Monday, October 22, 2018

CityFront Center Serves as a Cautionary Tale for The 78 Development in the Sloop

If you're into urban design and city planning, we highly suggest reading an excellent article on the Tribune about the CityFront Center.  Beyond having great graphics and pictures, it serves as a good reminder for us in the South Loop as our own developments - such as the 78 take shape:
Viewed from the air, it’s a stunning transformation — in just 30 years, a gritty swath of cleared land and surface parking lots has become a glistening new part of Chicago.
But people experience cities on the ground, not in the air. Put the 60 acres between Navy Pier and Michigan Avenue under a microscope and what you see is a cityscape of great expectations and half-kept promises.

The deal was simple: The city would let developers build tall at Cityfront Center, Chicago’s largest real estate development of the 1980s. In exchange, there would be beautiful buildings, streets, parks, plazas and a riverwalk.

Yet the architecture, with rare exceptions, is mediocre. The public spaces were supposed to be vibrant and interconnected. Instead, they are unfinished, underachieving, largely disjointed and even, in one case, off-limits to the public.

Urban planning flops like these loom large as city officials review new megaplans from developers who pretty up their visions of skyscrapers with dazzling drawings of riverwalks, bike trails and other amenities teeming with smiling, attractive people.

For the 53-acre Lincoln Yards on the North Side, developer Sterling Bay wants to construct 12 million square feet of buildings, including towers as tall as 800 feet. It’s sweetening the deal by proposing amenities like an extension of The 606 bike and pedestrian trail east of the Kennedy Expressway.

At The 78, a 62-acre project on the Near South Side that Amazon is considering as an HQ2 site, developer Related Midwest has laid out plans for 13 million square feet, including skyscrapers up to 950 feet tall. Its sweeteners include a 100-foot-wide, half-mile-long riverwalk lined by restaurants and shops.

The planner of both projects, the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, co-designed Cityfront Center’s master plan. But if Cityfront Center is any guide, some of the promised amenities will never materialize.

The broader South Loop area has had some transformational projects already such as Dearborn Park 1 & 2 and Central Station development.  While many have issues with those, they certainly were pioneers for what our neighborhood has become and will continue to evolve into.  Should be fun to see how the latest wave transforms the Sloop.

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