Category Archives: Chicago

Phun Phridays: Chicago

Water Tower Place & John Hancock Center

John Hancock & Water Tower Place

Northwestern University School of Law

School of Law

The Modern Wing (Art Institute of Chicago)

TheModernWing5

Chicago River

ChicagoRiver

Crown Fountain (Millennium Park)

CrownFountain

Cloud Gate (Millennium Park)

CloudGate3

Wrigley Building

Wrigley

Trump International Hotel & Tower

TrumpIntl2

Wicker Park

WickerPark

American Gothic (Art Institute of Chicago)

AmericanGothic

Click here for more photos of Chicago…

Click here to find out why Chicago is the sh*t…

Adrian Salgado is a realtor associate with dash – real estate company. He can be reached at 305-491-7179 or SalgadoA@gmail.com. You can friend him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, and connect with him on LinkedIn.

Advertisements

6 Comments

Filed under Chicago, Phun Phridays

Miami: A Tropical Chicago?

I nearly fell out of my chair yesterday as I sipped on some freshly brewed coffee and took bites of a cream cheese-smothered multi-grain bagel in the cafe of a local bookstore. No, it wasn’t rancid coffee that nearly caused the accident. It was the headline in the front page of the Miami Herald: “Miami looks to Chicago as its model”.

My first thought was “Damn! Is Mayor Diaz reading my blog?”. If so, is he preparing to raze all those buildings east of U.S. 1 within City of Miami limits in favor of our very own version of the open green space I so cheerfully discussed in previous posts, “Chicago: City Built by Flames” and “Chicago: An Architect’s Playground”?

“Alright now, Mr. Diaz!” was my very next thought.

Before you grab your MH21 Grapple and start pulverizing the buildings that line our (bay)shore, let’s take a closer look at the mayor’s ambitious “emulation”.

Let’s put things in perspective. Allow me to provide you with some fun facts. After all, we make decisions and form opinions based on facts. Right?

POPULATION/DENSITY

According to a New York Times article published in 1912, census figures estimated Chicago’s population to be in the neighborhood of 2,185,283 – in 1910 – just one year after Daniel Burnham’s Plan of Chicago was presented to the people of Chitown.

Miami’s population at that time? 5,500.

The Census Bureau estimated Miami’s population to be 404,048 for 2006 (Note: figures are for the City of Miami, not the greater metro area).

Chicago’s population estimate for 2006? 2,833,321.

Chicago encompasses an area of 234 square miles of which 227.2 are land and 6.9 are water.

Miami covers an area of 55.27 square miles of which 35.68 are land and 19.59 are water.

Chicago’s population density in 2006 was estimated at 12,470 persons/square mile.

Miami’s population density in 2006? 11,324 persons/square mile.

Sidebar: Miami Beach had an estimated population of 86,916 covering 7 square miles of land in 2006 for a population density of 12,416 persons/square mile.

SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS

According to the Census Bureau’s 2006 American Community Survey:

An estimated 77% (1,364,023) of Chicago’s population 25 years and over (1,771,459) has at least a high school diploma. 29.3% (519,037) of those are estimated to have a Bachelor’s degree or higher.

An estimated 66.1% (230,549) of Miami’s population 25 years and over (348,789) has at least a high school diploma. 22.1 % (77,082) of those are estimated to have a Bachelor’s degree or higher.

Approximately 36.5% (927,403) of Chicagoans speak a language other than English at home.

Approximately 76.2% (254,372) of Miamians speak a language other than English at home.

ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS

Median household income (known to be the best indicator of economic well-being) for Chicago in 2006 was estimated to be $43,223.

Median household income for Miami in 2006 was estimated to be $27,008.

Approximately 17.2% of families and 21.2% of all individuals in Chicago were living below the poverty level in 2006.

Approximately 22.8% of families and 26.9% of all individuals in Miami were living below the poverty level in 2006.

HOUSING CHARACTERISTICS

An estimated 49.3% of all housing units in Chicago were owner-occupied in 2006.

An estimated 36.1% of all housing units in Miami were owner-occupied in 2006.

The 2006 estimated median value of owner-occupied homes in Chicago was $277,900.

The 2006 estimated median value of owner-occupied homes in Miami was $315,900.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

cta-logo.jpg

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has approximately 2,000 buses that operate over 154 routes and 2,273 route miles that serve more than 12,000 posted bus stops and 1,190 rapid transit cars over 8 routes and 222 miles of track.

CTA offers rail service to and from both major international airports. The Blue Line takes customers to and from O’Hare International Airport. The Orange Line trains travel to Midway International Airport.

mdt-logo.gif

Miami-Dade Transit (MDT) has approximately 994 buses that operate over 100 routes and operates 136 Metrorail cars over 22.2 miles of elevated track, as well as 29 Metromover single units over 2.5 miles of an elevated double loop (inner & outer) in Downtown Miami.

Sidebar: I took Route 145 (Wilson/Michigan Express) from the Lake Shore/Belmont stop in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago into “the Loop” in Downtown Chicago (Lakeview is approximately 5 miles north of the Loop) about 3 times while I was in Chicago. The entire trip from stop to stop took approximately 15 minutes. The longest I waited at the bus stop for a bus was about 4 minutes.

The last time I attempted to leave my car at home and ride the bus in Miami I waited approximately 20 minutes at a Route 11 bus stop on W. Flagler Street on a scorching midday afternoon before deciding to walk to my destination about 1.5 miles away. The bus never passed me by.

SPORTS STADIUMS/ARENAS AS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT TOOLS

soldier-field.jpg

Contrary to what politicians or their hired consultants would have you believe regarding the economic benefits of publicly subsidized sports stadiums and arenas, the consensus amongst academic economists has been that such policies do not raise median household incomes – the best indicator of economic well-being – in the area.

Andrew Zimbalist and John Siegfried, authors of “The Economics of Sports Facilities and Their Communities“, a journal entry published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives in 2000, argue that “independent work on the economic impact of stadiums and arenas has uniformly found that there is no statistically significant positive correlation between sports facility construction and economic development”.

Economic “impact studies” commissioned by advocates and proponents of stadiums and arenas rarely, if ever, address the opportunity costs associated with using public funds to subsidize the construction of these buildings. The funds used to build that stadium or that arena have alternative uses. For example, instead of utilizing taxpayer money towards the construction of a stadium so that millionaire franchise owners can field a team of millionaire ballplayers, politicians can choose to use that same taxpayer money towards the betterment of highways, schools, public transportation, parks, airports or any other number of true public investments.

It amazes me to see how willing local politicians and other leaders are to devise financing schemes and expand or restructure community redevelopment agencies to get these types of projects done, while schools continue to be unacceptably overcrowded and teachers grossly underpaid. Why can’t the same types of financing schemes be devised to remedy these more important issues?

A recent measure overwhelmingly passed by voters in Seattle that requires any funds to help build a sports arena/stadium earn money at the same rate as a treasury bill (which simply means that there is no way public funds could ever be used to build an arena/stadium in Seattle), may serve as the tipping point in the other direction.

I think it’s worthy to note that an estimated 91.7% of the population 25 years and over in Seattle had at least a high school diploma in 2006. An astonishing 53.4% of those are estimated to have had a Bachelor’s degree or higher.

These facts may or may not be a direct correlation as to why such a measure would pass so overwhelmingly.

I’m just saying.

Disclosure: Growing up eating and breathing baseball (it feels like a lifetime ago), I enjoy catching a few Marlins games every year. If the stadium is built at the Orange Bowl site, I stand to benefit from a quality-of-life perspective. Not only will I be able to walk (long walk, but nevertheless) to the games, I can also get heavily inebriated at any one of the many bars that will surely arise as a result of the stadium’s existence and not have to worry about driving home. Not that I would, but…

Sidebar: The next time someone tells me that the reason people do not attend sporting events in Miami (unless the team fields a winner that year, of course) is because “there’s just too much to do in Miami”, that person finna get a roundhouse to the face. The Chicago Cubs haven’t won a championship since 1908 and they sell out every home game before Spring Training has ended…and I guarantee you that there sure as hell isn’t more to do in Miami than in Chicago.

Today’s Chicago is best described as a city of neighborhoods – uninterrupted walkable neighborhoods that connect to one another. There are no physical or psychological barriers (i.e. I-395 & I-195) that deter one from entering. Each neighborhood possesses a distinct and strong identity. One minute you’re in a yuppie neighborhood with million dollar condominium units and designer boutiques and the next you’re in a culturally-rich gentrifying neighborhood filled with second-hand/consignment stores, the ubiquitous indie record shop with loads of vinyl and the oh-so-necessary authentic mom & pop eateries.

chicago-084.jpg

The Bongo Room in the Wicker Park neighborhood in the West Side of Chicago is one of those places that’s “cagate encima” good. The Banana Toffee Pancakes and the Chocolate Tower French Toasts were (for lack of a better word) amazing!

Any place that can afford to open for just breakfast and lunch and close by 2:30 pm (at the latest) has to be good.

I love the idea of aiming high and pushing to become the Chicago of the south. If you’re going to model your city after any other American city, Chicago is definitely it. However, as much as I’d like to see that happen, I have a hard time envisioning it. None of what made Chicago “Chicago” is in place in Miami.

As I discussed in great length in “Chicago: City Built by Flames” , Chicago is a city with a rich tradition in planning, architecture, and historical preservation. That tradition shaped the city’s self-image, self confidence, and civic pride. The city’s fathers, Daniel Burnham and Aaron Montgomery Ward, laid the foundation for the Chicago that exists today.

While Chicago is known for its plethora of lushly landscaped park acreage and open public spaces fronting Lake Michigan, Miami’s park system ranks last among major cities in parkland per capita and in the percentage of land devoted to parks.

While Chicago’s mayor, Richard M. Daley, focused on planting trees across the city, installing planters with brightly colored flowers along Chicago streets and making sure that streets were garbage-free (Chicago is amazingly pristine – especially for such a densely populated city), our mayor was handing out building permits to anyone masquerading as a developer.

Sidebar: I don’t necessarily hate my man Money Diaz for overdeveloping Miami. I almost believe that in the looooooong run, we will benefit from the “build it and they will come” mentality that our leaders suffer from. The necessary population density will eventually fill every single one of those units.

Let’s just hope that a large percentage of those who do are primary residents and not just temporary residents who come to relax and be served. We need people who will not only spend their money in Miami, but more importantly make Miami home, take pride in being a Miamian, and most importantly, create economies in return.

Another Sidebar: I have noticed a push towards “greenifying” our sidewalks and streets. However, someone should notify city officials that plants and trees don’t water, prune or maintain themselves.

Just a thought, cause the trees and shrubs planted in front of the building where I reside remained beautiful for the first month after they were planted. However, due to lack of a planned maintenance schedule, they slowly withered away. Instead of an investment, it becomes a waste of taxpayer money. Dead plant life isn’t as pretty.

Contrary to popular belief, local government’s role is not to lure corporations (in our case, real estate developers) with tax incentives in the name of bringing jobs to the local economy. Local government’s role should include: investing in the city’s infrastructure (transportation, new world water, improving and maintaining clean street grids, public safety, schools, etc.), demanding that state legislators create a real solution for the looming property tax and insurance crises, and facilitating and encouraging the creation of world-class and expertly designed public spaces such as, but not limited to, museums, parks and libraries throughout the city (not just the proposed Museum Park at Bicentennial).

A city attracts the “best and the brightest” when all the necessary amenities, not just nice weather, are in place. The “best and the brightest” are the ones who create the jobs necessary for a vibrant and diversified economy, not local government. Everything falls into its right place once the “small scale ideas” have been implemented.

Although I’m sure the city of Chicago is flattered by Miami’s emulation, I think it’s time we stop trying to become the next Manhattan, the next Chicago or the next anything.

How about being the first Miami – a city with an identity other than Scarface, Miami Vice, Cocaine Cowboys, South Beach debauchery and collagen-enhanced pretty people that have nothing to say?

How about growing up and “manning up” to our civic and social responsibilities?

How about ridding ourselves of the inferiority complex that continually holds us down?

How about going to the library and reaching for a book instead of staying home and reaching for the remote?

How about bringing our children along and creating a habit?

Wait! Before you throw away the TV, grab the kids and renew your library card….

Bring back the not-so-bright collagen-enhanced (amongst other things) brunette. I’m not ready to do away with that.

Not just yet.

4 Comments

Filed under Chicago, Downtown Miami

Chicago: An Architect’s Playground

The Chicago River is 156 miles long and flows through Downtown Chicago south into the Illinois and Michigan Canal and Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, into the Des Plaines River, the Mississippi River, and eventually the Gulf of Mexico. As a result of its geography, the river plays a central role in the history of Chicago and was instrumental in the city’s development as a major center of the lumber and meatpacking industries during the nineteenth century.

The main stem of the river flows due west from Lake Michigan through Downtown Chicago and forms a Y that divides the city into its three geographic zones: North Side, South Side, and West Side. Forty-five movable, mostly bascule bridges connect the Chicago Loop and the rest of the South Side to the North Side. Iconic architectural masterpieces and landmarks flank both sides of the river.

The following are only a few of the ones I liked the most (Note: I purposely left off some of the more popular – and taller – buildings in Chicago like the Sears Tower, the John Hancock Center, and the AON Center in order to shed some light on these lesser-known icons):

Located at 410 N. Michigan Avenue on the north bank of the river and patterned after the Seville Cathedral’s Giralda Tower in Spain, the Wrigley Building, international headquarters of the Wm Wrigley Jr. Company, consists of two towers – north and south – connected by an open walkway at street level and two enclosed walkways on the 3rd and 14th floors. The south tower, completed in 1921 and topped by a clock tower, is equivalent to 30 stories, while the north tower, completed in 1924, rises 21 stories tall. Designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White, the building is distinctively clad in approximately 250,000 glazed sparkling white terra-cotta tiles.

chicago-020.jpg

Nighttime illumination makes it a bright feature in Chicago’s evening skyline.

chicago-112.jpg

The Tribune Tower is located across the street from the Wrigley Building on the east side of Michigan Avenue at 435 N. Michigan Avenue. The 36-story neo-Gothic building was completed in 1925 and designed by New York city architects, John Mead Howells and Raymond M. Hood – winners of an international design competition hosted by legendary Chicago Tribune publisher Col. Robert R. McCormick in search of “the most beautiful and eye-catching building in the world”. Today, The Tower serves as headquarters of media industry leader, Tribune Company.

chicago-022.jpg

One of the best examples of postmodern architecture, the 38-story Art Deco NBC Tower was designed by Adrian D. Smith, at the time a “starchitect” with Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill. Completed in 1989, the building is considered one of the greatest reproductions of the Art Deco style and not only pays homage to the Art Deco-influenced skyscrapers of New York City (RCA Tower in Rockefeller Plaza), it also pays respect to the nearby Tribune Tower (pictured above) with its use of flying buttresses. NBC Tower is home to Chicago’s NBC affiliate station, WMAQ-TV. It is located at 455 N. Cityfront Plaza Drive.

chicago-0682.jpg

333 Wacker Drive is not the tallest nor the most expensive building in Chicago. Come to think of it, it’s not even close to being one of the most recognized buildings in the Chicago skyline. However, readers of the Chicago Tribune chose 333 Wacker Drive as their favorite building in a poll conducted in 1995. Built on a triangular lot and completed in 1983, the 36-story office building is noted for its sweeping arc of reflective green glass where the Chicago River splits into its northern and southern branches. The building was the first skyscraper designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, today one of the best known designers of skyscrapers in the world.

chicago-0382.jpg

Although IBM no longer inhabits the building imprinted with its corporate namesake, 330 North Wabash is still commonly referred to as IBM Plaza. Designed by famed German-born architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the 47-story office building was van der Rohe’s last American building. Characterized by the International Style of architecture, the structure is rectangular in shape and is faced with dark aluminum and bronze-tinted glass throughout. The building was completed in 1973.

chicago-077.jpg
330 North Wabash is pictured to the left.

The building currently under construction to the right of 330 North Wabash is the Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago, a 92-story hotel condominium and residential condominium tower designed by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill that features a “striking curvilinear fae with a shimmering stainless steel and glass curtain wall” along with elegant setbacks. Intended to give it a visual continuity with the surrounding skyline, each of the setbacks is designed to reflect the height of a nearby building: the first matches the Wrigley Building, the second setback aligns with the Marina City Towers, and the third setback matches the height of 330 North Wabash. Scheduled to be completed in 2009, the building will occupy a site vacated by the Chicago Sun-Times at 401 North Wabash Avenue.

I am not a big Donald Trump fan. However, this building is fiyah! That’s fire, as in hot, to all slanguagely-impaired.

Lake Point Tower is a 70-story high-rise condominium tower located just north of the Chicago River at 505 Lake Shore Drive on a promontory of Lake Michigan. It is noted as the only skyscraper in the entire city built east of Lake Shore Drive. The unique 900-unit clover-shaped tower was designed by van der Rohe disciples, John Heinrich and George Schipporeit, to let strong lake winds easily slip around its edges, reducing their direct effects on the structure. The tower was completed in 1968.

Lake Point Tower is known to be the former home of one-time Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa.

Don’t worry Sammy, we know you didn’t take any ‘roids. The ball was juiced. And that corked bat? Well, what had happened was…

I like this building a lot. It reminds me of Tron for some reason.

chicago-070.jpg

Marina City Towers, located at 300 North State Street, is my favorite building complex in Chicago. Not only because of its unique design emulating two 65-story “corncobs” with a total of 896 residential units, but because of what its creation stood for in the early 1960’s. The Bauhaus-educated architect, Bertrand Goldberg (yet another van der Rohe disciple), not only designed the tallest residential towers at the time, he also attempted to reverse the pattern of “white flight” at a time when living in the suburbs became affordable to more families (mostly white) because of new mass production techniques. Goldberg attempted to reverse this trend by creating a “city within a city”, featuring numerous on-site facilities including a theater (today the House of Blues), gym, swimming pool, ice rink (today Smith & Wollensky), bowling alley, retail stores, restaurants, and a marina on the Chicago River.

Mixed-use anything owes its existence to Bertrand Goldberg and Marina City. For that I commend him.

chicago-078.jpg

If you’ve never been to Chicago and the towers look familiar, you probably own a copy of Wilco’s 2002 classic, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I would burn it for a fee, but that can get me in serious trouble with Nonesuch Records.

wilco.jpg
Large enough to have its very own zip code (60654), the Merchandise Mart was the largest building in the world with 4,000,000 square feet of floor space when it opened in 1930. Originally owned by Marshall Field & Co., the idea for the Mart was to centralize Chicago’s wholesale goods business by consolidating vendors under one roof. The Art Deco behemoth, located at 222 Merchandise Plaza, was designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White. Today, the building stands second only to the Pentagon in terms of total floorspace in the United States and continues to be a leading retailing destination, hosting an estimated 20,000 visitors per day.

chicago-036.jpg

Last, but definitely not least, is a building that is nowhere near completion, but deserves mention simply because it will set a new benchmark and redefine the Chicago skyline (no easy task) when completed in 2011. The Chicago Spire, designed by THE starchitect of all starchitects, Spanish-born Santiago Calatrava, will become North America’s tallest free-standing structure and the tallest all-residential building in the world. The 150-story building with 1,200 residential units will feature a total 360-degree rotation with each story rotating exactly 2.44 degrees from the one below, likening it to a drill bit. Designed with nature as its inspiration, the skyscraper will be located at 400 N. Lake Shore Drive north of the Chicago River just west of where the river meets Lake Michigan. This is Señor Calatrava’s first building in Chicago.

chicagospire.jpg

This is obviously a rendition of the building from www.ChicagoArchitecture.info and the only photograph that I did not personally take (due to obvious reasons).

Is this building sick or what? Calatrava’s works run the gamut from public to private, from warehouses, train stations and art museums to sports complexes, residential towers, and sculptural bridges. If you are not familiar with his work, I encourage you to take 10 minutes to familiarize yourself with some of his works by clicking on his name above. The man is truly one of the greats. We are very fortunate to have him.

Pre-construction prices for the Spire were rumored to start at $750,000 for a 534 square foot studio ($1,404.50/sf) to $40M for a10,293 square foot penthouse (roughly $3,886/sf). However, with the buzz surrounding the building and Calatrava’s brand etched to everything associated with it, I wouldn’t be surprised to see those prices creep up before the 20,000 square foot sales office officially opens on January 14, 2008 on the 18th floor (overlooking the Spire’s site) of the nearby NBC Tower. The power of great design.

Anyone interested in buying a unit, needs to contact me at 305.491.7179 immediately, if not sooner.

It is of most importance to note that all of these buildings except one, Lake Shore Tower (see above), are located on the banks of the Chicago River and not east of Lake Shore Drive on the shores of Lake Michigan.

In my previous post, “Chicago: City Built by Flames”, I stressed the significance of lakefront preservation for public use. Of almost equal importance was the creation of Lake Shore Drive as a 15.83-mile mostly grade-level (not raised) freeway (U.S. Highway 41) that runs parallel to Lake Michigan and allows for relatively smooth access from the South Side to the North Side of Chicago. On either side of Lake Shore Drive one has open green space in the form of Jackson Park, Burnham Park, Grant Park, and Lincoln Park and/or the glistening (at least in the summer) waters of Lake Michigan. Throughout different parts of that green space one sees cultural institutions like the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the admission-free Lincoln Park Zoo. One also sees the magnificent Soldier Field, home to Brian Urlacher’s Chicago Bears. Residential and commercial buildings with open views of the same parks and same lake abut the west side of Lake Shore Drive.

Somehow being “stuck” in traffic on Lake Shore Drive is not as bad as say, being stuck in rush-hour traffic on I-95. Put it to you this way. Imagine U.S. 1 (Brickell Avenue & Biscayne Blvd) from S.E 26th Road (which becomes William M. Powell Bridge into Key Biscayne and also marks the southern end of the Brickell Avenue residential stretch) all the way up to about N.E. 163 St. Now that you have that mental picture in your head:

  • remove all buildings east of U.S. 1 and replace them with stretches of open public green space (sprinkled with the same cultural institutions described above)
  • add sights of the shining Biscayne Bay waters (sailboats, yachts, personal watercrafts, canoes, kayaks, and all)
  • redesign architecturally-significant residential and commercial buildings to the west with views of what we just described.
  • Now picture driving (your gas-guzzling SUV, of course) home after a hard day’s night. There are no strip centers, shopping malls, gas stations, fast food restaurants, drug stores, or billboards competing for your attention. There are no street lights either. It’s just a steady flow of vehicular movement.

Now how was that?

Dare to dream – out loud.

Adrian Salgado is a Realtor Associate with RED I Realty in Miami, FL and can be reached at 305-491-7179 or SalgadoA@gmail.com.

4 Comments

Filed under Chicago

Chicago: City Built by Flames

Arguably one of the largest American disasters of the 19th century, The Great Fire of 1871 proved to be a major turning point in the early history of Chicago, Illanoise. By the time the steady drizzle of soaking rains put the fire to rest in the early morning hours of October 10, 1871, the fire had burned for nearly 2 whole days, destroyed 1/3 of the city and the entire central business district, caused an estimated $222 million in property damage, and taken the lives of approximately 200 – 300 individuals.

Lucky for all, the city’s industrial base remained intact, enabling local businessmen to finance the massive and rapid rebuilding that ensued. The city’s subsequent growth, aided in no small part by its pre-fire economic momentum, commercial ties, and unique geographic location, thrust the “The Second City” into the limelight – becoming one of the fastest growing and economically important American and international cities at the time.

A recent visit to “The Windy City” left me feeling numb. Thirty-degree temperatures (that’s Fahrenheit) with Lake Michigan wind chills that made it closer to 25 were not the cause for numbness. The Maui Wowie wasn’t either. The numbness came at the sudden realization of the importance a city’s history – and the knowledge of that history amongst its citizens and constituents – play on its future. It also came from the impressive architectural playground created by architects like William Le Baron Jenney, John Root, William Holabird, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright and later Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Architects who not only played an instrumental part in establishing the city’s strive for architectural excellence – still evident today – but also created and established the world-renown Chicago School and Prairie styles of architecture that paved the way for the likes of Bertrand Goldberg, Bruce Graham, Adrian Smith, and architectural firms like Skidmore, Owings & Merrill | Graham, Anderson, Probst & White | and Kohn Pederson, & Fox to leave their mark on the diverse Chicago skyline.

chicago-099.jpg

That mark and that skyline may have never come to fruition if not for two individuals who best define the spirit of Chicago, retailing pioneer and mail order magnate, Aaron Montgomery Ward, and architect/urban planner Daniel Burnham.

Aaron Montgomery Ward, of Montgomery Ward department store fame,

Sidebar #1: If my mind serves me correctly, I think there used to be a Montgomery Ward at Midway Mall, Mall of the Americas to those not fortunate enough to have learned to roller skate – yes, on 4 wheels – at Super Skating Center across the street, which today is home to La Catedral del Pueblo (I always thought it would be a good idea to skate my way through the aisle in the middle of the preacher’s sermon to see if he and his congregation “got it”, but anyways…). There may have been another one on Biscayne Blvd in front of the Omni in what now serves as office space for the wonderful Miami-Dade County Public Schools (“el esculbor”). I am not 100% sure.

is commonly noted for his keen business acumen and the invention of mail order. Although not seen as such at the time, Ward is perhaps the most significant figure in the history of Chicago – the one who laid the foundation for what was to come.

A staunch advocate of open green space preservation, he went to court three times between 1890 and 1909 to get Chicago’s lakefront cleared off and preserved as public park space. Nearly twenty years and $200,000 (of his own money) later, Ward single-handedly forced the city to create and maintain what is now the 200-acre lakefront Grant Park – all the while dealing with hostile opposition from politicians, civic leaders, and local newspapers who wanted to develop the downtown lakefront with municipal buildings, including a new city hall, and saw Ward as a major “thorn” on their side.

In the only interview he granted his nemesis, The Chicago Tribune, in 1909 after the Supreme Court upheld his achievements, Ward stated, “I fought for the poor people of Chicago, not the millionaires. Perhaps I may yet see the public appreciate my efforts, but I doubt it”.

A bronze sculpture with his bust, distinguished by his prominent mustache, faces Michigan Avenue in the gardens named after him in Grant Park. The people of Chicago are forever grateful for his efforts.

Sidebar #2: If I were a native Chicagoan, I’d name my first-born after him. Come to think of it, Montgomery Salgado has a certain ring to it, boy or girl.

Chosen to be the Director of Works of the World Columbian Exposition in 1893 (aka The Chicago World Fair), Daniel Burnham seized the opportunity to create what many historians consider to be the first comprehensive planning document in the nation. Designed to follow the principles of European Classical architecture and located primarily in Jackson Park and the Midway Plaisance (today the southern end of the University of Chicago campus) in the South Side, the Exposition drew over 27 million people – half the U.S. population at the time – over the six months it was open and became the prototype for how municipal art, magnificent parks, public gathering places, pedestrian friendly boulevards, and masterfully designed architecture shape a city’s self image, self-confidence, and civic pride.

Considered an instant success, The World Fair served as the precursor to The Plan of Chicago. Commonly referred to as The Burnham Plan after its principal author (the plan embodies the work of many others as well), The Plan of Chicago came into existence in October 1906 when Daniel Burnham was commissioned by the Merchants Club to come up with a detailed plan for a city whose population had swelled past 2 million.

So motivated and enthusiastic was Burnham to create the Plan that he agreed to give his time gratis and limit his expenses to $25,000 for everything – except the expense of editing and publishing a final report to present to the public, for which he volunteered $10,000 of his own money in order to have it printed “in more attractive form with ample illustrations in color” (homeboy understood the importance of graphic design – in 1909).

The city the Plan saw as the model of urban design was Paris (casi nada). The Plan explicitly praises Georges Eugene Hausmann, the man whose vision designed the magical city that is present-day Paris, as well as Napoleon, the man who chose Hausmann for the job. Paris, states the Plan, was chosen as a model because “as it (Paris) increased in population, the city grew according to a well-devised, symmetrical, highly developed plan, the only costs being artistic sense and foresight”.

Ever the visionary, Burnham realized that Chicago’s growth, due to congestion and pollution, was reaching a point of diminishing returns. The Plan’s initial focus – improving commercial facilities, transportation, traffic flow, and general convenience – would require a productive labor force. And a productive labor force, he argued, requires comfortable homes and pleasant surroundings just like everybody else. The city needed to be seen as a place to live, rest, play, as well as a place to work. Create a proud city (knowing a city’s history is a major ingredient), and you create a productive one as well.

More importantly, Daniel Burnham understood that Chicago would not and could not expect to attract and keep the wage-earners required to power the industries and staff the offices needed to create a robust and self-sufficient local economy. In an earlier letter to his father-in-law and confidant, John B. Sherman, he stated “…the town (Chicago) should immediately put on a charming dress and thus stop our people from running away, and bring rich people here (to live), rather than have them go elsewhere to spend their money”.

A daunting task, Burnham immediately set out to collect the preliminary data and relevant information necessary to understand the current conditions and make future projections for the city. The purpose of the Plan, after all, was to “anticipate the needs of the future as well as to provide for the necessities of the present”.

With the necessary and relevant detailed information at hand, Burnham was able to devise a plan that looked to beautify Chicago by improving the infrastructure and exploiting the natural resources that were both crucial to the economic vitality of the city. The Plan, keep in mind, was a very complex undertaking that required the efforts of many people. In order for it to work, detailed analysis of any and every economic indicator had to be accounted for at a time when the telephone (landlines, not cellular phones) was in its infancy.

Its main points and the ones that needed immediate attention, Burnham argued were:

  • Improving the flow of traffic and the city’s rectangular street grid by widening major streets, designing diagonal roadways that cut through the grid in order to speed up movement in all directions, and most importantly, the widening, elevating, and transformation of Michigan Avenue via a double-level bridge over the Chicago River that turned Michigan Avenue into a continuous boulevard linking the North and South Sides of Chicago.
  • Preserving the future of the lakefront (Lake Michigan) and developing the shoreline as a public park while increasing per capita acreage dedicated to conveniently located parks throughout the city.
  • Introducing streetcars along the major roads in the city’s grids, grids that are generally a half-mile apart.
  • Erecting, elevating, and merging previously separate public rapid transit lines.
  • Implementing the necessary sanitary precautions to reduce pollution and avoid contamination of the water supply and avoidable health problems.

If the World Columbian Exposition in 1893 served as the precursor to The Plan of Chicago, The Plan of Chicago served as the precursor to modern day life in Chicago, a city with a long heritage of planning and unrivaled architecture. That heritage is the gift that Daniel Burnham left for the future generations of Chicago, a gift that keeps on giving. A very wealthy and well-to-do man when he undertook this great project, he chose to leave a legacy behind; a story to be shared by grandfathers with their sons, fathers with their daughters, and teachers with their students.

Which, of course, leads me to wonder:

Besides the for-profit railroad, what legacy did Henry M. Flagler leave behind?

What plan did William Brickell leave for the children of Miami? Can I get a copy at the Historical Museum in Downtown (we do have one, by the way – a museum that is)?

What open public bayfront green space did Roddey Burdine fight for? Can I go jogging in a straight line for more than 1 mile on that green space?

Why on earth does Julia Tuttle only have a 4-mile causeway (I-195) named after her when she’s the one who persuaded Henry M. Flagler to bring his railroad down here? Can someone please name a high school after this woman. Ronald Reagan got one before she did for “crissakes”!

Look, I’m not saying that it was their “job” to do these things. Maybe they did attempt to do some, maybe all, of these things, but were unable to accomplish anything due to political, economical, and/or environmental reasons. Maybe it was just too damn hot to get anything done. I don’t know. Maybe Dr. Paul George can answer that for us.

What I do know is this. The history of this city continues to repeat itself. The same mistakes are constantly repeated “administration” after “administration”. We allow the same tired leaders to make the same tired promises and never hold them accountable when they fail to deliver. In fact, in most cases we allow them to be re-elected. I don’t mind, I really don’t, if local politicians grease their pockets in the back room deals that take place on the regular in this and in most cities throughout the world. I do mind, however, when local politicians grease their pockets and do absolutely nothing to improve my city’s efficiency. Can somebody tell me where my half-penny is? I need to buy a quart of milk.

“What’s gonna happen with the local real estate market?” is a question I encounter quite often.

What’s gonna happen with the local real estate market? I don’t know. What’s happening with your life? How are you living? People act like the real estate market is this thing that exists outside of one’s self, when in actuality it’s part of the invisible hand that Adam Smith figured out in 1776.

So the next time you ask yourself that question, ask yourself “what am I doing?”, “where am I going?”, “what am I doing to make this the proud city that my children will share with my grandchildren?”.

Adrian Salgado is a Realtor Associate with RED I Realty in Miami, FL and can be reached at 305-491-7179 or SalgadoA@gmail.com.

7 Comments

Filed under Chicago