As was reported in the AIA Architectural Billings Indices last week, design activity in the Midwest is fairly robust,,,for the moment. I was able to check out Milwaukee and Chicago for myself and co-tower crane geek Bill Schmalzel reported from Minneapolis/St. Paul. We can confirm that those cities are busy and for subtly different reasons.
Milwaukee was slower the last time I was there, with only one tower crane in action. This time around, there were seven in action. Four (two at each project) were on multi-family projects, while one was on a hotel project strategically across the street from Fiserv Forum, home of the Milwaukee Bucks. The last two are on a large expansion of the Milwaukee Convention Center. While I am no means an expert on Milwaukee, I would consider all of these projects within the urban core of the city. This is different from Seattle (reported last month) and Chicago (see below) where most of the current construction is outside the core downtown area. My unsubstantiated hunch is that when construction moves outside the city core, it signals a topping in the market (or near topping) as developers move to less expensive land to build upon (the run-up in Sacramento is oftentimes an indicator that San Francisco is topping out and Sacramento is currently busy). Milwaukee doesn’t seem to be there yet, with the Couture project (#1 below) being built on what seems to be prime real estate. I threw in a pic of a project with two mobile cranes for kicks and another of some street art I found cool.
The convention center expansion is particularly impressive with the amount of activity currently happening. Check out the sea gull buzzing the towers! BTW, I love the streamline moderne architecture of the UW Milwaukee Panther (fromerly The Mecca) arena acraoss the street,
My wife and I traveled the 1.5 hours from Milwaukee to Chicago via train. As we entered the city, I saw a lot of construction activity, but it seemed way outside the city core. It turned out to be the West Loop, and I’ll focus specifically on that later in this post. The downtown core near the river was very quiet and much different from when I was in Chicago several years ago. That said, there was plenty of multi-family housing under construction, some of which is funded by Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-backed financing, giving the clue that it might be subsidized housing. Those projects (six total with seven tower cranes) are located in the map below and followed by site pictures.
I threw in a couple of bonus pix below that warrant discussion. First, check out the hoist at the 720 South Wells Street project below. While taking the Architectural boat tour (my third time, my daughter’s second. I highly recommend!), we concluded that materials are being delivered on barges. Seems pretty smart given that the other side of the building is Wacker Street which seems perpetually jammed with traffic.
Next, I had to throw in the obligatory picture of Wrigley Field, which is undergoing an expansion. My daughter and I had to check it out (she’s a construction management student at Boise State, so she also has the bug) before we went to see the Zac Brown Band for my wife’s birthday.
Moving on to the West Loop area. It. Was. Booming! The West Loop strikes me as the neighborhood my oldest daughter would love to live in, as would I but it would reveal my thirsty nature to come across as young. There were a lot of younger-looking adults walking around with doodle-bred dogs heading to yoga classes or fancy brunches. There happens to be a large Google office in the neighborhood, so you can probably picture the multi-cultural/high disposable income demographic of the neighborhood. Seriously, those are my spirit animals.
The construction looks overwhelmingly multi-family and commercial office (which Captain Obvious tells me is oftentimes the case when tower cranes are near and there’s a housing crunch). There are astonishingly nine tower cranes in this neighborhood right now.
Author's note if you are curious about the order of the pix, that's the route I took when running my routes through Milwaukee and Chicago. I catch a lot less ridicule if I tell people I'm going for a run as opposed to going to look at cranes. Plus I get to burn off all the Midwestern food I gorged on throughout the trip.
Lastly, Bill Schmalzel came in from the bullpen to give an update on Minneapolis/St. Paul. He’s a fellow tower crane/construction fan and he happened to be in the Midwest approximately when I was. He provided the three pictures below and the approximate locations. I have never been to MSP (it is definitely on my list and I hope to get there soon), so I hope I don't butcher the location/descriptions.
Bridge rehabilitation just upstream from St. Anthony's Falls.
Two luffers on a multi-family project new the Minnesota Twins baseball park.
Multi-family project in St, Paul close to the 1925 Ford Model T plant and very close to the Mississippi River.
Bill is so hard core he has sent me pix from Italy! I love it and he was the first person to do so. Now I get pix from friends and family all over the country. Keep them coming!
This page is dedicated to the stuff I love and, for no defensible reason, want to share with the world. Enjoy!