Category Archives: Chicago

Comparative Architecture – Movie Theaters vs. Auto Showrooms

While I was working on a story  rumors that 5801 N. Greenwood – once an auto showroom – was originally a movie theater, I started to think a lot about expectations of architecture.  One of the theories behind the stories is that the building looks almost too grand to be just a garage, but Edgewater and Uptown are full of epic historic garages.   So here’s a few examples:  5801 vs some buildings that used to be movie theaters and then vs some other auto showrooms/garages.

architectural  comparisons - movie theaters

architectural comparisons - auto showrooms and garages

(5801 picture credit to Lyle Bright/Edgeville Buzz)

What do you think?

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A Busy April Weekend

A few pics from my weekend adventures around the city

First, there was this weird theme to my Saturday afternoon:graffiti and sign about masturbation

Then I had the exciting realization that I would finally, finally be walking past Sprinkle’s Cupcake ATM.  I’ve wanted to go for years, but I’m never in the neighborhood

Cupcake ATM in ChicagoIt was fantastic!  How was your weekend?

They Put Their Money Where Their Mouth Was.

Enough poster in Chicago window saying Republicans are racist

Seen in the same apartment.picture of a Chicago I voted slip in a window

For more on Chicago politics, see Vote Hardcore and All Awesome-Like.

What’s Your Architectural Guilty Pleasure?

Picture of Ohio House Motel in Chicago

This is one of the reasons why I love Chicago so much. In most places land this close to downtown would be too valuable for a dinky 1960s motel, but not Chicago!

I know it’s a bit of a embarrassment to admit, but I do like the awful 60s and 70s architecture around Chicago in small quantities.

You’d think it’s not that hard to sell Arizona during “Chiberia”

One great thing about living in Chicago is that we get some really elaborate, fancy advertising.  The finest that the marketing and advertising world can think of.  It’s advertising true, but it’s nice to look at something a little different than the usual eight billboards over and over again.

Public transit is particularly popular for this type of treatment and often one campaign will take over an entire station or train leading to the unusual experience of entering Montana or Super Smash Bros while commuting.  (There’s also a great Christmas train run by CTA employees which gives the same experience, but even better).

This is a long-winded way to introduce some advertising I saw a couple of days ago for Arizona.  It’s a good choice, reminding Chicagoans that someplace is actually currently warm.  However….

picture of CTA turnstiles with ads for Arizona

Themed turnstiles are completely basic advertising.

giant sunglasses advertising Arizona at CTA Station

Okay, that’s cute and a little different. It was the first advertising bit I noticed

Weight bearing posts in CTA station poorly dressed in swimsuits for Arizona advertising

Okay then…

And then a particularly big advertising fail.  I’m not sure what’s better: that the padded butt in the bikini makes it look like a speedo or how the swim trunks look more like the ugliest curtain ever.

Remnants of Batman vs. Superman Filming

Uptown filming of Batman vs Superman

“Transit Oriented Development:” so not going to fix Chicago’s car problem

This DNAinfo article on “Transit Oriented Development” (and its comments) made me have so many feelings.

I appreciate the comments that say we should focus on making Chicago more pedestrian-friendly, and their frustration that it seems like their opposites are simply pro-driving; some of them are. But some of those comments are also pointing out a fine line – just because we want less driving doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. As much as we want to drop reliance on cars, Chicago is a driving city.

Does Gotham have better public transit than Chicago? Picture of Lawrence red line station transformed to Green River station for Batman vs. Superman filming.

Does Gotham have better public transit than Chicago? (El station transformed for Batman vs. Superman filming)

Having access to a car in Chicago is so helpful. Much of Chicago has crappy public transit and is based on the assumption that you only want to go downtown. My neighborhood has great public transit, but trying to go west instead of north/south? Such a pain in the butt. A car means not having to wait forever for a bus in the cold, not having to juggle groceries on a packed train or buying them at expensive neighborhood stores, or worrying that the bus you depend on will be cut. It means that you can live in those places with crappy public transit, places that often have cheaper living costs.

But more importantly, employers expect to have you to have a car.

I know this because while I live in a household with a car, I don’t drive. I was born without depth perception, which makes city driving a poor idea at best. (I can and do drive in rural areas. Give me a wide-open, curvy New Hampshire road and I’m happy, but anything involving merging or tight parking is just asking for problems.)

I also job searched for a long time before I was lucky enough to be able to freelance fulltime. And not driving? Really screwed my job search.   While there are certainly many jobs downtown, many many jobs are in the suburbs. Even companies downtown often have offices in the suburbs, offices they expect their workers to go to on a regular basis. A lot of companies are even closing up downtown locations or moving most of their workers to suburban offices.

And the assumption is that type of travel isn’t going to be an issue. When I was talking to recruiters or looking at jobs, they’d always look at me funny when I said I couldn’t drive. At best, I’d get the expectation that I didn’t currently have a car but could always get one if I got hired. Explaining that no, really I can’t drive didn’t ever seem to sink in. There wasn’t any awareness that the only way to get to their office was to take a Metra to a Pace bus via walking half a mile along the highway, or that it might be a problem (and again, remember I live someplace with good public transit).

Transit oriented development assumes that people will always have the luxury to work in their neighborhoods or downtown, and that simply making it harder to own a car will make cars less necessary. That is so unrealistic.

Believe me, I am exceptionally pro making Chicago more pedestrian friendly; after all, I am an often-time pedestrian. But building a bunch of apartment buildings without parking near public transit is just building a bunch of apartment buildings near public transit. It won’t solve any of Chicago’s actual public transit issues like access for those who can’t afford to live near good public transit or who have to take whatever job they can get;  it’s a bit dumb and offensive to focus on that instead of actually improving public transit access.