By Dora J. Moore, Board Member & Secretary - Friends of Downtown
October 9, 2019
From the moment everyone entered the Cliff’s venerable main space on Wednesday evening October 9, excitement was in the air. The crowd grew and spilled past the bar onto the deck to enjoy the evening light and lovely views of Millennium Park and the lake. Our 2019 Annual Awards night had arrived, and over 100 people gathered to eagerly observe, present, accept, remark and applaud as a plaque was bestowed on each worthy awardee.
Our co-emcees for the night were our Friends of Downtown Board President Adam Lund and our Vice President Tanvi Parikh. Adam began the evening by explaining the mission of the Friends of Downtown organization, describing the Cliff Dwellers Club and outlining other events and activities we sponsor during the year, particularly monthly architectural lectures at the Cliff. After Adam and Tanvi introduced each of the evening’s sponsors, presentations of the eight 2019 Best of Downtown awards began.
The 151 N. Franklin building received “Gift to the Street” for its achievement of an attractive, welcoming open space at its ground level. In accepting the award, architect John Ronan noted that a pocket park is across the street from the building he designed, and the idea was to pull the open space into the lobby and create “a whole sequence that is public.” Also accepting the Gift to the Street Award was the John Buck Company. Ronan credited John Buck for doing something many developers might not do - giving up rentable space to create open space.
The 2019 Best New Building Award went to 727 N. Madison. It is the tallest building in the West Loop, but it does not give up beauty of form to achieve its height. The residents of this new building not only enjoy amenities within the building but also the proximity of public transit, grocery and other stores, and employers. In this way, its residents will contribute to the vibrant street culture of the neighborhood. Pat Fitzgerald commented that it means a lot to get an award from people “who are intensely aware of the urban situation.” Recipients of the award for 727 W. Madison were Fitzgerald Associates, Fifield Realty Corporation and F&F Realty, Ltd.
The Southbank Riverwalk received this year’s Best Open Space Award. Adam noted that the award is being given for both the design and the execution of the project. The Southbank Riverwalk site is the former location of Chicago’s Grand Central Station, and it had been vacant since 1982. The vision of the new project began with Lend Lease, and the Southbank Riverwalk represents “truth in design,” as its execution brings that vision to life. Accepting the Best Open Space award were Lend Lease, Perkins + Will, Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architecture and Wolff Landscape Architecture.
The Best Adaptive Reuse Award for 2019 was presented to Hotel Julian. In presenting the award, Tanvi noted the building exemplifies the preservation of beautiful historic architecture on Michigan Avenue. The modern glass design of the new upper floors is integrated into the original terra cotta cladding, which was restored and repaired as needed. David Genz, accepting the award for Hirsch Associates, the architects, pointed out that the building was not landmarked and didn’t have to be saved, but it was a “labor of love.” Hotel Julian’s general manager accepted the award on behalf of Oxford Capital Group and welcomed everyone to Hotel Julian’s new ground floor restaurant.
The River District Master Plan received our 2019 Best Plan award. It is a plan for 8 million square feet of mixed-use development, and it will be sustainable. It has been a 5-year process to date including the rezoning of the 30-acre development from industrial to a downtown mixed-use planned development. Over 40 percent of the area is planned to be publicly accessible open space, and it will be an amazing addition to the riverfront. Accepting the Best Plan award were SCB and Tribune Real Estate Holdings.
In awarding Best Continued Use to Chicago Water Taxi, Adam commented that Wendella began its water taxi on the river in 1962, with service connecting Michigan Avenue to the
Northwestern Railroad station. Then Andrew Sargis, Wendella’s Chief of Operations, pointed out that Wendella was actually founded in 1935, when a Swedish immigrant, whose family thought he was crazy to operate a passenger boat, began trips from Navy Pier. Now 84 years later, the Chicago Water Taxi maintains service on all 3 branches of the Chicago River, with 400,000 passengers a year. And a year-round heated vessel is planned!
The Best Ephemera went to Box Shops by Related. The West Loop project is a group of two dozen shops and restaurants housed in former shipping containers. The Box Shops also form a community space used for music, movies and a sports court. Architect Katherine Darnstadt, accepting for her firm Latent Design, noted that Latent looks at big plans by way of small spaces, and they consider both social and spacial systems. She thanked the co-awardee and developer Related Midwest for seeing the potential of this project.
At last, it was time to honor Asif Rahman, as the 2019 recipient of the Mary Ward Wolkonsky Lifetime Achievement Award. He is the former Deputy Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Buildings, and he retired in April of this year. Adam Lund completed his introduction by reading a letter that Mayor Daley had written to Mr. Rahman describing his valuable qualities that made him irreplaceable in his work for the city of Chicago. Our entire audience erupted in a standing ovation as Asif approached the podium to receive his plaque. He began by remarking that he loves this city, with its beautiful skyline and its being “a mecca for architecture.” Asif remarked that he had the pleasure of working with great people and named many of them. He said they were his “best examples and were the best at what they did.” Asif went on to say that working for the City was not easy, but he “enjoyed every minute of it.” He sometimes had to be resourceful to get things done, and he gave the example of needing to cantilever a crane platform over a street when CDOT would not allow a lane to be closed. He “made it happen” for the developer. Asif Rahman closed his remarks with this humble summary of his work: “I was fortunate.”