Marina City: The More Things Change…

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Fifty-one years after their construction at State Street and the Chicago River, the City of Chicago may finally landmark the Marina City corncobs. As long as the commercial interests that own the twin towers from the 19th floors down and the rest of the superblock on which they sit don’t object. Or the condo board, which in a previous incarnation promised to never support landmark status.

None of that surprises me. I learned fast during my years living in the corncobs that nothing ever happened there without major drama. During my first stint there from 2005 to 2010, the alleged luxury amenities gracing the midcentury triangular apartments and circular hallways included:

When I returned to the corncobs with Ryan from 2011 to 2012, I knew what I was getting us into. Or so I thought. Then we experienced three–and in the end four apartment floods in one year from burst water heaters on floors above. By the time we migrated eight miles to the Far North Side to our current Edgewater high-rise home, we had both had enough of the place.

But then… There’s something magical about playing Batman atop of one of Marina City’s twinned 61st-floor roofdecks, with their 360-degree views and, usually, stunning solitude. Watching the Chicago Rivers bridges open one after another from your balcony during boating season to let sailboats pass. Knowing many of your neighbors because somehow, incredibly, Marina City forges a sense of community. I’ve never known more of my neighbors anywhere else I’ve lived than when I lived at 300 North State Street.

Before Los Angeles and New York were on the agenda, we sometimes talked about moving back. Since we’ve been gone, the notoriously unpleasant condominium board (whose shenanigans  shine through in several of the above blog posts) was finally unseated. And like the Brand New Day that dawned at the end of The Wiz, residents finally had the right again to simple things like speaking  to board members outside of board meetings without being fined, and asking about years of pesky financial mismanagement.

The first rule of Marina City is that things don’t change at Marina City.

Last week, Steve Dahlman, the editor and publisher of downtown local news site, Marina City Online (MCO) and 10-year Marina City resident was told his lease was not being renewed by his landlord, a confidant of the new Marina City condo board.

Dahlman tells me he suspects the refusal to renew stems from the current condo board president’s unhappiness with MCO’s coverage of those very years of pesky financial mismanagement–in particular, MCO’s breaking of the news that the new board is being sued by the old board’s attorney for non-payment. Dahlman says his landlord was requested to meet with the board prior to renewing his lease, and immediately after the meeting served Dahlman with a 60-day notice to vacate.

And the world goes round. The difficulty prospective buyers have in securing a mortgage at Marina City is not the only negative effect of allowing almost half the owners of a giant condominium development to live in absentia. Another is the way that, board after board, the Marina City powers-that-be constantly succumb to the desire for nobody to bring nobody no bad news in order to keep turning over rentals and closing sales.

Someday I wish Marina City a condo board that’s as classy as the towers, themselves. For now, much as my heart wishes I never left my beloved roofdecks behind, my advice remains as always.

Danger, Will Robinson. There’s drama in those corncobs.

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