Friday, November 29, 2013

River Point -- A Progress Report

In my last post I wrote about the incredible 14-month project to straighten the south branch of the river, move a tangle of railroad tracks from one side to the other, and open up three new Chicago through-streets.

My guess is that the great majority of Chicagoans living in 1929 paid little attention to the project and an equally large number never personally saw any of it happening.

This summer a project began that, although not as massive an undertaking as that 1929 effort, certainly has matched it as far as the efficiency with which it has been carried out.

I first posted photos of the River Point project, the 45-story Pickard Chilton design at 444 West Lake Street, dead center at the point where the main channel of the Chicago River splits to the north and south. 

I grabbed a few shots back in June as the work barge was tied up at the site and preliminary excavation was under way.  I returned toward the end of August, and it was clear how much progress had been made in a couple of months.  A little over a week ago, I made my third visit, and at that time the progress was, to me, even more impressive . . . so much so that the relationship of the busy work site today and the rendering of the finished park and river walk as they were first proposed are undeniable.

See what you think . . . 

River Side -- June 23, 2013 (JWB Photo)
River Side -- August 28, 2013 (JWB Photo)
River Side -- November 21, 2013 (JWB Photo)
Railroad Tracks -- June 23, 2013 (JWB Photo)
Railroad Tracks -- August 28, 2013 (JWB Photo)

Railroad tracks, underneath a new park -- November 21, 2013 (JWB Photo)

Looking south from Canal Street -- June 23, 2013
Looking north toward Canal Street -- August 28, 2013

Looking south from Canal Street -- November 21, 2013 (JWB Photo)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Straightening of the Chicago River Completed -- November 27, 1929

River Straightening in Progress, 1929 (Google Image)
Big doings in the city on this date back in 1929 as “water gushed through a cut made by a steam shovel in the thin earth barrier which separated the two dredge sections of the new channel between Polk and Eighteenth streets.  Steam whistles roared and a small group of city officials and city planners watched as the major operation on the river became virtually complete.”  [Chicago Tribune, November 28, 1929]

The “major operation” that had been completed was the straightening of well over a mile of river, accompanied by the large-scale movement of railroad right-of-way.  And the amazing thing about the whole project was that it required just over a year to pull off.  For an in-depth look at what was involved, check out the description of this massive project here.

On September 21, 1928 a crowd of 200 spectators watched as “a parade of steamers, and a half dozen dredges, scows and tugs with flags flying and whistles shrieking” [Chicago Tribune, September 21, 1928] got the project off to a roaring start as the mayor and other dignitaries officiated.

On December 15 of 1929 the first vessel, the freighter McFarland, steamed through the unkinked section of river.

For me, this is just one more example of the larger-than-life projects that shaped this great city during the 1920’s.  You can bet with some assurance that such a project would require more than 14 months to complete today.

In a 14-month project the south branch of the river was changed forever (Chicago Daily News Archives)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Wolf Point Site Preparation Begins

bKL rendering of West Tower at Wolf Point -- view facing north toward Kinzie Street 
Fresh off the successful completion of Coast, the glassy upscale rental tower in Lakeshore East, Thomas Kerwin and bKL are watching as construction begins on their next new design at Wolf Point.  Wolf Point, the last remnant of a time when the Boston Kennedy’s owned over three square blocks of riverfront real estate and one of the earliest areas of settlement in the city back in the early 1800’s, is a conspicuous location, and it looks as though bKL has designed this, the first of three towers to fill the site, as a stunner.

As part of a master plan put together by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, bKL will see its 48-story West Tower, an upscale rental building with 510 units, completed as the first and least tall structure to fill the site.  According to the bKL website, “The highly visible tower meets the river’s edge gracefully.  The building is made up of a series of layered planes that form the composition of the building’s massing. These planes respond to the site conditions both in plan and in section and create a slender, elegant profile as it addresses the river and the city.”

Balconies will be inset, a nice touch of class that avoids cluttering up the fa├žade of the building with hanging porches, and parking will be below grade, respecting the public river walk that will eventually be a part of the entire development scheme.  The plan is designed to achieve a LEED Silver Certification as well, another thoughtful touch.

Anyway, here is what the site looked like last week as the parking lot that has long faced the bend in the river was being removed.  With River Point underway just to the west, 2014 and 2015 should be great years to watch buildings climb along the river.

Site preparation, looking west. Note Wolf Point development across the river (JWB Photo)
Looking east, rebar & concrete separated (JWB Photo)
Looking southeast toward Franklin Street bridge (JWB Photo)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

St. Joseph Hospital Presence Center for Advanced Care -- Week One Progress

By 2015 a parking lot will give way to the new Presence Center for Advanced Care
Although we are blessed with grand views of Belmont Harbor and Wrigley Field by day and spectacular sunsets to the west in the evening, immediately to the north of our building we have looked out on a parking lot for St. Joseph Hospital for the past half-dozen years.

That began to change three weeks ago as construction began on a 200,000 square foot expansion of the hospital in the form of the Presence Center for Advanced Care.  The new facility will provide much needed space for outpatient surgery, medical imaging, physical therapy, and specialized centers dealing with the treatment of cancer and digestive diseases.

It has been interesting to watch the project pick up steam from up here on the thirty-first floor.  I’ve tried to keep an eye on things so far, and at regular intervals will post photos of the progress that is being made.  The project is interrupting my reading time because I keep running to the window with camera and binoculars to see what’s currently happening. 

I thought it might be interesting, as well, to see how a project of this scope moves along.  Here are the photos and a brief description of progress made during the first week of construction.

Day One – Monday, November 4, 2013
  The fence guys show up with the equipment necessary to secure the site.
  Post holes are augured on the west side (Sheridan Road) and on the east side           (Commonwealth)
  West side posts set in concrete

Day One: The Beginning -- Crews gather to secure the site (JWB Photo)
Day Two – Tuesday, November 5, 2013
  Trucks deliver concrete barricades for north side (Surf)
  Concrete barricades set up on Serf with screening to block view
  Last car is towed from Surf
  Completion of barricade posts next to Commonwealth Plaza on the south

Day Two: Barricades delivered at north end (Surf St.) of construction site (JWB Photo)
Day Three – Wednesday, November 6, 2013
  Blue storage trailer delivered and placed on south side
  Plywood sheeting moved into trailer
  Rain most of the day

Day Four – Thursday, November 7, 2013
  Wooden lath installed between Sheridan Road fence posts
  Chain link fence installed on Commonwealth (east side)
  Green screening attached to east side chain link fence to block view

Day Four: Screening attached to concrete barricades on Surf St.;
fence posts up along Sheridan Rd. (JWB Photo)
Day Five – Friday, November 8, 2013
  Plywood attached to Sheridan Road (west) fencing
  Bulldozer is delivered

Day Five: Plywood up along Sheridan Rd.; bulldozer delivered (JWB Photo)
So it took an entire week to get the site prepared in order to begin work.  By the end of the week, though, the lot was completely enclosed, parking had ended on Surf and Commonwealth, and the first piece of heavy equipment had been delivered.  They were ready to go.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Wabash Woes

See that yellow sign that says 13' 2"?  (JWB Photo)
Walking north on Wabash Avenue early this afternoon, happy to be out of the dentist’s chair, I was surprised at the lack of traffic on the street.  At the corner of Randolph and Wabash I discovered the reason – a tractor and trailer stuck under the elevated tracks, blocking Wabash completely.

A bad day for somebody . . .

Looking east on Randolph (JWB Photo)
Wabash Avenue blocked completely (JWB Photo)