CategoryArchitecture

Chicago may get its first on-street bike parking corral today

Well, it won’t actually be built or open for “business” today.

The Wicker Park-Bucktown SSA (#33) will vote Tuesday at 7 PM on a motion (PDF) on whether or not to spend $4,000 to pay CDOT to install the city’s first on-street bike parking corral on Milwaukee near Damen in front of the Flat Iron building in Alderman Moreno’s 1st Ward. I plan to attend the meeting.

This location will serve Bank of America customers, Debonair clubgoers, and artists and gallery visitors at the the Flat Iron Arts Building. Note that the bike parking would be paid for by the Special Service Area’s revenue, which comes from taxing businesses in the district.

This won’t be the first bike parking corral in Illinois – that honor probably goes to Oak Park, a village east of Chicago. And it won’t be the first in the Midwest. Minneapolis, Ann Arbor, and Milwaukee will have beat us. In fact, Milwaukee’s first bike parking corral opened last Friday, May 6, 2011, in front of an Alterra café.

See list of cities around the world with bike parking corrals.

Oak Park’s on-street bike parking corral at 719 South Blvd., next to David A. Noyes Company and Anthony Lullo’s hair designs. I probably wouldn’t have selected this location, but it’s also across the street from the Oak Park Green Line station, so it can serve as overflow parking. Notice that at least 12 bicycles can park in the same space a car can park.

Milwaukee’s first on-street bike parking corral at 2211 N. Prospect Ave.,  designed by Chris Socha of The Kubala Washatko Architects and fabricated by Ryan Foat, Principal of Oxbow Studio. Photo by Dave Reid of UrbanMilwaukee.com.

Listening to Jeanne Gang

Buy the book, Reveal.

Jeanne Gang is Chicago’s “in-house” starchitect. Sure we’ve got Adrian Smith (Burj Khalifa), but he’s jumping around the world while Jeanne (like Jeanie) has been maintaining Chicago’s status as a city with architectural and design marvels.

Architecture critic Lynn Becker calls her part of the Chicago “third school”:

Gang, Garofalo, Ronan, and other local rising stars are on the verge of defining a third Chicago school of architecture, following in the footsteps of Sullivan, Burnham, and Root in the 19th century and Mies van der Rohe in the 20th. This new school won’t be characterized by the kind of uniform visual style that marked the architecture of Mies or Frank Lloyd Wright, but by diversity, changeability, and an intellectual restlessness that compulsively tests accepted wisdom. (From the Chicago Reader)

People around here know her for the Aqua Tower (see my dramatic photos) and J.C. Gabel and her talked a lot about it at a recent book release party in the Stop Smiling storefront at 1371 N Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park. But enough about that tower, I’d rather mention something else.

In the photo above you see a model of interior of a University of Chicago study room. Think about all the dramatic films that take place in heralded college campuses: the study room in the library is a big hall with desks in neat rows for quiet, private research. But more often students must work in groups and need closed off spaces to avoid disturbing others. So Studio Gang Architects envisioned little cubicle rooms and built the 3D model of the study room and then threw in an ice cube tray to represent the cubicles.

Said Gang about the ice cube tray, and I’m paraphrasing, “Our studio, like many others, has a 3D printer so we can quickly create models of our work. But all the models end up looking the same. We just wanted to envision it differently.”

One of the coolest parts of the evening was when this self-identified substitute teacher (in above photo) stood up to talk about one of his students, an 8th grader who has a knack for drawing and 3D computer design. Someone at the school asked the student to design a new campus building. The teacher was concerned about the student’s design being stolen or ripped off and wanted advice on how he can protect his work. Jeanne laughed and said she didn’t think she would be asked to talk about copyright laws tonight. She then said that the student should continue his passion for drawing and that manual drawing was a dying but still revered skill. Jeanne agreed to meet with the student and teacher afterwards to take a look at his drawing. (I saw the drawing on paper the student made as well as the version he drew in Google SketchUp – very impressive.)

Buy the book, Reveal.

Livable cities in Russia

When you blog, you “meet” a lot of interesting people around the world. Russian blogger Vladimir Zlokazov writes LiveStreets in both Russian and English. Although he doesn’t translate everything into English, what he does is high quality and methodically written.

His latest English article is a critique of a developer’s plan for a neighborhood in Yekaterinburg, population 1,293,537.

Academichesky – is promoted by the developer (Renova Stroygroup) as a project that utilizes the most innovative practices in architecture and urban planning. However the first built blocks clearly show that advertisment promises are not always consistent with the reality.

He offers suggestions for curb radius, intersection design, bicycle paths through intersections, appropriate locations for parking spaces (stay off the sidewalk!) and curb cuts. The draw for his particular critique are the beautiful 3D architectural renderings to show the suggested solutions in place.

“In places where pedestrian and bicycle crossings are located afar from the intersections additional measures should be taken to make them clearly visible for motorists. Such as using coloured asphalt for instance.”

Olgivanna Lloyd Wright had the right idea

According to my tour guide at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona, it was Frank Lloyd Wright’s third wife, Olgivanna, who suggested that he open a studio in a warmer state as a place to spend winter. (His winter studio is in Spring Green, Wisconsin.)

Looking north at the studio (left) and dorms (above).

Our wonderful tour guide. She graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

See more photos of my Thanksgiving trip to Arizona, including to the Grand Canyon National Park.

Metra 35th St. station surely won’t win any design awards

UPDATE 04-07-11: The station opened on April 3, 2011. Blair Kamin explains why it doesn’t look as good as originally designed:

It didn’t have to be this way. The Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill came up with a promising design for the station, one that justified the demolition of a Mies-designed brick hut that reportedly served as the entrance to an underground testing facility for explosives during the Cold War.

But then, things went seriously off the rails.

This new Metra commuter/regional rail station at 35th Street and Wentworth/Federal won’t win any design awards. Neither will the Lovana S. “Lou” Jones/Bronzeville Station stand out for having such a generic design.

The station under construction as of October 3, 2010.

Artist’s renderings of the station and street-level plaza, looking northwest. Left photo from Metra’s website and right photo from Singh & Associates’s website.

The amount of visible concrete used in the stairs and ramps construction (one complete set on either side of the tracks) is fitting if you consider the station’s surroundings: a 12-lane highway (the Dan Ryan, I90/94), thousands of surface auto parking spaces to the west (for the White Sox stadium), and an empty lot.

But what if we looked for design inspiration from the east?

Imagine a station shelter modeled after the sound mitigation “tube” over the Illinois Institute of Technology McCormick-Tribune Campus Center a few blocks away at State Street designed by Rem Koolhaas.

Photos above taken by Steven Crane.

Throw in some curves like the Canary Wharf stations on the Jubilee and Docklands Light Railway lines.

Photo of the Canary Wharf Docklands Light Railway (DLR) station by stephenk1977.

Photo of the Canary Wharf Jubilee Underground Line station by Payton Chung.

Companies involved:

Open letter to Blair Kamin about Safeway and Dominick’s

Blair Kamin, the Chicago Tribune’s architecture critic wrote about the new LEED-certified Dominick’s* (Safeway) grocery store in Lincoln Square at Lincoln and Berwyn. This store features copious bike parking of a decent quality and design (see photo below).

In February 2009, I wrote a letter to the General Manager at their 3145 S Ashland store (read my letter). Someone at the company promptly made a request to the City of Chicago in March 2009 for a bike rack. The request was denied because the store is too far away from the nearest public right-of-way.

The following is my letter to Blair Kamin, John Hilkevitch (Tribune transportation writer), and the CEO of Safeway, Steve Burd.

Dear Blair,

I would like your help in getting better accommodations for bike riders at a local Dominick’s.

I read your article about the new, LEED-certified Dominick’s in Lincoln Square with copious bike parking available. (This should help with the potential auto parking issues you identified by encouraging people to bike to the store.)

The Dominick’s nearest me, at 3145 S Ashland, underwent major renovation in 2008 and 2009. People who ride their bicycles to the store (myself included) locked them to the shopping cart guard rails that were removed during renovation.

Bike parking was not included in this renovation.

LEED certification shouldn’t be the only impetus for installing bike parking. Currently it only gains the development 1 point and more than 40 are needed (more for Bronze, Gold, Silver, or Platinum). Installing bike parking should be an economic decision.

A single bike rack (holding two bikes) will cost less than $300 and require no maintenance for at least 5 years (some bike racks installed by the City are over 10 years old and look/work fine). A car parking space costs $1,000 per year to maintain.

We currently lock to garbage bins in a sheltered area near the store entrance. I ask that Dominick’s install real bike parking here in 2010. If they do, I’ll then ask them to work on the bike parking situations at their other stores (like the store at 1340 S Canal).

Thank you for your attention to bicycle infrastructure matters in Chicago.

Steven Vance
http://www.stevevance.net

P.S. The Dominick’s at 3145 S Ashland also has the unfortunate situation of being in a strip mall far away from any public roads. This precludes the City from installing bike racks; the nearest public space is more than 50 feet away.

Jewel…you’re up next!

The bike parking area at the new Dominick’s grocery store in Lincoln Square. Sure beats locking to a garbage bin at the Dominick’s at 3145 S Ashland in Bridgeport. That store underwent renovation in 2008 and 2009.

What bike parking at 3145 S Ashland looks like.

*The store is not yet LEED certified. Blair reports it’s expected to receive a Silver rating.

Update on the new Chicago harbor

Since I posted an article about new, non-auto infrastructure projects in Chicago, a lot of people looking for information on the 31st Street Harbor (now visibly underway) have come across my blog. For them, I give this update.

A new breakwater and new piers will be built. I really want to know what the floating eyeballs are for. I imagine they’re markers for construction.

I was counting people entering the Lakefront Trail from the 31st Street access point yesterday for an Active Transportation Alliance project. Afterwards, I moseyed over to get a glance at the construction.

This photo shows how the pier has been closed for construction. I hardly see anyone using the pier except just to walk down and back – it seems few people fish here.

Typical Bean behavior

When you visited the Chicago Bean (er, Cloud Gate), did you do this?

How else did you see your own reflection?

Would you believe me if I told you this was the singular most popular attraction in the Second City?

Non-auto construction projects in Chicago

There are 17 construction projects listed here and none are about automobiles. Additionally, there is information about 2 studies for bus rapid transit-like projects.

Download all of these into Google Earth with this KML file.

A couple of these projects are being held up by the current Illinois roadway construction workers’ strike. UPDATE: Apparently a deal has been reached to end the strike.

Streetscapes

  • Blue Island/Cermak – I wrote about this project at length in October 2009. Construction should begin as soon as the strike is resolved. CONSTRUCTION UPDATE, 10-21-10: Bioswale, or creek, is mostly complete at Benito Juarez Community Academy (BJCA). Plaza with permeable pavers, and sheltered bike parking also complete. Photos here.
  • Congress Parkway – Full details and renderings from CDOT (PDF). Project should begin in 2010 and will narrow lanes, reduce number of lanes, straighten lanes (no more mid-intersection lane shifts), widen sidewalks, and improve crosswalks. Will add a lot of landscaping and unique and decorative lighting.
  • PROPOSED: Lawrence Avenue between Ashland and Western. Reduce the number of travel lanes from four to three, adding bike lanes and a center turn lane. Project limits include the rebuilt Ravenswood Metra station at 1800 W Lawrence. More details on Center Square Journal. Construction wouldn’t begin until 2011.

Transit

  • Morgan/Lake Green and Pink Line CTA station (new) – Details and renderings from CDOT (PDF) – Overview from Chicago Transit Authority – Tons of bike parking included at the beginning, how it should be. Construction should start this year. To better serve the West Loop area, where more people are moving to, but also has lots of existing businesses.
  • State/Grand Red Line CTA station renovation – Construction should finish this year.
  • 35th/Federal Rock Island Metra station (new) – Construction started in 2010.
  • LaSalle/Congress Intermodal Center – To improve connection between buses and the LaSalle Metra station. Mentioned in the Congress Parkway streetscape presentation (PDF).
  • Wilson Red Line CTA station renovation – Down the street from a new Target store that opens this weekend and hundreds of brand new housing units in the Wilson Yard development. Will use TIF funds from the Wilson Yard district. Overview on CTA Tattler.
  • Ravenswood Metra Station – A popular station on the Union Pacific-North line (to Kenosha). Will add longer and sheltered platform and become accessible. Details with Chicago Square Journal.
  • FLOATING: New Green Line CTA station at 18th or Cermak. Roosevelt station serves three lines. South Loop neighborhood fast growing. The new station would improve transit access to McCormick Place (at least if built at Cermak). Follow the Chicago Journal for more news on this topic.

morgan cta station rendering

Rendering from the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) showing context-sensitive design. See the full presentation (PDF) for architectural influences.

Bridges

  • Halsted Street over North Branch Canal of the Chicago River. Replaces 99-year old moveable span with fixed span. No information on how it will accommodate the Halsted Street bike lane. Construction to begin in 2010 (PDF). CDOT project number 74062.
  • Navy Pier Flyover – Elevated section of the Lakefront Trail to bypass current bottleneck where the Lakefront Trail currently enters the Lake Shore Drive bridge over the Chicago River and DuSable park. Details from CDOT presentation on July 15, 2010.
  • PROPOSED: 35th Street pedestrian bridge over Metra/Illinois Central tracks and Lake Shore Drive to lakefront and Lakefront Trail. Bridge will be self-anchored suspension, like the new Bay Bridge from Oakland to San Francisco. Overview on Burnham Centennial (drawing says 2007).

Rendering of the Navy Pier Flyover as it travels over the Lakepoint Tower condominiums as seen at the Cities and Bicycles forum with David Byrne in June at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Other

  • Various CREATE projects. All CREATE projects involve railroads in some way and most projects will construct grade separations. I’ve written about CREATE.
  • The Chicago Park District opened a new beach at Oakwood/41st Street this year. The grand opening for the beach house happened this past Saturday.
  • The Chicago Park District is currently building a harbor and marina immediately south of the 31st Street beach. The Public Building Commission of Chicago has the details and renderings. AECOM, the architect of record, produced these concept drawings (PDF). It appears how bike riders currently navigate the intersection at the entrance to the beach will change to be a little more normal and not force bike riders on the sidewalk. It’s unclear how many new parking spaces are being created along the lakefront – the fewer the better. The concept plan shows a new parking lot on the west side of the railroad tracks, a design I wholly support.
  • FLOATING: Luann Hamilton mentioned at the Cities and Bicycles forum with David Byrne in June that CDOT was thinking about a buffered bike lane on Wells Street.

31st street harbor concept rendering

Rendering of the 31st Street harbor concept plan. As seen in the contractor’s presentation to the Public Building Commission of Chicago.

Related

Although not construction projects, two additional proposals merit your attention. The Chicago Department of Transportation and the Chicago Transit Authority each received grants this month to study and develop two corridors with bus rapid transit-like features. CDOT’s plan is to develop a priority bus lanes for up to seven routes between the Metra stations and Navy Pier and North Michigan Avenue (the Miracle Mile). Thank you to Kevin Z for the update.

CTA’s grant money is to fund the development of a speedy bus service from the southeast side to the West Loop via the north-south Jeffrey Avenue.

Chicago’s big box saga continues

The Chicago big box saga is a tale of who gets to build where, how big, and how much wage it pays. It can be extended to include debates on store design.

While big box stores were built here before the first Wal-Mart in Chicago, the saga begins with that megastore. The City Council passed a “living wage” ordinance (also called the big box wage ordinance) that required stores with over 90,000 square feet and $1 billion in revenue to pay their employees a minimum of $10 per hour, and an additional $3 per hour in fringe benefits. The Mayor vetoed the ordinance. Wal-Mart built its store in the Austin neighborhood and paid their normal wage (in 2010 it seems to be $8.75). It won’t be until 2011 (at the earliest) that the second Wal-Mart will open in Pullman.

An urban-friendly Best Buy in the same complex as a senior citizen assisted living center.

Meanwhile, Target opens new Chicago stores in McKinley Park and West Rogers Park (on Peterson Avenue), both in 2006. Best Buy opened stores on Elston Avenue, Belmont Avenue, Clark Street, Roosevelt Road, and Michigan Avenue. Kohl’s, a discount department store, opened a store alongside Best Buy on Elston (to the tune of 130,000 square feet, on par with Wal-Mart) in 2005. Home Depot and Menards have also opened stores since the big box ordinance veto in 2006 seemingly without a hitch.

This month, Target proposed to a group of residents and the 2nd Ward Alderman, Robert Fioretti, a new store at Jackson and Aberdeen in the West Loop. Many residents were disappointed by the store design. At least one resident didn’t understand the need for a store with the South Loop store on Roosevelt so close.

How the saga can end

The prevailing wages at big box stores in Chicago should be researched. The current research about Wal-Mart and big box stores’ tax revenue contributions should be validated by additional studies. There are several universities up to this task, and mine, the University of Illinois at Chicago, has released multiple studies – here’s one about localized job creation and elimination.

With solid background information, alderman and city agencies, as well as residents, can potentially make better informed and more effective decisions about the future of large-scale retailing in Chicago.

More of this please (Home Depot hardware store in dense neighborhood)…

…And less of these.

Lastly, the City Council and Zoning and Planning departments should set design standards for this style of shopping to ensure urban friendly and transit oriented developments. Home Depot and Target should be lauded for their stores on Halsted Street in Lincoln Park (more info), and on Roosevelt Road in South Loop, respectively*. However, each has since built their typical suburban monstrosities in other neighborhoods, that neither recognize that some customers would like to arrive by car (instead by transit or bike), nor consider the environment (minimum-size parking lots make a large contribution to the city’s current problems managing stormwater runoff). Future Wal-Marts should promote sustainable design.

First and second photos by Payton Chung. Third photo by PonderInc.

*While the Target in McKinley Park (Chicago) is LEED Certified, the South Loop store probably has an annual lower carbon footprint because of all the visitors who arrive by transit and bike. The South Loop store is near a major train station and several bus routes (at least five). The McKinley store is on a highway and two bus routes.

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