Sunday, August 02, 2009

More Hotels, More Mediocrity to descend on River North

In his newsletter to constituents, 42nd ward alderman Brendan Reilly released a Powerpoint presentation that HOK Architects gave at a recent community meeting that depicts the designs for three interlocking hotels, totaling 601 rooms, that Friedman Properties is proposing to build on the western half of the block between Dearborn and Clark, Illinois and Grand in River North.
The first casualty of the project would be the 19th century building at 501 N. Clark, conveniently left out of a sprawling River North landmark district that was hastily sprung last October only to fall into limbo after screams by affected property owners, including Friedman, the "King of River North," who has been instrumental in transforming the area from a skid row to one of the most popular neighborhoods in the city.
We may be entering the declining stage of Albert Friedman's stewardship. As a rescuer of landmark properties - the original foundation of his empire - he's sine qua non. As a developer of new construction, he's turning out to be just another enabler of junk architecture. The designs presented for the hotels are dull as dishwater, and would be a major contributor to the usual trajectory of a hot area made attractive by a storehouse of interesting architecture becoming overwhelmed by increasingly large scale projects that overtake and smother its character. The newer megabuildings are basically parasitical. They add density and economic value (and, of course, get their own substantial cut in return), but give little to nothing back to the urban fabric.
The Fairfield Inn design at least promises a fairly open facade. The Hyatt looks like a second rate hospital, the Aloft like an upscale SRO, with a stripe along the short facade that seems to be a street vendor knockoff of Jackie Koo's bold green lightning bolt on the new Hotel Wit.
The next shoe to drop may be just across the street, where the U.S. Postal Service is looking to unload the Myron Goldsmith designed Fort Dearborn facility for the highest possible economic return, meaning the last opportunity to provide a real park for the exploding residential density of River North may well be lost to another series of overscaled, built to to-the-lot line, dead-as- a-beached-cod towers. Where's the collapsed real estate market when you really need it?


Anonymous said...

River North depresses me too much to think about. I think in the back of my mind, I gave up hope a long time ago.

Anonymous said...

Junk is too kind a word. I can think of one or two other words, but they wouldn't be acceptable for posting.

That 501 N. Clark, an immediate post-fire architectural gem, would be lost to this pile of (I won't say it)is depressing.

BTW, what did happen to the Great Recession?

Erik Maldre said...

I think Lynn's use of "parasitical" is entirely accurate.

marko said...

Whats happened to River North is a complete travisty. Such a wasteland. I walk through it everday to get to work and every day it depresses me more. Empty shops, banks everywhere and bland concrete walls.

Anonymous said...

Albert Friedman is the best thing that ever happened to Chicago's landmark buildings and to River North. To say he is just like the rest of the developers is completely ignorant and seriously misinformed. If River North depresses anyone, go back to the time when River North was skid row. Very disrespectful.

Lynn Becker said...

Tell me that this new project is anywhere near his previous contributions in quality with a straight face. I dare you.

Friedman appears to be trading in a unique, sterling reputation for superior work for becoming just another developer of overscaled schlock.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mr. Becker - you tell me with a staright face 501 N. Clark is a historic building? I dare you. the cornice is plastic, the building has been so significantly altered and added onto that there is no way anyone could claim it even retains anything of value. Well I guess there are a few bricks in there from 1800's.

Friedman doesn't put up shlock and you know it. lets see how it finally ends up --- Stop picking on the good guys out there --- Friedman is the only one actually trying to still develop good property out there and keep people working.

I think we may be entering the declining stage of Lynn Becker. Maybe that means we can landmark you Lynn?

Lynn Becker said...

Actually, I've noticed the demolition trucks following me every time I go out, and I don't hold out much hope because I'm not even rated orange.

No one is "picking on" Albert Friedman (and if we were, he's a big enough boy to take it without breaking a sweat). There are no "gimmes" in architecture, no papal indulgences purchased through past good works.

Friedman doesn't put up schlock? Well, he'll be making a great start if these mediocrities go up as designed. If these works aren't schlock, please enlighten us as to exactly what you find so admirable in their design.