Marina City to Owners: Ask and We Shall Fine

(Photo: Notice anything missing? Original Credit: Steven Dahlman.)

There are two ways to brand and position a world-famous residential tower: the right way; and the way downtown Chicago’s Marina City condo board is planning to go about it.

Marina City Online Debuts

First, the right way. I’ve always wondered why no one’s ever written a book about my beloved twin corncob towers. Certainly, lots of information exists out there about the place, and I’ve certainly spent a lot of time scribing about my high-rise home. Finally, however, comes word that someone is setting to the long-ignored task.

Two tower residents–real-estate broker Michael Michalak and author-photographer Steven Dahlman–have launched Marina City Online. The website’s primary focus is to offer prospective owners and tenants a treasure trove of information about the towers (including available units, floorplans, MLS listings, and frank inside information) from a source independent of Marina City’s controversial condo board. For this reason alone the site is laudable.

Even more interesting, however, is the massive treasure trove of historical vignettes and stories about the corncobs provided by author Dahlman, who is writing the first contemporary book about Marina City history. Dahlman has even uncovered the long-lost 1965 marketing film, This Is Marina City (follow the link to watch).

For anyone who ever thought MC’s modern-day shenanigans (regular readers know the towers are a veritable vertical Peyton Place) are anything out of the ordinary, think again. As Dahlman demonstrates, the corncobs have been quirky for years. If you’re interested in the history of downtown Chicago, you owe it to yourself to read this site.

You Can’t Talk, Don’t Ask Me

Far less impressive are the current plans of the Marina Towers Condominium Association to levy a new set of fines against condo owners that many in the corncobs find insulting to enraging. Among the items that may get a Marina City resident fined if the condo board gets its way:

–Asking a board member a question about Marina City outside an official board meeting;

–Complaining about the same issue that another resident has already complained about;

–Asking more than once for information that the board has already refused to provide; and get this-

–Using the image of Marina City or the name of the condo board without paying the board for permission to do so.

Are you laughing yet? If you’re lucky enough not to be a Marina City homeowner, you should be. While I haven’t blogged about it much this year, I can tell you the alleged propensity of the Marina Towers Condominium Association to ignore owner complaints, verbally attack residents at meetings, and sic the association attorney on inquiring residents has generated more ire from residents here than ever before.

Michalak and Dahlman do a splendid job of rebutting (if not lampooning) the condo board’s ludicrous proposed rules on Marina City Online both here and here. (You can download the proposed rules (in PDF format) from Marina City Online and ponder them for yourself).

For me, the idea that Marina City’s image is somehow the board’s property is laughable. For one thing, the board only owns the towers from the 20th floor up. Perhaps Chicago architectural photographers should all get out their Photoshops and whittle their photos of the 60-story towers down to 19-story nubs?

I’m reminded of a quote from my favorite movie of all time, the phenomenal 1978 Halloween:

“Fate is immovable. It stands where man passes away”.

These towers represent a seminal time in mid-century modern high-rise architecture, when Ludwig Mies van der Rohe‘s boxy “less is more” ethic was called into question by the organically inspired Bertrand Goldberg. They are peopled by residents who care about each other and who, in more than a few cases, have lived here since 1962 or 1963 when East Tower and West Tower respectively first opened their doors. There is a stability in all of that that transcends the poor judgment (or in this case, seeming total lack of it) of any sitting condo board.

However, if the Marina Towers Condominium Association’s bone-headed fines are approved, until this particular board passes away into memory, those yearning for a life in the corncobs might be better off satisfying their cravings by regularly browsing Michalak and Dahlman’s site (or this one, for that matter) and spending their money elsewhere.

I hear the Hancock’s nice

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