Best of Downtown Awards 2018

Smiles, pride, a beautiful room and view—and plenty of great food and drink!  That’s one way to describe the Friends of Downtown Annual Awards ceremony last month at the Cliff Dwellers Club.

It was our night.  The night every year when those responsible for enhancing our city are given accolades.  From Best Public Art, which was Art on theMART, the interesting new laser show that will emanate regularly from an innocuous spot across the river and onto the Merchandise Mart for years to come. At no cost to taxpayers.  To the Best New Attraction—the Chicago Architecture Center’s impressive new home on East Wacker Drive along the river.

It was wonderful to see those who came to the podium beam with satisfaction and receive their due!

Best New Building was the newly iconic 150 North Riverside Plaza, with awe-inspiring decor that cantilevers out onto its riverwalk. The award was accepted by Wolff Landscape Architecture, Riverside Development and Goettsch Partners.

Best Adaptive Reuse was the impressive Bush Temple of Music, which changed an aging but gorgeous (and defunct) piano store and music school decades old into very interesting new apartments on Chicago Avenue, in the heart of everything. The award was accepted by representatives of Cedar Street Companies and Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture.

Best Continued Use was Divvy, of course!  An idea, from CDOT that has caught on and keeps the rental blue bikes on our roadways 24/7. 

The Best New Plan was a new mixed use development, a whole new neighborhood actually, on 62 vacant never-used acres stretching southwest from Roosevelt and Clark, and named “The 78.” as developed by Related Midwest and designed by SOM.

The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) and theMART accepted the Best Public Art award for Art on theMART

Representatives of the CAC accepted the Best New Attraction Award for the Chicago Architecture Center's new home on Wacker Drive.

Our Mary Ward Wolkonsky Lifetime Achievement Award was bestowed this year on John Buck, of the John Buck Company, a real estate business extraordinaire.  Buck talked briefly about his long career in the Chicago real estate market and as thought leader for some of Chicago’s best public projects.

In 1971, he explained, he thought he would face a hard sell leasing what was to become at the time Sears Tower, the tallest building in the world right here in Chicago.   But he was pleasantly surprised to find out everyone became so interested when they heard about this incredible new building, he didn’t have to reach out very much at all. “They called me!” he said, laughing.

For years the Friends and like minded organizations have been celebrating decades long projects that began with casual conversations between John and his friends. Upon receipt of the award for his significant impact on the urban fabric of Chicago, he humbly remarked that, when turning bold ideas into reality, one cannot be too concerned with who will get the credit.

by Bonnie McGrath