Appellate nuttiness

January 31, 2009 Chicago Buildings, Historic Districts Comments (3) 1247

Crain’s is reporting this afternoon that the Illinois Appellate Court struck down Chicago’s landmarks ordinance as unconstitutionally vague. This is a victory for some guy called Hannah who spends his time suing the city. I don’t know if it is because of his inability to compete with other developers, but his tack is to change the rules rather than abide by them. He got three justices (elected? connected??) to agree with him.

Insane. I wonder if they are familiar with the US Supreme Court’s rulings on local landmarks ordinances. Or the Chicago Historic Resources Survey, which makes the local landmarks law more comprehensive than even our zoning ordinance. And how will the alderman react to the court taking away one of their powers??? Who bought this one and for how much? The city says they will take it to the Illinois Supreme Court but officially it is a remand to Circuit. Continue Reading

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how does economics work?

April 22, 2008 Economics, Historic Districts Comments (0) 1335

There was a great symposium Saturday at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, one of several in conjunction with their exhibit on the history of Chicago preservation: “Do We Dare Squander Chicago’s Great Architectural Heritage?” that runs through May 9 (See it now!). Prof. Bob Bruegmann opened it up with an excellent history of teardowns and the inquisitive, expectation-overturning perspective he brings to everything. Prof. Richard Dye, an economist, explained the economics of teardowns. Both men suggested that an upside of teardowns was that they shouldered a bigger portion of the tax base, a fact that neighbors of teardowns are perhaps loath to admit. Bob did note that increased values could mean higher taxes for the teardown-adjacent in their little historic houses as well, and he also sagely discussed the new penchant for small houses, which are of course greener and thus more chic and popular with the wealthy. Continue Reading

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Landmarks Can Kill You

October 17, 2005 Chicago Buildings, Economics Comments Off on Landmarks Can Kill You 1173

There was a Commission on Chicago Landmarks hearing last week on the designation of the East Village district, and I heard one of the best ones yet. In over two decades of landmarks hearings at the Commission and before the City Council I have heard some amazing arguments against landmark designation. People claim they need 2,000 square foot additions to their rowhouse in order to raise children without hardship and if the Commission denies it they are all but abusing the children (sometimes as yet unconceived) and hindering their education. I heard a woman argue against designation of her old house because it was too close to the street and the buses, a fact which she then implicated in the deaths of both of her parents. Don’t designate this house – it is a killer.

The aldermen always get the best lines. I will never forget the 1987 City Council hearing on the possible designation of the Chicago Building when one alderman asked “Haven’t we already designated a building with Chicago windows?” My internal reply was “Isn’t there already one pyramid at Giza?” They voted designation down that day, but it made it a few years later and now the Chicago Building is an SAIC dorm! Continue Reading

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