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Archives for June 17, 2016

Why Is McDonald’s Moving from the Suburbs to the City?

Launch gallery
McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, designed by Salvatore Balsamo Associates   Photo: Carl Wagner/Chicago Tribune

A couple weeks ago I was driving out to the Morton Arboretum, through the corporate prairies of the western suburbs, and noticed a handsome old Brutalist building, an imposing concrete-and-glass structure softened by a grid of narrow oval windows and floating above the ground on curved pillars.

It was McDonald’s corporate headquarters, but it won’t be for long. A few days later, news broke that the company was abandoning it and following a stream of HQs back to the city. By 2018 the company will move into the old Harpo Studios site in the Near West Side, in the middle of one of Chicago’s best restaurant districts. It’s another big get for the city from its suburbs, following moves by Motorola, Kraft Heinz, ConAgra, and others.

This wasn’t the more famous McDonald’s campus nearby, designed by Dirk Lohan, but the company’s first stake in suburbia, designed by the lesser-known Salvatore Balsamo Associates. (Balsamo has a couple more buildings of note in the area: the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Northbrook, a “tiny confection rendered in Brutalist language,” and his space-age stone-and-concrete house in Park Ridge.)

Today the building seems conservative, a businesslike combination of Bertrand Goldberg and Mies van der Rohe. When it was built in 1972, though, it was totally wild, thanks to its pathbreaking interior designer: William Pulgram, a Vienna-born Holocaust survivor who went to Georgia Tech on the G.I. Bill, and his Atlanta-based firm, Associated Space Design. It lives on as the firm ASD SKY, which is still doing cutting-edge work for new-economy companies like Mailchimp, Dropbox, and the Alibaba Group.

Pulgram designed a near-total open office, without doors, for the company. “Even the executive offices in the eight-story building will be work stations separated on two sides by free standing modular units with built-in desks,” the Tribune reported in 1970. He called these “task response modules,” arranged into “work units.” Founder and chairman Ray Kroc had his own executive-sized corner TRM, but no door.

Police officers guard McDonald’s corporate office as activists protest its wages, May 20, 2015 Photo: Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune

But Pulgram’s design, bureaucratic language aside, was not a submission to gray-suited, scientific middle-management homogeneity. Much as people like to rag on the trappings of the contemporary tech sector—scooters, foosball, kegerators—the centerpiece of Pulgram’s design was a “think tank” that, well… here’s how the Tribune described it in 1972:

Turning a sharp corner, the visitors came upon an open area dominated by what seemed to be a throne. A brown suede blob of a chair waited invitingly beneath a muted halo of yellow light…. This room was but prelude to the real “think tank,” though….

And then the big reveal.

Pulgram pressed a button recessed in the wall and a hidden door slid open to reveal what looked at first to be a small arena…. Then the visitors clambered up a couple steps and plunged into the arena floor—a waterbed!

At the center of this fast-food giant’s Brutalist block was a swingin’ bachelor pad.

Pulgram jiggled beside a control panel which could adjust the lighting, turn on an FM radio, or play a tape recording of “Burt Kaempfert’s Greatest Hits.” The slanting burgundy suede walls contained a circle of high-fidelity speakers.

Aw, yeah. (If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, that occurred to them too: “Couples of the opposite sex have not been encouraged to communicate here, however.”)

But wait, it gets even more ’70s.

It is equipped with an alpha pacer, a machine that monitors brain waves and projects them on a screen. The user learns to control his state of mind until the monitor shows his brain emanating alpha waves—said to be the ideal creative state.

The man who planned the move explained the intention in the patter of the era and the cold hard numbers.

Like a good number of McDonald’s employees these days, [Tom] Watterson sports the “with-it” plumage of the liberated male, in his case a mustache, gray and violet textured suit, and shiny black boots. “We’ve tried to develop a total-concept environment here, from the landscaping right down to the last piece of furniture,” Watterson explained. “We want it all to make the statement that McDonald’s is an open company that believes in growth, change, dynamics….”

Watterson was also pleased to note a marked decline in turnover, which he said was 100 percent every two years when McDonald’s was downtown but now seems headed for a level of 25 to 30 percent. “Some jobs would turn over four or five times in the course of a year,” he said. “In the Loop, it’s that way—girls would shop jobs for a matter of $5 a week. And people are dressing very colorfully out here. They seem to be in a pleasant frame of mind. There’s not so much bitchiness any more.”

That last quote is subtle but important. In a dense urban environment, workers from different companies can mix over lunch or after work; that can lead to new job opportunities; and as the quote implies, that can lead to upwards wage pressure.

Louise Mozingo, a professor at Berkeley’s department of landscape architecture and environmental planning, studied the history of suburban corporate campuses like McDonald’s and John Deere’s epic, Saarinen-designed campus in Moline. In a long piece for Collectors Weekly about her work, she explained to Hunter Oatman-Stanford how the elaborate amenities of the luxurious corporate campus (“snack bars, ping-pong tables, shuffleboards, bowling alleys, tennis courts, horseshoe pits”) were meant to save money by controlling labor:

“They were terrified that female clerical workers were going to unionize,” Mozingo says, “In the era before computing, companies ran on vast amounts of paper, and that paperwork was almost all done by women. That was one of the reasons they wanted to get out of downtown—if the secretaries unionized, they’d all be sunk.”

Even the shift to personal vehicles rather than public transit was hailed as a perk: Private cars were supposedly more reliable and allowed for more flexible work schedules, particularly in an era before highways were clogged with traffic. In actuality, this encouraged employees to extend their workday past the standard hours of nine-to-five, and helped isolated workers to ensure company loyalty. “This is something that Silicon Valley companies still do—they capture the employee for the entire day,” Mozingo says. “The descriptions were extremely explicit about this, about solidifying corporate culture, instilling loyalty, and minimizing happenstance meetings with people from other companies who might steal you. It’s about making the corporation your entire life.”

At the other end of the wage scale were the highly trained workers who made up the RD departments of the huge companies. As Mozingo points out, many of those workers would otherwise end up at universities, so the corporate-campus model was, in some ways, meant to imitate the sylvan academic-campus feel—what Mozingo calls “pastoral capitalism.” Dirk Lohan, who designed the company’s campus complex in 1979, echoed this in a recent Trib interview: “As an architect I spent a considerable amount of time thinking about how to make people happy and how to make people better performers. We thought trees and deer are better than dirty streets in the city.”

McDonald’s University, part of the corporate campus designed by Dirk Lohan Photo: Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune

But the isolation of the suburban corporate campus is a defensive strategy. Isolating employees in order to prevent their poaching means being isolated from poaching others’ employees—or just the inevitable circulation of ideas when industry peers meet informally. AnnaLee Saxenian’s study of why Silicon Valley thrived and Boston’s Route 128 tech cluster failed resonates with the geography of the suburban corporate campus:

Motorists, she said, can see the difference from their car windows: Beautiful lakes and forests separate Route 128 companies from each other. The snarled freeways of the narrow San Francisco Peninsula provide no similar beauty, she said, but geography has helped to keep Silicon Valley firms from isolating themselves.

“One of the most obvious differences is in labor market behavior and the attitude toward risk taking,” she said. “Engineers in Silicon Valley boast that they can change jobs without changing carpools. People change jobs with great frequency there. On Route 128, by contrast, the normal career path is to find a job in a large company and work one’s way up the corporate ladder. It was rare for one to leave a corporate job to work for a startup, while in Silicon Valley, it is almost glorified. The point is that a tremendous amount of learning occurs through this process of entrepreneurship and even through failure.”

A number of people have noted the irony of the burger barons moving to the Near West Side near Fulton Street, an old industrial-food corridor once home to the city’s meatpacking giants that’s transformed into a fine-food cluster. The Girl the Goat, Little Goat, Au Cheval, Momotaro, Nellcote, the Aviary, and Maude’s Liquor Bar are all within a ten-minute walk.

At McDonald’s current HQ? There are a couple steakhouses.

The company, which has been struggling to compete with more upscale fast-casual restaurants, is placing itself in the middle of a giant, fluid food lab that’s driving food trends within one of the country’s most important food cities.

Could it work? Well, many years ago the company’s founder, Ray Kroc, was a regular at the Whitehall Club, a ritzy members-only club within the old Whitehall Hotel in the Gold Coast. In the late 1960s, Kroc began his efforts to poach its executive chef. In 1976, Arend finally left his gourmet world to make billions of burgers—and to invent the McRib.


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What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From The Couple Who Uses Storytelling Skills to Sell Dream Homes

The Riviera White House

Location: Pacific Palisades

Selling price: On the market for $33,000,000

Their storytelling vision: Owned by Ronald Reagan, the former president wanted a house where he felt like he lived outside, and we wanted to keep that intact.

When we bought it in 2013, we left it unchanged. We got to see this guy’s intentions: What was he thinking at the time? For example, the house was almost completely glass, because it gave you a sense of being outdoors. We tried to make the connection with his intentions throughout the house asking ourselves, “What did this do for him?”

In addition to that, we were creating the biography of the fictional character. We had this epiphany and could envision the moment when Reagan was standing and looking at this huge view that just goes on forever and thinking, “Wait a minute, there’s something bigger out there for me. Something more important that I should be doing.” It was in that house he decided to run for governor and then president.

Taking that moment, we tried to design a house that would offer that same kind of inspiration and motivation for the next group of people that lived there.

In the White House, Reagan had this ability to reach across the aisle. The whole idea is this should be a house about getting people together, not keeping people separate.

We knew the person who bought the home would be supremely confident. For the house, we  wanted to find the best of everything. The range in the kitchen is an $80,000 range. It was handmade in Florence, and it’s the best range available in the world.

He knows he’s got the best. Which is also why we created a show garage. But it’s not about showing off, it’s about sharing your passion. It’s about bringing people together.

The take away: We really went one that’s all in with this one. If you’re playing cards, you gotta deal with what you’re dealt. But if you have a chance to build on kings or fours, you build on the king. With this house, because there is such a spectacular view, we felt we couldn’t build the conservative version of what it can be, were built the optimal version of what it can be, built it for a mover and shaker. We highlighted its best hand: what it had to offer.

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Pool landscaping ideas: Get creative with…


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Silverado Garden Club harvests joyful fruit, stimulates minds

Evoking happy memories from the soil, a unique gardening program created by horticultural therapist and Master Gardener Catherine Schoonmaker helps seniors cultivate pleasant old times and new experiences.  Known as the “garden lady” by residents at Silverado Peoria Memory Care Community, Schoonmaker shares her expertise and passion to bring a sense of achievement, social interaction and fun from seed to table.

Last week, the Garden Club was beginning the transition from spring to summer gardening. Schoonmaker, who took a year of study in horticulture therapy, helps the residents set goals every week. She encourages them to reminisce, and the handling of plants works on fine and motor skills. Those individuals with arthritis rejuvenate their motor skills as they are planting. It is also helpful toward maintaining eye and hand coordination.

“A lot of horticulture therapists work with veterans back from war to help with post-war jobs,” Schoonmaker said. “Individuals under stress, horticultural therapy helps reduce it. With seniors, it builds endurance – pouring water, walking.”

Each week club members gather with Schoonmaker to tend their four raised-bed gardens at the center of the community. Watermelon, cantaloupe, pumpkins, beets, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, rosemary, lavender, sunflowers, snap dragon and marigold are just some of the crops. One member, Tom,  has gardened his whole life and this year hopes to grow corn and eggplant. Residents not only enjoy their own fresh cuisine, flowers are used to create herb aroma packets, floral arrangements and put in a flower press to make colorful laminate holiday gifts. During October, the residents stuff pumpkins with flowers.

Schoonmaker’s Garden Club members average 80-plus years in age, and were youngsters during the Depression. So, they learned how to grow much of their own food.

“Those long-term memories and some wonderful stories come out as they reconnect with the land,” Schoonmaker said.  “From seeding, watering and weeding to harvest, the purposeful activities bring joy and literally take them back to their roots.”

Schoonmaker grew up gardening in Pennsylvania with her grandmother and mother.  She moved to the Phoenix area and became a member of the Desert Botanical Gardens and conducts science-based tours for children during the school year. Earning a certificate in Desert Landscaping, she began volunteering in the Gardens’ horticultural department, and received her Master Gardener certificate through Maricopa Extension Office. This past September, she helped start the Garden Club to help people with dementia enjoy more fulfilling lives.

Her father suffered from Alzheimer’s and her mother is a resident at Silverado. She has a personal connection that shows while she is working with her Garden Club members. Although they may not complete a planting project exactly the way she does, Schoonmaker is patient.

“It’s not the end result; it’s the content,” she said.

Silverado Peoria is at 13391 N. 94th Drive. To learn more, visit, or call 866-522-8125.

Editor Carolyn Dryer contributed to this article.

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Delicious, edible landscapes

One of the biggest trends in gardening and landscaping has been the transformation of traditional lawns and borders into edible landscapes or foraging gardens.

Out are traditional vegetable garden beds and neat rows. In are interspersed plantings of ornamentals and edibles, edibles in containers, edible front yards and a variety of crops designed for backyard foraging throughout the seasons.

Transforming your traditional garden into an edible landscape is actually quite simple and can be done on any scale.

You may want to start small by interplanting herbs, berries, edible flowers and other crops among your traditional annual and perennial garden beds.

Another great way to get started is to grow a variety of edible crops in garden containers or pots. These can be placed throughout the landscape where they can be harvested as you wander among your plants and borders.

An increasing number of berries, nuts, greens, edible flowers and more are available in dwarf or compact forms, perfect for containers of all shapes and sizes.

Plan ahead for trees and shrubs

When planning an edible landscape, especially one consisting of trees and shrubs, it’s important to plan ahead and realize that some fruit and nut trees, along with berry-producing shrubs, may take several years to begin producing.

Popular choices include shagbark hickory, American filbert or hazelnut, blackberry, raspberry, currants, blueberries, strawberries and others.

Of course, fruit trees, such as pear, apple, cherry and plum are excellent additions that will provide decades of flavorful, nutritious treats.

Edible blooms

Many gardeners are surprised to learn that there is a large variety of edible flowers available. Perennials, including daylilies, anise hyssop, lavender, violets, roses and others are wonderful additions and you can find many wonderful recipes online for each of these plants.

Annual flowers are also available for foraging and collecting. These include sunflowers, calendula, pansies, violas, nasturtiums and more.

Herbal delight

What would an edible landscape be without wonderfully textured and beautifully scented masses of herbs sprawling, climbing and blooming throughout summer and fall?

Mix and match herbs such as mints, lavender, chives, oregano, basil, rosemary, horseradish and others among your existing beds.

In addition to the endless bounty of flavors and textures, many of these plants actually benefit your existing annual, perennial and food crops. Many herbs repel damaging insects with their powerful scents.

Even many plants we consider annoying weeds are highly nutritious and extremely edible. Some of these, such as dandelions, Queen Anne’s lace, clovers, garlic mustard, stinging nettle, milkweed and more are surprisingly delicious.

A simple online search will reveal hundreds of recipes for even our most common backyard weeds.

There are edible plants for sun, shade, what soils and dry, making it easy to start a foraging garden of your own right at home.

Extend the season into fall and winter by potting up some of your annuals, herbs and lemongrass to provide a flavorful harvest throughout the winter season in a sunroom, under growing lights or in a bright window.

Find Rob Zimmer online at and on Facebook at

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South Pittsburg Housing Authority says tenants can keep landscaping after all – WRCB


UPDATE: Some South Pittsburg Housing Authority residents ripped up their personal landscaping when they heard about a new policy but it turns out they didn’t have to. 

That’s according to the housing authority board chairman who says the confusion may have been politically motivated. 

Effective June 1, 2016 the housing authority board passed a new policy banning all plants, trees, shrubbery and gardens from tenant’s yards. 

“It creates a hazard and also a lot  more time involved in trying to trim around it all,” South Pittsburg Housing Authority Board Chairman Virgil Holder said. 

But Holder said the new policy has come with a lot of confusion and that it only applies to tenants who move in after June 1st. 

“We will have them there as long as they live in that unit. When they move out of the unit or move somewhere, then we would go in while it was vacant,” he added. 

Holder said current residents will be grandfathered in and the policy won’t apply until they move. 

Channel 3 reviewed the resolution and the notices that were given to tenants in April and found nothing that addresses current resident landscaping. 

In fact, the policy states “all landscaping to be removed unless planted by the housing authority staff.”

“We are not here to upset our residents we’re here to take and make their lives better and also our community,” he added. 

South Pittsburg Mayor Jane Dawkins is weary about the resolution’s wording and has spoken against the policy to Channel 3 before. 

“I really hope they will look at this again and stop this now,” she said. 

Holder is running against Dawkins for the mayor’s seat and believes the confusion may be politically motivated. 

“It was nothing purely but a political move on trying to advance a personal political career in my opinion at the expense of the housing authority residents,” Holder said. 

Accusations Dawkins denies. 

The housing authority will hold a meeting Monday, at 5:00 p.m. (CST) to answer any questions and clear up any confusion. 

PREVIOUS STORY: A lot of hard work and TLC goes into gardens this time of year. But some longtime residents of public housing in South Pittsburg are horrified that their special plants are being ripped out, roots and all.

A new policy, implemented by the South Pittsburg Housing Authority, took effect on Wednesday. It says that all residents’ personal landscaping and gardens must go.

Sally McMillan said beautiful rose bushes used to line the front of her home.

“One was there, one was there,” she said, pointing around her porch. “Another one was around the house. It looked real pretty.”

But now, her yard is completely bare.

“They’re just taking them out. They didn’t want them here,” said Sally, who lives in public housing.

According to South Pittsburg Housing Authority’s new landscaping policy, all plants, trees, flowers, shrubbery, or gardens must be removed from tenant’s yards.

Many families are upset about the new rule.

“Her yard ain’t supposed to look like that because she lives in public housing? That’s bull,” said Angela Kelso, a concerned family member.

“It’s their home. They’re paying to live here,” Kelso said. “They already can’t smoke in them, and now they can’t decorate the outside. What? Is it gonna be a prison camp pretty soon?”

Another woman, in her 80s, has an entire garden outside her home. Her family went to South Pittsburg’s Mayor for help.

“A lot of the folks told me they were afraid to question (the policy) because it might cause them to lose their units,” Mayor Jane Dawkins told Eyewitness News.

According to documents, the only plants than can stay are those that were planted by the Housing Authority.

However, residents can keep some plants. The policy allows for potted plants or vegetables, as long as they can fit on either the front or back porch.

“I really hope that they will look at this again,” Dawkins said. “That they will stop things now.”

As of Wednesday night, Channel 3 had not heard back from the Housing Authority regarding the new policy on plants. The Mayor hopes officials will reconsider or modify the new rule.

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Charla Anthony: Last of spring gardening tips before the summer – Bryan

Posted: Friday, June 17, 2016 12:00 am

Charla Anthony: Last of spring gardening tips before the summer


Summer is still a couple days away, but the temperatures say it has arrived. While the list isn’t long, here are some gardening tasks to keep your yard looking good for weeks. Be safe and work outdoors in the early morning and evening when temperatures are a bit cooler.

It looks to be a stellar bloom year for crape myrtles and daylilies. If you want to add them to your yard, take this opportunity to observe flower color and pick a favorite variety now.

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Friday, June 17, 2016 12:00 am.

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Gain garden and wildlife photography tips at the library

 • Join food historian, Judith Krall-Russo, at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, July 25, as she discusses some of the favorite foods and beverages of past presidential families. Learn how the presidents entertained at state dinners and how they entertained family and friends. Did you know that George Washington loved honey, and Martha had a great fondness for cake? A favorite beverage of President Garfield was tea; he even had his own recipe for an herb tea that included catnip. Thomas Jefferson did not invite more than 12 guests for dinner. Come learn about other past presidential families and their favorite fare. Registration is requested.  To register, call the library at 973-584-2400 ext. 501 or

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Tips for getting your garden through the summer swelter

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Gardening column: Heed these garden tips when dealing with wet weather

This coming Monday will be the first day of summer — and along with it being the summer solstice, we will have more daylight hours to work in our gardens than we will have all the rest of the year. Being given this little gift of time seemed like the perfect moment to check with the Farmer’s Almanac and see what it thinks our summer will be like. To my surprise it predicts that summer will be a “very warm and thundery” summer. I wasn’t surprised at the “warm” part — but “thundery”? That’s not a word you hear every day.

The prediction goes on to say, “According to the long-range weather outlook from the pages of the Farmers’ Almanac, there will be a greater-than-normal coverage of thunderstorms, which unfortunately will be strong, particularly over the eastern third of the nation.” It also said, “Don’t be surprised if the song “Stormy Weather” gets stuck in your head as we greet the summer season.” Just for fun I’ve included a link to the referenced song sung by Lena Horne so you can practice and be ready to sing or hum along when the storms come (

Now we all know predictions aren’t actual facts but they can be fun to learn about and then watch to see if they come true. So, in case our summer happens as predicted there will be the usual good and bad situations we’ll need to deal with in our gardens.

A couple of the good things will be that we won’t have to water as often, and the lightning will zap nitrogen in the soil which should make our plants grow large and leafy (maybe too much) — in other words we’ll experience more tropical conditions than we normally have during our usually dry summers.

The “bad” things could be more heat and humidity which could encourage fungal diseases in the garden, so if you want to err on the side of the prediction, support your plants before it happens with prevention sprays and keep the soil under plants very clean of weeds and plant debris.

Also, in wet weather avoid mass planting especially in the vegetable garden, and, try to assist your plants with as much air movement as possible by pruning off leafy growth on the lower stems of tomatoes and other vegetables.

Keep a close watch and if you see any signs of disease on leaves, stems, branches or fruit, don’t allow it to continue. When the foliage is dry (this is important) prune it off right away. Toss all diseased debris in the trash — not in the compost bin.

Mother Earth News article ( tells us (very frankly) “Fungal spores usually arrive in the garden on the wind or on insects’ feet, but nothing spreads spores faster than a gardener mucking around in damp, diseased foliage or fruits.” So, please, no mucking about, and wipe or wash gloves, pruners, boots and/or shoes with a disinfectant towel or by dipping in a Clorox solution after working around your diseased plants. If your clothes brush against effected plants and pick up spores, change clothes before working in another area of the garden. It sounds like a lot of trouble, but the trouble you save yourself by taking these precautions will be well worth it.

Jane Ford is an Advanced Master Gardener. Email questions to She also answers gardening questions with horticulture educator Ricky Kemery noon-1 p.m. the second and fourth Thursday of each month on “The Plant Medic,” a radio show on 95.7fm. This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of The News-Sentinel.

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