Quick Hits

February 27, 2009 Chicago Buildings, Economics Comments (1) 1115

Word is out that the Rosenwald is threatened again – the stunning Michigan Terrace Garden Apartments, an early affordable (not subsidized) housing scheme by Chicago’s greatest philanthropist of the early 20th century, Julius Rosenwald. Economic downturns help preservation by steering moneymad wasters away from random demolitions and harebrained development schemes, but they also stymie big projects like the Rosenwald that were getting ready to happen.The other big preservation news in Chicago is the Appellate Court decision, which I presume the city has already appealed. An attorney on the North Side whose hobby is suing the city about zoning and a person of similar avocation in East Village managed to find some judges unaware of U.S. Supreme Court precedent to declare the Chicago Landmarks Ordinance “vague” in its criteria and remanded to the lower court, which would presumably throw out the ordinance. The effect of this? Nothing. Why?

  1. The City has the power to landmark buildings with or without a landmarks ordinance. Every Chicago Landmark is designated as an individual legislative act by the City Council. The judges seem to be confused about who does the designation. You won’t get the Illinois Supreme Court to challenge a home rule legislative body. Believe me, I’ve tried.
  2. The ordinance is like the other 2600 in the United States. They are equally vague. Even Houston designates landmarks, and it has no zoning. Maybe the hapless attorney should move there.
  3. Chicago has a belt and suspenders. We have the 90-day demolition delay based on our comprehensive Chicago Historic Resources Survey, which is a level of precision a judge who had been rated as qualified would notice. Most landmarks fall under this law.
  4. Even though the plaintiffs argued it, the decision did not mention downzoning efforts in the two neighborhoods. Maybe that’s why Jack Guthman stopped talking about it. He thought, reasonably, that his 25-year old argument was being validated, only to find that the judge completely whiffed it.
  5. Meanwhile, in Oak Park they are demolishing the Colt Building and others on Westgate in preparation for a new development – wait, hold the phone – the developer backed out.

That means the demolition is?
I can see it now: Skate on Lake! Gallery Colt!
I was in favor of getting rid of the Colt if it saved the rest of Westgate, which was the plan in 2005.


But I also watched the demolition of Block 37 in 1989 for a new development.


And I watched the new development being completed.

This Tuesday.

It’s not done yet.

The timing between the demolition of 8 historic buildings on Block 37 and the completion of the new development they were sacrificed for?
How about a short list of the things that happened (besides my getting married, having children, hair turning gray)

Berlin Wall demolished
First Gulf War
Chicago Heat Wave
Six Chicago Bulls Championships
Current Gulf Wars
East Timor
Sox World Series


yes, the hometown of Chinese communism built all this while Block 37 lay vacant.
The Macarena
Harry Potter
Lord of the Rings trilogy and 3 James Bonds
iPods iPhones Wiis Facebook MySpace and most of the Internet
Bush, Clinton, Clinton, Bush, Bush


Now, to be fair, this building took longer to build than Block 37:


But come on guys, that was 800 years ago.

One Response to :
Quick Hits

  1. When I lived in Chicago, I remember the destruction of the buildings that compromised Block 37. They came down because the developer was ready to build that big, fancy, multi-story building.

    I visited Chicago this past December and saw the very low-rise building that is finally being constructed on the site. This square block should become one of the text book examples of one of the worst urban planning decisions ever made.

    We had a landmarks judicial battle here in LA a couple of years ago. A judge threw out the Los Angeles Historic Preservation Overlay Zone law, but another judge ruled in favor of the city’s HPOZs. I cannot belive that any court, in Chicago, Illinois or the U.S. will uphold the ididiotic ruling by the Appellate Court.

    But, one fool judge, or group of them, and anything can happen.

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