Officials want feedback on redesigns for Logan Square traffic circle

Four different concepts for the redesign of Logan Square’s traffic circle were presented by the Chicago Department of Transportation at a second community meeting on Tuesday night.

The concepts range from minor work to dramatic improvements and attempt to address the numerous concerns from residents in the area.

The changes are part of CDOT’s initiative to improve North Milwaukee Avenue from Logan Square to Belmont. The department collected feedback after the first public meeting and most comments were concerned with creating a better balance between those who use the area.

People called for more useful and easily accessible green space, improved pedestrian crossings, preservation of the neighborhood identity, creation of a corridor that’s good for businesses and, of course, better traffic flow, according to the project’s presentation.

There were two concepts presented for either dashed or separated bike lanes on Milwaukee Avenue. The dashed bike lanes wouldn’t impact street parking or the curb, while the latter would require more work but is slightly safer for cyclists.

The four plans presented at the meeting for the Logan Square traffic circle take into consideration the community feedback with the first concept offering mild improvements. The second concept includes rerouting Milwaukee Avenue around the square and creates more green space. The third concept is the most dramatic redesign, which has Milwaukee Avenue running through the square and two-way traffic on the west and south sides of the green space. The last concept would reroute Milwaukee Avenue for more public space and create two-way traffic on all streets surrounding the square.

All plans, except for the first, create more public space which was a top request. Pedestrians might favor the latter two concepts and while enhancements for cyclists could really be applied to any plan.

If you’ve got a car, concept two might be the most hassle as it reduces street parking and increases travel times on several streets.

Got an opinion? You can comment on the concepts through CDOT online form. Or, you can let us know in the comments.




Architect Morris Adjmi talks Chicago’s West Loop

After designing the 30-story Landmark West Loop tower along the Eisenhower Expressway at the south edge of the neighborhood, the New York-based architect Morris Adjmi plans to make an even bigger splash in the heart of the Fulton Market District.

The proposed project at at 900 W. Randolph Street, a residential tower that could rise as high as 51 stories, would be a game changer for the area. Its 570-foot height has already sparked some controversyamong community groups.

On Tuesday, January 30, the architect will join representatives from Related Midwest and Tucker Development to unveil plans for the Restaurant Row site. The public presentation is scheduled to take place at 401 N. Morgan Street starting at 6:00 p.m.

In the meantime, Curbed Chicago caught up with Mr. Adjmi to discuss the West Loop, his philosophy and approach to designing projects within historic districts, and the inspiration behind his firm’s soon-to-be-unveiled Fulton Market high-rise.

Image courtesy Morris Adjmi Achitects

Tell us about your firm.

Morris Adjmi: We are really known for our work in or around historic areas such as New York’s Meatpacking District. Our designs are highly contextual and often take on an industrial quality. We’re currently expanding with new projects in cities such as Philadelphia, Washington DC, Tampa, Miami, New Orleans, and—of course—Chicago.

What is your philosophy for designing buildings within historic areas?

MA: We like to spend time looking at specific neighborhoods, doing our research, and walking the streets. Every area has its own design language and understanding that is a great starting point. We look at materials that are compatible—not necessarily the same—as their surroundings.

Considering a specific site, you then have to really pay attention to things like the size of the building, its depth, how its articulated, how it fits into the existing streetwall, and engages the neighborhood at street level. These are things we looked at for our projects in the West Loop.

How does your approach differ when it comes to the West Loop versus the Meat Packing District?

MA: Every neighborhood is obviously unique but I think the two areas are more similar than different. They share many aspects such as scale, size of street, the kinds of activity, the predominance of brick as a building material.

Both areas are also stand alone compared to other parts of their respective cities. For instance, the West Loop feels very different than downtown Chicago, just like how Meatpacking is different than the parts of New York that were regularized post-Commission’s Grid of 1811.

What was the design process like for 900 W. Randolph?

The articulated facade of Adjmi’s Samsung Building in New York features a twisting, dimensional design.
 Image courtesy of Morris Adjmi Architects

MA: A big part of the design comes from the site itself. The restoration of the other historic buildings on three sides allowed for some of floor area to be transferred over [to the tower].

We also looked to the surroundings to create a streetscape that embraces the height of the neighbors by matching the existing streetwall and then setting the larger part of the building further back. This [approach] is consistent with the design guidelines for the West Loop.

What was your inspiration?

MA: I feel that all of our projects share at least some common DNA. For the Landmark West Loop project, I looked back at some of the detailing and articulation from Mies van der Rohe to inform the exaggerated channels and beams.

On the Randolph project, we drew inspiration from the bridges, the ‘L’, and some of the larger infrastructure and engineering projects found throughout Chicago.

Does the project take cues from the Chicago school of structural expressionism?

An elevation drawing from 900 W. Randolph’s zoning application. Renderings of the project will be publicly released later this week.
Chicago City Clerk

MA: Bingo. Yes. When I look at Chicago, I feel that is such a big part of its architectural language. It’s something that is appreciated by Chicagoans and by people around the world. And it’s something we tried to tap into.

Do you subscribe to the Mies van der Rohe approach of ‘I don’t want to be interesting. I want to be good.’

MA: Great quote, one of the best. If that can apply to what we are doing, we are on the right path. And look at all the Mies copycat buildings out there. It’s only when you see the real deal up close, you can understand what he was trying to do with the facade depth, materials, and details.

How do you balance contextualism and making a bold statement?

MA: It is a fine line. One of the first projects that I worked in a historic district was in Soho with [architect] Aldo Rossi and the description in the New York Times read “a building stands out by fitting in.” And that’s what I try to do on every project. A project needs a strong sense of place to work well within its given context.

When a building is all flash, I feel people quickly get tired of it. Instead, I want to design a building that lends itself to re-examination and discovery every time you see it. A lot of Chicago’s best buildings achieve that well.

U. of C.’s new dorm could transform Woodlawn into a college neighborhood

The University of Chicago is starting the final phase in a decade-long plan to pull its undergraduate students out of apartment buildings in Hyde Park and move them to new dorms closer to campus.

On Tuesday night, the university announced plans for a new 1,300-bed residence hall on the corner of Woodlawn Avenue and 61st Street. When the Woodlawn Residential Commons opens in 2020, it will mean that for the first time ever more U. of C. undergraduates will live in Woodlawn than in Hyde Park.

It’s the biggest and likely final step in a $450 million-plus plan for the university to make good on its promise of a Hogwarts-style dorm life for more of its students and to get the university on the same level as its peers in offering more and better residential options on campus. What’s evolved over time is a slow migration of U. of C. students out of Hyde Park and into Woodlawn.

Woodlawn now has the chance to increasingly become the neighborhood where the students live, while Hyde Park remains more for faculty.

The addition of the 811-bed Granville-Grossman Residential Commons at Ellis Avenue and 61st Street in 2009 did little to shake the make-up of Woodlawn, which has overwhelmingly attracted young African American families to rent the plethora of still-cheap apartments, according to Census data. But adding another 1,300 students two blocks east could push more students to rent near their friends that are still in the dorms in Woodlawn.

The question is whether the new dorm and critical mass of students will create the genesis of a coffee shop and bar scene that Woodlawn was once famous for. With the Obama Presidential Center also coming to Woodlawn, the new wave of college kids might be big enough to convince anyone who was still on the fence.

The Woodlawn Residential Commons will be the university’s largest dorm when it opens in 2020, with a series of four towers rising up to 16 stories out of a single-story dining hall. Like the university’s other recent dorm projects, each tower will be sectioned off into three-story “houses.” Essentially, the school’s version of the Harry Potter universe’s Gryffindor or Hufflepuff, with their own traditions and crests sporting an owl, lion, or squid.

On its surface, the plan has always been for the university to live up to the brochure hype and let more of its undergraduate students into the heraldic-themed houses headed by wizened faculty members who live down the hall.

Though it’s unique to the university and definitely jives with the dark Gothic Burton-Judson Courts, only a little more than half of undergraduates have ever gotten into a “house,” with most living in apartments off campus.

Longtime dean of the undergraduate College, John Boyer, recognized back in 2008 that the university had something interesting on its hands to attract students and was also well out-of-step with its peers, which were rebuilding dorms closer to campus with more of the amenities students expected.

“The University of Chicago now ranks as the lowest among top private universities in the United States in its rate of housing undergraduate students in our own residential system, having relied for many decades on the ability of (and willingness of) our students to garner cheap flats or rooms in the neighborhood,” Boyer wrote in 2008.

After the new dorm opens, the university will have hit it’s goal of getting 70 percent of students to live on campus, adding a total of 10 new houses. Though it will still be below peers like Yale or Brown universities, where more than 85 percent of students live on campus.

It also helps the university catch up to its competitors, which have invested heavily in stylish new dorms that are more akin to an apartment living. The spaces offer privacy, meeting rooms and upscale common areas.

U. of C. got the message when it opened the Studio Gang-designed Campus North Residence Hall in 2016, replacing Pierce Hall, where students complained about exploding toilets and whose brutalist design looked increasingly outdated.

The addition of Woodlawn Residential Commons aims to complete that update by getting nearly two-thirds of undergraduates into dorms built within the last 10 years. The remaining undergraduates have the option of living in the historic gothic residence halls that define the university campus.

The question now, is what happens to Hyde Park when students move out? And how will Woodlawn adjust as students move in?

CTA reveals route, four new stations for Far South Side Red Line extension

The planned extension of the Chicago Transit Authority’s Red Line from 95th Street south to 130th Street took a big step forward Friday as officials announced the proposed path for the long-overdue transit improvement project.

Departing from the soon-to-be-revamped 95th Street terminal, the “preferred alignment”—or route—would run along the west side of the Union Pacific Railroad line to about 109th Street. From there, it would move to the east side of the U.P. tracks and continue south, cross the Metra Electric tracks near 119th street, and finally terminate at 130th Street.

According to the CTA, the final alignment was reached based on feedback from the community and a desire to acquire as few private properties as possible. While earlier iterations of the extension could have consumed as many as 259 parcels, the current plan limits acquisitions to 154 privately owned lots, reports the Chicago Tribune.

In addition to 5.3 miles of new track, the extension calls for the creation of four new stations at 103rd Street, 111th Street, Michigan Avenue near 115thStreet, and—of course—a 130th Street terminal in the Far South Side community of Riverdale.

The news is a key milestone for an infrastructure project that will bring vital rail service to residents of Chicago’s Far South Side as well as “the jobs and economic opportunities that go with it,” said Mayor Emanuel in a statement.

Construction on the $2.3 billion undertaking is dependent on funding and will require the CTA to seek financing from both local and federal governmental sources. The creation of a transit-specific Tax Increment Financing district for the project is a possibly, but so far no decision regarding TIF has been made.

Record-breaking number of tourists visit Chicago in 2017

Chicago saw 55.2 million visitors in 2017; as a result, the city set a new tourism record and reached the mayor’s goal a few years early.

Chicago also collected a few noteworthy titles, including Conde Nast’s Best Big City in the U.S., Bon Appetit’s Restaurant City of the Year, Time Out’s Best City in the World for Having It All, and was Expedia’s most searched for city.

Those new gold stars and millions of visitors help bolster the city’s tourism industry. The mayor’s office announced that more than 146,000 jobs supported the hospitality sector, which has grown 17 percent since 2010. Just to compare, Chicago saw 39.25 million visitors in 2010.

The 55.2 million people that traveled to the new Midwest ‘it’ destination represents a 2.5 increase over the previous year. That jump helped the mayor reach his proclaimed tourism goal two years early too.

McCormick Place, North America’s largest convention center was quite busy in 2017. Out of the 40 largest conventions hosted there, more than half increased attendance from the prior year, the mayor said. Just next door, the Marriott Marquis hotel delivered more than 1,000 rooms and the Wintrust Arena opened. There’s no doubt that those major projects had a hand in boosting convention crowds.

The demand for places to stay is swelling—the number of rooms occupied in 2017 increased by 3.3 percent, according to the mayor’s office. And in the summer, hotels said “leisure visitors,” were nearly double what they had been previously.

It’s clear developers have taken notice of these demands. Five new hotels opened in 2017 and eight more are scheduled to open this year. The Ace Hotel and Robey Hotel were two high profile openings this past year and notable projects in the pipeline include the Moxy Hotel, Navy Pier’s boutique hotel and a handful of developments in Fulton Market.