Reviewing two new books from Belt Publishing: On the other hand, as Belt Publishing founder Anne Trubek lamented shortly after the election, writing about the midwest isn’t necessarily writing for midwesterners, much less by them. There’s something anthropological, even “colonial,” as Trubek puts it, in stories that purport to explain former steel towns and lakeside … Continue reading Continuing to work my Midwestern Defensiveness beat at the Reader
1. The kids are in the city Where do children live in the Chicago area? The dominant narrative is that they are in the suburbs, certainly once they reach five or six: most parents just don’t feel comfortable sending their kids to the Chicago Public Schools, nor raising their kids in an apartment, and they … Continue reading Where the kids are
Chicago’s housing market is broken, for a lot of reasons. One of them is that areas with rapidly increasing land values on the North Side restrict development in a way that makes single-family homes by far the most profitable way to use residential land: single-family homes are so much more valuable than condos that you would … Continue reading Masochism
Two announcements from the Mayor today on Chicago transit. First, Emanuel is recommitting to the terrible, very bad O’Hare express train proposal that won’t save almost anybody any time and will probably cost the city a ton of money if it ever happens, while serving mostly as an abstract bragging right among rich business travelers. … Continue reading O’Hare express: Bad. Damen Green Line: Good.
The changes have come so fast that it’s worth sitting for a minute on the fact that had someone in 2012 told the GOP that they would all be lining up behind this in 2016, it would have been considered outrageous slander. In the most generous interpretation, then, tens of millions of people have cynically … Continue reading Rage
At Chicago Magazine, tilting at a favorite windmill: But accidents of history have split these lines among three different public agencies—none of which, traditionally, have bothered to tell you about the others on their maps or signage. That means that when you look at a map on a CTA train car, there are actually more … Continue reading The invisible trains of Chicago
Over at City Observatory, I’ve published a new piece about the ways that urban geometry—which is really just a fancy way of saying “the fact that single family homes take up more space than apartments”—affects the way that neighborhood identity is formed. And, in turn, how that visual bias in the way neighborhood identity is … Continue reading How bungalow-y is the Bungalow Belt?
I was asked to submit a short essay to a publication. They, quite reasonably, did not want my ode to four plus ones. In the cafeteria of Chicago architecture, the four plus one eats lunch alone. The bungalow comes in wearing its letter jacket, and high-fives a greystone, and they would both at least say … Continue reading The four plus one
This is really just a “hm” post, combined with a request for information. One of the things that’s never totally be clear to me is how the substantial number of Chicago neighborhoods with large amounts of vacant land—land that was at some point built up, but had its structures demolished and not replaced—got that way. … Continue reading The creation of vacant land in Chicago neighborhoods
City Observatory just published my review of The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn, one of the most thought-provoking books I read in all of 2016: At this point, brownstoning might have reevaluated what kind of movement it was. As this process pushed the frontier of “authenticity” (and affordability) further south, they might have realized that “modernity” was not … Continue reading The invention of public-hating, brownstoning urbanism