TagLake Michigan

Finding teardowns in Chicago

1923 South Allport Avenue, built 1884

A recent suspected teardown, at 1923 S Allport in Pilsen (25th Ward, 19th place for teardowns from 2006 to now). The demolition permit was issued August 7 and the new construction permit was issued August 5. The new building will have an increase in density, with three dwelling units. Photo by Gabriel Michael.

From Wikipedia, a teardown is a “process in which a real estate company or individual buys an existing home and then demolishes and replaces it with a new one”.

You can find suspected* teardowns in the building permits data on Licensed Chicago Contractors by looking for demolition permits and new construction permits for the same address. I limited my search to situations where the demolition permit was issued within 60 days prior or subsequent to the new construction permit. This shows properties that have a quick turnaround (thus more likely to get built). I didn’t want to include buildings that may have been demolished one year and got a building two years later.

Analysis

This analysis is based on data since January 1, 2006, the start of the first complete year of building permits data in the Chicago open data portal, and ends today. The first demolition permit in this analysis was issued January 10, 2006, and its associated new construction permit was issued five days prior. There may be a case when the demolition permit and new construction permits were issued in different years, but for this analysis I only consider the year in which the demolition permit was issued. (In my review of permits since March I believe that new construction permits are issued most often after the demolition permit.)

Suspected teardowns

The number for teardowns decreased dramatically as the economic crisis approached.

Results

There were 1,717 suspected teardowns in Chicago distributed across 57 community areas (of 77, whose boundaries don’t change) and 45 wards (of 50, whose boundaries changed in 2012).

West Town, Lake View, and North Center share top billing, with the most teardowns each year, but Lake View was #1 for seven of 10 years. Other top five community areas comprise Logan Square (thrice), Lincoln Square (thrice), Bridgeport (twice), McKinley Park (once), and Near West Side (once).

From 2012 to current, the most teardowns occurred in Wards 32 (Waguespack), 47 (Pawar), 1 (Moreno), 44 (Tunney), and 43 (Smith). All of those wards include parts of the top three community areas mentioned above.

The sixth ward with the most teardowns in this period was 2 (Fioretti) but this boundary no longer represents any part of the pre-2012 boundary that covered almost the entire South Loop. That means Ward 2 is now covering the west side. Additionally, the 2nd Ward made sixth place with 28 teardowns and fifth place, the 43rd Ward had 60 teardowns.

The South Loop, represented by the Near South Side community area, has had 0 suspected teardowns from 2012 to now. There was one teardown in the entire time period, where a three-story commercial was demolished at 1720 S Michigan Ave and replaced with a 32-story residential tower.

What else do you want to know about teardowns in Chicago?

* Notes

I use “suspected” because it’s impossible to know from the data if buildings were actually demolished and constructed.

Download the data as CSV for yourself.

31st Street marina is open for business, with boat slips, boat launch, and new playground

In this photo you can see the new community center and harbor master office, picnic tables, parking garage, and shade sails on the roof of the community center. 

I completely agree with Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin’s description of those colored trees: “garishly painted recycled trees that goes overboard in an attempt to create a festive atmosphere”. I would prefer to see them removed and real trees take their place. I was saddened to see mature-growth trees being removed during construction. I appreciate a lot of the new features the marina brings to Burnham Park, like the upgraded playground, a small park on the pier and a bike trail that should bypass a lot of beachgoer traffic.

These mature trees were replaced with…

…these garish trees.

The sign in the background is outdated and should be replaced. To access the trail from 31st Street you ride down the driveway and then enter the sidewalk.

This playground looks like a lot of fun. It has a climbing wall! 

I have some criticisms about the new design of how people access 31st Street from the Lakefront Trail and vice versa.

1. The distance from 31st Street to the LFT has increased from the previous design. Before there was a short hill to traverse from the street to the trail. Now one must enter the trail by sharing the driveway with automobiles, then entering a sidewalk, and then entering the trail. At this sidewalk entrance, there’s an outdated sign. It says “Yield to pedestrians in crosswalk” when state law says motorists must “stop for pedestrians in crosswalks”. I think this sign should be immediately replaced.

The crosswalk that connects the sole sidewalk leading people from 31st Street to the beach house should be here, instead of 50 feet further south as this is the quickest way to reach the beach (actually the quickest way is to walk through the grass on the left side of this photo or through the shrubs left of the photo, off screen). 

2. This crosswalk is also too far from the beach house and people will be crossing the street at the end of the lower curve where there is no crosswalk and no sign.

New intersection to access the marina parking lot and boat launch area. 

3. I’d like to know if the intersection here is timed or has a sensor. If it has a sensor, will it pick up the presence of cyclists? Regardless, this intersection is an improvement over the previous access path which couldn’t facilitate Lakefront Trail cyclists who wanted to travel westbound on 31st Street (they could use the south side sidewalk, which is inappropriate). Westbound cyclists can now share the driveway with automobiles (less than ideal) but can enter westbound 31st Street without any awkward sidewalk moves or crossing the Lake Shore Drive ramp against the light.

4. My good friend Calvin points out that the new marina doesn’t have storage for small sailboats like Lasers and Vanguards. These boats are a cheap and easy way to teach children and young adults how to sail and are more accessible to the wider population. Storage is less expensive and they can be operated alone. He says that only Montrose and Belmont have storage for these boats.

Further reading

Short video on 31st Street marina construction

UPDATE: Thank you, Bill, for sending me a Chicago Park District document with additional artist’s renderings of the promenade, playground and restaurant.

Many Chicagoans are curious about the new marina the Chicago Park District and Chicago Public Building Commission are building on Lake Michigan at 31st Street (3100 S Lake Shore Drive) near Bronzeville and the old Michael Reese Hospital campus.

Taken with a Sony HX5V on the handlebars of my Yuba Mundo cargo bike.

This video shows the new access path to the Lakefront Trail, the pier upon which construction equipment is stored, and some people working at the end of the newly constructed breakwater.

Also features a passing Metra Electric train and a view from the marina of the factories in Whiting and East Chicago Indiana.

I took these photos at the same time as the video:

A temporary new path will replace the existing access path. In the artist’s renderings for the new marina and surrounding facilities, the Lakefront Trail will go underneath a marina and parking lot access road that will intersect where the existing access path does now. People who want to access the Lakefront Trail will travel (off street) a little north to an intersection.

Construction equipment on the pier.

Proposed changes to 31st Street Harbor

Copied directly from the 31st Street Harbor Traffic Impact Analysis (PDF), prepared for the Chicago Public Building Commission by AECOM.

See Exhibit B on page 12 for a drawing and list of proposed changes. They’re exciting. When designing for the lakefront, the stakes are pretty high.

The only mention of “bike” or “bicycle” is misnaming the Lakefront Trail as the “Chicago Lakefront Bike Path.” Can’t anyone get this right? According to the LEED Strategy document, though, the project aims to get 1 point for a “bicycle storage/changing room.”

Stay on top of construction updates with this blog.

The 31st Street Harbor project is one of two new harbors being designed for the Chicago Park District along Chicago’s lakeshore. Located in the Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago’s south side, the 31st Street Harbor will incorporate extensive new community amenities and a new 950 slip marina. These include over two new acres of green space located on a peninsula of land formed by a 1,200 foot long breakwater sheltering the new harbor, providing exceptional views of the Chicago skyline to the north. The breakwater will also create new underwater habitat and provide opportunities for fishing.

Photo shows the new breakwater and pier under construction. See Exhibit B.

The existing surface parking will be removed and relocated within a new parking structure covered by an accessible green roof that allows park users improved views of the lake while reducing impervious surface. Landscape plantings will include native plants selected to provide food and cover for the twice yearly bird migrations through the City, while also reducing maintenance and irrigation demands. A new fully accessible play area that connects the green roof area to the beach will replace an older existing playground, while improvements to pedestrian and vehicular circulation will improve connections to the neighborhoods in Bronzeville to the west. Located atop the green roof will be a new LEED Certified community center and restaurant, providing sorely needed facilities currently missing along the south lakeshore.

The marina itself will include approximately 950 new slips ranging from 35’ to 80’ in length, on site covered storage in the parking structure, fuel dock, marina store, dedicated shower facilities, and a public access boat ramp. Additionally, youth sailing programs and storage for small craft including kayaks will be provided, allowing this facility to make boating economically accessible to a very large portion of the community.

Breakwater and pier construction panorama at the beach in August 2010.

As part of these improvements, additional parking accommodations in addition to the new parking structure are being planned. Approximately 200 new parking spaces will be incorporated along the Fort Dearborn access road north of 31st Street, serving 31st Street beach. A new surface lot west of Lake Shore Drive and immediately south of 31st Street will be constructed with a capacity of over 150 spaces.

The existing attractions of Burnham Park near 31st Street will remain, including 31st Street Beach, the beach house, and the Burnham Skate Park.

Parking options:

  • 31st Street Harbor Parking Garage (310 covered spaces)
  • Surface Lot on Fort Dearborn north of 31st Street (202 spaces)
  • Surface Lot off Moe Drive south of 31st Street (161 spaces)
  • Total: 573 spaces

[Currently this beach has 188 auto parking spaces, a difference of 355% compared to the proposed quantity. It currently has about 14 bike parking spaces and needs more but I cannot find evidence that this number will increase when the new harbor opens.]

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.

Tribune points out why we need something better than Deep Tunnel

60 billion gallons of rain fell on Cook County on Friday night, according to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s (MWRD) president Terrence O’Brien.

The world’s largest wastewater treatment plant just north of Navy Pier in downtown Chicago. One of two plants in the city limits. Photo by kendoman26.

That’s enough to fill 1.2 billion of these Suncast rain barrels*. The rain was too much for the Deep Tunnel – the underground network of  water reservoirs. They hold water runoff during storms before it goes to the water treatment plant for cleaning, after which it will flow into one of the water channels in and around Chicago. But the storms on Friday were too much – the MWRD had to release sewage into Lake Michigan because the reservoirs were full.

This in turn forced the Chicago Park District to close the beaches.

“All 109 miles of the Deep Tunnel system were filled during the storm, O’Brien said.”

We find ourselves in a situation similar to that of traffic congestion. Building new and wider roads doesn’t relieve traffic congestion. The same might be true for Deep Tunnel construction. Longer and wider tubes won’t reduce our water usage or how much stormwater is directed to the sewers (Chicago has a combined sewer, draining sewage from buildings and stormwater from the street). The Chicago Tribune article doesn’t exactly point out the solution, and it only hints at the problem: We get more water in our tunnel than we can handle.

The Chicago Harbor Lock separates the Chicago River from Lake Michigan was opened to allow the river to discharge its overflow into the lake. The water at Chicago’s magnificent beaches could have been contaminated so the Park District closed swimming at ALL beaches until at least Monday morning. Photo by Norma Fernandez.

Chicagoland needs a better stormwater management plan that incorporates sustainable best practices. We can start by encouraging landscaping that absorbs stormwater instead of acting like a slope towards the nearest drain. New streetscape projects can have bioswale planters. What other ideas are there to reduce the amount of runoff that has to be stored in hundreds of underground tunnels?

*The MWRD sells rain barrels to the public online for pickup. Rain barrels are just one part of a multi-pronged solution to stormwater management.

Norma Fernandez

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.

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