Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Tribune’

Mayor Emanuel fumbles first landmarks test

July 8, 2011

Okay, so a couple years ago a career gadfly and scold sued the City of Chicago claiming the Landmarks Ordinance was vague and arbitrary, the sort of legal challenge first-year law students learn about before they move on to the real stuff. But this is Chicago, and this is Illinois, and three judges at the Appellate level agreed with the charge, mostly based on the fact that the criteria in the ordinance were “vague” because they used words like “significant” and “values” and “importance” which of course caused me to opine and label the whole thing “Appellate Nuttiness” at the time.

The case is still out there and now we have Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is already facing the question of whether we should have three vacant city blocks in a row just east of Michigan Avenue in Streeterville (the Prentice Women’s Hospital issue) and he also gets to appoint people to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, who are by ordinance “professionals in the disciplines of history, architecture, historic architecture, planning, archaeology, real estate, historic preservation, or related fields, or shall be persons who have demonstrated special interest, knowledge, or experience in architecture, history, neighborhood preservation, or related disciplines.”

Now, if you are concerned about a case that challenges your ordinance, you might follow the ordinance in selecting those professionals. But the Mayor fumbled. He named an obstetrician (who delivered the President’s daughters) and a chef to the panel and removed the last architect and architectural historian. This is a fumble in dry conditions without an excuse, and the Tribune’s Blair Kamin has done an excellent job reporting it today here.

Architects Ben Weese and Ed Torrez are off the Commission, as is National Park Service veteran Phyllis Ellin and longtime community preservationist Yvette LeGrand. Eleanor Gorski has succeeded Brian Goeken as the Deputy Commissioner and leader of the Commission staff, and she is an architect and Rome Prize winner so that is good. But how will this look to the courts questioning whether the ordinance is “arbitrary” in its application? A chef? How will the new commissioners deal with Prentice, a triumph of architecture united with engineering, if they are seeing it from the obstetrician’s point of view?

Oh, wait…

JULY 13 UPDATE: Ben Weese – one of the architects sacked from the Commission – sent a REALLY nice letter to the Mayor saying you know, you might want to have an architect on the Commission to like look at building permits and, like, architecture? See Blair Kamin today.


April 3, 2007

The Grave Dancer bought the Tribune. Appropriate, I suppose, that the billionaire collector of distressed properties, having divested himself of real estate at the tip of a century bubble, should dive into the distressed world of old media. It is even oddly encouraging for those of us who like to sit on the couch or at the kitchen table with morning coffee and read the paper. I read lots of internet news, but never on the couch or kitchen table (or toilet). Technology is additive.

My brother emailed to ask what I thought of Sam Zell and of course the first thing I always say about him – as I said to my college colleague Jason (who works for Zell) on Saturday is – where is the damn Norton mural? John Warner Norton, one of the great Illinois artists of the first half of the century, painted a stunning Deco mural on canvas on the ceiling of the 1928 Daily News Building at Madison and the River.

The mural is about making (reporting) and delivering the news, and its graphic constructivism and bright color palette make it a major masterpiece as it narrates in dynamic angles the process of news production from reportage to typesetting to delivery in a whirl of 1928 high tech abstraction – planes and trains and automobiles. Zell bought the building and the mural has been mysteriously in storage for over 12 years. Every couple of years the Reader wonders about its whereabouts. So do we at Landmarks Illinois.

Now that he is a newspaperman, it would be appropriate for Sam Zell to reveal the restored mural. But he is famously allergic to culture, at least according to the 1994 Tribune article about Zell’s Angels, his millionaire motorcycle buddies. Whenever they tried to stop at a landmark or cultural site, Zell cringed and moaned.

Maybe we could convince him that the restored Norton mural, like his S corporation ESOP restructuring of Tribune debt, is an elaborate tax dodge. I could do that easy.