The Deconstruction of 110 N. Wacker Dr.

I spent a few hours in downtown Chicago on Thursday, and as I was headed toward Union Station to come home, I crossed Wacker Dr. at Washington St. Once upon a time, Morton Salt had its headquarters at 110 N. Wacker on that corner. In fact, the company had a five-story international-style building built for itself in the late 1950s, designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White.

By the time I spent much time in the neighborhood — my office was in the Civic Opera Building next door from 2000 to ’05 — Morton Salt had left and General Growth Properties occupied the building. GGP is a REIT that owns malls. Lately that company  left the property too, and here is what I saw today.

If I’d had more time, I might have captured some other angles. The building, which I always thought bland and colorless, has long been dwarfed by taller buildings on Wacker Dr. Soon a 51-story structure will be rising on the site.

Not quite all of the old building is going away. According to the Tribune, “In an unusual deal, the demolished building’s stainless steel panels — an example of Mid-Century Modern architecture, found around the building’s windows — will be preserved in the new tower.”

Denver Under Construction

Yesterday I gushed about adaptive reuse of historic buildings in Denver. That’s worth gushing about, but it’s also good to see new construction rising in a city. I saw a lot of that in Denver.

For example, the Golden Triangle Apartments on 13th Ave. (in the foreground, and not yet out of the ground).
The Coloradan, behind Union Station. A condo development.
The Grand, also near Union Station (two apartment towers).
DaVita’s new corporate headquarters. DaVita owns dialysis centers nationwide.
Further afield, there’s suburban development. I know it’s out there. I saw this on the RTD.
Note that it promises only the gateway to the “life you deserve.” It’s up to you to get through it.

Millennium Carillon, Naperville

Near Riverwalk Park in Naperville is the Millennium Carillon, which is in a 160-foot structure called Moser Tower. Though the tower wasn’t completed until 2007, work began in 1999 and it must have been partially finished soon after, because I’m pretty sure we listened to its bells as part of the city’s Independence Day celebration in 2001, or maybe 2002.
Millennium Carillon, NapervilleIt’s possible to pay $3 and take a tour of the tower, but I didn’t have time for it on Friday. It’s 253 steps up to its observation deck, so we better visit before we get much older. Also, before the tower gets much older. It’s possible the tower will be gone in a few years.

“Cracks and deterioration of its concrete walls could cause pieces to fall ‘without notice,’ and corrosion of structural steel connections could decrease the building’s stability, a consultant found in a two-year, $50,000 study of the tower’s condition,” Marie Wilson writes in the Daily Herald.

“Options include fixing the structure and maintaining it as-is, fixing it and improving the base to help prevent future corrosion, or maintaining it for a while and then tearing it down.”

Such problems after only 10 years. Luckily, nothing fell without notice when I visited (though shouldn’t that be “without warning”?). I’m not a structural engineer, but it sounds like corners were cut during the original building. Of course, it was a money problem.

“The most expensive options would involve upgrading the bottom of the tower to match original designs by Charles Vincent George Architects, which called for the lower 72 feet and 9 inches to be enclosed in glass and temperature-controlled, Novack said.

“Enclosure plans were scrapped when the Millennium Carillon Foundation, which conducted the first phase of work in 1999 to 2001, ran of out of money.”

According to the Naperville Park District, the Millennium Carillon is the fourth largest in North America and one of the “grand” carillons of the world, featuring 72 bells spanning six octaves. Didn’t hear the bells during this visit. Concerts are inconveniently on weekday evenings. Inconvenient for non-residents, that is.

Near the tower is a bronze of Harold and Margaret Moser, who ponied up $1 million for the tower’s construction.
Harold & Margaret Moser statueBeginning after WWII — and that was the time to subdivide in earnest out in the suburbs — Harold Moser was a major residential developer in Naperville, credited with building at least 10,000 houses in the area. His nickname was Mr. Naperville, and a plaque on the back of the statue calls them Mr. and Mrs. Naperville.

They both died in 2001. The statue, by Barton Gunderson, dates from 2009.

Mr. & Mrs. Naperville

It’s fitting to honor the Mosers in bronze, but their smiles are a little unnerving.

The Fulton Market District, Chicago

Last Thursday, late in the afternoon but before dark — Daytime Saving Time is good for something — I took a walk through parts of the the Fulton Market District. Like most urban neighborhoods, it’s a little fuzzy in definition, but roughly speaking the area is on the near West Side of Chicago, west of the Kennedy Expressway and a few blocks to the north and south of Randolph St., until you get to Ogden Ave.

The district is in the midst of a boom. Here are a few headlines about it just from 2017 in Curbed Chicago:

Bright two-bedroom Fulton Market timber loft lists for $475K

Fulton Market office project changes design, again

West Loop residents say five-story proposal looks ‘prison-like’

Ace Hotel in Fulton Market to open in the autumn

Rehab work begins on two older Fulton Market buildings

Another Fulton Market food distributer looks to sell-out to developers

Demolition to clear path for 170-room Fulton Market hotel

The area, formerly a distribution — food wholesalers, mainly — and light industrial district, is giving way to apartments, hotels, restaurants and entertainment. The pattern is a familiar one in Chicago and elsewhere.

West Randolph, looking east, back toward the Loop.
Randolph St ChicagoUmami Burger looked intriguing, but I didn’t stop there.

The corner of Randolph and Carpenter St. is home to a particularly striking building, the former Richters Food Products building, which dates from the early 1930s.
Richters Food Products building - Venue One 2017The exterior has been immaculately preserved. Forgotten Chicago says that “the architect was H. Peter Henschien, a noted and prolific Chicago-based designer of meat packing plants. The Tribune described the new building at the time of construction as being ‘of pleasing design.’ Bruno Richter had started the firm about ten years earlier in Jefferson Park, with the idea of ‘marketing sausage through extensive advertising.’ ”

Remarkably, Mr. Henschien’s Tribune obit from 1959 is online. A remarkable line from it: “He and his firm designed more than 300 packing plants in the United States and in Russia, Pakistan, Cairo, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, and Canada.” People have their niches, mostly unknown, or in his case, forgotten.

An update on the Forgotten Chicago post: the Richters Food Products is now occupied by Venue One, which “offers 25,000 square feet of customizable event and meeting space.” The construction crane in the picture doesn’t have anything to do with Venue One, except being nearby. It was merely one of the cranes rising over a number of other projects in the area.

My destination for the evening: City Winery, at Racine Ave. and Randolph.
City Winery Chicago 2017A cool venue indeed, though it’s a little hard to tell from this picture. More about it tomorrow.

Divers Content on a Freezing Cold Thursday

Inspired by yesterday’s natterings, I stopped at the library and checked out River of Doubt (2006) by Candice Millard. Subtitled “Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey,” it’s about TR’s expedition into darkest Amazonia in 1913-14. As the book makes clear from the get-go, the journey nearly killed him. Even he-man action presidents have their limits, after all.

I didn’t know until today that Andrew Sachs died not long ago. There are many clips available of him in fine form as Manuel, such as this one or this one or this one.

I’ve had these glasses for a few years now. Bought them at a garage sale for (I think) a quarter each.

Coke Cans Make of Glass

They were clearly some kind of promotional item from Coca-cola but also McDonald’s, because three of them have McDonald’s arches on the bottom. The interesting thing to me is that they’re precisely the same size and shape as a 12 oz. soft drink can.

While writing about a hotel today, I encountered something in the hotel biz known as a “spiritual menu.” The concept isn’t exactly new, but I’d never heard of it. The following is from the Christian Post in 2008.

“A hotel in Nashville will be the first known in the nation to remove the standard Holy Bible from its rooms and replace it with a ‘spiritual menu’ that includes other religious books… Hotel Preston, a boutique owned by Oregon-based Provenance Hotels, will require guests to call room service to order their religious book of choice…

“The religious book list includes the Book of Mormon, the Qur’an, the Torah, the Tao Te Ching, The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, Bhagavad Gita (a Hindu text), books on Scientology, as well as the King James and New American Bible versions.” @#$%&! Scientology?

Hm. The Gideons can’t be too happy about being replaced. And the following lyric just doesn’t have the same ring: Rocky Raccoon/Checked into his room/Only to find a spiritual menu.

Bilingual JWs at the Door

Awake! (Japanese)A couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses showed up at the door not long ago, one an English speaker, one Japanese. Whatever else you can say about them, they do their research. They left a copies of Awake! in both English and Japanese. The cover of the Japanese edition, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, is posted here.

The headline says: Is the Bible Just a Good Book?

The JW were in the news — the real estate news — recently for selling JW HQ in Brooklyn for very big bucks, about $700 million. That kind of mammon will not only buy a fine new HQ in upstate New York, where real estate is cheaper, but probably a lot more granular data mining on behalf of propagating the doctrine. Seems like something of a hard sell to me. Blood transfusions don’t come up all that often for most people (fortunately), but no Christmas? Wonder when they get around to telling potential converts about that.

I showed the magazine to Yuriko. She shrugged.

A Few Fine Portland Buildings

Drive into a large city for the first time, without the benefit of some GPS box advising you, and with few exceptions, it’ll be confusing for a while. The way the streets are connected seems to make little sense. They don’t match your maps, or rather, what you think you remember from looking at your maps. Signage isn’t what it should be (often just an impression, but objectively true in Boston). The route you want to go is under construction. There’s always someone right behind you when you need to make a critical decision about turning, but you’re never in the lane you need to be anyway.

It sounds like I’m complaining, but not really. Once the worst of the drive is over — because you do get where you’re going, usually — you’ve had the satisfaction of navigating through a strange place. You’ve also seen, even fleetingly, some things you wouldn’t have otherwise. GPS is fine if you have a meeting to attend or a plane to catch, but otherwise it obviates the need to guide yourself through new territory with maps, landmarks you know ahead of time, and your own sense of direction.

I plowed through parts all three cities — Portland, Vancouver, and Seattle — on different occasions last week, each causing me temporary location frustration. Each time when it was over, it was worth it. When I found a parking garage in downtown Portland early on the afternoon of August 22 and set out on foot, it was wonderful not to be in that car anymore, and taking in what the streets of Portland had to offer.

The first thing I took in was the air. Everywhere hung a light haze and the smell of a not-too-distant fire. It wasn’t a choking haze, or even one that made me cough, but it carried a distinct odor. Smelled like one’s clothes after grilling, especially the burned wood. The source was the vast complex of forest fires then raging in eastern Washington — still raging — and which only a few days before had killed three U.S. Forest Service firefighters near Twisp, Wash., all young men.

Portland is known for a number of things, such as trying to rival Austin for urban weird. More on that later. I want to point out that downtown Portland, and the nearby Pearl District, have some exceptionally fine buildings a century or more old that aren’t remotely weird. Such as the New Market Block (1872).

New Market, PortlandThe Blagen Block (1888).

Blagan Block, PortlandBlagan Block, PortlandThe Postal Building (1900).
Postal Building, PortlandAnd the Pittock Block (1914). Among a good many others, including more modern structures.
Pittock Block, PortlandI have a fondness for buildings with visible fire escapes.

Also worth noting: Portland’s a sizable industrial town. Not something you hear about much either. I spent the night at some distance from the city center at a motel on U.S. 30 near the Willametta River, a major tributary to the Columbia, both of which are working rivers. The motel was in an industrial zone, both for manufacturing and distribution, and I know there are other areas similarly industrial in greater Portland. It isn’t the largest industrial market even in the Northwest, but it’s large enough to have current and projected development of nearly 2 million square feet.

Honolulu 1979

Something I spotted at one of the large strip centers near us: a new barber shop, Mad Men Barbershop. I’m not quite sure what they’re suggesting. Come here to look like Don Draper? He was the only male character whose hairstyle didn’t change much during the internal chronology of the show from 1960 to 1970. If short and oily for men is coming back, I want no part of oily. I’m glad that died off in the 1960s and has stayed dead. Grease is not the word.

Slides are an inconvenient medium in our time. I wonder how many billions of slide images are languishing in boxes, never to be seen. Ah, well. I’m doing my little part to bring a few of those to a wider audience here (four or five readers, at least).

Thirty-six years ago this month I visited five of the Hawaiian islands. I had a 35mm camera with me, one that belonged to my brother Jay. I took good care of it and came home with four boxes of images. Many are of lovely, picturesque Hawaii. Green hills, waterfalls, flowers, ocean vistas, volcanoes, lava tubes, black sand beaches, that kind of thing.

But not the following pics. They are urban Hawaii. Views of Honolulu in 1979, that is.
The first one is arguably picturesque. It’s Diamond Head, after all. But hotels and other development seem to be creeping up on it. Not that I object to development of that kind per se. I took this shot from a hotel room balcony. One of the higher floors of the Sheraton Waikiki.
HonoluluDiamondHeadFun fact about that hotel, developed in the early ’70s, I think: it had no 13th floor. Or none with that number. If they’d known how inundated the islands would soon be with Japanese tourists — and there must have been a fair number even 40 years ago — they probably would have not used the number 4 in their floors.

Speaking of hotels, this one only looks a little like the Ilikai, famed in one of the best TV intros ever. I’m not sure what property it is, and while there’s probably an app to find out, never mind. The image comes complete with ugly breakwater in the foreground.
Honolulu79.2Another balcony view, this time of Waikiki Beach. Two young lovers strolling the sands of Waikiki couldn’t be lost in each other’s charms for long without stepping on another beachgoer.
Honolulu79Finally, Honolulu at night.
HonoluluatnightA little fuzzy, but representative of the way the lights — which is to say, development — attached itself to the foothills near Honolulu, looking for every square foot. Even then, Honolulu was the most expensive real estate market in the country.

The High Line

As a public, linear park in Manhattan, and driver of real estate values in its vicinity, the High Line is so new that it didn’t exist in its current form the last time I was in town in the mid-2000s. It was a derelict elevated railroad line then, but the movement to make it a park was well under way, mostly the efforts of citizens inspired by the similar park in Paris with its suitable French name, Promenade Plantée. (There’s also a linear park in development in Chicago, the Bloomingdale Line, and other places; the idea is catching on.)

More about the effort to transform the old line into the High Line is here. I didn’t know, until I read about it, that construction of the original elevated rail line was done as a safety measure, approved in 1929. It replaced a previous ground-level rail line that had been chugging through the West Side of Manhattan for decades. Turns out that running a freight train at ground level through a crowded metropolis isn’t a very good idea. The train’s path was nicknamed Death Avenue.

On the afternoon of October 10, after visiting the September 11 Memorial and Museum, I was fairly tired, but still determined to walk at least some of the High Line. I made my way to the 14th St. entrance and as soon as I was up on the line, I got my second wind. Walking most of the route, to the 30th St. entrance, didn’t tire me further. I went as far as the work on the Hudson Yards Redevelopment project, which the brand-new section of the High Line curves around beginning at 30th, but it was getting dark by then, and I decided not to go any further. The High Line is best seen in the light, better yet in the twilight.

This is the view near the 14th St. entrance, looking north.

High Line, Oct 2014Note the amenities. A plank walkway, plantings on either side, and — sometimes most importantly — places to rest. Not a lot of backless benches, either, but wooden chairs with their backs at a permanently comfortable angle. Not so comfortable you’re likely to fall asleep, but a great place to rest. Sometimes I did. Just a little further north, the High Line passes through the Chelsea Market, where various food vendors are arrayed.

The line also offers some good views of the city below. This is 15th St., looking west.

High Line, Oct 2014This is Tenth Ave., looking north.

High Line, Oct 2014On a pleasant fall afternoon, the High Line is a popular place.

High Line, Oct 2014Further north, there’s even a green tunnel, at least during the warm months.

High Line, Oct 2014At this point, rail lines are embedded in the planks. Must be left over from when the train tracks ran this way. They appear at your feet fairly often, but not always. Sometimes they course through the plantings.

New buildings have sprouted along the line.

High Line, Oct 2014I was amused to see just how many advertisements for nearby buildings bragged about being near the High Line. Once upon a time, property owners in the area wanted the elevated tracks dismantled, never imaging that they’d drive value growth for nearby properties someday.

Tuesday Orts

I hadn’t heard that Jonathan Winters had died until this evening. I hadn’t known he was still alive, but then again his most recent roles seemed to involve voicing Grandpa Smurf, something I would never have known without reading his obit. When I was young, though, he seemed to pop up on TV a lot without warning.

But that’s understandable. A gig is a gig. As funnymen of my parents’ generation go, he aged a lot better than most.

The MIT Center for Real Estate is a big deal in real estate education. It educates real estate pros and generates some interesting real estate data. Also, MIT is also not known to be short on its endowment. So how is it that the latest thing on center’s web site, under the “News and Events” section, is dated November 30, 2011? How it is that the newsletters produced by the center stop around the same time? Did the person who was maintaining it leave, and the organization couldn’t be bothered with it afterwards? I can see that for a small organization on a shoestring — in which case the site shouldn’t promise “news” — but MIT?

More than 30 years ago, I spent a few days camped out in a dorm room at MIT. I noticed a few things while there, such as that everyone on the hall went to the common room to watch an afternoon showing of Star Trek, and everyone knew the lines. (The original series; because this was 1982, the only series. Patrick Stewart was still just a Shakespearean actor who’d played Sejanus for the BBC.)

I discovered that there’s a major collection of samurai armor and art in Dallas, of all places. At the newly opened Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum: The Samurai Collection. I mentioned that to Ed, who’s familiar with the Barbier-Mueller Museum in Switzerland, and he said, ” If it came out of the Barbier, odds are, it’s better than anything you saw in Japan.”

Another thing to see. But at least it’s easier to go to Dallas than, say, Geneva.