Open windows on our world

The Greenhouse at the El Moore is a nascent, wondrous, window-filled place. Its windows, in fact, are what make it such a grand place for growing. They are what make the greenhouse so porous, so special and so intriguing. They allow so much light in--the first rays of daybreak grace its repurposed wooden (even more porousness!) interior. Most importantly though, it lets you and me in. Where most greenhouses are for growing and maintaining plant life, our Greenhouse exists here to help grow and sustain our community. There, every day, our neighbors, as well as the sounds, smells and sights of our street and our neighborhood, pour in.  It is in this "allowing in" and in "sharing" that the Greenhouse will find and establish its identity.   With the El Moore Lodge entering its … [Read more...]

When the plan leaves the page

When I began working at the El Moore last March, its sustainable renovation was nearly 90 percent complete. Its three floors of annual residential apartments were already beginning to receive many of their finishing touches. I began by participating in early policy building, aesthetic group design sessions and happily helping out with decisions on things as varied as: What kind of vacuum should we buy? How much light should come through the window shades in the bedrooms? Should the china in the Parlor be new or vintage? It was exciting and engrossing to be on this conveyor belt of short term, targeted research and procurement. You get used to making decisions in planning mode. Planning mode becomes the norm. There are times when you can plan and design and set things into motion and there … [Read more...]

Urban Cabins Part 2: Not a map — a compass

This is part two in an ongoing series about the El Moore's rooftop cabins. Read Part 1 here. I feel silly in retrospect looking at all those fashionable headboards and hotel furniture without asking myself some fabulously important questions: What are the Urban Cabins? Where do they come from? What do they do? When Tom Brennan suggested the Lakota Medicine Wheel as a type of compass for us, I had no idea what to expect. I wasn't all that familiar with the concept and I suppose I was a bit suspicious at the onset about appropriating another culture's ancient symbol. If we had, for example, begun to use the sacred wheel as a theme, rather than taking some wisdom from it, I wouldn't have been as enthused. However it quickly became apparent that we wouldn't be commandeering the symbol as … [Read more...]

Urban Cabins Part 1: You can get there from here

Now that the first wave of residents have moved in and are beginning to make the El Moore a home again after all these years, attention is turning slowly and surely to the Lodge. I will admit to a certain level of anticipation about the next task: Lodge design and appointments. Figuring out how everything will look and work, finding suppliers, gathering materials and options for review, and finally procuring pieces is exciting--especially for the Urban Cabins. Don't misinterpret me,  it isn't that I favor the cabins (though the views are stupendous) it is simply that they are really very different from the the rest of the building and so present unique challenges. The El Moore makes an undeniable statement on Alexandrine with its Lake Superior Red Sandstone facade.  That statement, that … [Read more...]

When I say “urban cabin…”

  When I say the word "cabin" -- what do you think of? Are you remembering a specific place? Or are you imagining an ideal place? A dream of a cabin? I'd love to know about it. For now, let's say you were a child -- did you doze off in the backseat on the long trip up north? Did your parents unload the station wagon while you helped your aunt set up the grill? Did you make up your bed with grandma’s blankets pulled out of the cedar chest while your folks laughed together out back? Were all the details there already waiting for you -- tried, tested, and true? Simple systems all sussed out before 1972. The picnic basket was there, the grill was here, and the umbrellas were always beneath the cabinet, with the sunblock and the bug spray. And weren't there fishing poles, board games … [Read more...]

Learning & Relearning

"Unscrew the locks from the doors! Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!" -Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself" “I’m trying to put myself in a resident's shoes. What would make me feel more secure?  If I lived in a building with a transitory population…” I don’t have time to finish my thought before Tom Brennan stops me in my tracks. “Wait a minute,” he says calmly and cooly. I am sitting in a conference room in the Green Garage with the rest of the El Moore team on a Wednesday morning. For all intents and purposes, it is the first time that I am discussing the work I've been busy with so far: designing policy and services for the El Moore’s Urban Lodge. Specifically, we are discussing the merits of allowing guests to book a reservation for as little as one night or have a minimum … [Read more...]

The Old & The New

History doesn’t have to repeat itself. For the past few years, my work in restaurant and hostel management has been about thinking on my feet and making quick decisions. Putting out brush fires. Solving issues as best I could in thirty seconds flat. Hoping for the best and letting history decide. Loud, fast-paced, seat of your pants-type stuff.  Being here, now, working with these people on the El Moore Lodge is changing me, necessarily; I’m adopting a longer view and thank goodness. My name is Michel Soucisse and three weeks ago, I joined the Green Garage community to work on the Urban Lodge component of this ambitious project -- the El Moore. What is an Urban Lodge? Well, I can begin by telling you what it is not. Unlike many hotels or hostels you may have had the chance to stay … [Read more...]