Gentrification, Density and a New Logan Square High-Rise

2015_4_2LoganTowers

Rendering from Wheeler Kearns

Neighborhoods change, it’s inevitable. The area that was once Cabrini-Green housing project is now populated with big box stores and cookie-cutter yuppie fortresses, while other, once prosperous, (or at least working class) neighborhoods on the west and south side, are losing people and money. UIC has defined 14 Chicago neighborhoods in South and West Chicago as in “severe decline” these neighborhoods “have populations that are, on average, two-thirds African American.” These are the same neighborhoods that have put Chicago in the national news for having high rates of homicide.

For some, gentrification carries benefits, landowners see their properties increase in value and small business may stand to benefit if their customers are more comfortable being out and about in the neighborhoods. Neighborhoods that are richer or more densely populated are often more walkable, and foot traffic on the streets correlates with safety. For other people, gentrification can be devastating. A person learns a neighborhood. Our lives get built around where we shop, send children to school and live from day to day. If your neighborhood gets a rapid infusion of new people from a different background, if the neighborhood businesses no longer cater to you and, most importantly, if it becomes unaffordable in terms of services, parking and rent, that’s going to have a huge impact on your life. Read more

Picking Winners in The Walkable City

Cabrini Green High Rise

Cabrini Green High Rise

Resources don’t distribute evenly in cities. Public schools are funded by property taxes, so places with expensive property get better-funded schools.  Only so many houses can sit by the beach or near a public transit line. Neighborhoods will, by necessity, sort themselves into rich and poor based on the cost of property. People sort themselves by ethnicity, and the poorer less enfranchised people will have less power to influence the city governments to spend resources on them. City governments have to decide what they want to do about this. Do they want to put wind in the sales of the neighborhoods that are sailing upward or do they want to try and make the distribution more equitable?

Modern Urbanism has a lot to say about how to make cities and communities more viable. One strong conviction is that making places more walkable can break up segregation, bring wealth into communities, buoy local businesses and make the people in those communities healthier, but it’s not free. Read more

Against the Streetcar

Street carsStreetcars are a bad idea. They embody the worst of the two classic kinds of public transit. They aren’t flexible like buses, which can move between routes and have their routes altered with relatively little cost. They don’t avoid traffic like trains do because they use the streets. To make matters worse, street cars that don’t have dedicated lanes cannot change lanes if there’s something obstructing their path. In this case, streetcars move slower and cost more than busses, without delivering any benefit.

Yet cities are constructing or planning to build streetcars in Detroit, Grand RapidsMilwaukee, and Cincinnati, and
this list is limited to cities in the Midwest. It’s my firm hope that the notion of a streetcar never becomes popular in Chicago. Public transit funds are precious and we need to use them as best we can to make a system that serves the people the best. Bad transit can kill economic opportunity especially for the poor. Read more

Too Many Bus Stops

busCTA buses stop too often.  Commutes could be sped up dramatically if bus lines simply removed some of the stops. This would not only help passengers, but also improve the flow of traffic on some of Chicago’s busiest streets.

Take for example, the 22 Bus. This bus starts at Howard and travels approximately 9 miles down Clark to Polk, making approximately 80 stops along the way. Many of these stops are absolutely necessary. I would not recommend eliminating stops that are more than one block apart or stops that are at major arteries. So, in the case of the 22, it would not make sense to remove the stop at Armitage, where there are tall apartment buildings and where the 22 connects with the Armitage 73 bus, but the stop one short block north on Dickens could absolutely be eliminated and the passengers who get on or off at this stop should be asked to get off a little further north at Webster or further south at Armitage. Read more

Bar Obituary: The Horseshoe

Max Herman

Photo: Max Herman

The Horseshoe was dying long before I ever set foot in it. I had heard rumors about a big scandal that had ruined the owners, somebody running off with the money, somebody having to give up on creating their dream bar halfway through. A new owner not perceiving it as an amazing opportunity but, instead, as a burden, somebody else’s unfinished project that was now unfinishable.

But, the bars that don’t make money, the bars that reflect an offbeat sensibility, are usually the best. So I hoped to make this deeply offbeat and out-of-sync bar into a clubhouse for me and my offbeat band(s).

Playing at the Horseshoe was perfect. You could get a gig whenever you wanted. The owner was a funny old guy who liked our music and would give us a cut of the bar tab when we brought new drunks into his bar. No one cut us off when we played over our allotted hour. The Special was always $5 for a beer and a shot of whiskey*. There was n1014060_1392760674334731_265476131_never any cover. If you wanted to be paid, you could pass the hat. You could always get a sound check if you wanted one.

But at the same time…

Playing at the Horseshoe was terrible. The sound guy was often late. The venue drew almost no people. One time, my buddy plugged his amp into the wall and it immediately shorted out because the bar had some weird electrical problems. When we were promoting shows, no one had ever heard of the Horseshoe, and, inconveniently, neither had other venues. The food was… uneven. Sometimes it was hard to tell if the bar was open or closed. They left the house lights up until people came in, so people didn’t come in, so the house lights stayed up. The TV was not tuned to any particular type of entertainment, meaning the Horseshoe didn’t show the most important sporting events or movies or broadcast any particular genre; the TV was just turned at random to whatever the random bar tenders wanted to watch. They left the TV sound on well into sound check. Read more

Man Robs a Bank by… Asking for the Money

There’s an odd story on ABC 7’s website today about an
unarmed(?) man robbing a bank.

Apparently the suspect walked into a TCF Bank on Elston Avenue Friday afternoon and “demanded money.” According to the police, the “robber” did not show or imply a weapon. This strikes me as a very low impact robbery technique. I would not have thought this would work. The story doesn’t say if the man threatened bodily harm to anyone, but that harm may have been suggested by the demand.

 

The Continued Dominance of the Car

2015Assembly line saw record car sales in the US, economists cited low gas prices and the economic recovery a
s the main driving forces behind the resurgence of the auto industry. While these are important factors there are also structural issues keeping the car industry humming.

One issue is the way public schools are funded through property taxes. This funding structure puts the best funded public schools in the richest neighborhoods reinforcing economic segregation. How does
that relate to a broader car culture? Suburban school systems that don’t pay into the urban public school system have a natural funding advantage. It makes sense that home buyers would look to live in the places with the best funded schools. Read more

Lou Pride’s I Won’t Give Up, Ex Machina (Comic), and The Venom Business – Quick Takes

I Won’t Give Up by Lou PrideI won't give up

Chicago bluesman, Lou Pride, played clubs around the country for over 40 years. When he released this album in 2000 he was already a veteran. From its packaging, the album looks like a homemade vanity project but, when you put the record on the stereo, the tracks sound big and full. His lyrics reveal swagger and confidence.

The title track is, as you might expect, all about preserving in the face of adversity. Being a club act can’t be an easy life, “People try to tell me I ought to get a job,” he complains. That might not sound like bragging, but it is. I stumbled across this album when my wife brought it back from work at Space in Evanston.

I couldn’t love it more. It’s a manual on how to be an excellent front man. Read more

Books, TV, Comics and Music I’m Looking Forward to in 2016

lazarus-detailLazarus, written by Greg Rucka with art created by Michael Lark – I’ll do a whole trade waiting post about this
shortly, but for now suffice it to say Rucka has built another amazing world.  The horrible future of extreme haves and have nots is beautifully realized down to the smallest detail. It’s been very exciting to read so far and now it seems to be picking up steam as it hurtles toward a still-unknown conclusion.

Saga written by Brian K. Vaughn, art by Fiona Staples – obviously

Side Pony by Lake Street Dive – These guys just make great pop music. Their songs are immediately, right-out-of-the-box good but they’re not just trifles. The music is crafted with a skill and attention to detail that makes the songs worth hours of relistens.

I’m biased because I slightly know the band members and can tell they’re sweethearts but, even if they were jerk bags, their music is undeniable.

Magicians, TV Adaptation – I don’t know crap about TV. I got rid of mine a few years ago. But I do love these novels and have been excited/afraid/hopeful about this series since it was announced. Then when I heard they had cast my father-in-law, Tom, I became fully committed to checking it out. The premiere has already aired but I’ve yet to find a way to watch. Still counts.

The Doors of Stone (Kingkiller Chronicles novel) by Patrick Rothfuss – I’m not sure this will come out this year, but the author’s talking about editing it now, so one can hope.

Utopia by Cory Doctorow – This is not coming out until 2017 because we live in an unjust world where bad things happen to good people and fans have to sit on the edges of their chairs. But I’m still looking forward to its appearance in 2017.

The Private Eye Review – Trade Waiter

The Private Eye is a book about anonymity. It’s a future noir that centers on a paparazzo instead of a detective. The story takes place in a post-internet world where one generation ago, all of everyone’s personal info was made public causing the world to give up the social media and web browsing to protect their personal lives. People take their privacy so seriously that they wear strange masks to hide their faces.

Marcos Martin draws a beautiful, deeply strange world with creature-like characters and vehicles. Martin who did such great work on Daredevil creating the backgrounds and cityscapes of hell’s kitchen, is beautifully suited to the project. The future L.A. the story imagines is colored in saturated brilliant shades from Munsta Vicente. But the reason I picked this book up is Brian K Vaughn. His book Saga is probably the best on-going comic book in print.

Private Eye

I want to say as little as possible about this book, not because it’s easy to spoil, but because it’s impossible to recreating a beautiful comic like this in prose is. It might be better to say it’s as good of an LA noir as has been written in decades, even if it is half dystopian SciFi. It reads clear and fast like a potboiler, but what sticks with you after the book is done is the world. I’d recommend this book to anyone.

The physical version of this book just became available in December. The work was originally published online at panel syndicate via the pay as you go model. It’s a lovely execution with long landscape pages, thick paper, that give the art the room it needs to breathe.

This post should be the first in a string of Trade Waiter posts. Look for a post on another of the great Brian K. Vaughn books next week.

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