Industry, Infrastructure and Intermodalism—Still Mixed Up on Special Districts? | PlaceMakers

[Excerpt from PlaceMakers]

Traditional zoning, such as implemented in Chicago in 1923 was defensive, leading to separation of land uses and activities from people. Defense was needed to socially separate people from unhealthful conditions—and the definitions of what impaired public health or well-being ranged from what was tangible and measurable including industrial emissions and noise to the intangible and unmeasured social classifications such as race, class and country of origin.

A similar challenge to urban character was made by leading planners and traffic engineers—for example, there’s a chapter in the Los Angeles comprehensive street traffic plan done in 1924 by Harland Bartholomew, Frederick Law Olmstead Jr. and Charles Henry Cheney finding that “The Promiscuous Mixing of Traffic” is a top cause of street congestion which a cynic might equate to an anti-miscegenation law.

But re-integrating the separated parts of our cities and regions demands that we affirm what’s possible. The two innovations required are (a) a shift from describing only what we want to see and experience to include a set of accountable outcomes, and (b) recognize that we have tools such as transects and form-based codes to help shape communities with respect to residential, commercial, and some recreational and municipal services; but we don’t have the tools to help shape land that has traditionally been “off-grid.”

It’s been too easy to assume that land uses in legacy American cities were all “on-grid,” that is, located within a logically ordered network of streets and other necessary civil infrastructure, such as water supply and sewers, and associated infrastructure such as that needed for providing electricity, natural gas and telecommunications.

But much of even the most revered of such gridded reputations such as those of New York and Chicago, for example, are easily punctured by a review of what the map tells us.

Taking a Closer Look in Chicago

We fortunately have an extraordinarily detailed compendium of block-level data and mapping published by the Chicago Plan Commission, Land Use in Chicago, giving us a baseline 1940 snapshot.

If we assume that all single-family and multi-family residential, and all commercial land uses are on-grid, as are all streets and alleys, that would give us 53.3% of all land in the city meeting this definition; even if we assume that all 21.4% coded as “vacant” were on-grid, that only brings us to 74.7% of the total land area. What about the rest?

1950 industrial districts in Metro Chicago

6.9% was coded as industrial, 7.6% as railroads, 4.8% as parks and playgrounds, 3.3% as other public institutions, and 2.7% as waterways. Some play-lots were on-grid as were a number of industrial zones principally housing job-shops serving larger industries; and with enough work we could determine a rough estimate of the size of these gridded lots. And similarly, a large chunk of the multi-family residential was property of the Chicago Housing Authority, which less than two decades later would become several times larger to accommodate the displacement caused by the routing and construction of the limited access highway system.

One result of this culture of separation was the banishing of much-needed work to less accessible places; another was to limit the availability of public funds, shortsightedly, for infrastructure needed to support an urban industrial city. Burnham and Bennett’s Plan of Chicago took a distinct approach to both transportation and to infrastructure: the Plan focuses much attention on inter-city transportation and is perhaps the first modern regional plan for high-capacity highways, but pays little attention to internal circulation other than to call for “coordination.” Simultaneously, an agreement to elevate all 712 miles of rail track within the city limits significantly increased the functionality of the city’s rail networks and rail yards, setting the stage for (a) modernization of these systems and (b) development of specialized facilities and organizations adapted to the needs of dense urban industrial economy, and it is to these latter that we turn our attention.

Unlike the company town facilities for which industrial Chicago was known, such as the United States Steel South Works, the Pullman Company, and the Gary IN USS Works and surrounding communities, let’s examine some successful adaptations, with four examples. The first is the Central Manufacturing District (CMD), the second is the south suburban Green Time Zone, the third is the Fulton-Carroll Industrial Incubator, and the fourth is the creation of Planned Manufacturing Districts or PMDs.

via Industry, Infrastructure and Intermodalism—Still Mixed Up on Special Districts? | PlaceMakers.


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