Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tuesday: Unity and Sustainability

This lecture was by Doug Farr, who heads Farr Associates, the firm that is conducting a review of our zoning codes. Des Plaines will be very fortunate if this kind of thoughtful design makes it to our streets.

via Time Tells by vmichael on 4/29/09
...and then it was back downtown for Doug Farr's lecture on Sustainable Urbanism, which was well worth it. He has written the book on the subject and over the last dozen years has built a practice that stresses not only green designed buildings and historic preservation, but the "integrated design" of the new planning, which stresses a systemic analysis of buildings, landscape, and human conduct. His biggest point is that we are still used to thinking about sustainability and green as a product choice, when in fact technology in all its marvel can only accomplish half of the goal. The other half must come from altered human conduct. And humans are problematic. You produce a more efficient car, and humans drive it more. Produce a more efficient house, we make it bigger. The net gain in terms of emissions, energy use, etc. ends up being nothing. Doug showed a funny slide from The Onion newspaper where the headline said a majority of Americans favored public transit for other people. It is like building highways - the more you build, the more they drive. Farr's goal is to get us driving like we were in 1970 - maybe 4,000 miles a year. Driving was fun then. Now we drive over 10,000 miles a year and it is a chore. He compared it to drugs and alcohol - you do it a few times and it might be fun. You do it a bunch and it is a debilitating addiction....

And the way we design buildings is code-driven, which is ultimately lawsuit-driven. Our building codes are designed to protect people from fires and structural collapse, issues which affect a few thousand lives a year. Meanwhile, up to half a million people a year die from obesity - Americans add a pound a year after age 30. A simple walk to a train station or up a few flights of stairs could halt that trend. Again, Farr had a funny slide showing an escalator going up to a fitness center.

At any rate, Farr is a national leader at looking at the interrelationship of these issues. LEED began as a checklist for buildings and for the last five years Farr chaired LEED for Neighborhood Development, which is developing a more integrated approach to development that addresses these issues. The LEED ND guidelines have been studied by the Center for Disease Control and found to also promote more healthy living.

And there is a preservation angle as well. As we began to drive more, we devalued buildings and the landscape. Their details and appearance just didn't matter the faster you drove, and especially as driving became a chore and addiction rather than a treat and a joy. It isn't just that we devalued historic buildings - we devalued ALL buildings.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

La Grange bets theater restoration brings revenue

Another suburb like Des Plaines sees the value in a theater and makes the investment.

via on 4/28/09
The weathered, white-terra cotta facade of the La Grange Theatre is tinged with grime, and the decorative flowers are missing chunks of their petals.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Exciting New Activity for Downtown Des Plaines

At yesterday's City Council meeting, Alderman Mark Walsten announced an exciting new series of English-language movies coming to the Des Plaines Theater.

While Revitalize Des Plaines! (formerly the Des Plaines Theater Preservation Society) is not involved in any way with this series, we do applaud Alderman Walsten and the Deep Green Committee for their efforts to increase the diversity of activity downtown.

As you might recall, the Des Plaines Theater Preservation Society similarly put on a series of films several years ago. We created our series as a way to show off the theater, demonstrate that any activity no matter how small-scaled could draw an audience there, and promote our vision for a better Des Plaines. We eventually were forced to discontinue this, as rentals and time commitments began to detract too much from our core mission. We considered our efforts a big success, and wish the same for the new series.

However, this is just a first step. Even though these events are not affiliated with Revitalize Des Plaines!, we encourage you to attend and show your support for diverse entertainment in downtown Des Plaines. Demonstrations of support are crucial in showing just how important a historic, vibrant downtown is. Eventually, this could even culminate in a restored Des Plaines Theatre suitable for much larger audiences and more ambitious productions.

We also wish the Des Plaines Theatre the best in the face of impending competition from the soon-to-reopen Golf Glen Cinemas.

Daily Herald Story
Journal Story

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

McDonald's in Des Plaines - for 54 years

April 14th 1955 Ad For Ray Kroc's First McDonalds Restauant in Des Plaines, IL
Just a quick one for today - we'll write more about this in the future.

Today marks 54 years for the first Ray Kroc franchised McDonalds (the Ninth overall). While it wasn't the first, it was the second important one - think of the other franchises as different evolutionary branches that just didn't pan out. Of course, that building on Lee Street isn't exactly historic - it is mostly a reconstructed version of the original from 1984, meaning that the museum is really a different building than the restaurant was. But still, this is an important moment in Des Plaines history and a worthy monument. It's also a little different than the real thing - all those shrubs don't belong there, and the sign, the only original feature, was moved from its original position to the center of the building.

1995 McDonald's

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Des Plaines a welcoming place to raise a family --

People like to remark about the friendliness in Des Plaines — even people who don't live here. Although home to about 57,000 people, "it's like a small town," says Jean Paxton, who lives on the North Shore but works in Des Plaines, running its iconic Choo Choo restaurant. "I've fallen in love with the down-to-earthness."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Candidate Survey Results

Here are the results for our 2009 Candidate Survey. Candidates who submitted responses are linked.

Candidates for April 7, 2009 Election:

City Clerk
Jennifer Tsalapatanis (website)
Gloria J. Ludwig (website) (Cook County Clerk Memo)
Patrice A. McDonough (website) (Cook County Clerk Memo)
Alderman - First Ward
Patricia Haugeberg
Peter R. Tatera
Michael Bausone (Cook County Clerk Memo)
Eugene Fregetto (Cook County Clerk Memo) (twitter)
Alderman - Third Ward
Michael Kochevar
Matthew Bogusz
(Cook County Clerk Memo)
Wayne C. Elstner
Alderman - Fifth Ward
James R. Brookman
Daniel P. Winiecki
Alderman - Seventh Ward
Dan Wilson (Cook County Clerk Memo)
Joseph R. Kozenczak (website) (Cook County Clerk Memo)

Chicago suburban downtowns: Officials find ways to lure businesses

Here are some approaches other communities are taking for their downtowns. What would work for Des Plaines?

Skokie, other suburbs get creative on incentives

Skokie's new twist on attracting restaurants and retailers to its struggling downtown made all the difference to Robyn Mendheim, who plans to use a village "rebate" of up to $50,000 to rehab the interior of a century-old building.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Des Plaines Candidates Journal and Topics Debate - March 25 Video

Thanks to ChicagoClout for uploading the Journal and Topics debate.

Ward 1: 00:00
Ward 3: 16:40
Ward 5: 27:52
Ward 7: 38:03
Clerk: 44:15