In Other News

I am proud to say that this little endeavor of mine is starting to grow. In the past week I have had something published or a mention in two local planning/development news sources.

I made my Streetsblog Chicago debut with an article about the planned parking lot to be built at the Whole Foods in Sauganash on Chicago’s Northwest Side.

And AJ LaTrace linked to my piece calling for better planning at the redesigned intersection of Elston/Fullerton/Diversey on Curbed Chicago.

I think that deserves a pat on the back.

And on a final note: the Illiana Tollroad project is still news. Although it’s been on hold since Gov. Bruce Rauner took office early this spring it isn’t dead. The petition I’m hosting via this blog is still up and running and is just shy of the 500 signature goal with only 34 more needed.

If you want better transportation planning and more fiscal responsibility in Illinois and Indiana, SIGN THE PETITION NOW and help get those last signatures in.

Schaumburg and the City: Proposal Calls for a Giant Parking Lot at Elston/Fullerton/Damen with a Commerial Element

Travel east-west along Fullerton Ave. in Chicago and you go from Lincoln Park to Logan Sqaure, two incredibly walkable and bikeable neighborhoods. The same can be said for Damen Avenue; if you begin in Roscoe Village and go straight south you hit Bucktown/Wicker Park. But, right in the middle of this urbanism you find yourself in what appears to be Schaumburg. The intersection of Elston, Fullerton, and Damen is a cluster of strip malls, big box stores, and parking lots that is conspicuously suburban. Despite a redesign of the intersection to improve traffic flow there is no sign it’s going to get better. Indeed, a proposal for the site may make it much, much worse… farewell Schaumburg, hello Hoffmann Estates?

Whether traveling by car, bus, or bike getting through this intersection is no easy nor pleasant experience. Everybody slows down here and that is the whole purpose of a cut n’ dry redesign and rebuild of the intersection: move traffic through the area more efficiently than ever before and relieve the unbearable congestion that currently results from the awkward ‘almost, but not quite’ six-way intersection.

The only problem is what’s being proposed so far for the site. Announced yesterday by Curbed Chicago, the plan brought forth by Mid-America Real Estate and under consideration by Ald. Scott Waguespack’s (32nd Ward) office, calls for over 100,000 square feet of disconnected commercial space surrounded by 437 parking spaces (covering much of the project area). The project includes no multi-use components and spreads over almost six city blocks. The only dense component would be a three-story commercial building at the new intersection of Damen and Elston.

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This is a conceptual plan for the site showing the re-designed intersection and the location of parking lots and commercial developments. Image from Curbed Chicago.

Cue le sigh! As I’ve already made clear on Twitter, this whole proposal is utter insanity and quite frankly it’s hard to take it seriously. But considering Ald. Waguespack is holding a public meeting about it there must be some serious thought being put into it (at least within his office). This is troubling, because the site presents nothing but fantastic potential, yet the whole proposal is so regressive in its current form.

While certain big box stores still need to find an urban home, it is amazing to me that this style of development is the immediate go-to when it comes to the redesigned intersection. Building more car-oriented developments here will do nothing to help relieve congestion. Congestion is the result of an over-reliance on car use and development patterns that encourage car use and a lack of alternatives. Regardless of whether the intersection is redesigned or not, car use and congestion won’t mitigate until infrastructure is developed that decreases the need for car use all together or discourages people from uses cars unnecessarily.

By falling into a trap of a building more big boxes and strip malls, developers and the Alderman are reinforcing a trend recognized by planners and sociologists citywide that might be hurting us more than we thing: fewer housing units being built in desirable neighborhoods and related population losses. Unlike Ald. Pawar (47th) who recognized the need to increase the amount of housing in his ward, Ald. Waguespack has shown no indication there is a recognition for the need to increase and diversify housing units in this part of the city. With population loses citywide more housing units need to be built to recover from this and a diverse set of housing types need to be built to increase the social diversification that results in economic diversification and retain existing residents as their lives and needs change. And this site is ideal for such kinds of mixed-use development with massive residential components.

Condos and apartments can be built above grocery stores and parking without looking like a row of strip malls and big box stores in Anywhere Suburb USA. And Anywhere Suburb USA is exactly what should be avoided at this intersection. Why more big box style developments are needed is questionable, but fail not to realize even at their most unreasonable they still get built in the city.

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SoNo East and SoNo West were built along the North/Clybourn corridor in Lincoln Park, which was once dominated almost exclusively by strip malls and big box stores. These two towers and the under construction New City apartment tower will add hundreds of new units to the intersection in just three buildings and dramatically change the character of the area. A similar result could be produced at Elston/Fullerton/Damen with one or two well-planned multi-use developments.

A more (aggressive) progressive planning approach must (MUST!) be taken towards this intersection. Located within easy access of a number of desirable neighborhoods it could easily support a massive program of densification without taking away from the character of the surrounding communities.

In many ways, this intersection is the Roscoe Village/Bucktown answer to the intersection of North/Clybourn and Halsted in Lincoln Park. Yes, it’s surrounded by strip malls and rather mundane commercial developments, but packing in density is totally possible here and really rather appropriate. Between the SoNo East, SoNo West, and New City towers almost 900 units have been built in only three buildings in an area formerly dominated by strip malls transforming the neighborhood. On the new lots being created by the street redesign similar densification could occur without displacing a single business or residential structure nor overwhelming surrounding buildings. It would provide housing for multiple neighborhoods, and hopefully breathe some life into Elston Avenue.

Moving forward with the plan as proposed or even similar to the current proposal would be a huge mistake, but is all too within the realm of reality. Alderman play a big role in how developments in their wards turn out and right now Ald. Waguespack is giving no indication he is ready to embrace a dramatic physical change for this corner of the Chicago that embraces densification and people first infrastructure. This is especially frustrating considering the ripple effect a good development here could have on surrounding communities.

This isn’t an issue of terribly innovative urban planning. It’s practically a case study in logical urban planning. All the arguments against this parking lot development are perfectly available. The question is will that logic prevail, or that of a confused need for more parking?

Sounds of the City: Ich hab’ noch einen Koffer in Berlin

220px-Bundesarchiv_Bild_102-14627,_Marlene_DietrichAm 6. Mai 1992 ist die deutsche Sängerin Marlene Dietrich in Paris vom Leben umgekommen. Obwohl sie viele Jahren von ihrem Erwachsensein weg von Berlin–ihre Heimat–verbracht hatte, wurde sie nach ihren Wünschen in Berlin begraben. Dietrichs Verhältnis zu Berlin und ihre Liebe für die Stadt empfindet man nirgends besser zu hören abgesehen von dem Lied “Ich hab’ noch einen Koffer in Berlin.”

Wann man hört das Lied, hat man so viel Lieb für Berlin wie Marlene. Aber kann man auch eher einfach den Namen Berlin mit dem einer anderen Stadt ersetzen. Das Lied drückt ein Gefühl von liebevoller Heimweh aus, das wir alle uns irgendwo, irgendwann gefühlt haben, also dazu eine Beziehung haben können. Diese Qualität macht “Ich hab’ noch einen Koffer in Berlin” so ein großartiges Stadtlied. Es ist universell. Wie kein anderes äußert das Lied den Macht Heimwehs.

Oft bleiben unsere Erfahrungen angenehm in unseren Erinnerungen. Wir erinnern uns Orte von der Kindheit oder von eindrucksvollen Momenten unseres Lebens und sie sind immer für uns wichtig. Wir halten diese Erinnerungen nah. Die Städte, die wir erfuhren, die wir geliebt haben und immer noch lieben, sind selten die Gleichen als die wir in der Realität erfahren. Das Heimweh fallt wegen Distanz und wegen Frist vor.

Und manchmal wird Heimweh nie völlig behandelt.

Marlene singt ein Lied von Traurigkeit und Liebe, Heimweh und Trost. Sie singt für Verlorenheit und die ewige Seligkeiten von Erinnerungen. Sie singt für ihre Stadt, ihre Heimat, Berlin.

[youtube.com=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-BLoI-0aFc]

Und noch ein Berliner Lied von Dietrich ist “Das ist Berlin”. Nach meiner Meinung ist es auf keiner Weise so tief wie “Ich hab’ noch einen Koffer in Berlin”, trotzdem das Lied in derselben Art als “Ich hab’ noch einen Koffer in Berlin” ertönt. Also finde ich es passend dabei zu posten.

[youtube.com=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zq6vz8GHx-4]

Und so Marlene, ich danke Dir für ihre Musik und die schöne unendlichen Verbindung zu Berlin.


On May 6, 1992 the German singer Marlene Dietrich passed from this world while living in Paris. Although she spent much of her adult life in other places, she was interred according to her wishes in Berlin–her hometown. Dietrichs love for her hometown and her relationship to it can’t be experienced better than by listening to the song “Ich hab’ noch einen Koffer in Berlin”. 

When you listen to the song, you love Berlin as much as Dietrich. But, you can really replace the name Berlin with the name of most any city. The songs expresses a sense of homesickness that we’ve all experienced sometime, somewhere. That’s what makes this song so great. It’s universal. Like no other is shows the power of homesickness. 

Often our experiences stay in the comfort of our memories. We remember places from our childhood or impressive moments in our lives that always remain important to us. We hold these memories close. The cities, those we’ve experienced, the ones we loved and still love, are rarely the ones we actually experience in reality. Homesickness is the result of distance and time. 

And sometimes it’s never quite cured. 

Marlene sings about love and sadness, homesickness and solace. She sings for lose and the eternal bliss of memories. She’s singing for her city, her home, Berlin.