Thursday, December 12, 2019

December 12, 1998 -- Chicago Housing Authority Implodes Lakefront Properties

December 12, 1998 – The Chicago Housing Authority implodes four buildings at Forty-First Street and Park Avenue in the city’s first implosion of public housing buildings.  The Lakefront Properties had been vacant for 13 years, symbols of a bygone era at C.H.A. when the organization had a “policy of warehousing the poor in high-rises.”  [Chicago Tribune, December 13, 1998]  As the C.H.A. turns to low-rise mixed-income developments, the high rises that separated the Dan Ryan Expressway from the lakefront were razed with 1,200 to 1,800 units destroyed in the preceding three years.  Once the buildings are gone, the city plans to invite developers to submit proposals for 350 to 400 homes and town homes on the site, about a quarter of which will be reserved for public housing residents.  A Maryland demolitions company, Controlled Demolitions Inc., has drilled into each building’s columns so that dynamite can be inserted, allowing the buildings to fall nearly straight down.  Company spokesman James Santoro says, “We do not blow buildings up – we let gravity tear buildings down.  We’re dropping it gradually and allowing it to break apart.” In the Saturday demolition no brick falls more that 15 feet from a building’s footprint.  This method of razing the properties is a thousand dollars cheaper per unit than bringing them down with a wrecking ball, and is obviously being much quicker.  The site today is covered with low and mid-rise residential buildings that make up Sullivan Station, a neighborhood named after a railway station that used to stand in the area.  You can see more than you might ever want to see of the demolition of Lakefront Properties here.  The top photo shows the demolition on December 12, 1998.  The second photo presents one of the low-rise housing units in the new Sullivan Station.

December 12, 1972 – The General Manager of the Merchandise Mart, Thomas V. King, announces that a 27-story building housing showrooms for the apparel industry, along with exhibition spaces and a 500-room hotel, will be built on Wolf Point, just to the west of the Mart. There will be space for 1,400 cars in and around the new addition.  Its presence will allow the movement of women’s and children’s showrooms on the ninth floor of the Merchandise Mart to be moved to the new building.  It is expected that construction will begin in the spring of 1973 on land that is owned by the Kennedy family of Boston.  The 1.7-million-square-foot project will go head-to-head with another proposed apparel mart that is planned for the corner of Randolph and Clark Streets, the site of the Sherman House Hotel.  That proposal never made it past the announcement phase, and in the early 1980’s work began on the Thomson Center on that block as the hotel came down.  The project on Wolf Point, with plans drawn by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, still stands,  and the Kennedy family controlled it for over two decades.  In 1998 Vornado Realty Trust purchased it from the family along with the Merchandise Mart for $625 million.  The top photo shows the Apparel Mart as it appeared when it opened.  The photo below that shows it wedged behind three towers, one of which has been completed, the second of which is nearing completion, with the tallest of the three is set to begin construction when the east tower is done.  

December 12, 1928 – Colonel W. C. Weeks, the United States district engineer in Chicago, states that he will recommend the issuance of a permit for the construction of an outer drive link bridge across the Chicago River.  Almost immediately a bill asking congressional approval of the bridge is sent to Senator Charles S. Deneen and Congressman Charles R. Chindbloom in Washington, D. C. Weeks is persuaded, in part by the words of James Simpson, chairman of the Chicago Plan Commission, who wrote, “The people of Chicago will be unable to obtain the full benefit of the millions of dollars which they have spent in creating the lake front parks and drives unless they are properly connected so that the entire development will be accessible to all sections of the city … Traffic movement is increasing continually and the delay caused by insufficient river crossing results in a very large loss to all those who are affected by traffic congestion upon our north-and-south streets.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 13, 1928] The above photo shows the mouth of the river just about this time ... note that the bridge at Michigan Avenue is the last bridge before the lake.

ecember 12, 1943 – With United States war production at full throttle the Chicago Daily Tribune announces that the Illinois Institute of Technology has developed the “mightiest program in its history and a record of having become the busiest as well as the biggest engineering college in the country.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 12, 1943]  The school is running a twelve-month calendar with three 16-week terms with all holidays, except Christmas, eliminated from the schedule.  Classes begin at 7:30 a.m. and continue until 5:20 p.m.  The grueling schedule turns out certified engineers in 30 months.  “Frills in college life have been discarded,” the paper writes.  “Graduation ceremonies cut to the minimum as senior classes increase in number, and, if four weeks of the year were not the absolute smallest amount of time needed for registration and administrative work, college officials say these weeks would be utilized for classes.”  The school is spread out across the city with classes taking place in 27 separate war plants.  Classes are also being held at the John Marshall Law School, George Williams College, the Civic Opera Building, and 333 North Michigan Avenue.  Since the United States entered the war in December of 1941, 34,256 students have been enrolled in courses at the school with the enrollment standing at 4,665 as the year comes to an end.

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