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South Loop Wins Curbed Cup + Remembering Ed Uhlir, Master Planner for Millennium Park: Top 5 Stories

The year 2017 came to a close with several headlines featuring Grant Park. This week on Curbed Chicago, the South Loop battled in the last and final matchup to win the honor of being voted the city’s top neighborhood. More neighborhood news include an update on the Johnson Publishing Building, high praise on Lurie Garden and how it’s pollinating bee populations, the rejuvenation of the Grant Park Skate Park perennials, and tributes in memorial to Ed Uhlir, master planner behind Millennium Park.

1) South Loop Voted #1 Best Chicago Neighborhood in 2017 Curbed Cup Championship

The award for Chicago neighborhood of the year has just been crowned. Your very own South Loop took the top stop in the Curbed Cup, a competition that began with a bracket of 16 competing neighborhoods. Curbed Chicago, the host of the annual public poll, cited the South Loop as a top contender for “all the massive and high-profile development” naming Helmut Jahn and Kara Mann’s 1000M along with Rafael Vinoly’s One Grant Park, the Chicago Sky move to Wintrust Arena, Marriott Marquis high-rise hotel, the new Columbia College student center, plus Chicago’s biggest development, The 78 and Discovery Partners Institute from Related Midwest. Other praises were the “pretty awesome dog park, the charming historic Motor Row buildings, and its within arms reach of major venues, Museum Campus and Soldier Field. But there are places to escape the crowds such as the lovely Women’s Park and Gardens or the number of coffee shops, cafes and jazz bars.”

Curbed Cup South Loop Winner

Up against Woodlawn (last year’s winner) in the final round, the South Loop edged out Uptown, Edgewater and Garfield Park in the votes. This is the neighborhood’s first victory.

2) South Michigan Avenue’s Johnson Publishing Building Converting to 150 Rental Apartments

3L Real Estate announced that it has acquired the former headquarters of Johnson Publishing at 820 S. Michigan and plans to preserve the Chicago landmark, creating rentals and new retail space.

Chicago Tribune cites the developer paid "more than $10 million for the 11-story office building on South Michigan Avenue, with plans to invest about $20 million more” in the conversion. According to 3L CEO Joe Slezak, it will be mostly studio and one-bedroom apartments, with a few two-bedroom units, and rents of about $1,200 to $2,700 per month. 3L plans maintain the historic character of the 46-year-old office building, including its iconic sign.

Curbed Chicago details the design of the long-vacant tower, noting it “represents the first and only downtown Chicago high-rise to be designed by an African American.” That architect being John Warren Moutoussamy, who studied under Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

A leading developer of vintage residential properties, 3L Real Estate announced their purchase from College College and upcoming plans via press release on November 28. Site development will begin immediately with the adaptive reuse work expected to start in early 2018.

3) Ed Uhlir, Architect who was Key to Chicago's Millennium Park, Dies at 73

Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune highlighted the many contributions of Ed Uhlir in an obituary feature on November 23, chronicling how Mayor Richard M. Daley handpicked him to serve as Millennium Park’s project director in 1998. Uhlir worked to turn the initial, ordinary plan for the park into a 24.5-acre, nearly $500 million showcase for such iconic pieces as the Cloud Gate sculpture by London-based Anish Kapoor, Spanish artist Jaume Plensa's Crown Fountain, and the Pritzker Pavilion by Los Angeles architect Frank Gehry.

Ed Uhlir Dies at 73

From coordinating the various design teams, city departments, civic leaders and sponsors, to helping shape the park as the design director and master planner, Uhlir played “an essential behind-the scenes role” in bring Millennium Park to life. Kamin goes on to give background to his “equally significant career at the Chicago Park District, where he oversaw the renovation of such landmarks as the South Shore Cultural Center and Lincoln Park's Cafe Brauer.”

A statement from Mayor Emanuel paid tribute to Uhlir as a visionary architect and maintained that he “will always be remembered for his commitment to Chicago, his remarkable gift for architecture and design, and his unique ability to build consensus and bring people together to accomplish big things”.

The Grant Park Conservatory and Grant Park Advisory Council worked closely with Ed Uhlir for over two decades and he served on the GPC Advisory Board. We will greatly miss him.

4) GreenBiz on Why Chicago is Pollinating Bee Populations

A publication that focuses on the intersection of business, technology and sustainability, GreenBiz recently highlighted the Lurie Garden in Millennium Park as an important home for bees and other pollinators.

The December 8 feature opens with the Chicago garden as a model of responsible horticulture and in its introduction to the city’s architecture, skyline and built landscape of concrete and glass, it finds: “Perhaps most unexpected, at a place that sits atop a 4,000-vehicle underground parking garage and railroad depot in the inner city, are the bees that flit from flower to flower.”

Lurie Garden Chicago Bees

Citing several reports and essays, the article looks at how widespread planting for bees and other pollinators by landscape designers and gardeners is already underway, and considers how the mix of native and exotic plants is affecting various bee species. It references Lurie Garden as a "near-native" representation of prairie habitat, and uses it as one example of park spaces that “support surprisingly healthy populations of bees”.

5) Bailey Nurses to Beautify Gardens at Grant Park Skate Park

Grant Park Conservancy is excited to bring hundreds of flowering perennial plants and bushes to the Grant Park Skate Park with the help of Bailey Nurseries. The landscape of hard concrete and metal surfaces – boasting ramps, rails and ledges for skateboarders, rollerbladers and BMXers – will be seeing a bright mix of green when the garden areas are planted and cared for by the Chicago Park District and its team of floral contractors.

Bailey Nurseries Donation Grant Park

The 3-acre recreational area on the park’s southwest corner has been opened since late 2014, and the gardens at the Skate Park are in need of rejuvenation. Bailey Nurseries has generously agreed to make a donation on an annual basis to the conservancy. The fifth-generation, family-owned nursery is headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota and has growing operations in Illinois as well as Oregon and Washington.

Help support the Grant Park Conservancy by joining as a member, or inquire about corporate sponsorships and other in-kind donation opportunities. Learn more and donate today.

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