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Curbed Cup 1st Round: (8) North Center vs. (9) South Loop

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The Curbed Cup, Curbed Chicago's annual Neighborhood of the Year tournament, is kicking off with 16 'hoods, which will square off in a series of one-on-one matchups. Voting for each matchup will close in the breakfast hour of the following day. We'll showcase two first round contests per day through the week with results reviewed on Friday. Let the eliminations begin!

Just because the Community Area outline of North Center looks like the state of Illinois doesn't mean you should vote it in as neighborhood of the year. There are more substantive considerations to weigh, beginning with how to review and conceptualize a neighborhood that includes such radically different realms as delicate Roscoe Village, quasi-industrial Ravenswood, and part of the monolithic and hot-button Lathrop Homes? Major change is coming to Lathrop with a likely influx of market rate housing and retail, but no soil has been turned. The meandering North Branch riverfront remains a schizophrenic corridor w/ a quilt of recreation, industry, and long sections wanting remediation. On the plus side, the lovely Clark Park is getting a partial rebuild anchored by Jeanne Gang's fantastic boathouse. The Ravenswood Avenue rail corridor has cool things happening, from new light industry to loft spaces reclaimed for the arts and residences. And, like Ukrainian Village, small condo infill is en vogue.

South Loop has been one of 2013's major development sites, much of the action confined to rehab/conversion projects and the promise/threat of mega development in the very near future. One of the finest realized projects of the year has to be rental conversion of the Nationally landmarked Vesta Accumulator Building, with attractive units accompanied by careful restoration. Another big event was the renovation and rebranding of more than 500 condos at the former Central Station high-rise forest, with sales closing at a rapid clip. In the megaproject category, there is of course the McCormick Place hotel and arena proposal— Mayor Rahm Emanuel's recurring wet dream. If the mayor gets his way—and when doesn't he?—DePaul basketball will play its games in a new arena at Cermak & Indiana, a casino will join in, and 1,700 new hotel rooms will sprout nearby, all by late 2016 and all bankrolled by taxpayers. A mile-and-a-half north, the inexplicably-vacant 6-acre parcel at Wells & Harrison has attracted new development attention amounting to half-baked plan for 700 rental units. Other significant stuff: a two-tower residential project at Wabash & 13th is underway; and the 398-unit AMLI Clark & Polk is topped out. With the Sloop, people either love or hate the path it's on.
·Curbed Cup 2013

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