; he wrote.</p><p><strong>Brennan&rsquo;s legacy</strong></p><p>After the initial disruption caused by the changes, Chicagoans eventually appreciated the relative simplicity of the city&#39;s new street names and addresses. But Brennan&rsquo;s name was largely forgotten in the years after his death in 1942. His daughters wrote to newspaper editors and the city&rsquo;s map department attempting to have their father&rsquo;s work recognized.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">Five years later, City Council named a South Side street in his honor: South Brennan Avenue runs from 96th Street south to 98th Street in the Jeffery Manor neighborhood. At the time the city publicly acknowledged the elegance of Brennan&rsquo;s system, noting &ldquo;There are now fewer street names in Chicago than in any other city in the country of even one-half the area of Chicago.&quot; Chicago had 3,629 miles of streets with just 1,370 names &mdash; far fewer than other cities with smaller geographical footprints at the time: New York (5,003), Baltimore (3,929), or Cleveland (2,199).</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/honorary%20brennan.jpg" title="Today, Brennan's got an honorary street named after him at the intersection of State and Madison Streets, the city's 0,0 point. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></div></div><p>Every time Chicagoans navigate the 227 square miles of their city, they&rsquo;re unwittingly perpetuating Brennan&rsquo;s legacy. But until recently one of the only explicit reminders of the man himself was a collection of weathered scrapbooks he carefully collected, which was placed in the care of the Chicago History Museum by Mary Brennan, one of his daughters.</p><p>Another daughter, Adelaide, lived to the age of 99 and was able <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-08-25/opinion/ct-perspec-0825-madison-20130825_1_south-branch-north-branch-chicago-river" target="_blank">to see Ald. Brendan Reilly dedicate the northwest corner of State and Madison as Edward Brennan Way</a> in 2013.</p><p>Still, few people recognize the name of the man instrumental in rationalizing Chicago&rsquo;s streets. Compare that to the fate of Daniel Burnham.</p><p>&ldquo;Edward Paul Brennan was the man who, in my mind, is comparable to Daniel Burnham,&rdquo; says Patrick Reardon. &ldquo;Burnham had the Plan of Chicago, which was set up to change the landscape, the physical landscape of the city. Edward Brennan changed the mental landscape of the city.&rdquo;</p><p>And that mental landscape persists today. Since Brennan&rsquo;s system is universal across the city, with 800 numbers to a mile, Chicagoans still use that same mental landscape to get around their city.</p><p>Raphael Nash was born in the West Side&rsquo;s Austin neighborhood, but has lived all over the city. He had to learn Brennan&rsquo;s system, even if he didn&rsquo;t know it was Brennan&rsquo;s.</p><p>And even though most people today use a GPS to get around, Nash says it&rsquo;s useful to have a mental map as precise as Brennan&rsquo;s.</p><p>&ldquo;Sometimes I&#39;m driving and I don&#39;t need to be fumbling with the phone or anything so I just look up and pay attention to the number,&rdquo; Nash says.</p><p>Brennan&rsquo;s system is so simple that Nash and several other Chicagoans interviewed for this story say it has ruined them for other cities.</p><p>&ldquo;When I spent time on the East Coast I learned cities like Boston, which is just a mess. I was like OK, we had order,&rdquo; says Nash. &ldquo;And when I came back home was I was like, &lsquo;wow this is really easy.&rsquo; I don&rsquo;t know why I never paid attention to it.&rdquo;</p><p>Now Nash knows who to thank for that.</p><p>&ldquo;Thank you, Mr. Brennan,&rdquo; he says.</p><p><strong>Who inspired our question?</strong></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/toben%20_%20fisch1%20%281%29%202.jpg" style="height: 434px; width: 620px;" title="Paul Toben, left, and Jessica Fisch, right, discovered their old house number while fixing up the place they recently bought in Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></p><p>We have several questioners to thank for inspiring this look into the city&rsquo;s rational street-numbering system. Jessica Fisch and Paul Toben started us off, but so did Marina Post, a Chicago homeowner.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/post6%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="height: 484px; width: 270px; float: right;" title="Marina Post asked us a similar question about her home in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" />Post wondered why her 1890s home in Wicker Park (today 2146 W. Caton St.) was one of several homes in the neighborhood with stained glass windows displaying lower, outdated address numbers. Post&rsquo;s is 51.</p><p>&ldquo;I can imagine it would feel somewhat demeaning to go from 51, which feels kind of exclusive,&rdquo; Post says, &ldquo;to 2146, which just makes you feel like you&#39;re one of the masses somehow. I could imagine if I were living at that time I would feel attached to my number.&rdquo;</p><p>She may as well have been talking about Mrs. Charles E. Pope, who complained about &ldquo;the burden of four numbers&rdquo; to the <em>Chicago Daily Tribune</em> during the address change. In fact we might owe our questioners&rsquo; curiosity to those stubborn homeowners from the early 20th century who kept their old house numbers beside the new, standardized addresses under Brennan&rsquo;s plan. Without them we wouldn&rsquo;t have the physical evidence of the pre-1909 system &mdash; or lack thereof &mdash; that piqued the interest of people like Paul Toben, Jessica Fisch and Marina Post.</p><p><em><a href="http://cabentley.com/" target="_blank">Chris Bentley is a freelance journalist</a> who reports regularly for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City. Follow him at <a href="http://cabentley.com/">cabentley.com</a> and on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>. Jen Masengarb is Director of Interpretation and Research at the <a href="http://www.architecture.org/" target="_blank">Chicago Architecture Foundation</a>. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/jmasengarb" target="_blank">@jmasengarb</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 20 May 2015 12:52:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/unsung-hero-urban-planning-who-made-it-easy-get-around-chicago-112061 Blackstone buying Willis Tower http://www.wbez.org/sections/architecture/blackstone-buying-willis-tower-111704 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/sears-tower-crop.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>NEW YORK &mdash; Blackstone is buying Chicago&#39;s Willis Tower, once called the Sears Tower, from 233 South Wacker LLC.</p><p>While the price has not been announced, <a href="http://www.marketwatch.com/story/blackstone-strikes-deal-for-chicagos-willis-tower-2015-03-15">MarketWatch reported the sale at $1.3 billion</a>.</p><p>The Willis Tower is 110-stories and the second-tallest office building in the U.S. It is the fifth-tallest office building in the world.</p><p>The Willis Tower&#39;s Skydeck, located on the 103rd floor, is a popular tourist attraction. It provides 1.6 million visitors a year with views of Chicago and the surrounding area including from the &quot;Ledge,&quot; glass cubes which extend from the building.</p><p>Jacob Werner, a managing director in Blackstone&#39;s real estate group, said in a statement on Monday that Blackstone sees &quot;great potential in further improving both the building&#39;s retail operations and the tourist experience for one of the most popular destinations for visitors to Chicago.&quot;</p><p>Construction efforts for the tower started in 1970 and it was completed in 1973, according to the tower&#39;s website. The Skydeck officially opened to the public in 1974 and underwent a multi-million dollar renovation in 2000. The tower was officially renamed the Willis Tower in 2009.</p></p> Mon, 16 Mar 2015 08:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/architecture/blackstone-buying-willis-tower-111704 When will Chicago get its next supertall skyscraper? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/when-will-chicago-get-its-next-supertall-skyscraper-108531 <p><div><p>In 2013 Curious City took on a high-minded question from Minneapolis resident Andrew Wambach.</p><p>Wambach, now 30, had just moved to Minnesota and already missed the Chicago skyline. He wanted to know:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>When will Chicago get its next supertall skyscraper?</em></p><p>The last supertall skyscraper in Chicago was the Trump Tower, built in 2009. Before that the city hadn&rsquo;t reached such heights since 1990&rsquo;s Two Prudential Plaza, 16 years after the Willis (Sears) Tower became the world&rsquo;s tallest building. While the U.S. may be the birthplace of the form, for a while skyscraper construction had slowed at home &mdash; and soared abroad.</p><p>But that may be changing. In December 2014 Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel touted plans for a new tower in the Lakeshore East neighborhood that &mdash; if all goes according to plan &mdash; could reach 1,150 feet into the air by 2018. In 2013, New York City&rsquo;s One World Trade Center became the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, at 1,776 feet. Even Wambach&rsquo;s Minneapolis had been considering a proposal to construct an 80-story skyscraper. That project, <a href="http://www.startribune.com/local/minneapolis/289597641.html#" target="_blank">rejected by the city</a>, would have been the state&#39;s tallest building, but would have been just shy of meeting supertall status.</p><p>Wherever they are, massive developments are difficult to design and build. But when they do happen, it&rsquo;s generally because two important factors came together to make building up pay off: egos and economics.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">But first, just how tall is that?</span></p><p>Andrew didn&rsquo;t know this when he asked the question, but &ldquo;supertall&rdquo; is an objective term. Chicago&rsquo;s own Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat is the authority on such matters. They deem any building over 300 meters, or 984 feet, &ldquo;supertall.&rdquo; (<a href="http://www.ctbuh.org/HighRiseInfo/TallestDatabase/Criteria/HeightCalculator/tabid/1007/language/en-GB/Default.aspx" target="_blank">For a rough measurement</a>, that&rsquo;s about 75 stories.) Six buildings in Chicago qualify: The Trump Tower, Willis Tower, Aon Center, John Hancock Center, AT&amp;T Corporate Center, and Two Prudential Plaza.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/CTBUH_Tallest20in2020_Poster.jpg" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FutureTallest20-2.jpg" style="height: 417px; width: 620px;" title="For context, here's a diagram of the predicted world's 20 tallest buildings in the year 2014. Click to enlarge. (Courtesy of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat)" /></a></div><p>Walk into any major architectural office and you&rsquo;ll see plenty of renderings pinned to the wall, showing buildings reaching great heights. It&rsquo;s just that they&rsquo;re in Jeddah, Seoul, Abu Dhabi, Beijing &mdash; not Chicago.</p><p>In 2011 CTBUH even had to add a new category of tall building to reflect the explosive growth of tall buildings in recent years; so-called &ldquo;megatall&rdquo; buildings stand at least 600 meters (1,968 feet) tall. There are only two complete megatall buildings: the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and the Royal Hotel Clock Tower in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. When the Shanghai Tower opens in April of 2015, it will be the third, at 632 meters (2,074 feet) tall.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Chicago&rsquo;s latest contender</span></p><p>&ldquo;If there was a great location, a great site, a developer that really had the willpower to pull something off, it certainly could happen,&rdquo; said Rafael Carreira, a principal with <a href="http://tjbc.com/" target="_blank">The John Buck Company</a>. &ldquo;But the larger a project gets, the harder it is to finance, the harder it is to pre-sell or premarket ... and those are factors that make these supertalls hard to do.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/wanda%20courtesy%20city%20of%20chicago.jpg" style="float: right;" title="A rendering of the proposed Wanda Vista development. (Courtesy City of Chicago)" />Supertalls can be risky investments. (<a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/skyscrapers-that-predicted-financial-crises-2014-4#!GoEAm" target="_blank">Some economists even think bombastic skyscraper booms are an omen of economic collapse</a>.) But as one developer put it, the profession attracts risk-takers.</p><p>&ldquo;Where a normal person might be apprehensive,&rdquo; said Sean Linnane, &nbsp;a senior vice president for Magellan Development Group, &ldquo;developers are excited.&rdquo;</p><p>At the moment the most likely candidate for Chicago&rsquo;s next supertall is an 88-story, $900 million development proposed for<a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/375+E+Upper+Wacker+Dr,+Chicago,+IL+60601/@41.8878616,-87.6209235,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x880e2ca900a2e77d:0x32e4f52fba2475d3" target="_blank"> 375 E. Wacker Dr., in the city&rsquo;s Lakeshore East neighborhood</a>. It would be 1,150 feet (350 meters) tall, and its developers &mdash; Beijing-based Dalian Wanda Group and local firm Magellan &mdash; hope to have it open in 2018. They&rsquo;ve hired two local design firms to sculpt the structure, which would become the city&rsquo;s third tallest building: Studio Gang Architects and bKL Architecture.</p><p>Lead designer Jeanne Gang&rsquo;s other <a href="http://www.studiogang.net/work/2004/aqua-tower" target="_blank">notable projects include the Aqua Tower</a> &mdash; a high-rise with undulating balconies that mimic wave patterns when viewed from an angle &mdash; and the lyrical WMS Boathouses at Clark Park. bKL designed the first tower in the Wolf Point development and a 45-story tower at 200 N. Michigan Ave., both of which are currently under construction.</p><p>Their preliminary designs for what&rsquo;s being called Wanda Vista show a cluster of three towers stepping down in height as they go east, each terminating in a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/green-roofs-check-101677">green roof</a>. The glassy high-rises, which are expected to house a five-star hotel, for-sale residential units and retail space, look like stacks of frustums, or cut-off pyramid shapes. The middle tower would meet the ground with a soaring glass atrium looking north over the Chicago River, while the structure itself would straddle North Field Boulevard running to the south.</p><p>So what are its prospect? Although Mayor Rahm Emanuel says there won&rsquo;t be any public funding involved, the project still needs city approval because its proposed height would exceed the maximum allowed in in the area&rsquo;s master plan.</p><p>Arguably more important is the economic challenge. Downtown Chicago is in the middle of a residential and hotel boom that signals high demand, but could mean the market is nearing saturation. Still, Sean Linnane of Magellan Development Group is confident they&rsquo;ll deliver on this supertall order.</p><p>&ldquo;The timing is right for this project. We&rsquo;re coming out of the doldrums we&#39;ve been in since arguably 2007,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&#39;s not like our Chinese partners said, &lsquo;Let&#39;s come to the U.S. and do a supertall.&rsquo; They were just trying to find a great investment opportunity to make their splash in the United States. And it&#39;s a credit to Chicago that they chose our development.&rdquo;</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s market is warming up, but China&rsquo;s is burning across its borders. Wanda is owned by Wang Jianlin, the richest man in mainland China. Like many Chinese developers, he&rsquo;s looking for new markets overseas.</p><p>&ldquo;It&#39;s crazy what&#39;s going on in China right now. There&#39;s just been explosive growth,&rdquo; Linnane says. &ldquo;They&#39;re looking all over the place, not just the U.S. It&#39;s a way to sustain their growth. They look at the U.S. as a very mature market.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="377" mozallowfullscreen="true" src="https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1zOBXrWDC28PlZhqn_-F8bid5QLCQrKVDN2cKc47P9lw/embed?start=false&amp;loop=false&amp;delayms=3000" webkitallowfullscreen="true" width="620"></iframe></p><p><em><span style="font-size:10px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Above: Renderings of the proposed Wanda Vista development. (Courtesy City of Chicago)</span></span></em></p><p>That explosive growth has gone on for a long time, but lately <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/24/china-property-prices-idUSL3N0SJ1DE20141024" target="_blank">Chinese home prices have slipped</a>. Tom Kerwin, principal of bKL Architecture, says the U.S. real estate market is a relatively stable place for global developers to invest.</p><p>&ldquo;I think there&#39;s a shift because, for one, the Chinese property market is down significantly. So these companies that develop as their core business are looking for other places to export their expertise in addition to their capital. You&#39;re seeing many Chinese developers coming to the U.S., and the biggest of the biggest are coming,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Not just Wanda.&rdquo;</p><p>Other major Chinese developers such as Greenland Group and ECADI have made their first U.S. moves in New York City and Los Angeles, but Wanda&rsquo;s debut is in Chicago. That&rsquo;s a vote of confidence in the city&rsquo;s real estate market, and it mirrors a larger trend: <a href="http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/January-2015/The-New-China-Pipeline/" target="_blank">Between March 2013 and March 2014, the Chinese purchased $22 billion of U.S. residential property &mdash; the highest volume for any non-domestic group</a>.</p><p>Wanda&rsquo;s not the only Chinese developer interested in Chicago. In 2014 Beijing&rsquo;s Cinda International Holdings Limited <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelcole/2014/03/16/chinese-investors-discover-chicago-real-estate/" target="_blank">teamed up with Chicago-based Zeller Realty Group to buy the 65-story tower at 311 S. Wacker Dr. for $304 million</a>. That&rsquo;s the seventh tallest building in Chicago to date, a mere seven meters (23 feet) short of supertall status.</p><p>If it comes to fruition, the Wanda project could signal a new era of tall building investment in Chicago, says CTBUH Executive Director Antony Wood.</p><p>&ldquo;Whilst New York is awash with foreign investment, especially from China, this is one of the first major skyscraper investments from overseas we have seen in Chicago during the current wave, which is sweeping the world,&rdquo; Wood said. &ldquo;Chicago will likely never accommodate the World&rsquo;s tallest building again, but it is a proud skyscraper city, as well as a major economic hub, and it is likely that we will see other supertall buildings proposed and built in the coming years &ndash; especially residential supertalls.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">What about other recent contenders to be Chicago&rsquo;s next supertall?</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/old%20post%20office%20wikimedia%20commons%20brianbobcat.jpg" title="The Old Main Post Office in downtown Chicago has been in redevelopment limbo since it closed in 1996. Previous plans included the construction of a 120-story building in its place. (Wikimedia Commons/Brianbobcat)" /></p><p>In 2013 Chicago City Council approved the first part of an audacious redevelopment plan for the massive Old Main Post Office downtown, which has loomed vacant over the Eisenhower Expressway since 1996. The plans came from British developer Bill Davies&rsquo; International Property Developers and local architects Antunovich Associates. They called first for a rehab of the existing 2.7 million square foot post office and the construction of a 1,000-foot tower, to be followed in a later phase by a 2,000-foot tower that would be the tallest in the Western Hemisphere.</p><p>The first phase would take eight to 10 years, Joe Antunovich said, while the rest might take 20 years. But first they need to secure financing. The entire project could cost $3.5 billion. It would be an impressive feat, to be sure. But in that amount of time, Shanghai&rsquo;s Pudong district<a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6600367" target="_blank"> went from mainly farmland to a part of a metropolis with more skyscrapers than New York City</a>.</p><p>In 2014, however, the project&rsquo;s developers <a href="http://www.chicagobusiness.com/realestate/20141008/CRED03/141009835/old-post-office-owner-plots-next-move-after-breakup-with-sterling-bay" target="_blank">announced they were exploring alternative plans for the property</a>, possibly nixing the 120-story tower.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/spire%20hole%20flickr%20Marcin%20Wichary.jpg" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="The ill-fated Chicago Spire was supposed to be the tallest building in the western hemisphere. (Flickr/Marcin Wichary)" /></div><p>If you want to see evidence of the recession&rsquo;s impact on skyscraper construction, you don&rsquo;t need to pore over spreadsheets or the architectural billings index: You just need to go to 400 N. Lake Shore Dr., where you&rsquo;ll find a pit about 100 ft. wide and 80 ft. deep. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2012-08/what-might-have-been-ill-fated-chicago-spire-101922" target="_blank">The ill-fated Chicago Spire</a> was supposed to be the tallest building in the western hemisphere. But the twisting 2,000-foot tower failed to attract enough financing and was hit with foreclosure lawsuits. Now it&rsquo;s the most-watched hole in the ground in Chicago real estate.</p><p>In 2013 real estate developer<a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/moneybeat/2013/06/24/related-in-deal-to-buy-distressed-debt-on-stalled-chicago-spire-project/" target="_blank"> Related Cos. of New York reportedly entered talks to buy the Spire&#39;s discounted debt</a>, but in November 2014 a U.S. Bankruptcy Court forced the project&rsquo;s original developer, Garrett Kelleher, to hand the 2.2-acre site over. Related <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-spire-1105-biz-20141104-story.html">now controls the real estate</a> and has not yet announced plans for development.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Why the action has been outside Chicago</span></p><p>There are a few factors behind Asia&rsquo;s building boom that don&rsquo;t quite apply to Chicago. For one thing, said Wood, Chicago just doesn&rsquo;t need to make a statement with its skyline like Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia did when its Petronas Towers unseated Willis Tower as the world&rsquo;s tallest in 1998.</p><p>&ldquo;What&rsquo;s driving these tall buildings around the world is attention in a global market and population growth,&rdquo; Wood said. &ldquo;And, on the face of it, we&rsquo;re not seeing any of that in Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/EXTABOUTUS/0,,contentMDK:23272497~pagePK:51123644~piPK:329829~theSitePK:29708,00.html?argument=value" target="_blank">The world gains more than 5 million city dwellers every month</a>, and the U.S. accounts for very little of that urbanization. It&rsquo;s happening in places like China, where<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/16/world/asia/chinas-great-uprooting-moving-250-million-into-cities.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=0" target="_blank"> a government plan to move 250 million people into cities by 2025</a> helps generate huge demand for high-density, supertall buildings.</p><p>But even if Chicago isn&rsquo;t home to many new supertalls, it&rsquo;s still a nerve center of sorts for tall building architecture and engineering.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s not many really significant tall buildings that are not happening with some Chicago expertise anywhere in the world &mdash; architectural, engineering, geotechnical, façade &mdash; but some Chicago input,&rdquo; Wood said. &ldquo;However it is fair to say that there has been a major shift in almost all aspects of tall buildings.&rdquo;</p><p>If they pull it off, the Wanda Tower will change the Chicago skyline. But in China huge developments happen all the time. One of the tower&rsquo;s architects, bKL Principal Tom Kerwin, says China&rsquo;s economic and demographic booms have made massive projects part of the new urban culture.</p><p>&ldquo;Supertall buildings or large mixed-use complexes are kind of the norm in China,&rdquo; said Kerwin, who has worked on dozens of projects in the U.S. and Asia. &ldquo;The Chinese are very accustomed to these large-scale, multi-use buildings. So for them, it sounds kind of silly to say, but it&#39;s almost commonplace.&rdquo;</p><p>In addition to moving to Asia, supertall towers have changed since Chicago&rsquo;s skyline rose decades ago. Tall towers today tend to have more retail and residential space than their counterparts from previous generations. They are often mixed-use &mdash; combining hotel, retail, office and/or residential space in one building &mdash; and use different structural systems, like concrete-steel composites as opposed to just steel. And rather than bearing corporate names such as Chrysler, Sears and Petronas, they&rsquo;re increasingly named to inspire civic pride: say, the Russia Tower or Chicago Spire. Burj Khalifa was originally called Burj Dubai.</p><p>Brian Lee, a design partner at Skidmore, Owings &amp; Merrill &mdash; the architectural offices behind thousands of skyscrapers around the world, including four of Chicago&rsquo;s six supertalls &mdash; has seen the effect of these projects first-hand.</p><p>&ldquo;We think that the tall building is not the only kind of building type that should be built, obviously. It has limitations,&rdquo; Lee said, &ldquo;but there&rsquo;s something exhilarating about a tall structure that makes a mark for a city and a region.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">A supertall with a Chicago character?</span></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/riverpoint-courtesy-hines-and-pickard-chilton.jpg" style="height: 470px; width: 620px;" title="A park plan for the base of the River Point building, connects the property to the Chicago Riverwalk. (Courtesy of Hines and Pickard Chilton)" /></div><p>Our Curious Citizen, Andrew Wambach, raised another interesting question: If skyscrapers are a statement of their city&rsquo;s character, what should influence the design of Chicago&rsquo;s next supertall if it actually comes to be?</p><p>New skyscrapers at Wolf Point, River Point and 150 N. Riverside &mdash; three sites abutting the Chicago River at its confluence downtown &mdash; feature riverwalk connections and landscaped parks at their bases. Two of them actually have broader shoulders, as it were, than footprints. Landscape architect Ted Wolff said the Wolf Point project was the first where he&rsquo;d actually heard an architect tell him to expand his landscaping so far it would hem in the lobby.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/andrew wambach photo.jpeg" style="float: right; height: 303px; width: 200px;" title="Our question-asker, Andrew Wambach, is from Minneapolis but moved to Chicago for work between 2011-2013." />They may not be supertalls by the Council on Tall Buildings&rsquo; definition, but projects like these suggest Chicago&rsquo;s architectural legacy may be as much about Millennium Park as it is about Willis Tower.</p><p>Wanda&rsquo;s plans for a new supertall in Chicago are still preliminary, but its designers and developers have hinted at connections to neighborhood parks and the Chicago Riverwalk.</p><p>&ldquo;It&#39;s no secret that the project site is on an important axis for connectivity to the river, the lake, the Lakeshore East park and other internal features of our development,&rdquo; said Magellan&rsquo;s Sean Linnane. &ldquo;Because of its location, by its nature it will have to address those.&rdquo;</p><p>After all, says architect Tom Kerwin, that&rsquo;s the critical challenge a design team faces with any new project &mdash; no matter its size or location.</p><p>&ldquo;In cities around the world, how do you create a prototype where something&#39;s so technically driven and make it of its place, make it part of the city where you&#39;re building it?&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It definitely is a challenge. You want buildings to respond to their context, not just in a functional way but in an inspirational or an aesthetic way.&rdquo;</p><p>In other words, to bring the skyscraper down to earth.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley is a writer with WBEZ and Midwest Editor for <a href="http://archpaper.com/" target="_blank">The Architect&rsquo;s Newspaper</a>. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@cementley</a>.</em></p></div><p><em>Correction: This story misstated the reporting year used for the&nbsp;CTBUH graphic that compares supertalls. The graphic represents data gathered up to November 2014.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 18:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/when-will-chicago-get-its-next-supertall-skyscraper-108531 A 'palace for Jabba the Hutt' in Chicago? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/palace-jabba-hutt-chicago-111068 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/LMNA_view-from-south_final.jpg" style="height: 310px; width: 620px;" title="Renderings for George Lucas' Museum of Narrative Art. (MAD Architects)" /></div><p>The sketches of &quot;Star Wars&quot; creator George Lucas&#39; Chicago museum show a flowing white building topped with a hovering ring. The newly unveiled architectural designs for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art were drawing a range of reaction on Wednesday, from snide comments to forthright admiration.</p><p>&quot;It looks like a palace for Jabba the Hutt. I was wondering what planet we are on,&quot; Chicago Alderman Bob Fioretti, who&#39;s challenging Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the mayor&#39;s race next year, told the Chicago Sun-Times. Online design site Co.Design was more generous, comparing the architectural concept to &quot;an Egyptian pyramid reimagined for the year 2020.&quot;</p><p>The Beijing-based principal designer, Ma Yansong of MAD Architects, released the first sketches Tuesday. The seven-story museum will be located between Soldier Field and McCormick Place on Lake Michigan. It&#39;s expected to cost about $400 million. Ma has said it&#39;s the most important project of his career to date.</p><p>&quot;Inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe, the design integrates the natural beauty of the park and Lake Michigan with the powerful man-made architecture of Chicago,&quot; MAD Architects said in a statement on the firm&#39;s website.</p><p>When Lucas announced the design team in July, he called them &quot;some of the top architects in the world.&quot;</p><p>&quot;I am thrilled with the architectural team&#39;s vision for the building and the surrounding green space. I look forward to presenting our design to the Chicago community,&quot; Lucas said in the July 28 statement.</p><p>Chicago-based Studio Gang is doing the landscape design, including a bridge to connect the museum with Northerly Island. Chicago-based VOA Associates is leading the implementation of the design.</p><p>Ma&#39;s previous work includes Absolute Towers in Ontario, Canada; the Ordos Museum in Ordos, China; and Chaoyang Park Plaza in Beijing, China.</p></p> Wed, 05 Nov 2014 12:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/palace-jabba-hutt-chicago-111068 Real estate and religion: The tale of Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/real-estate-and-religion-tale-seventeenth-church-christ-scientist-110980 <p><div>These days Wacker Drive rivals LaSalle as the epicenter of Chicago&rsquo;s financial district. The drive&rsquo;s high-rise office buildings tower over the Chicago River like walls of a canyon. But a break in the skyline at the intersection of Wabash and Wacker makes way for a building that is only five stories above street level.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The structure looks nothing like any of its rectilinear neighbors, which favor steel and glass. Instead, it resembles a concrete space ship with a round, white, windowless facade from the second story up. And, the building has nothing to do with financial power. As spelled out in enormous letters spanning its curved wall, it&rsquo;s the home of the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist.</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cs church wide.jpg" title="Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist sits on a corner of prime real estate at the intersection of Wabash Ave. and Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago. Monica Schrager asked Curious City how the church has held on to the property for so long. (WBEZ/Shawn Allee)" /></div><p>This distinctive structure caught the eye of Monica Schrager, who works right across the street on the 10th floor of the old Jeweler Building. &ldquo;It has an interesting look,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s this small &lsquo;60s-style building that you never really see anyone coming in and out of in the middle of all these skyscrapers.&rdquo; Here&rsquo;s the question she asked us to look into:</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><em>I&rsquo;m curious about the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist that sits on the corner of Wabash and Wacker: how it came to have that prime real estate and how it&rsquo;s managed to hold on to that prime real estate for so long.</em></div></div><p>It turns out Monica has a nose for a great story. As we look into the church&rsquo;s history, we learn how the tenets of a distinctive faith were translated into concrete and steel by an idealistic, but non-believing architect. And, we follow a devoted congregation as it risked building in a once-abandoned portion of the city ... only to have that neighborhood bloom decades later.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Which faith are we talking about?</span></p><p>Not to be confused with Scientology, Christian Science is a branch of protestant Christianity. It was founded in Massachusetts in the late 19th century by Mary Baker Eddy, who taught that the material world is a temporary illusion, while the only reality is spiritual. This belief informs all aspects of Christian Science practice, including its most famous: devout Christian Scientists don&rsquo;t seek medical treatment. Eddy taught a form of spiritual healing that is inspired by Jesus&rsquo; own healings in the New Testament.</p><p>Mrs. Eddy also taught that God does not communicate by way of a few chosen figures, like preachers or popes. God, she said, communicates directly and equally with all of his followers, so Christian Science is a non-hierarchical, democratic faith. Each church elects readers who serve a short term before passing responsibility to another church member. As the congregation&rsquo;s current First Reader, Lois Carlson, states: &nbsp;&ldquo;We don&rsquo;t have many big cheeses.&rdquo;</p><p>Like Quakers, Christian Scientists also emphasize the importance of individual testimonies; during Wednesday services, church-goers are encouraged to stand and share their personal experiences with Christian Science healing. &nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">&lsquo;To uplift a neighborhood&rsquo;</span></p><p>It&rsquo;s notable that the intersection of Wabash and Wacker has any church at all, since there are few standalone churches around downtown. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed many of them, and many more relocated to quieter residential areas. In 1907, an unknown author penned an op-ed piece for the <em>Chicago Daily Tribune </em>which reads: &ldquo;One of the changes most noticeable between old Chicago and new Chicago is the disappearance of the churches which used to surround the courthouse square or line Wabash or Michigan avenue.&rdquo; Later, the author notes &ldquo;Chicago has nothing downtown to express the spiritual life of its people.&rdquo;</p><p>So, when the Seventeenth Church was established downtown in 1924, it was a bit of an anomaly.</p><p>For decades the congregation rented several downtown venues including, at one point, Orchestra Hall. By the late 1940s, though, the congregation wanted a church of its own. Members remained committed to being downtown. In this, they bucked a trend of building Christian Science churches in outer neighborhoods such as Beverly, Uptown and Hyde Park. Current members of the Seventeenth Church don&rsquo;t have records that indicate why the congregation prefered downtown, though member Dave Hohle has a hypothesis. &ldquo;I think a church will uplift a neighborhood,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;And I think that&rsquo;s what&rsquo;s happened here.&rdquo;</p><p>Today, it seems like the corner of Wabash and Wacker might be the perfect candidate. Not so, according to Hohle. &ldquo;It didn&rsquo;t really interest them because it wasn&rsquo;t very central,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It was just sort of over here on the river.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Carlson points out that Wacker Drive was not always a major thoroughfare. &ldquo;It used to be that Michigan Avenue was its own entity and the Loop was its own entity, and there was no sense of connecting the two,&rdquo; she says.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Lot%202%20FOR%20WEB.png" title="" /></p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/duo3.png" title="Site of the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist before construction in the mid-1950s. (Photos courtesy Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist and Chuckman's Chicago Nostalgia) " /></div></div><p>Obviously the congregation <em>did </em>decide to buy that property, after almost a decade of searching. At the time, the corner contained nothing but a parking lot and a short, rundown building, which they later demolished to make way for their new church. When they finally made the purchase in 1955, Wacker Drive was just starting to develop.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Kindred spirits: A radical faith and a non-believing architect</span></p><p>Say Hohle is right and the Seventeenth Church congregation wished to uplift their future neighborhood. Surely, then, the church would need uplifting architecture. Over two years, the congregation considered 34 architects, including celebrity designers such as Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as an architect with Christian Science roots. In 1963 they settled on a Harry Weese.</p><p>You may not know Weese by name, but there&rsquo;s a chance you&rsquo;ve seen his work in Chicago: the Time Life building, the towering Metropolitan Correctional Center on Van Buren street, and several others. His resume stretches as far as Washington, D.C., where he designed a cavernous metro, famous for its waffled concrete ceilings. &nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/tai%20flickr%20dc%20metro%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="margin: 5px;" title="Harry Weese, the architect who designed Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist building, also designed the Washington, D.C. metro stations. (Flickr/tai)" /></div><p>Weese had an impressive resume, but then again, so did his competitors and, interestingly, he was not a religious man. (In interviews the church asked each candidate about their religious affiliation. Weese responded, &ldquo;My father was Episcopalian, my mother Presbyterian, and I&rsquo;m an architect.&rdquo;)</p><p>According to Robert Bruegmann, the co-author of <em>The Architecture of Harry Weese</em>, the congregation was impressed by the architect&rsquo;s ambitious, post-war vision for American cities.</p><p>&ldquo;The suburbs had sapped a lot of the vitality of the city,&rdquo; Bruegmann says. &ldquo;A lot of the city architecture and infrastructure was old. The city was in a pretty bad state and Chicago was no exception.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Weese wanted to build a new, more humane city, so he sought contracts for large-scale urban works such as the DC Metro. But Weese also believed architects could revitalize cities by designing new, monumental public buildings. &ldquo;So for Harry, a chance to build a church in the center of the city where the churches had been fleeing for a hundred years was a real opportunity, and he really seized it with both hands,&rdquo; Bruegmann says.</p><p>It&rsquo;s simply conjecture (again, the congregation has no records of this), but we do know the Seventeenth Church congregation was impressed with the architect&rsquo;s plans, if not the architect himself. According to Dave Hohle, the church approved Weese&rsquo;s design on the first round, a rare occurrence in architecture circles. &ldquo;There were, like, no adjustments,&rdquo; Hohle says. &ldquo;It was presented and it was unanimously approved.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Faith translated into design</span></p><p>The congregation&rsquo;s first reader, Lois Carlson, says that Weese&rsquo;s radical building, completed in 1968, matches Christian Science&rsquo;s radical theology. &ldquo;I think what&#39;s so beautiful about this building is that it&rsquo;s so clearly an idea that matches the metaphysical substance of the Christian Science faith,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Specifically, Bruegmann says Weese knew that acoustics were critical to a democratic congregation that valued every voice. That led him to fashion the main auditorium of the church as a greek-style amphitheater, which is ideal for projecting sound. There are 800 seats, and each is within 54 feet of the room&rsquo;s center.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/inside%20church%20flickr%20dpyle%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" title="The Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist can hold up to 800 people, but a typical Sunday service is attended by about 40 people. (Flickr/dpyle)" /></div><p>Quite unusual for the time, Weese also worked with an audio engineer who created a system of hidden microphones and speakers so that members&rsquo; testimonies could be amplified. This audio system was so advanced it received a write-up in the Journal for the <a href="http://www.aes.org/e-lib/browse.cfm?elib=1500">Society of Audio Engineers</a> in 1970.</p><p>A year after the church opened, it received a Distinguished Building Award from the American Institute of Architects. The AIA recognized the structure not just for its democratic design, but also for Weese&rsquo;s expert problem solving. To keep out the noises of a bustling city, the congregation did not want windows in the auditorium but, like most churches, they wanted space and light. So Weese built a tall, domed ceiling with an oculus-like skylight at the very top, which he called a lantern. To make sure the sunday school was equally well lit, Weese created a moat-like sunken garden around the church so that there could be windows into the basement levels. &nbsp;</p><p>Then of course, there is the building&rsquo;s eye-catching exterior. Bruegmann points out that the facade is modern but still achieves the kind of monumentality that Harry Weese admired in classical buildings. &ldquo;That dome that rounds that corner is one of the grandest urban gestures of virtually any city I know of,&rdquo; Bruegmann says.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">If you build it they (might) come</span></p><p>When the Seventeenth Church triumphantly opened its doors in 1968, the congregation established something few other churches had attempted: a place of worship in Chicago&rsquo;s bustling downtown. The trouble is, membership didn&rsquo;t grow, at least not on the national level. &nbsp;According to sociologist Rodney Stark, the Christian Science movement&rsquo;s membership started to drop in the 1940s and, by the 1960s, was in serious decline.</p><p>So what happened? Stark suggests that early in the 20th century, Christian Science was the fastest-growing faith in the country, but there&rsquo;s a caveat. He believes Christian Science always <em>seemed </em>more successful than it actually was, mostly because members tended to be well off financially. &nbsp;Like the Seventeenth Church, other congregations had resources to establish and build new churches around the country, even after membership began to decline.</p><p>Another theory from Stark: Medical treatment was very crude at the time that Mary Baker Eddy founded Christian Science. &ldquo;We had no antibiotics,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Part of the time they really didn&rsquo;t have any anesthetics. Doctors were pretty untrained and a lot of them were butchers.&rdquo; &nbsp;By comparison, spiritual healing seemed like a strong alternative. Stark argues that interest in Christian Science decreased in the mid-1900s after Western medicine improved.</p><p>Lastly, Stark argues that the first generation of Christian Scientists didn&rsquo;t produce a second generation. From the beginning, Christian Scientists didn&rsquo;t have a lot of children so they had to rely on new converts to expand. Converting new members is often difficult compared to raising children within a faith.</p><p>We can see how this affected the Chicago area by reading <em>The Christian Science Journal</em>, which lists every Christian Science church around the world. The religion was popular in Chicago; over the span of 61 years Christian Scientists opened 23 churches across the city. After the 1950s, Chicago churches began to close. By the new millenium, 13 of the original 23 churches were gone. Today there are only six.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/10th%20Church%201%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" title="The former site of Tenth Church of Christ, Scientist. (Flickr/Jamie Bernstein)" /></div><p>The remains of these closed churches are dotted all around Chicago. Some have been sold to congregations of other faiths. Thirteenth Church in Beverly has been converted into 16 loft condominiums. The abandoned 10th Church in Hyde Park was sold to a developer, but it&rsquo;s now in foreclosure and falling to pieces.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Holding onto your religion ... and property</span></p><p>So how did the Seventeenth Church hang on? This is the second part of Monica Schrager&rsquo;s question, and it&rsquo;s a good one, when you consider two things: The church now sits among prime real estate, and the congregation is modest in size.</p><p>In the 1980s Wacker Drive saw a major boom in office construction. Eventually Wacker replaced LaSalle as the center of Chicago&rsquo;s financial industry, with massive, glassy skyscrapers to show it. In 2013, <a href="http://s1156.photobucket.com/user/ksershon/media/2013USsMostExpensiveStreetsforOfficeSpace.jpg.html">Jones Lang and LaSalle listed Wacker Drive as the 20th-most expensive street for office space </a>in the country. Next door to the church, a hotel developer &nbsp;bought a narrow empty lot for 5 million dollars. (That&rsquo;s over one thousand dollars per square foot. The developer is now in the process of building a Hilton Garden Inn on that site.) Right next door to that, the historic motor club building was auctioned off in 2011 for 9.7 million. Word is, that building will soon be a hotel as well. &nbsp;</p><p>There may be a competitive real estate market raging outside the walls of Seventeenth Church but, believe it or not, the church says it&rsquo;s never gotten a serious offer from any kind of buyer. Still, Seventeenth Church is a big building, while the congregation is likely small.</p><p>Christian Science branch churches never publish their membership numbers because they don&rsquo;t want to be distracted by material measurements, so we can&rsquo;t know the exact size of the Seventeenth Church congregation. However, when I attend a recent church service, I count approximately 30 people in the 800-seat auditorium. Dave Hohle says that number is likely low, adding that perhaps forty or so attendees arrive for typical Sunday services.</p><p>If you think there&rsquo;s a mismatch between the building&rsquo;s stature and the size of the congregation, Lois Carlson notes the church was paid off in 1978, and members cover maintenance costs.</p><p>&ldquo;You know, even though we&rsquo;re a small congregation, we&rsquo;re an incredibly financially committed group,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>There&rsquo;s likely additional income. On occasion, the church receives a visit from a big movie studio. The Seventeenth Church amphitheater was the set for the &ldquo;choosing ceremony&rdquo; in the blockbuster film <em>Divergent</em>. The church&rsquo;s exterior played a cameo in <em>Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon.</em> (In the film, the church was spared, while robots laid waste to the rest of downtown Chicago.) The church did receive income from those films but does not disclose the amount.</p><p>The congregation, regardless of costs, seems to be just as committed to downtown as it was when it first sought property in the 1940s. First and foremost, Lois Carlson says, the church can be a resource for what she calls &ldquo;hungry hearts that are looking for a deeper understanding for God.&rdquo; The church operates a reading room in the lobby six days a week. Carlson says tourists and curious passersby come into the reading room regularly. A small handful of people have become members this way. &ldquo;We just feel like we belong here because the need is so great,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>In keeping with that, the congregation regularly shares Harry Weese&rsquo;s architectural gem. They lend their auditorium to interfaith groups, and the local alderman conducts community meetings there. A couple times each month the church welcomes tour groups from the Chicago Architecture Foundation. In October, more than 4,000 visitors arrived as part of the Open House Chicago event.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Down the road?</span></p><p>For now, it seems like Seventeenth Church congregation wants to stay put, but what about over the next decade or two? Will it be able to sustain itself? Professor Bruegmann is concerned that the building might not survive if the congregation were to move or dissolve. In fact, many of Harry Weese&rsquo;s buildings have already met the wrecking ball. Bruegmann argues that buildings from the &lsquo;60s and &lsquo;70s are no longer new, but they are not yet considered historic.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s exactly at that moment when they&rsquo;re middle-aged buildings that they&rsquo;re most vulnerable,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Like Monica, he&rsquo;s very aware of the competitive real estate market on Wacker Drive. &ldquo;The economics of having such a small building on such a prominent, very expensive site are going to weigh so heavily in the balance,&rdquo; he worries. &ldquo;If the current congregation moved out, it would be extremely difficult to figure out what to do with a building like that and how you might save it.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Now we have an answer. Who asked the question?</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mschrager.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: right;" title="Monica Schrager submitted our question about the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist (Photo courtesy of Monica Schrager)" />Monica Schrager was thrilled that our investigation made a connection between her current home &mdash; Chicago&rsquo;s Humboldt Park neighborhood &mdash; and Washington, D.C., area, where she grew up. The relevant detail? Architect Harry Weese designed the Seventeenth Church as well as the DC Metro!</p><p>Monica is a web developer by trade but her interest in architecture is responsible for her question about Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist.</p><p>&ldquo;I love the variety of architecture we have in the city, from Mies Van Der Rohe to Frank Lloyd Wright,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Monica works right across the street from Seventeenth Church in the old Jeweler Building. She sees the church every day outside her office window and she&rsquo;s definitely rooting for the church to survive, especially now that she has seen the inside. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Just the whole combination of the lighting and the acoustics is kind of really neat,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;You almost don&rsquo;t feel like you&rsquo;re in the middle of the city. It&rsquo;s an oasis of sorts.&rdquo;</p><p>Her bottom line? She thinks Wacker Drive needs an oasis more than it needs another skyscraper.</p><p><em>Ellen Mayer is the Curious City intern. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/ellenrebeccam">@ellenrebeccam</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 18:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/real-estate-and-religion-tale-seventeenth-church-christ-scientist-110980 The tale of the two-flat http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/tale-two-flat-110681 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/164044282&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: The podcast version of the story includes an excerpt from a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicagos-flammable-fire-escapes-109009#related" target="_blank">more extensive examination of Chicago-area wooden porches used as a means of egress</a>. To catch every episode, <a href="http://wbez.is/VIdLFv" target="_blank">subscribe to our podcast</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><p>Most older U.S. cities have a signature kind of building. In Brooklyn it&rsquo;s the brownstone, one standing shoulder-to-shoulder to the next. In Philadelphia, newcomers and visitors are struck by the distinctive row houses.</p><p>What about Chicago? Well, it&rsquo;s a city known for its skyscrapers, for sure. Outside of downtown, though, you won&rsquo;t find soaring steel and glass. In the neighborhoods, it&rsquo;s wood, brick and stone. The real workhorse of Chicago&rsquo;s built environment is the modest, ubiquitous (yet fascinating) two-flat.</p><p>You know the building. Two stories, with an apartment unit on each floor, usually with bay windows greeting the street through of a facade of brick or greystone. Most were built between 1900 and 1920.</p><p>Two-to-four unit apartment buildings make up 27 percent of Chicago&rsquo;s housing stock, according to data from the <a href="http://www.housingstudies.org/" target="_blank">DePaul Institute of Housing Studies</a>. The rest is split evenly between single-family homes, condominiums and buildings with five or more units.</p><p>We recently got a question that returns some wonder to this everyday building. Our question asker, who chose to stay anonymous, is particularly interested in why the two-flat became so popular. And she wants to know who calls these buildings home. As she observes in <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/questions/743" target="_blank">the question she submitted to Curious City</a>, they&rsquo;re somewhere between suburban houses and big apartment buildings:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Chicago-area two-flats straddle the line between apartments and homes. Who were they originally designed to serve? Has that changed?</em></p><p>The answer to that last part? It&rsquo;s revealed in a story, one you&rsquo;d miss if you choose to focus on the city&rsquo;s skyline or crane your neck to see the top of the Willis (Sears) Tower. It turns out the advent of the humble two-flat mirrors the development of Chicago&rsquo;s middle class. And in many ways it still does today, but in the wake of the 2008 financial and foreclosure crises, that may be changing.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">A Bohemian building boom</span></p><p>Through the late 1800s, European immigrants made up almost half of Chicago&rsquo;s population. Hundreds of thousands of Polish, German and Czech people settled here, often making their first home in narrow one-story buildings usually made out of wood. Those came to be called worker&rsquo;s cottages.</p><blockquote><p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://wbez.is/1q1Znnk" target="_blank"><strong>Related: How the size of the &quot;foreign born&quot; population has changed in the city.&nbsp;</strong></a></p></blockquote><p>As Chicago&rsquo;s big industries grew &mdash; Sears, McCormick Reaper and Western Electric, to name a few &mdash; so did the population. Soon it made sense for developers and architects to build up as they built out. Hence two- and three-flat buildings, which offered denser housing, and gave the owners a shot at some extra income from renting out their extra unit.</p><p>We found several architects from the era who built two-flats by the dozens on spec, meaning they weren&rsquo;t designing for a specific client, but acting as &ldquo;owner-architect&rdquo; in the parlance of records from the era. Many of them were Bohemian. (Today, the former Bohemia is part of the Czech Republic).</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/czeckad.jpg" title="An ad for Lawndale two-flats steered toward Eastern European immigrants. (Courtesy Chicago History Museum) " /></p><p>In fact, along with Jen Masengarb of the <a href="http://www.architecture.org/" target="_blank">Chicago Architecture Foundation</a> &mdash; whom we partnered with on <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/questions/743" target="_blank">this voting round</a> and helped us research this story &mdash; we found an old article from the <em>Chicago Tribune</em> that shows the connection between the city&rsquo;s booming Czech population and its sprawling housing market. A headline from <a href="http://www.newspapers.com/newspage/28540648/" target="_blank">Oct. 17, 1903</a> crows: &ldquo;BOHEMIANS IN LEAD AS BUILDERS OF HOMES.&rdquo;</p><p>At the convention of the Building Association league of Illinois, Bohemian Frank G. Hajicek boasted of &ldquo;$12,000,000 in shares in force&rdquo; held by the &ldquo;the Bohemians of Chicago.&rdquo; It was a point of pride for the 28-year-old resident of the South Lawndale neighborhood.</p><p>&ldquo;Never in the history of the world, I believe, have people in a foreign land established themselves in homes so securely and rapidly as have the 200,000 Bohemians who make Chicago their home,&rdquo; said Hajicek in 1903.</p><p>In the heavily Eastern European Southwest Side neighborhoods of Pilsen (named for the Bohemian city of Plzeň), North Lawndale and South Lawndale, many of those homes were two-flats.</p><p>With Masengarb&rsquo;s help, we dug up some documents at the<a href="http://www.chicagohistory.org" target="_blank"> Chicago History Museum</a>, including a 1915 &ldquo;Book of Plans&rdquo; that enticed homebuyers to order away for all the materials needed to build a two-flat sized for a typical Chicago city lot.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/bookofplanslarger.png" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/bookofplansinset.png" title="Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum. Click for larger view. " /></a></div><p>&ldquo;Our design No. 144 is a two-family flat designed for a money making proposition,&rdquo; begins one such ad. &ldquo;Anyone wanting a comfortable home and at the same time a good income on the investment will do well to consider this proposition.&rdquo;</p><p>Many, it seems, did consider it. A 1910<em> Tribune</em> article reported $38 million of flat building, &ldquo;a new high record in this field, exceeding by over $4,000,000 the figures of 1908, which also established a new record.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">A &lsquo;workhorse building&rsquo; in a western paradise</span></p><p>Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that it often wasn&rsquo;t young first-generation immigrants buying Chicago two-flats. Instead it was those who immigrated to Chicago as children in the late 19th century, and by the early 20th century had built up enough money to graduate from renting.</p><p>&ldquo;What appears to have happened is that the Czech population was essentially moving further west, out of Pilsen and other sort of areas, Maxwell Street areas, to newer land, I guess you could say,&rdquo; says Matt Cole of Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, which administers the <a href="http://www.nhschicago.org/site/3C/category/greystone_history" target="_blank">Historic Greystone Initiative</a>. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s where the name California [Avenue] comes from &mdash; it was like their western paradise.&rdquo;</p><p>Jen Masengarb and I take Cole up on his offer to point out one such western paradise: <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/North+Lawndale,+Chicago,+IL/@41.8582574,-87.7139721,15z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x880e328a692e8e51:0x26c3604dc3282d76" target="_blank">the part of North Lawndale known as K-Town for its K-named avenues (Kostner, Kildare, Keeler, etc.)</a> near Pulaski and Cermak Roads. In 2010 K-Town was listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its collection of classic Chicago apartment buildings.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/masengarbktown.jpg" title="Reporter Chris Bentley, Jen Masengarb and Matt Cole with Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago meet in K-Town to learn about Chicago's two-flats. (Photo courtesy Anne Evans) " /></div><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s like a microcosm of Chicago architecture,&rdquo; says Cole, pointing out stately greystones, single-family brick residences and flats in styles ranging from Queen Anne to Prairie to mashups of any and all architectural detailing popular between 1900 and 1930. &ldquo;The reality is that the two-flat and three-flat are the workhorse building of this period of Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>During our neighborhood walk, Masengarb points out that for a lot of early 20th century Chicagoans, the two-flat was a vehicle of social mobility.</p><p>&ldquo;This two-flat is that bridge, I think, between that older 1880s, 1870s housing,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;And then the bungalow which was the even bigger dream, and a bigger yard, my own space and nobody living upstairs, clomping around. &ldquo;</p><p>Consider Frank Stuchal. Census data shows in 1888 he immigrated to Chicago from Bohemia as a 13-year-old with his parents and two sisters. The census is taken every 10 years, and every 10 years as his income increased &mdash; Stuchal was first employed as a typesetter, then a print shop foreman, and finally business manager for a newspaper &mdash; he moved further west along Cermak avenue. In 1900 the 24-year old Stuchal rented an apartment at W. 23rd Street and South Spaulding Avenue with his two sisters. In 1920 he and his wife owned a two-flat, half of which they rented out to a German family. By 1930 he and his wife were raising their son in a bungalow they owned in the southwest suburb of Berwyn.</p><p>The 1920 census shows the street lined with two-flats occupied by second generation Czech, German, and Polish immigrants in their 40s and 50s, raising Chicago-born teenagers. Stuchal&rsquo;s neighbors included butchers, policemen, bookkeepers, bricklayers and librarians.</p><p>That two-flat Stuchal owned in 1920 was in K-town, near 21st Place and Keeler Avenue. It was built in 1916, and <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/@41.852501,-87.731744,3a,75y,144.04h,88.86t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sj8F0Ae9ndTVLStijAJ4d8A!2e0" target="_blank">it&rsquo;s still there</a>.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://www.google.com/maps/@41.852501,-87.731744,3a,75y,144.04h,88.86t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sj8F0Ae9ndTVLStijAJ4d8A!2e0" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/insert-images/Capture_0.JPG" style="width: 610px; height: 234px;" title="Frank Stuchal's two-flat was built in 1916. (Google Streetview/Google)" /></a></div><p>Today it&rsquo;s owned by Arquilla Lawrence, whose parents moved in when she was two years old.</p><p>&ldquo;And I love it,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s been my home all my life, ever since I was two we moved into the neighborhood. I&rsquo;ve been here my whole life except when I went away to college.&rdquo;</p><p>Like many African-Americans, Lawrence&rsquo;s father moved to the neighborhood from the South &mdash; Oklahoma, in his case &mdash; during <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/545.html" target="_blank">The Great Migration of blacks to northern cities </a>during the middle of the 20th century. After World War II the neighborhood became the first African-American neighborhood on Chicago&rsquo;s West Side.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s why it&rsquo;s so well kept,&rdquo; says Corey Brooks, who also grew up in K-town. &ldquo;Because most of [the property owners] migrated from the South. This is where they put their roots in, so they all know each other.&rdquo;</p><p>Brooks introduces us to his wife, Rita, who is on her way to check in on her mom. Both of them moved back to their childhood homes in order to care for their parents. Turns out it&rsquo;s not just the neighborhood&rsquo;s property ownership that has lasted all these years.</p><p>&ldquo;This is my childhood sweetheart,&rdquo; says Rita, pointing to Corey. &ldquo;He was my first boyfriend! Then he got married to someone else, I got married, I lost my husband, and then two years ago we found each other and got married.&rdquo;</p><p>Before we leave K-Town, Jen Masengarb surveys the mishmash of early 20th century architectural styles on display.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s like a metamorphosis or an evolution. We&rsquo;re gonna try this over here on this block, and then this is five years later we&rsquo;re gonna try this &hellip; You can just see it evolving in the way that we live and the decisions that we&rsquo;re making in terms of what our families need, what is stylistically impressive,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;This architecture is us, it&rsquo;s a reflection of us.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Losing equity: Is the workhorse getting exhausted?</span></p><p>So the form of two-flats was basically a response to economics and demographics, as well as the size and shape of a Chicago city lot. The buildings no longer house predominantly Czech and other Eastern European immigrants, but today&rsquo;s tenants share a lot with their neighbors across the decades &mdash; many of them used two-flats to build community and a little bit of personal wealth in the form of equity. The two-flat was a bridge to a better life for the families that built Chicago as we know it.</p><p>One hundred years later, however, it&rsquo;s not clear how much longer two-flats will be able to fill that role.</p><p>K-town is well kempt, thanks in part to incentives from its historic district status. But two-flats are expensive to maintain. And since the 2008 financial and foreclosure crises, a lot of two-flats in other neighborhoods around Chicago are sitting vacant or being bought by developers who don&rsquo;t occupy the units.</p><p>And sometimes the ownership moved in the other direction. Eric Strickland tells us he bought a K-Town two-flat in the 90s. When he purchased the building on 21st Place, it was divided into three units. Once he&rsquo;d saved up enough money, Strickland converted the two-flat into a single-family home. He lives there now with his wife and daughter.</p><p>During the housing crisis two-to-four unit properties were disproportionately impacted by foreclosure. And Geoff Smith from the DePaul <a href="http://www.housingstudies.org/" target="_blank">Institute of Housing Studies</a> says two-flats don&rsquo;t really make economic sense for new development, so they may well be lost to history in lower-income neighborhoods.</p><p>&ldquo;What you see more commonly is a single-family home targeted for owner occupancy, or you see a larger rental building,&rdquo; Smith says.</p><p>He adds that, if older two-flats fall into disrepair, there will likely be no two-unit rentals to replace them. &nbsp;&ldquo;The concern is that in some of these more distressed areas, where there is a substantial stock of these buildings, there is a risk in some neighborhoods that this kind of housing could be lost,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>That prospect matters. According to data from the DePaul <a href="http://www.housingstudies.org/" target="_blank">Institute of Housing Studies</a>, today there are more than 76,000 two-unit apartment buildings in Chicago. In some neighborhoods &mdash; Brighton Park, New City, and South Lawndale &mdash; they still make up more than two-thirds of the housing stock, as well as a substantial proportion of the city&rsquo;s affordable housing.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://housing-stock.housingstudies.org/#13/41.8759/-87.6436" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/depaulmap.PNG" style="height: 300px; width: 620px;" title="Click to view full map from DePaul's IHS. " /></a></div><p>Prices for two-to-four unit buildings in distressed areas of Chicago fell roughly 70 percent between the pre-crash peak and current figures. That means many homes in those areas are worth less than they were in 1997, says Smith.</p><p>So if the &ldquo;money making proposition&rdquo; that two-flats once promised to working families is more elusive these days, what will become of the lower-income neighborhoods where these historic buildings are most prevalent?</p><p>&ldquo;Because of changing population dynamics, the changing nature of the city, in some areas you are going to see demand in decline. You may not see it recover, and there just may not be an economic value to some of these properties,&rdquo; says Smith. &ldquo;Hopefully some prescient, some really far forward-seeing investor can come in and say &lsquo;these properties have value for the long-term.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p><em>Chris Bentley is a freelance journalist and reporter for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City. <a href="http://cabentley.com/" target="_blank">Follow him at cabentley.com</a> and on Twitter at <a href="http://twitter.com/triciabobeda" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>. Jen Masengarb is Director of Interpretation and Research for <a href="http://www.architecture.org/" target="_blank">the Chicago Architecture Foundation</a> and contributed reporting to this story. </em></p><p><em>Correction: A draft of the text for this story misstated the time period during which the majority of Chicago two-flats were constructed. The correct timeframe is between 1900 and 1920.</em></p></p> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 16:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/tale-two-flat-110681