Posts Tagged ‘Julius Rosenwald’

Quick Hits

February 27, 2009

Word is out that the Rosenwald is threatened again – the stunning Michigan Terrace Garden Apartments, an early affordable (not subsidized) housing scheme by Chicago’s greatest philanthropist of the early 20th century, Julius Rosenwald. Economic downturns help preservation by steering moneymad wasters away from random demolitions and harebrained development schemes, but they also stymie big projects like the Rosenwald that were getting ready to happen.
The other big preservation news in Chicago is the Appellate Court decision, which I presume the city has already appealed. An attorney on the North Side whose hobby is suing the city about zoning and a person of similar avocation in East Village managed to find some judges unaware of U.S. Supreme Court precedent to declare the Chicago Landmarks Ordinance “vague” in its criteria and remanded to the lower court, which would presumably throw out the ordinance. The effect of this? Nothing. Why?
1. The City has the power to landmark buildings with or without a landmarks ordinance. Every Chicago Landmark is designated as an individual legislative act by the City Council. The judges seem to be confused about who does the designation. You won’t get the Illinois Supreme Court to challenge a home rule legislative body. Believe me, I’ve tried.
2. The ordinance is like the other 2600 in the United States. They are equally vague. Even Houston designates landmarks, and it has no zoning. Maybe the hapless attorney should move there.
3. Chicago has a belt and suspenders. We have the 90-day demolition delay based on our comprehensive Chicago Historic Resources Survey, which is a level of precision a judge who had been rated as qualified would notice. Most landmarks fall under this law.
4. Even though the plaintiffs argued it, the decision did not mention downzoning efforts in the two neighborhoods. Maybe that’s why Jack Guthman stopped talking about it. He thought, reasonably, that his 25-year old argument was being validated, only to find that the judge completely whiffed it.

Meanwhile, in Oak Park they are demolishing the Colt Building and others on Westgate in preparation for a new development – wait, hold the phone – the developer backed out.
That means the demolition is?
I can see it now: Skate on Lake! Gallery Colt!
I was in favor of getting rid of the Colt if it saved the rest of Westgate, which was the plan in 2005.
But I also watched the demolition of Block 37 in 1989 for a new development.
And I watched the new development being completed.

This Tuesday.

It’s not done yet.

The timing between the demolition of 8 historic buildings on Block 37 and the completion of the new development they were sacrificed for?
How about a short list of the things that happened (besides my getting married, having children, hair turning gray)

Berlin Wall demolished
First Gulf War
Chicago Heat Wave
Six Chicago Bulls Championships
Current Gulf Wars
East Timor
Sox World Series
yes, the hometown of Chinese communism built all this while Block 37 lay vacant.
The Macarena
Harry Potter
Lord of the Rings trilogy and 3 James Bonds
iPods iPhones Wiis Facebook MySpace and most of the Internet
Bush, Clinton, Clinton, Bush, Bush


Now, to be fair, this building took longer to build than Block 37:
But come on guys, that was 800 years ago.

The Rosenwald

March 30, 2007

The Rosenwald

Originally uploaded by vincusses.

I was at a Financing workshop this morning at the Bronzeville Visitors Bureau for what is affectionately called simply “The Rosenwald.” Organized by National Trust Advisor Paula Robinson and Harold Lucas, who have been involved in South Side community preservation for a generation, the effort was the latest in an ongoing series of attempts to save a truly important building. As Harold pointed out at the outset, the building – which covers most of the block between 46th and 47th Streets, Michigan to Wabash, was significant in both the history of Bronzeville as the home of famous individuals like Quincy Jones and Joe Louis, and in the history of Chicago’s greatest philanthropist, Sears, Roebuck Chairman Julius Rosenwald. Rosenwald is known nationwide for his early 20th century empowerment efforts, building schools for African-Americans across the south. The Rosenwald was one of two predecessors to public housing in Chicago, the other being the Marshall Field Garden Apartments on the north side. Officially called Michigan Terrace Garden Apartments, Rosenwald had his nephew Ernest Grunsfeld, Jr. design the 5-story Art Deco complex for Bronzeville in 1929. It was listed on the National Register in 1981.

The building has drawn the attention of preservationists for a while. The National Trust put it on their 11 Most Endangered List three years after it closed in 2000. Landmarks Illinois and Preservation Chicago have put it on their most endangered lists as well. Architect Phil Kupritz presented the redevelopment plan, which will add corridors and elevators, create 300 units instead of 440, and bring the building into the modern market.

The market is on its way already. If you haven’t been to the Near South Side lately – say 26th to 47th Street – it’s too late – that train left the station. The new housing at 35th and State where the Robert Taylor homes used to be has shot up in the last few months, and new greystones line every street from the lakefront to Michigan. Bronzeville has been one of the hottest markets for new single-family homes for the last decade. As one developer at the meeting said: it is only a matter of time before the Rosenwald is redeveloped. This thing is solid – concrete, not the knotty sticks they are using to build the new houses.

The scale of the building – almost a full block, well over 400,000 square feet, combined with the lack of elevators and fire exits to scare off developers a few years ago, but they are running out of excuses. A TIF district and a raft of tax credits – historic, low-income, New Market, make the deal better, and a preservation easement could add more. If it goes condo, the Illinois Property Tax Freeze could offer an extremely enticing incentive for new homeowners.

It’s not out of the woods yet, but I suspect the real challenge will be keeping the community – ably represented by Paula and Harold and Rosenwald preservationist Bobbie Johnson – in the deal. Harold has a nice sense of history – he talked about the proposed National Heritage Area for the section of the South Side where blacks were forced to live by racial covenants before 1948. This heritage area is a worthwhile goal, and like most historic projects, it will recall a time and place that is, in ways both good and bad, long gone.

Save The Rosenwald!