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Prone though Chicago is to crazy weather indecision, a March this sunny exceeded our expectations. Not that we didn’t already skip over a winter that was predicted to create a mass exodus from the Windy City this past season (we’re still here). We keep hearing about record-breaking temperatures all over the map, but we want superlatives this afternoon. So, what was the coldest Chicago winter day? And how did this one stack up?

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Our third annual PARK(ing) Day installation at Southport and Addison is on Friday, September 16, 2011, 9a-5p (video above is a mashup from our 2009 park-ification).  This is totally going to be the best year yet!  On site bicycle repair, in-park dining tables, live music, and food.  Be sure to be there to help us re-imagine public space.  Missed our coverage last year?  Check this out.  Or our treatise on urban parking?  More to come.

Parking. Its a sore subject here in Chicago.  In 2008 the City decided to privatize it’s 36,000 parking meters – in reality leasing an 8′ wide section of asphalt from the curb to the sometimes-present-bike lane – to a group made up of Morgan Stanley, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Allianz Capital Partners for a $1.16B. Since then, everyone in the City, nay, the world, seems to have developed a disdain to the selling off of public assets.  And rightly so.  Bloomberg News discovered just last month that we Chicagoans got royally hosed on the deal.  It turns out the private group will net $9.58B over the course of the 75-year term.  Oops.  This is more than twice what Alderman Scott Waguespack estimated the City would loose in profits when he denounced the deal and subsequently voted against it in the City Council.

This doesn’t stop the City from praising itself for the move, as Chicago’s CFO, Gene Saffold, touted, “The concession agreement was absolutely the best deal for Chicagoans”.  Going on to wax delusional, “The net present value of $11.6 billion in revenue over the life of the 75-year agreement is consistent with $1.15 billion the city received.”  Um, yeah.  You say this guy does the City’s accounting, eh.  Meanwhile, the Chicago’s Office of the Inspector General called the deal “dubious” since Saffold, “failed to calculate how much the system would be worth over 75 years.  The present value of the contract was $2.13 billion, more than the $1.15 billion the city received”, according to Bloomberg. Read the rest of this entry »

sorrelOur native, mostly perennial, urban permaculture farm is entering its second growing season!  The farm started as a patch of dirt in the sideyard of are office and was transformed into an edible landscape.  The ‘bed’ was raised with strawbales from a farm in Warrenville, Illinois and filled with a soil mix from Buy-the-Yard in Evanston.  The farm is designed as a ‘keyhole’, oriented towards the south.  After a year of working out the kinks and observing the shadows (there are only about 6 hours of direct sun a day), and monitoring the companions, we are getting ready to add new plantings around last average frost on April 24th-ish.  After the jump is an aerial showing the location of the farm (in orange) and the new native plantings which will take the place of frontyard turf (in green).

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McCall Park - portlandOne the best urban open spaces in one of the best US cities is McCall Riverfront Park (named for the former Governor of Oregon) along the the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon.  Aside from its splendid view and close proximity of downtown Portland, it is what brought it to existence that makes it remarkable.   Read the rest of this entry »

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