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In a February article, “Zoning and Visual Chaos,” this reporter predicted that the second floor remodeling just west of the corner building on the southwest intersection of Davis Street and Chicago Avenue by the two talented architects, Matthew Barry and Andy Spatz will be lost in the visual chaos surrounding it. Regretfully, he was right.
While the west portion of the block all the way to the most charming Chandler Plaza has a number of intelligently historicizing buildings, east of the alley not only are the buildings mediocre, but the number of “street signs,” poster-plastered store windows, neglected sidewalks and actual mattresses “decorating” the store entrance makes this block compete with Skokie in tackiness.
It is true that, times being tough, merchants need any help they can get; and this reporter should not be tough on them for such small violations of good taste if not the law. Interestingly, some, like the owners of the Hotel Orrington, do not seem to want any help, even if offered.
Their first-class commercial space facing south has been vacant for months. Rumors have it that they prefer to have it stand vacant than leasing it to McDonald’s. Does McDonald’s attract undesirables, hooligans, pimps or criminals? In contrast to previous tenants McDonald’s does not even serve alcohol. This writer feel insulted because he loves their fries.
Concerning old gripes, nothing really changed. The miserable black grind still decorates the center of Raymond Park, the uneven and depressed sidewalk in front of the blue brick apartment building on Chicago Avenue is still threatening and the unrepaired sidewalks all over downtown are still threatening. We still do not have cameras at major four-way intersections – for moral reasons, one assumes, even though they would help in solving the ever-present budget problem.
Here and there the brick sidewalks have been repaired, but nowhere did the material used match in color the surrounding existing material. Obviously one does not expect a Rembrandt or Leonardo to be hired to do sidewalk repairs, but to use grey for repairing red brick areas indicates a lack of supervision or care the City should not tolerate.
To conclude with some good news, the unfinished, ill-fated (garage-floor collapses) complex, the Sienna, facing Ridge Avenue on the west and Oak Avenue on the east, is going to be competed. The architect selected for the job is Larry Booth, a most talented designer who was slated to be the architect for the much debated high-rise downtown.
And a walk by the second Mather building at the southeast corner of Davis Street and Hinman Avenue to look at the magnificent huge maples just planted will make even curmudgeons feel good right now.
Thank you, Mather.