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Second Chicago Architecture Biennial officially kicks off

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Architecture Biennial Artistic Directors Sharon Johnson and Mark Lee joined together to formally kick off the multi-month exhibition that will showcase the work of dozens of architects and designers from around the globe. With a theme of “Make New History,” this year’s Biennial will explore the role history plays in making new architecture.

Similar to the 2015 edition, this year’s Biennial will call the Chicago Cultural Center its home base. The Biennial will not only display works and exhibits from designers in the building, but the event will transform the Chicago Cultural Center itself by featuring several so-called legacy installations throughout the building’s interior atrium, corridors, and arcade.

In addition to its main hub at the Chicago Cultural Center, the Biennial will feature six neighborhood “anchor sites” outside of downtown. They include the Beverly Arts Center in the Beverly community, the DePaul Art Museum in Lincoln Park, the DuSable Museum of African American History in Washington Park, the Hyde Park Art Center in Hyde Park, the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen, and the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture in Humboldt Park.

This year’s Chicago Architecture Biennial launch aligns with EXPO Chicago, Navy Pier’s annual art and design convention. Running through January 7, 2018, the Biennial will feature 141 participants from 20 countries and will showcase the work from local artists and designers such as Ania Jaworska, Daniel Everett, David Schalliol, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Marshall Brown, Norman Kelley, and many others. The full list of firms and artists participating in this year’s edition can be seen on the Chicago Architecture Biennial’s website.

5 things to do in Chicago this weekend

Riot Fest might be taking over town for the weekend, but there’s still plenty to do, and most of these activities are a whole lot quieter than the riotous fest.

Festival favorite at Music Box

“Columbus” has been one of the darlings of the film festival circuit this year, and it’s also been playing at Music Box Theatre for the last week. If you want to see it, Thursday is your last chance, with shows at 2 p.m., 4:15 p.m., 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. The critically acclaimed drama hits close to home, literally, telling the story of a man who leaves Korea for a return to his Midwestern home in Columbus, Ind., to see his hospitalized, dying father and winds up connecting with a local woman over his dad’s death and her dreams. Tickets: $11 at

Retro rummaging, all about Chicago

Fashion show from creator of Chano’s overalls

Let’s be honest: we’ve all noticed the overalls Chance the Rapper has been rocking occasionally, and we’re all jealous. It’s OK to admit it. Where did he get them? In true Chano fashion, the overalls came from another local, fashion designer Sheila Rashid, whose unisex brand includes the Rapper’s chic overalls. This weekend, you can see Rashid launch her full “Made and Delivered” collection—overalls included—at a fashion show 7 p.m. Friday at The Annex (1620 W. Chicago Ave.). The free show includes sounds spun by Chante’ Linwood, and champagne will be served. RSVP at

Art on Pier-ade

Pizza god

Chef Gabriele Bonci is something of a singular savant when it comes to pizza. Italian Vogue dubbed him “the Michelangelo of pizza,” which comes pretty close to capturing Bonci’s stature when it comes to these pies. The Roman pizza maker recently blessed the West Loop with one of his signature pizzerias, and, at 6:30 p.m. Monday, he’ll be at SoHo House (113 N. Green St.) for a pizza-making party. The pizza is on the house, but bring money for sides and drinks. RSVP to

Obama Foundation to host public meeting for Presidential Center plan

Obama Foundation

The Obama Foundation has announced that it will host a public meeting to discuss plans for the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park and to receive feedback from residents in attendance. According to the organization, the meeting will be held on Thursday, September 14 at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place starting at 5:00 p.m.

A number of key Obama Foundation leaders and designers behind the planned Obama Presidential Center will participate in the public forum, including Michael Strautmanis, the foundation’s Vice President of Civic Engagement, Museum Director Louise Bernard, as well as lead architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien and lead landscape designer Michael Van Valkenburgh.

The public meeting comes after continued frustration surrounding the planning of the presidential museum and library campus, specifically the closed-door nature of previous discussions and events. Last week, the Chicago Sun-Times published an editorial by reporter John Vukmirovich who compares the planning for the Obama Presidential Center to the fictional narrative from the film Chinatown.

“For the past year or so, I have been fretting over the placement of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park, and what that might mean for the taxpayers, regarding not only the “add-ons” that have been made public, but also regarding the fundamental issue at the heart of that project: the turning over of a considerable section of public land to the control of a private concern,” Vukmirovich writes for the Sun-Times. “It’s a done deal and has been for some time, and the now-rising demand for information on the part of community groups and the Sun-Times is just a lot of shrugging, sighing and snorting.”

Obama Foundation

Indeed, concerns over the nature of the planning and the deal with the city have been ongoing since the Obamas selected Chicago for their library and museum campus. Last month, the Obama Foundation announced that the organization would be paying to build its own parking garage for the Obama Presidential Center. The move means that the Obama Foundation will be seeking three to four more public land for the campus project.

However, there are still questions surrounding other logistics like traffic, the removal of hundreds of trees, and the final design for the buildings on the campus.

“As for the more recent news about the Obama Foundation offering to pay for the building of an above-ground parking garage on city land on Midway Plaisance, will the Foundation pay the city for that land, and if so, at what price?” Vukmirovich asks in his recent Sun-Times editorial. “Or, is this another example of a public land giveaway, and are more such giveaways on the horizon?”

Amazon’s Second Headquarters Could Be a Golden Opportunity for Chicago

Amazon employees tend to their dogs as construction continues on three large, glass-covered domes as part of an expansion of the company’s campus in downtown Seattle.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Amazon is seeking bids for a second headquarters location that will be equal in size to its current Seattle base. It would ultimately employ 50,000 people in 8 million square feet of office space at an average salary of over $100,000.

This is going to be the feeding frenzy of the century.

This seems to suggest that Amazon thinks it is about capped out in Seattle, which the Seattle Times recently labeled “America’s biggest company town.” The company has over 8 million square feet of office space and accounts for nearly 20 percent of the city’s total office space. The next biggest footprint of any user in any city is Citi, with only about 3.7 million square feet in New York. (Interestingly, Columbus, Ohio is in second place when it comes to being dominated by a single office user; Nationwide Insurance has 16 percent of the total market. It looks like these may be city, not regional totals).

The impact of Amazon on Seattle has been huge. The pressure that Amazon growth has put on things like housing availability and pricing is tough to measure, but surely huge. Amazon appears to have concluded that the city can’t take anymore.

Seattle is the 15th largest metropolitan area in the U.S., with 3.8 million people. It’s also a highly attractive region with no trouble luring people to move there.  So while Amazon says that it’s open to metro areas of over a million people, realistically, if you want to be as big as Amazon is in Seattle today, you probably need to be in a market as big as Seattle or bigger.

Fifty thousand is a huge number of workers, especially when they are high-skill white-collar ones. Very few cities could easily supply that labor force. Which ones might? Let’s game this out.

Well, the usual coastal suspects can probably swing it. But they have the problem of already having very high costs and hot labor markets for exactly the skills Amazon is seeking—and building restrictions that make growth hard. The Bay Area would be an obvious choice for an HQ, but can it really accommodate one? A better question might be, does it want to? I would suggest similar questions apply to Boston.

Los Angeles/Southern California, New York, and Washington could accommodate an employer that big. Again, high costs are an issue. But especially L.A. and New York are so huge, they can do things other cities can’t. Washington is by its DNA a government town. It’s high-tech, but a lot of that tech is government related.

One intriguing option for Amazon would be New York’s Hudson Yards. Amazon is putting a huge premium on real estate in this RFP, and assuming it wants an urban location, this is one that’s nearly pre-baked. Right now it’s only planned for 6 million square feet of office, with some of that already leased. But I would guess changes could be made and/or other real estate in the area added to the mix. Newark might be a dark horse here.
What, then, are the other cities that could potentially compete? I see four strong contenders: Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. (Houston is very energy focused and dealing with bigger problems right now. Miami and Phoenix are big enough, but could they attract the quantity of tech workers needed?) All of these are large markets with good air service. Chicago and Philly have genuine urban options with genuine urban transit. (I should note: Amazon hasn’t ruled out a suburban location). All of them would surely clear the decks of any obstacles to construction. All of them have much more affordable housing than coastal cities. All have an ability to draw college grads from a large footprint.I would expect these cities to bid aggressively. Dallas and Atlanta really don’t need Amazon, though they would surely want it. For Chicago and Philly, this represents a transformational opportunity.

Rahm Emanuel in Chicago says he’s already had conversations with Bezos. If I were making the choice, Chicago would be at the top of my list. It’s an established urban center that’s a reasonable flight distance from Seattle, with transit, a huge airline, and more. It’s also a slam-dunk draw for every Big Ten school. You can bet that Illinois’s political dysfunction would mysteriously disappear to get a deal done here. One person says Amazon’s staunchly anti-union stance rules out Chicago. We’ll see, but Seattle has strong unions too, and unions are less applicable to a while-collar workforce. Chicago has been looking for a transformational event, and this could be it.Possibly Amazon could also take a chance on scaling some smaller places, like Denver or Minneapolis. I expect everybody to be all over this. And yes, there will be huge government money on the table. Not even the most ardent anti-subsidy person out there is going to take a pass on this.

To me, this is a big test of the thesis that the coasts are capped out, which will force growth into the interior. If Amazon picks a big, established, high-cost coastal center, that will tend to undercut it. We will see.