Thursday, May 20, 2010

Private gardens in the sky: Public squalor on the ground

Walking down Washington this week, I noticed this lovely private garden atop the beleaguered and largely empty Block 37 mall on State Street.
There is not a square inch of public greenspace in the Block 37 development. This is what the public gets:
This is the entrance to the Washington Red Line station, which has been "temporarily" closed since 2006 for construction of the pedway under Block 37. The pedway opened last November; the station remains shuttered. All that's left is this scarring, incomprehensible ugliness, put on public display.

Exactly what could the purpose of this noxious, unfinished concrete block bisecting an already narrow stair except, perhaps, to let the bureaucrats give the bird to the passerbys? It's like the entrance to King Tut's tomb, the sealed route to a burial chamber holding a quarter billion dollars of taxpayer's money, squandered on a "superstation" for an express service to O'Hare that doesn't exist and for which there was never a plan to make it exist. Construction was halted and the station sealed after officials conceded that the project was massively overbudget and no one had any idea how much more cash would have to be dumped into the pit to make it usable.

And it's the gift that keeps on giving. Every year there's $5 to $10 million in debt service payments on the bonds the CTA floated for a station that may well never open. Anywhere else, it's the kind of the scandal that would have driven a mayor from power. In Chicago, the city of sheep, it's business as usual.

The only visible remnant of the fiasco is this stairway. Call it the TIF memorial.


micanichi said...

Disappointing for such a large scale project. The incomplete LED screens that should wrap the corner are another sad commentary on Block 37. Perhaps a MINE THE BLOCK competition is in order.

Anonymous said...

The rooftop will be a public rooftop garden. Obviously they aren't going to construct that now since they still have to build the hotel and condo towers.

Lynn Becker said...

"will be" a public rooftop garden? You mean, like the light sculpture that was supposed to enliven the deadly facades? if it happens, it will be a happy event, but don't count on it just because they put in a press release.

Anonymous said...

I thought the James Carpenter light sculptures were gone when the original Perkins & Will design was dumbed-down by Mills/Freed/Gensler. Still, the CBS screen is completely wrong and needs to be fixed. And there should be better lighting on the State St side by those Gehry knockoffs and blue gradient vertical "art".

marko said...

Jail Time is the answer if anyone can get to the bottom of this block 37 mess. Only in Chicago can a project take 30 years to complete and destroy the busiest station in the city in the process. This is a disgrace and an insult to the taxpayers and citizens of this thugocracy.