Pioneering in Polk Street Canyon


(Photo: Riled residents or paid protesters? Credit: Move the Tower.)

I have the Malcontents of Polk Street Canyon to thank for my boyfriend’s new apartment. Unhappy with the general fratty scumminess of the lower floors of his downtown condo building (sounds a little like Marina City, doesn’t it?), in May, Devyn dragged me around town to scope out new digs. Now, we’re both all into the urban goodness of downtown Chicago (Devyn’s photoblog being named Looper, after all), so we didn’t look very far. In fact, one May day on the way to the Roosevelt Road big-box Target, we found ourselves wandering through Printers Row. And smack into the hands of the malcontents.

As I blogged then, said malcontents, the residents of the Folio Square condominium building at 124 W. Polk Street, were and still are miffed that two high-rise condo towers are set to be built on their street which, when completed, will block their existing views. Of the surrounding, empty lots.

They continue to politic and picket for the alteration of the site plans of the impending developments, and continue to wrap themselves in disingenuous arguments for wise neighborhood development. As I explained in May, the fact remains that these are protesters who don’t want to lose their views, not Printers Row residents who care one whit about any other block beyond their own. Given the slack headway they’re making, it came as no surprise for me to learn that some of the people carrying protest signs outside of the sales office for Burnham Pointe, one of the planned towers, are actually (get this) hired help, and not Folio Square owners at all.

I learned this from inside the sales office. Having gotten an earful from the protesters outside, Devyn and I went into the sales office to see what all the fuss was about for ourselves. I don’t know what hooked Devyn first, the groovy new-modern building model or the LCD floorplans showing spacious — and surprisingly affordable — apartments. I just know that after our visit, the subject of Burnham Pointe started to be raised frequently. Generally after every time Devyn found an empty beer bottle in his building’s lobby or vomit in the elevator.

Not for nothing, but these days, views are lost right and left in Chicago. And unless you want to buy that adjacent empty parcel to preserve your personal vista, there’s really no recourse. Well, except perhaps for moving into the offending building.

That’s exactly what Devyn will be doing. Following much forethought, and a brief fling with a potential unit purchase at the uber-swank John Hancock Center (I have a cat, they don’t allow cats, Devyn and I will eventually move in someday, no deal), last month Devyn decided that, blocked views or not, Burnham Pointe provided the best downtown condo bang for the buck.

After our first run-in with the Polk Street malcontents, I had emailed Burnham Pointe’s developer, Terrapin Properties, regarding my disgust at the myopic reception they were receiving from Folio Square (for example, the equating of a “blind corner” with any building built on a corner property line — essentially including much of the human built environment for the past few millennia). Terrapin forwarded my email to local Alderman Madeline Haithcock (Ward 2) as proof that Folio Square’s opinion was not shared by every downtown local resident. I was glad for them to do so.

I was equally glad to return last month to the Burnham Pointe sales office after Devyn made his purchase, as much to say hi to the sales staff as to meet the malcontents and, er, thank them. Though I must admit to having a few reservations about possibly moving south of the Loop when the tower is finished in a couple of years (purely on L-access grounds), I was thrilled to recount the whole story of Devyn’s purchase to the Burnham Pointe staff. To my mind, Devyn’s purchase there is a vote both for the continued health of downtown Chicago in general and for the continued betterment of Printers Row, in particular. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I would prefer the downtown of my city to have as few fallow, dangerous, unused lots in it as possible, thank you very much.

I intended to say as much to the malcontents when we exited the Burnham Pointe sales office. But as we walked into the waiting arms and waving signs of the Folio Square protesters, a different thought came to mind. Seeing them there, yet again, blocking our way and attempting to stand in the way of civic progress, I greeted them with a more appropriate, much more heartfelt message.

“Get out of my way, you big losers.”

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