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They’re Building in Chicago Again

May 6th, 2013 by Collin Canright | No Comments | Filed in Chicago

Over the past few days I have noticed just how much constructions going on, especially in my neighborhood. It was last Thursday and I first thought, "They're building in Chicago again," while walking from the Merchandise Mart to State St. and Wacker Drive in the Loop that construction was in full swing at the building at Wacker Drive and Clark St.

The site, 111 W. Wacker, was slated to be an ultra-luxury hotel and condo complex–the 5th tallest building in America–when construction started in 2008, but the financial crisis put that project into bankruptcy.

While I was thinking about that, I noticed another high-rise construction crane in the distance and wondered whether it was the project at the corner of LaSalle and Huron, which had been wrapped in a shroud of white fabric when it was shuttered maybe maybe five years ago, another casualty of the financial crisis. It was, now the construction site of the Godfrey Hotel.

Good thing, I thought. It may be an increasingly digital economy, but nothing gets an economy moving like construction. It occurred to me again while running in my neighborhood Saturday morning (05/04/13).

In the aftermath of the Financial Crisis and its lingering Great Recession, it's easy to forget just what a residential construction boom went in on some neighborhoods. Here's a photo of that legacy on Grace St. just east of Ashland Ave.

Before I got to that point on my run, however, I passed three homes under construction, on Larchmont near Lincoln Ave. in the North Center neighborhood. Granted that fire destroyed and damaged the properties, but the site would have remained vacant even two years ago.

Apparently it's not just in my neighborhood. Local residential construction is up more than 19% in the first quarter of 2013, according to McGraw-Hill Construction, in an article reported by Crain's Chicago Business. Local construction is forecast to rise 7.4% this year, to $7.5 billion, the highest total since 2008., Crain's reports, "spurred by a spate of residential projects in the first three months of the year."

Every time I get on the Brown Line at Irving Park, I watch progress on the second phase of EcoNorth, a three-phase condo-retail project, the second phase, which started up late last year after being on hold for a few years after the crisis.

Right up the street is a massive infrastructure project, which started in late 2011 and will continue through 2019. Metra is replacing 22 bridges of its Union Pacific North railway, along Ravenswood Ave., all more than 100 years old and deteriorating: you can see the sky through the rusted holes when you walk underneath them.

Further east, at Irving Park and Paulina is another condo project, this one in what for years was the empty lot left from a closed gas station and Midas muffler shop.

Across the street from that is a gut rehab of a restaurant, though again this one was the result of a recent fire.

Even on Ashland Ave., a gritty looking street even with the trees and flowers in the median, new homes are under construction, near the intersection with Grace Ave.:

The stretch of Ashland between Irving Park and Grace has always looked rough around the edges to me, and it contains reminders that, even with the uptick in construction, the recession lingers:

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Spring in Chicago: Crabapple Trees

May 5th, 2013 by Collin Canright | No Comments | Filed in Chicago

This week really is the first time spring is in the air, and some part of it stinks. The crabapple trees* are in full bloom. They look absolutely lovely, thickly covered in a cloud of tiny delicate flowers in cotton-ball sized blooms, especially along and in the medians of city neighborhood streets.

Here’s what they look like on Irving Park Road, just south of Ashland Ave. Lovely, yes. But do you know what these blooms smell like? They are not sweet. They are not a perfume you’d want to wear. They a kind of musty, but not the sweet musty of an old book, more like the musty of mold, a mushy smell.

I would prefer Redbud or Dogwood, both native to the region. I imagine they are not as hearty. Crabapples are hard and sour, and I’ll bet nothing will kill the trees. So there they are, all along with streets, a visual feast and better than the exhaust from the busses. Then again. . .

* I’m fan of plants, but I’m no botanist. If these trees are something other than crab apples, please let me know, and I’ll put crabapple jelly on my toast as an apology.


October 5th, 2012 by Collin Canright | No Comments | Filed in Uncategorized
I’ve been a fan of shopping malls since I went to the Marquette Mall in Michigan City, Ind., as a child, when malls were new and big and brash and, in Northwest Indiana, just plain ritzy looking. I gained an even greater appreciation of the nuances of mall theory when I read Joan Didion’s story “On the Mall” when it appeared in her 1979 collection The White Album. I am no longer a mall shopper and don’t particularly care for the mall experience anymore. From reading this article, it appears I am not alone.
The De-Malling of America: What’s Next for Hundreds of Outmoded Malls? – CoStar Group »

The widening gap between strong malls with rising sales and failing malls that are hemorrhaging retailers, sales dollars and foot traffic has led to dire forecasts by some analysts for the future of …

Sacrum Profanum

September 11th, 2011 by Collin Canright | No Comments | Filed in Uncategorized

I am listening, on this 9-11-11 tenth anniversary remembrance day, to the opening concert of Sacrum Profanum, a new music festival in Kraków, Poland. Much of the week’s program is devoted to the music of American composer Steve Reich, whose music I have loved since my high school music buddy introduced me to “Music for 18 Musicians” in 1978, when we were seniors in high school.

What amazes me, though, is that through the magic of the internet, I can sit in my home in Chicago and listen live to a concert in AlcelorMittal’s tinning plant in Kraków, and hear Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood perform “Electric Counterpoint” and the Ensemble Modern perform “Music for 18 Musicians”.

This bringing together through technology represents to me the best of humanity. It represents the solidarity felt within our city and our country, and indeed throughout the world, after the terrible attacks.