Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tactical Insertion: Friedman's 45-story 740 North Rush revealed (from a distance)

It's the blue one in the center (click images for larger view)
We had seen below-the-knees renderings before, but Monday, April 7th, we finally got a look at the rest of the body.  At a public meeting sponsored by 42nd Ward Brendan Reilly, long-time River North developer Albert Friedman presented plans for a 45 floor, 600 room hotel on Superior just west of Rush.  The new building seeks to demolish not only a seven-story building in the center of the block, but slice in half the east-west Superior street frontage of 740 North Rush, the brick-columned structure that was the long-time headquarters of Crain Communications and continues to be home to the popular flagship of Giordano's Pizza.  (which is scheduled to remain open even as the new building is constructed.)

As he usually does, Reilly promised to publish the renderings and presentation on his website, but since they're still not up, for the moment you'll have to settle for the lower-quality photographs we made of the presentation boards.
Although the Chicago Zoning Map shows the site with the designation DX-12, Reilly repeatedly referred to it was a Planned Development, as are most of the recently developed tracts in the area.

Friedman talked about the team of architects and designers he's assembled, all of whom have worked for him on previous projects, beginning with the Aria Group “who really  understands the retail and restaurant side of the equation, and this transition for Giordano's”,  NORR Architects Planners, “who really gets the nuts-and-bolts and the basic design of a hotel [and] . . . our aesthetic architect . . . Todd Halamka. Collaboratively, they're coming to us and saying, ‘What's the best we can do?’  Keep challenging yourself - within reason, of course, cost-wise - but to make something special.”  (Wolff Landscape Architecture is the landscape architect.  Friedman pledges that all of the new building's roofs will be green. ) 
Albert Friedman
None of the architects were called on to talk about their work at 740.  It was Friedman's show, as he both explained and defended his project.

Like his development at Clark, Illinois and Grand, which opened last year with three different hotel brands sharing a single site, Friedman's hotel at 740 North Rush will combine two moderately-priced Hyatt brands in a single building.   An all-suite Hyatt Place will take up the lower floors, with an extended stay Hyatt House on the upper levels.
Addressing comments about there already being too many hotels in the city, Friedman explained his concept for 740 North:  “I'd like you to consider if there's another hotel north of the river currently that would be extended stay and have suite product at an affordable price that would be new just off Michigan Avenue that you would want to stay at, and there isn't any.  Any of these developments that you're hearing about are south of the river, or they're very boutique and chi-chi.  That's not what we're doing.” 
Two things 740 won't have?  Banquet rooms and parking.  This “sleep and get out” concept probably helps hold down costs, but Friedman is also claiming it will keep traffic problems in check.  Reilly came into office thinking his ward was seriously short of parking spaces, but he's since has come round to a diffrent view.  “If you build lots of parking storage, they will come.  It's like Field of Dreams.”

Peter Lemmon of parking consultant TADI told the meeting that in an area like this, about 30% of the hotel guests come by car, and 80% of those via taxi, translating to a maximum of 40 to 50 cars a day for the new Hyatt tower.  Standard Parking's Jim Buczek added that overnight hotel parking averaging $50-70 a night would probably be considered a bit steep to guests taking advantage of the Friedman project's more moderate room rates.  Although residents in attendance expressed their skepticism, Buczek claimed that Standard Parking's nearby properties could accommodate up to 300 additional cars in nearby garages at such buildings as the Fordham and 900 North Michigan, with an additional 4,000 spaces available in garages serving Northwestern's Streeterville campus.
old and new in Friedman's River North -
Courtyard Marriott, Courtyard Place, Dearborn Plaza
Beginning in 1970 by inheriting a flophouse at Clark and Hubbard,  Friedman built his career out of rehabbing historic buildings.  In 1976, at 500 North Dearborn, when the area around it was largely skid row, Friedman provided the space in which Gordon Sinclair created his pioneering namesake restaurant. As Friedman told Michigan Avenue's Dawn Reiss, it was an epiphany moment. “I had people pulling up who had never been here in the past.  All I had before were drug dealers, pimps, and prostitutes.  All of a sudden I was actually seeing people who had money in their pockets.”  Friedman recalled that when he lured a second restaurant to space in on of his properties, it set Sinclair into a panic. “Why would you do that?  You're going to kill me!"  Instead, Sinclair found that more attractions brought more people to River North, and his business actually improved.  “I have 52 restaurants today,” Friedman concluded, underlining the moral we're to draw from his tale.

As Friedman became more successful, he acquired the 1892 seven-story Romanesque rockpile on west Hubbard (architect Otto Matz) - originally been the Cook County Criminal Courthouse - and renovated it into premiere office space as Courthouse Place.  A similar rehab of Alfred Alschuler's 1912 John R. Thompson building on Clark soon followed.  Over time, Friedman took on one old building after another, until his nameplates have become so ubiquitous that he's come to be known as the “King of River North.”
Albert Friedman three hotel development, River North
Although Friedman now seems to be moving from rehabber of old buildings to builder of ambitious new constructions, he still sees himself as a different kind of developer.

“Anything that I've ever done over the last forty-five years,” he said at the public meeting on 740, “has been a reflection on myself. I'm not a fee developer.  I'm someone who builds things, develops things, owns things, and keeps them . . . I take pride in everything I do.  And I do want everyone to be as satisfied as I am.”  Friedman once served a stint on the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, “so I'm very sensitive to landmarks and architectural integrity.    When you see the presentation you'll see why I wanted to preserve as much of the character of the buildings that are here.  I know that there has been some misunderstanding thinking that I  somehow I would take the brownstones down to the west and that's not the case.”
Friedman is proposing a tall, slender tower, 65 feet by 123. Unlike the proposed Hilton Garden Inn on east Wacker, which will have a 25-story-tall shear wall rising without a single window, the 740 North Rush tower will be encased entirely in windows, a “nice glass, clean-lined product”.  The building is also carefully set back on all four sides from its neighbors, providing a moat of air space that will afford every guest a view of something other than an air shaft.  The tightest fit is along Superior, and even there the building is to be set back an additional five feet from the lot line.   To the west are the two low brownstones, to the north, a 54-foot setback from the lot line, plus a 20-foot wide alley.  To the east, a 72-foot setback from Rush street.  According to Friedman, the design of the curtain wall is still being finalized.  While only the south and west elevations were revealed in the renderings shown at the meeting, the north and east are supposed to mirror them in design.

When the hotel project was first announced, many assumed that the old building at 740 North Rush was a goner.  That's proven not to be the case, but the structure is to be both truncated and reconfigured.
Designed by the firm of Thielbar and Fugard, 740 North Rush was originally built in the 1920's as the Chicago home of the Methodist Book Concern.  Its two street facades, along Rush and Superior, are essentially identical, a tall first floor topped by three-story colonnades, each with four tall rounded columns, book-ended by half-columns abutting thick anchor piers with three inset windows at each floor.  The tall spandrels carry simple, king-sized geometric terra cotta ornament.  The heavy, flat cornice, flush with the corner piers and top of the column capitals, puts a firm lid on the building.
The first major change Friedman is planning is to get rid of the English basement windows looking down into the commercially unviable lower level.  Instead, the building will be configured to create a Superior street entrance to Giordano's, whose dining room will be moved to the building's second floor.  A second restaurant space is being configured at the north end of the building along Rush.
The second, more radical change is that Friedman is dramatically truncating the current building along Superior.  Although the building itself is anything but square, with a courtyard and cut-ins, along the street, 740 North Rush now reads as a symmetrical cube, with identical facades along Rush and Superior.   Friedman will demolish as much of the building as possible without having to relocate its elevators and stairwell., cutting the Superior street elevation in half.  To the west, it will no longer end with a balancing three-window anchor pier, but a sheared corner that appears different in two different renderings.  In one (the rendering above) it appears as a full rounded column next to a slender brick pier.  In the second, it looks like that the rounded brick column itself becomes the building's new corner.
Putting aside the practical requirements, the demolition is an ungainly hack of Thielbar and Fugard's careful design, destroying its original symmetry.  While the Rush Street facade remains untouched, that along Superior now takes on the feel of a side street afterthought.  If Friedman's architects had recreated the full three-window pier as the new corner, there'd scarcely be room for two columns, so now, at the west end, the design doesn't so much conclude as simply run out.  (If it has to be done, I'm pulling with the rounded column as the corner.)
One comment to this blog suggested Friedman simply make a facadectomy of the demolished part of the building and extend it over the base of the new tower, maintaining the original design, although this would muddy up the clean lines of the new tower, and create its own problem of how the floors  of the new structure would line up behind the windows of the old facade.
The bottom line is that 740 North Rush is Friedman's building to do whatever he wants with.  It has no official landmark protection.  He could probably just demolish it outright, and create a new, modern bustle for his hotel tower.  Instead, he's saving as much of the old structure as doesn't get in the way of his sleek (and lucrative) new skyscraper.  While I'd much prefer to find a way - even through a dreaded facadectomy - to preserve the integrity of Thielbar and Fugard's original, distinctive and graceful design, the juxtaposition along Superior of the glitzy glass tower, next to a multilating retrofit of the nearly century-old workhorse commercial structure of brick and terra cotta,  provides its own kind of poetry, a representation of the clash of old and new in a living, still-hungry city.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Brick Stackers

click images for larger view
No city in the world, not even New York, has found such general use for common brick as we have found here on Lake Michigan.  Chicago brick, in addition to being used in business blocks, factories, residences and other buildings is widely used in building sewers and other construction work.  The outside demand for Chicago brick has been beyond the ability of the local plants to supply with their present equipment.  Millions of brick are  shipped to every surrounding state, as many as thirteen states being served with Chicago brick.
Chicago is fortunate in possessing a supply of what is known as “surface” clay.  This clay is the result of the glacial drift and is entirely suitable for the manufacture of what is known as common building brick.  In fact, it is superior to many other clays for this purpose, because of the ease with which is is prepared and the rapidity with which it can be fired and burned.  It is of a quality that can be manufactured into brick by what is known as the stiff-mud process, the most rapid method for making brick, and Chicago is now consuming brick at the rate of over a billion brick annually.

             - Chicago The Greatest Brick Center,
                   the Chicago Examiner, 1910
As with so many other things that were once the city's pride, Chicago stopped making brick a long time ago.  And yet the demand remains for what has come to be known as Chicago brick.  Not the high-toned glazed or polished brick with which buildings prepare the face to meet the faces of the other buildings it meets along the street, but the homely, rock-solid, non-face brick for secondary elevations along the side or alley,  There's still a strong demand for that unpretentious work-a-day brick retaining an abject beauty all its own.
And so when we knock down buildings, as we're wont to do, the crews move in to sort through the rubble for the bricks not ruptured in the wrecking, to chip them clean to be neatly stacked and strapped and recycled.

As we've written previously, the Sterling Bay Companies is slowly becoming Lord-of-the-Manor to Chicago's historic Fulton Market District, transforming it from its century-plus role as home to the city's meatpackers and food and dairy resellers to a high-tech district replete with health clubs, art galleries, fashion boutiques and trendy restaurants .  Sterling Bay's first assault was its most audacious - taking over the massive, windowless fortress of 1920's 12-story, nearly four million cubic foot Fulton Market Cold Storage building, melting decades' buildup of ice, stripping off the old facades down to the bare concrete bones, and converting the structure into office space where Google will consolidate its Chicago operations.
Last week, Fulton Market Cold Storage, now renamed 1K Fulton, was well on its way, with a new annex rising just to the west and retro-styled piers - of newly manufactured brick - being put in place on the spare concrete frame for the building's redesigned windowed facades.
Now Sterling Bay is mopping up the scraps. Among other Fulton Market acquisitions, last fall they snapped up a series of properties along Lake Street west of Morgen, old one-story buildings of no particular aesthetic merit but that had served a succession of business well for nearly a century.
No more.   Those buildings are dust.  With some surviving bricks left behind.  Good Chicago bricks, finding a new home at a place where their character -  if not their provenance - still finds respect.

Gustave Courbet, The Stonebreakers (destroyed)

(Architectural) Scenes from the City

We continue to work on several pieces, from 740 North Rush to Jones College Prep.  To hold you over for the moment, here's some shots from the city over the last few days.
click images for larger view (recommended)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

First Warm Day in April

click images for larger view (recommended)
In which the long winter has left even the trees with frayed nerves, and the branches of the ferris wheel still mostly unbloomed.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Jeanne Gang updates Freud: Will Tell - Not Ask - "What Mammals Want" at the Logan Center

Sigmund Freud finally admitted he didn't have a clue . . .
The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is 'What does a woman want?'
Was it that he didn't know or that, push to shove, he wasn't all that curious?

Alexander Pope wrote, “The proper study of Mankind is Man” but his words became less an invocation for deepening human knowledge than a license for an geometrically accelerating stream of narcissistic rationalizations for our appetites and aggressions.  Now that our technology is giving us an unprecedented and frightening domain over the earth's ecologies, might we be better off, as we send species after species hurling towards extinction,  spending a little less time in infatuated self-contemplation and a lot more studying the living things with which we share not just the world but the fundamentals of our animal nature?

But I digress.
Studio Gang/s Peoples Gas Pavilion, inspired by a tortoise's shell,
at the Lincoln Park Nature Boardwalk

To sell a great story, a great headline is half the battle, and architect Jeanne Gang has certainly picked a provocative one for her April 28th lecture at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts on the University of Chicago campus.  The flyer, shown at the top of this post, sends mixed signals.  First it says seating will be first-come, first served, and then in the very next paragraph asks us us to click to respond to the invitation by April 23rd.  The flyer is a jpg, so clicking the link goes nowhere.  If we get more information, we'll pass it on.
Studio/Gang Architects, Chinese American Service League,
with titanium shingles like the scales of a dragon's skin
I have no idea what a lecture called “What Mammals Want” will be about.  Almost certainly it will nothing to do with my own musings.  But when an architect declares they are going to give a talk that has neither “Form”, nor ”Autonomy”, “LEED”, ”Theory”, “Parametricism” or even “Architecture” in its title,  and it references humans only by their parent class, well, that's a very interesting proposition.

Gang was last year's recipient of the U of C's Jesse L. Rosenberg Medal, recognizing achievement “deemed of great benefit to humanity.”  Yet, Gang will be at the Logan Center Performance Hall, 915 East 60th, at 5:15 p.m. on Monday the 28th, telling us - not about humanity - but about the Mammals.  And what they want.  And what it might have to do with us.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Inaugural Garofalo Fellow Molly Hunker shows her cards: at UIC with Myth, through May 10; at the Graham in person Monday night with Spiritual Kitsch

Last August, architect and designer was Molly Hunker, co-founder of the Los Angeles design firm SPORTS, was named as the first recipient of the Douglas A. Garofalo Fellowship, established by the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago to honor the talented architect who died far too soon in 2011.

Hunker took up residence at UIC last fall, with the plan of teaching courses, pursuing independent research, and preparing a public exhibition and lecture. That exhibition, Myth, is now up in the South Gallery of the Arts and Architecture Building at UIC, 845 West Harrison, where it runs, 9 a.m. through 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday through May 10th. The exhibition . . . 
. . . focuses specifically on the religious genre of the home shrine, re-envisioning the richly decorative and kitsch assembly through the lens of the architectural installation. . . . Myth re-envisions the home shrine through the lens of the contemporary architectural installation. The project learns from the careful collection and curation of sentimental objects commonly found in home shrines, producing an emotionally resonant experience that recalibrates contemporary notions of atmosphere and engagement.

Myth uses the decorative prayer candle as the primary object through which to explore how home shrines can provoke new understandings of visual and atmospheric opulence in the architectural interior .

The project suspends hundreds of handmade wax container - candles on cotton wicks, creating a semi-enclosed shrine-space by the accumulation of the colorful objects . While the overhead candles are geometrically simple, the candles closer to the ground are increasingly articulated with a grotesque featuring strategy inherent to the transformation of wax from liquid to solid . This articulation technique partners with a gradient of increasing color saturation and shimmering cosmetic in order to engage with a kitsch sensibility that provokes greater emotional resonance with visitors.
Tonight, Monday, April 7th, 6:00 p.m. at the Graham Foundation, 4 West Burton Place, Hunker will deliver a lecture, Spiritual Kitsch.  
The discussion will explore how home shrines and related assemblies can provoke new understandings of visual opulence and lead to the production of emotionally resonant architecture.
 More information and registration here.

Facade slices cut from pizza building - Fewer rounded brick columns at 740 North Rush in renderings for new 45-story Hyatt

click images for larger view
In anticipation of a public meeting on the project on Monday, 42nd ward Alderman Brendan Reilly on Friday released a couple of preliminary renderings for a new 45-story, LEED-certificed hotel project pairing up White Lodging Services with developer Albert Friedman.

When Crain's Chicago Business first revealed the project in February, the site identity was pegged to 740 North Rush, the former Crain's Communications headquarters building best known as home to a very busy Giordano's pizzeria.  As now revealed by Reilly and the renderings, however, 740 isn't being slated for annihilation but truncation.  About half of its Superior Street elevation is set to be demolished for the new tower.  This is not unprecedented.  The landmark 1872 Delaware Building at Randolph and Dearborn, for example, not only had floors added to it in 1888 - several of its easternmost bays were demolished to make way for the Oriental Theater Building.
Even less lucky is the blocky seven-story stone-faced structure with three large displays on the ground floor (was it originally an auto showroom?) that currently serves as Giordano's annex.
Image courtesy Google Streetview
The Superior Street entrances to the building have been long sealed up.  It seems to be built around a central courtyard, with its footprint extending all the way north to the alley, cutting deeply into the back of 740.
image courtesy Google Streetview
It looks as if the new building will go all the way west to Wabash, which would also spell doom for two older buildings - one which until recently was home to 1492 Tapas, the other what looks to be an 1870's rowhouse housing a number of businesses including Intuition Astrology (do you think they saw this coming?)  At the corner of Wabash, there's a surface parking lot, and a small Chicago Archdiocese garage that once bore signs on the driveway reading “Thou shalt not park here”.  (Update: a reader is reporting that site does not include the buildings closest for Wabash)
Aloft, Hyatt Place, Fairfield Inn River North, HOK Architects
Friedman is expanding beyond his usual River North territory, which he transformed from a skid row of seedy bars, decaying lofts and hotels to one of Chicago's trendiest districts of upscale bars, pristinely renovated lofts and - just last year - a Friedman development of three different hotel brands - an Aloft, a Fairfield Inn, and a Hyatt Place - all sharing a single site.
A similar mashup is planned for Superior, countering the high priced Four-Star Peninsula right across the street with an extended-stay Hyatt House and mid-priced Hyatt Place.   At least in the preliminary renderings released by Reilly, the design of the new 45-story tower is numbingly generic, but at least we get to keep the delightfully funky 740 with its long arcades of three-story rounded columns done up in the same brick as the rest of the facade.  In full along Rush, in sample along Superior.