Several weeks ago, Al Hippensteel, our earnest community e-newsletter editor in the South Loop asked his readers a question: What does the South Loop need in 2014?
"A Taste of Printers Row," said one respondent, who felt that since restaurants are the "primary business" in the South Loop, why not highlight them in some big fest from Congress to Polk along Dearborn Street, where many are congregated anyway.
Sounds delicious to me.
Another person wanted the residents, students and businesses in the South Loop to embrace a more cohesive identity, one that transcends "our fractured ward boundaries with a pride of place that is supported and enhanced by our many neighborhood organizations and that includes a strong environmental component…."
One guy said this: “My wish for 2014 is that when the Bears have the ball with 3 minutes to play and they are winning...to make the first down and not hand the ball over to Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.”
All Greek to me, because I don't exactly follow our neighborhood football team over at Soldier Field.
Here's what Yours Truly said: I wish that some, if not all of the empty lots in the south loop would get those buildings built on them that everyone hates in other more quaint neighborhoods. You know, the 3- and 6-flat buildings that everyone complains about in Wicker park, Lincoln Park, Bucktown, etc. because they're too tall, too modern and too out of character. I said they'd be fabulous down here to fill up the empty spaces and give south loopers new places to live!
And I totally stand by that. Take a look at the picture above. It's a glassy, modern 3-flat somewhere on the north side where it isn't wanted by anyone other than the people (ruffians?) who live in it. Its neighbors who live in cute frame cottages, stately graystones, statuesque Victorian bricks--even bungalows--find buildings like this distasteful. Sore thumbs. Architecturally insignificant.
But in the South Loop, there's little history. Most of the architecture is architecturally insignificant.
Yes, we have 11 fantastic remnants from the Gilded Age in the Prairie District neighborhood. And people come from all over the world to see them. But there's only 11. Not block after block.
And the historic Dearborn Station at the end of Printers Row is an architectural gem. Everyone agrees about that. But it's all by itself in one place in the neighborhood.
In the South Loop, we already have mostly new construction. And as far as I'm concerned not enough of it. We have single family homes, apartment buildings--both low- and high-rise--and converted warehouses made into stunning lofts. Some of our construction (i.e., my house at Roosevelt and State) looks really old, but it isn't.
But what we're really long on is empty lots. Infill possibilities galore. Unfortunately, the lots all seem to be owned by greedy landlords who are holding out for renegade developers who want to build high. And pay high. And build cheap. Or for politically connected bums who want to spend taxpayer-owned TIF money (never their own money) on various structures, needed or not.
In other words, this is what we really need: a little 3-flat here. Or a bigger 6-flat there. They won't stand out. Or be garish or out of place like in other neighborhoods. They would bring the density and structural diversity we need. The brick and mortar that we crave.
In the South Loop, there's not that much character that these buildings can ruin. They'd be fine down here in the South Loop--modern, clean, pleasing to buyers. We have a mishmash of all kinds of construction anyway. Let's add to it.
Because the area was pretty much dominated by unused railroad tracks from the get-go, anything goes down here. And it's been that way for decades. There's no historic residential streets that can be decimated by wild and wily builders.
So, developers, get with it. Get over to the South Loop. Landowners, give it up. Sell the land. Bring on the buildings! They'd be welcome here.
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