February 24, 2020

The Margin: Changing of guard at Willis Tower highlights turbulent period for Chicago real estate

It’s not just the changing of the guard at Willis (né Sears) Tower. The first quarter of 2015 has been a turbulent time for trophy towers and other notable structures throughout Chicago’s built environment.

It was confirmed Monday that Willis Tower, the world’s tallest building from its completion in 1973 until 1998, is being acquired by Blackstone Group

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 from New York investors Joseph Chetrit and Joseph Moinian and Skokie, Ill.–based American Landmark Properties. They paid $841 million for the tower in 2004, while Blackstone’s purchase price of $1.3 million is, according to Crain’s Chicago Business, set to become the highest ever paid for a U.S. office building outside Manhattan.

For Chicagoans, who’ve only reluctantly learned to identify the 110-story skyscraper by the name of the U.K. insurance broker

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rather than that of the Chicago-area-based retailer

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 , the deal delivers none of the psychic blow that its renaming in 2009, in accord with the terms of the Willis Group lease, did.

But, among Cubs diehards, Opening Day at a bleacher-free Wrigley Field is something else entirely. Off-season renovation work fell behind schedule late last year, and, to add insult to injury, City Hall declined recently to bend the rules — and raise neighborhood ire — by allowing construction to proceed around the clock. It’s been reported that it will be May before the famed bleachers are open; even then, only the left- and center-field sections will be at box-office disposal. The right-field bleachers are slated for June completion.

Even in a sports-mad city, though, ballparks are not held quite as dear as municipal parks. And in Grant Park, dubbed Chicago’s Front Door, and down in Hyde Park, near the University of Chicago, that’s what’s at stake.

On the South Side, there’s been controversy over a prospective location for the Obama presidential library, with a U. of C.–led bid requiring acquisition of park land. The matter has grown touchy enough locally that it’s been reported by Melissa Harris of the Chicago Tribune that the announcement of a decision is likely to be withheld until after the April 7 mayoral runoff. (The Chicago Sun-Times’ Michael Sneed, meanwhile, has reported that the Obamas themselves may no longer be planning a return to Chicago in January 2017.)

In Grant Park, meanwhile, the building-upon of Chicago Park District property — all but verboten by local tradition — is again at issue. George Lucas’s decision to locate his visual-arts museum in Chicago was likely predicated on a prime lakefront location and a central role in the city’s Museum Campus, but the project has met with challenges on both legal and aesthetic grounds.

Along the Chicago River, there’s been an even more concentrated tumult.

True, work proceeded apace through an overly wintry winter on the next civic showpiece, the Chicago Riverwalk.

But, elsewhere along the river — whose evolution into the city’s second waterfront was trumpeted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel during a Monday night debate with challenger Jesus “Chuy” Carcia as a top idea for his second term — the remaining tatters of the Chicago Spire dream, which was to have culminated in the world’s tallest residential structure, were finally swept aside; the Kennedy family has been locked in battle over certain specifics of the high-profile Wolf Point development, according to Crain’s; and a massive, backlit T-R-U-M-P, slapped on the prime river-facing facade of Trump Tower, served as a unifying force in a divided city, with Emanuel calling the signage “architecturally tasteless,” and effectively no one disagreeing.

In the latter incident, the mayor and City Council, faced with widespread outcry about the Trump visual assault, drew a line in the sand. But the city’s new riverfront signage ordinance reluctantly was required to grandfather in the Trump sign. All 2,891 square feet of it.


The Margin: Changing of guard at Willis Tower highlights turbulent period for Chicago real estate

National park plans remain in infancy

February 16, 2015

After years of talk, planning and incremental phases of development, the historic Blackstone Valley appears headed toward national fame as a National Park, telling the story of the American Industrial Revolution and the immigration that helped fuel it.

But while President Barack Obama signed federal legislation creating the national heritage park, exactly what that higher designation will bring to the National Heritage Corridor, created by Congress in 1986, is still percolating and not ready to be poured into a final form.

“There is going to be a national park, but we don’t know yet what it will be. Its boundaries have yet to be established, and the National Park Service has to set up a management plan,” Charlene Cutler, executive director of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, said of the development work still pending for the new park.
The planning process of what the new park will offer and look like in the future is just getting started, Cutler noted, and there will be a series of meetings beginning in the near future to discuss those options.

“It is very important for everyone to stay involved and participate in the stakeholder meetings,” she said.

Full story appears on Page A1 of Tuesday’s Call and Tuesday’s Times.

This article is from: 

National park plans remain in infancy

The Olympic touch

By Josh Farnsworth

Yes, I know.

The economics of bringing the Olympics to Boston, who was awarded the official American Olympic Committee bid for the 2024 games, is something to consider. The Boston committee to bring the games to Massachusetts will have until 2017 to make its case prior to the global winner being selected.

And then there is the traffic.


Put down the calculator and step away from that vehicle for a second and consider what this might mean for Central Massachusetts.

There is a chance here to shine a spotlight, not just on our country, but also on our sliver of real estate we occupy in the world. Planning an event this grand will come with plenty of headache-inducing moments, but the potential for attention on our neck of the woods will never be greater.

Shortly after the bid was announced, Worcester Mayor Joe Petty mentioned the possibility of holding the rowing events on Lake Quinsigamond.

I believe Central Massachusetts can do even better. With existing infrastructure and a plan to relieve some of the angst of jamming every event inside of Route 128, I propose we do the following to allow Central Massachusetts to assist in the 2024 Games:

• Basketball at the DCU Center in Worcester. Whatever “Dream Team” might look like nine years from now, chances are they will still draw fairly heavy audiences.

• Archery/shooting at the Nimrod Gun Club in Princeton. They have the targets set up already, anyways.

• Wrestling at the new Recreation Department building in Holden.

• Equestrian in Grafton, as lodging at Tufts will prove quite handy.

• Marathon weaving down Route 190, cutting through Sterling and to the finish line at the Old Stone Church in West Boylston? Yes, please.

• Cycling along the classic Longsjo Classic route in Fitchburg. Whether this event can comeback as a solid annual event, who knows? But what a tribute using the course this would pay.

• Field hockey at Doyle Field in Leominster. One could use the football field adjacently as a secondary soccer site as well.

• Fencing at Worcester Fencing Club. Makes sense, right?

• Golf at Pleasant Valley Country Club in Sutton. It was good enough for Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer 50 years ago.

• Tennis at the Paxton Sports Centre.

• Table tennis at South Lancaster Academy reinforces the collegiate spirit and profile of the region.

• Boxing in a giant ring built in the middle of the Auburn Mall would create quite the scene.

• Rowing along the Blackstone River, with a beginning launch in Millbury. Sorry, Mayor Petty. More history and substance on this body of water.

• Closing ceremonies? I suggest Rutland put on their fireworks display.

The big city can have the Olympic Stadium and plenty of the festivities for opening the 2024 celebration. Heck, use the city to showcase track and field and the shoreline for beach volleyball, as well as some other great events.

So, take a break, Boston. Central Massachusetts has you covered on many of the sports.

I can feel the heat from the torch right now.

See original: 

The Olympic touch

Sen. Reed’s bill brings National Historical Park to state

The Blackstone River Valley — a national heritage corridor for 28 years — has been designated a national historical park after President Obama signed Sen. Jack Reed’s, D-R.I., bill proposing the change in December.

No specific sites have been designated for the park, but the committee has pointed to “nodes along that route” that they hope to include, such as Slater Mill, Hopedale and others, said Charlene Perkins Cutler, executive director of the Blackstone River Valley Committee.

The National Park Service “wants to use the existing infrastructure that the national heritage corridor has put together to capture visitors and tell them something about the valley,” Cutler said. This will likely include the Pawtucket Visitor Center across from Slater Mill in Pawtucket, the Museum of Work and Culture in Woonsocket, River Bend Farm in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, and a new visitor center in Worcester, Massachusetts, that is under construction.

Though national heritage corridors are eligible for federal grants, they differ from national parks in that they are not federally owned or managed but rather are maintained by state and local governments. The legislation passed last month was the product of more than 10 years of hard work, Cutler said, adding that the committee “wanted to get parts of the national heritage corridor included as part of the National Park Service.” The new park will partner with the existing corridor to “tell the birth of American industrialization,” she added.

Reed first introduced a bill in 2005 authorizing the National Park Service to conduct a Special Resource Study to determine whether parts of the corridor were eligible to become part of the national park system, said Chip Unruh, Reed’s spokesperson.

The area became eligible for national historical park designation in 2008, and the process of achieving formal recognition was expedited when Reed became chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies in 2011.

There were several obstacles along the way, including a series of moratoriums on public land bills, Unruh said. In 2011, federal support for the corridor was set to end, but Reed was able to extend it for an additional year with a continuing resolution. He brought several U.S. Secretaries of the Interior to the Ocean State to see the corridor and to convince them that it should be a national park.

An agreement was finally reached in 2014 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, and Reed’s bill was passed into law.
Though the bill passed, Unruh and Cutler both said much work remains. It will be a long process that will “take some time and is going to require extreme patience,” Cutler said.

“Getting the bill signed into law is a significant milestone in the process, but there is still more work to do,” Unruh said.

The National Park Service is now responsible for devising a management plan over the next three years in order to determine “the scope of its boundaries with the input of the states, local communities and interested stakeholders,” Unruh added.

Public input in deciding the locales of the park was emphasized, Unruh said, adding that Reed “wants to continue to work collaboratively and ensure public input every step of the way as we get this park up and running.”

The corridor currently includes 24 towns — 13 in Massachusetts and 11 in Rhode Island — as well as a canal that runs from Worcester to Providence. This park will be nothing like Yellowstone or Yosemite with thousands of acres of open green space, Unruh said, adding “it’s not like we can take the entire corridor and turn it into the park.”

Current discussion of the park suggests that it will not be contiguous and will include multiple sites within Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Final site selection will be made by the Secretary of the Interior after soliciting public input. The management plan will have to state which publicly and privately owned land will become a part of the park, and the bill authorizes the Secretary to “establish agreements with the states or local governments, and to identify willing sellers of land and donators of land to include within the park boundary before and after the administrative park boundary is determined by the Secretary,” Unruh said.

Unruh estimates that over $20 million in federal appropriations will be necessary to get the park running, including $5 million for the National Park Service to acquire property interests, $6 million for the constructions of facilities and for the conduction of research and around $3 million for operating costs.

Reed hopes that the establishment of the park will enhance local tourism, create jobs and recreational activities and educate the public about Rhode Island’s rich industrial revolution history, Unruh said.

Though smaller in size than other national parks in the country, Cutler said she is confident it will draw crowds.


Sen. Reed’s bill brings National Historical Park to state

Obama signs bill for national park along the Blackstone River

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — President Obama signed legislation Friday establishing a national park at eight sites that dot the Blackstone River, according to an announcement by Sen. Jack Reed.

The Blackstone River Valley National Park will include the Old Slater Mill in Pawtucket, which is regarded as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, and the Museum of Work and Culture in Woonsocket, in addition to three more Rhode Island sites and three sites in Massachusetts.

In a news release, Reed said the Blackstone Valley “is finally getting the recognition it deserves.”

“This new park will help preserve the character and historical significance of the area and tell visitors about an important chapter in American history,” he said.

The park is located within the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, which runs from Worcester to Providence and was established in 1986. The corridor along the 45-mile river is also getting renewed federal funding to the tune of $650,000 as part of the law championed by Reed and signed by the president.

Congress has not appropriated any money for the park itself. In fact, the government has yet to determine its specific boundaries. That will be done “with the input of the states, local communities, and interested stakeholders,” Reed’s news release said.

“This designation will help preserve key historical, cultural, and environmental resources for future generations,” the senator said. “It will help educate people about our past and contribute to our economic future by supporting tourism and recreational opportunities.”

Read More:

Obama signs bill for national park along the Blackstone River

Cycling; Mountain bikers gaining support

State officials want to keep mountain bikers off the singletrack trails in the Ware River Watershed.

New England Mountain Bike Association members have been talking with state officials in an effort to gain access for mountain bikers on the restricted trails in the watershed, which stretches through Rutland, Oakham, Barre and Hubbardston.

Officials are also concerned about unauthorized trails that have been created in the 23,000-acre watershed, and they plan to dismantle the trails and enforce the ban on mountain bikes, NEMBA said.

“For the last 30 years, residents have been mountain biking on this trail network without realizing this activity has always been banned. Bicycling is only allowed on roads and rail trails. Hikers, on the other hand, are permitted to walk anywhere they choose throughout the Ware River Watershed regardless of the presence of a trail,” NEMBA said in a news release.

Members of the Wachusett Chapter of NEMBA have been leading the effort.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation website on the Ware River Watershed says the following: “The primary purpose of DCR water and surrounding lands is drinking water supply. Public access, therefore, is carefully regulated and controlled to protect over 2 million people’s source of drinking water.”

According to NEMBA, there are at least 20 miles of singletrack trails in the watershed. Only three of the trails are recognized by the Division of Water Supply Protection in the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, NEMBA said, and the three trails are the Midstate Trail and two trails dedicated to horseback riding.

State officials have expressed concerns over the presence of mountain bikers on these trails as well as the creation of additional unauthorized trails, NEMBA said.

The mountain bike group offered to provide solutions to curb unauthorized trail building and riding by working with the state agency to create a legitimate and sustainable trail system for mountain biking, hiking, trail running and cross-country skiing. However, the offer was declined.

NEMBA said that state officials plan to wipe out the trails and enforce the ban on mountain bikes.

“NEMBA feels that the best course of action here would be to recognize bicycles as a valid trail user and work with, rather than against, those aligned with the agency’s mission of maintaining the highest possible water quality,” NEMBA said.

The bicycling group contends that mountain biking and hiking have similar environmental impacts and should be managed together. According to NEMBA, there are many studies that say hiking and biking have similar impacts yet there are no studies indicating hiking has no impact or that hiking and mountain biking impacts are dramatically different.

“The recreational analysis done by DCR in the Resource Management Plan (RMP) for the Middlesex Fells Reservation states that ‘with respect to these two recreational impacts, these two recreational uses have similar impacts and should be evaluated similarly,’ ” NEMBA said.

According to NEMBA, providing access for mountain bikers on singletrack trails would be beneficial to area residents looking for recreational opportunities.

“The current policy unjustly excludes mountain biking on trails as a legitimate activity in the watershed, and the lack of authorized trails for hiking and mountain biking have created a recreational vacuum that is currently being fulfilled by creating unauthorized trails. We feel strongly that by working with NEMBA and our dedicated volunteer base, DWSP can actually improve Ware Watershed water quality further by fixing or closing current unsustainable trails and providing new trails that are properly designed and built away from sensitive areas,” NEMBA said.

According to NEMBA, the group met with state Rep. Anne Gobi, D-Spencer, on Thursday, and she offered her full support for NEMBA’s effort to gain access for mountain bikers in the watershed.

Cross the line

The best cyclo-cross racers in the country will line up at Roger Williams Park in Providence on Sunday afternoon.

The KMC Cyclo-cross Festival wraps up the New England Holy Week of Cyclo-cross, which includes six races over 12 days.

Cyclo-cross stars scheduled to compete today include national champion Jeremy Powers, six-time national champion Tim Johnson, four-time national champ Jonathan Page, national champ Katie Compton, Ted King, Shawn Milne and many more. In addition to the United States, there will be top riders from Canada, Europe, New Zealand and Australia.

“I think it’s a foundation piece in North American ‘cross. I’ve seen it grow into such a great event, and for more than just the racers,” said Johnson, a member of Cannondale CyclocrossWorld.com team.

With more than 10,000 spectators and racers expected, the event is considered the biggest cyclo-cross event on the East Coast. The event — formerly known as the Providence Cyclo-Cross Festival — was first held in 2009, is internationally sanctioned by UCI and is on target to be the first American venue to host the World Cup in 2015.

Cyclo-cross is a 30- to 60-minute race on a bicycle similar to a road bike, but the tires are a little wider and have more tread for traction on the often-muddy terrain. The course usually has grass, gravel and asphalt sections, and includes barriers such as hurdles and steps that sometimes force a rider to dismount and carry the bike over the obstacles.

The racecourse at Roger Williams Park has quick elevation changes, with many sharp turns and switchbacks on short, steep hills — as well as a flyover, some hurdles and a fast finish on pavement.

“It’s a beautiful course,” Johnson said Friday. “It’s fast, it’s challenging. Riders feel like they’re getting something they can’t get anywhere else.”

The bowl-like landscape at Roger Williams Park, which hosted the Cyclo-Cross National Championships in 2005 and 2006, not only offers a great course layout, but also spectacular sight lines for watching the races.

The amateur racing begins at 8 a.m., the elite women race for 40 minutes beginning at 3:45 p.m., and the elite men race for 60 minutes starting at 5.

To get to Roger Williams Park in Providence, take Interstate 95 south to Rhode Island exit 17. At the bottom of the exit ramp, turn left onto Route 1/Elmwood Avenue. Proceed on Elmwood for ⅓ mile, then turn left into the park’s second entrance. Follow Cross Fest and “Temple to Music” signs in the park.

Today — Major Taylor Century, with ride options of 25, 62 and 100 miles, presented by Seven Hills Wheelmen and 10th Gear/Venture Crew 1010. Starts at River Bend Farm (Visitors Center for Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park), 287 Oak St., Uxbridge. Information: (508) 831-0301, www.sevenhillswheelmen.org

Today — Kona Bicycles Mountain Bike Adventure Series, Bear Brook State Park, Allenstown, New Hampshire. Presented by New England Mountain Bike Association. Information: www.nemba.org

9:30 a.m. Saturday — Seven Hills Wheelmen 45- or 65-mile road ride. Meet on School Street, Montague. The long route has a lunch stop in Shelburne Falls. Information: (508) 831-0301, www.sevenhillswheelmen.org

Saturday — Mansfield Hollow Cyclo-cross race, Mansfield Hollow State Park, Mansfield, Connecticut. Presented by Thread City Cyclers. Information: www.bikereg.com

Oct. 12 — Minuteman Road Club Cyclocross race, the Fairgrounds at Lancaster. Amateur races start at 8:30 a.m.; elite women at 11:30 and elite men at 1:15 p.m. Information: www.minutemanroadclub.com

10 a.m. Oct. 12 — Seven Hills Wheelmen road ride. Meet at at Robert E. Melican Middle School, 145 Lincoln St., Northboro. Ride options of 43, 63 or 84 miles with the Seven Hills Wheelmen, Charles River Wheelmen and Nashoba Valley Pedalers. Information: (508) 831-0301, www.sevenhillswheelmen.org

Oct. 12 — Great River Ride Century/Berkshire Brevet RUSA 170K Populaire, Sons of Erin, 22 Williams St., Westfield. Presented by New Horizons Bikes. Information: http://newhorizonsbikes.com

9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 19 — Quiet Corner NEMBA Fun Ride, Old Furnace State Park, Killingly, Conn. Presented by Quiet Corner chapter of New England Mountain Bike Association. Information: www.nemba.org

Oct. 25 — 13th annual Canton Cup Cyclo-Cross race, Massachusetts Hospital School, 3 Randolph St., Canton. Presented by North American Velo. Information: www.northatlanticvelo.org

Oct. 26 — Wicked Ride of the East, Kona Bicycles Mountain Bike Adventure Series, Harold Parker State Fores, North Andover. Presented by New England Mountain Bike Association. Information: www.nemba.org.

7 p.m. every Wednesday — NBX “Under the Lights” Cyclo-cross Training Series. Old Mountain Field, 831 Kingstown Road, South Kingstown, R.I. Registration at 6:30 p.m. Presented by NBX/Narragansett Beer Cycling Team and Apex Tech Group. Information: http://nbxbikes.com

6 p.m. every Friday — Seven Hills Wheelmen 30-mile road ride. Meet at Southbridge Bicycles, 100 Central St., Southbridge. Information: call (508) 831-0301 or visit www.sevenhillswheelmen.org

Selected Saturdays and Sundays — Seven Hills Wheelmen Easy C Rider road rides. Moderately paced bicycle rides, typically 15 to 35 miles, on relatively gentle terrain, on selected Saturdays and Sundays in the Worcester area. Starting times and locations are posted each week at www.easycrider.com.For more information, call (508) 831-0301 or visit www.sevenhillswheelmen.org.

9 a.m. every Saturday — Southbridge Bicycles road ride. Meet at Southbridge Bicycles, 100 Central St., Southbridge. Information: call (508) 764-3657 or visit www.southbridgebicycles.net

Submit bike listings to mark.conti@telegram.com; Mark Conti, Telegram & Gazette, P.O. Box 15012, Worcester, MA 01615-0012; or fax attention to Mark Conti at (508) 793-9363.


Cycling; Mountain bikers gaining support