Saturday, August 11, 2007

Development Beat

Stony Island Tower: Local Establishment types will probably have a tizzy once they get wind of this proposed tower for 64th and Stony Island:

Word-on-the-street has it that a few developers are assessing the viability of high-rise developments on the Lakefront from Bronzeville going south, a market that hasn't been active since before World War II. We're not holding our breath for this one, and recognize that most such deals fail to get farther than a nice computer rendering.

But the fact that such a project has even occurred to someone is a sign of changing times.

Vista Homes, or "The Brick Zebra": This property, of course, is not undergoing any renovation or addition. Seeing as how it is next-door to the proposed Marriott Hotel on the site of the current Doctor's Hospital, and also home to a good number of folks who have strenuously objected to the proposed hotel's utter aesthetic worthlessness, we thought it might be fun to see just how well Vista Homes holds up under aesthetic scrutiny. (Curiously enough, given the insistence of some that the area is not meant for a hotel, it is worth noting that Vista Homes was originally intended to be just that.) Let's look at the Vista Homes in profile:

Like a lot of residential towers built in the 20s and early 30s (Vista Homes was built in 1926), its developers obviously expected it to be sandwiched, Park Avenue style, by neighbors of equal height on both its south and north faces. Developers being a speculative lot and not always the best fortune tellers, this never happened. One result is that Vista Homes presents only one architecturally finished face to the world, that facing east over Jackson Park.

The remaining 3 faces of this building are unfinished and utilitarian, and indeed present the spectacle of something resembling a giant TIC-TAC-TOE board looming above the Midway, akin to the external appearance of the old CHA blocks at Cabrini Green. Several towers of the same vintage in Indian Village were left in a similar, though not quite so comprehensive, state of incompleteness.

How anyone who lives in or near THIS could complain about the proposed Marriott tower next door being architecturally déclasée is beyond me. S/he who lives in a building that looks 3/4 like a housing project should not throw stones at a moderately pleasant proposed commercial building that, at the very least, is finished on all four sides.

Of course, in keeping with the champagne-taste-and-beer-budget of local NIMBYs, neighbors at the 5th Ward community meeting on July 23, 2007 conceded that if the likes of Helmut Jahn, or Rafael Viñoly (of the GSB Building) were doing the proposed Hotel, then it might be OK. Otherwise, they would prefer not to have an off-the-shelf retro-modern building next to their quirky brick zebra. They are ENTITLED to world-class architecture in their back-yard, you see, even though they have had nothing to do with attracting the world-class architecture in the first place.


Elizabeth Fama said...

Wait! So now the neighbors think the GSB building is OK to look at? Where are the folks who were shaking their fists about it at the University meetings? Where are the people who complained about the parking mess it would create?

Ah, but I forgot one of the main features of Hyde Park NIMBY-ism: you protest violently until it gets built over your dead body, and then you meet your friends there regularly for lunch.

Famac said...

A new home for Dr. Wax!

Famac said...

We have to remember Hyde Park is largely an elderly community. As the housing stock has shrunk, older residents have become more and more the 'voice' of the area.

For old folks, change and growth are negatives. Why? Because growth means rising property taxes.

A new apartment complex, a new hotel? Those could drive up taxes pretty quickly.

If you can count the years you have left on one hand, community improvement mean less and less. You won't benefit, right? Even regular maintainance looks foolish in that light...

It explains a lot of things about Hyde Park...

chicago pop said...

"you protest violently until it gets built over your dead body, and then you meet your friends there regularly for lunch."

Absolutely; and then take the praise from the architecture critics when it comes.

"A new apartment complex, a new hotel? Those could drive up taxes pretty quickly."

This is very true, and does impinge upon the elderly, something that I think is important to consider. I notice, however, that very little Establishment activism is directed at affordable housing, and most of that activism there is focused only on Hyde Park and not the South Side.