Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Shedd Aquarium Approved for Renovations

 Good news for Shedd Acquarium lovers (via Urbanize Chicago):

The Chicago Plan Commission has approved the Lakefront Protection Ordinance application for renovations to the Shedd Aquarium. Located at 1200 S. DuSable Lake Shore Dr, the project will improve the facilities of the museum on the Museum Campus. Looking towards its 100th anniversary in 2030, the Shedd Aquarium plans the work as part of its Centennial Commitment, a $500 million plan to improve physical facilities and programmatic content.

The most prominent change to the exterior will be the addition of a new entry and ticketing pavilion surrounding the Man with Fish sculpture outside of the accessible entry. Currently the entry does not have enough capacity to meet demand, so the new design will accommodate a larger number of visitors. With 85% of tickets purchased in advance, the separated ticketing and entry pavilions will streamline the entry process for those who have bought tickets online allowing them to enter directly.

Two pavilions will be added in front of the current entrance with a circular trellis connecting the two to create a sense of arrival for visitors. The structures have been designed to create a light touch within the landscape, enhanced to allow for greater visibility of the entrances while using larger trees to break down the scale of the new structures. In response to feedback the ceilings of the pavilions will be GFRC instead of the original wood material.

Monday, June 27, 2022

CPS CEO Pulls Funding for Proposed South Loop High School ; Says More Time & Community Engagement Needed

In case you missed it last week, more delays and uncertainty around next steps with a "South Loop High School" (via Chicago Tribune):

Hours before the Chicago Board of Education was poised to vote Wednesday on the $9.4 billion budget for the coming school year, Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez pulled a $120 million line item for a proposed high school that would serve Chinatown, Bridgeport and South Loop.

“Conversations for the need of a neighborhood high school in the Near South have been happening for a decade now, with many advocates and community leaders urging CPS to take this step. Our team has done a great job in showing the need, with our Black students attending 95 different high schools and our Asian students traveling some of the longest distances across to other neighborhood schools,” Martinez said at Wednesday’s monthly board meeting.

Though planning is still in the early stages, critics railed against the proposal for utilizing money promised to a different neighborhood and spending millions on a new school instead of improving the high schools in the area. CPS also has come under fire for exploring building the school in the footprint of the former Ickes Homes public housing complex without first seeking feedback from residents who live near there.

Unfortunately the bureaucratic process and various groups CPS is trying to appease will continue to cause challenges.  Read the article and it's not hard to understand why this is difficult.  Regardless - it's frustrating for parents who across the board and likely is a reason why people flee the city.

This has been going on for decades - apparently 25 years by estimates of Chinatown leaders - and it seems like we're back to the drawing board.  Yikes!  

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

$400K Stolen Violin Returned to South Loop Family

Well it sounds like the South Loop stolen violin has a relatively happy ending (via Chicago Tribune):  

After a monthlong disappearance, police have returned a stolen violin made in 1760 to a South Loop family of musicians whose home was burglarized and robbed of the 262-year-old violin, as well as two other valuable instruments in May.
MingHuan Xu, a professional violinist and director of the string program at Roosevelt University, was preparing to perform at the Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival in Washington on Tuesday when the Chicago Police Department called and asked her to come into the station to identify three instruments.

Xu immediately dropped out of her performance that night, booked a red-eye, and arrived in Chicago at 4 a.m. Wednesday. She identified the three instruments “right away” as the three that were taken from her home a month earlier. The instruments were all undamaged and in good condition.

With no suspects in custody and the investigation still “open,”it remains unclear who was behind the burglary or how police acquired the instruments, though surveillance cameras from a neighbor’s garage did capture images of the suspect entering Xu’s home around 3:45 a.m. the morning of May 11.

It still seems like a strange sequence of events - especially how the Police just "acquired" the instruments - but hopefully we will learn more in the future.

Anyway - glad that this was returned.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Lake Michigan Fluctuating Water Levels Wreaking Havoc on Beaches

 One of Chicago's (and the Sloop's) most precious resources - Lake Michigan - continues to be in a precarious give and take as it relates to water levels and erosion.

The Tribune has a good read on the current dynamics and how water levels are causing erosion.  They also talk about our local Sloop beach:

In the heart of the city, just steps from the Doane Observatory at Adler Planetarium, hundreds gathered at 12th Street Beach as they enjoyed the three-day weekend and the kickoff of beach season. But 12th Street has also suffered from erosion and, according to the Park District, is in need of repairs to its lake wall — repairs that are set to begin in early June and be completed by October. The beach will remain open during the renovation. 

“Anywhere that we can keep the water area and the beach open, we absolutely will because we know how precious beach season is in Chicago,” Gleason said.

We haven't been recently, but last year it definitely looked like only 1/3 of the beach was still there.  Sounds like it's only gotten worse.  

Here is an old picture of how the beach looked.  Today it's not nearly as big (we hope to get there soon to check it out):


Thursday, May 26, 2022

River West Casino Gets Approval from City Council

For those of you who cheered when the River West location was chosen for the Chicago Casino but continued to hold your breath until it was a done deal - yesterday marked a major step in the process (via Tribune): 

A casino for Chicago — an enterprise supporters say is 30 years in the making and opponents view as a rush job — took a big step toward reality Wednesday with the City Council voting 41-7 to approve the plan. 

Less than three weeks after Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced her choice, a majority of aldermen signed onto the plan for Bally’s to build a $1.7 billion casino, hotel and entertainment venue in River West. 

The gambling complex must also now win approval of the Illinois Gaming Board. It also faces strong headwinds in the area among nearby residents, as do plans to open a temporary casino inside the historic Medinah Temple building that would operate while the permanent development is constructed.
Knock on wood that this continues...

Monday, May 23, 2022

Gong Cha Coming to University Center on State Street (500 block of S. State)

Looks like a new tea place called Gong Cha is opening at University Center where Spanglish use to be:

We've never heard of this place, but apparently this is a huge franchise (check their website for more info):
Founded in 2006 in Kaohsiung, Taiwan; Gong Cha, which translates to “tribute tea for the emperor” opened its doors to the bubble tea market. Gong cha’s success in Taiwan launched our stores all over the globe with customers loving our premium quality tea, products & services: 
  • Fresh Tea brewed throughout the day 
  • Pearls (bubbles) freshly prepared to perfection continuously through the day 
  • Tea sourced from the finest tea estates in Taiwan 
  • Strict quality controls for all ingredients 
Gong cha is known across the world for its signature Milk Foam. Its creamy, sweet and savory flavor balance and whipped texture make it the perfect complement to our freshly brewed teas. Our delicious milk foam is hand-crafted for each customer and made from the freshest milk and highest quality, signature ingredients.
Interesting spot for their first location in the midwest - but glad to have them in the Sloop.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Violin Worth Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars Stollen from Townhouse on Plymouth Ct

In case you missed this one, very scary story (via WGN):

Violin worth hundreds of thousands of dollars - wow!  It all seems crazy that they knew (or was lucky enough) to steal something so valuable.  

Regardless, a scary story.  Be safe.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Mayor Lightfoot Picks River West for City's Casino; Process Moves on Starting Today (5/9)

 The reporting was accurate - the mayor picked the River West location as her choice for the city's downtown casino.  Most of us in the Sloop breathed a sigh of relief, but it's not a done deal yet.

If you're interested in following this story, NBC 5 has some info on the next steps - including info on a city council special committee meeting to discuss:

May 9: City Council and Special Committee 
According to a press release from Mayor Lightfoot's office, a subject matter hearing for an "Alderman special committee" to ask questions about the selected casino finalist will take place Monday at 11 a.m. 

The committee will consist of all the Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen of City Council Committees, as well as President Pro Tempore Alderman Brendan Reilly, 42nd Ward.  It will be chaired by Alderman Tom Tunney, 44th Ward, and vice-chaired by Alderman Jason Ervin, 28th Ward, the press release said. 
All of the City Council will be involved in the process for the final recommendation. 

May 12: Public Town Hall 
 The public can provide input on May 12, on the Bally's project at a community town hall at the UIC Isadore and Sadie Dorin Forum at 725 W Roosevelt Rd. from 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. According to the Eventbrite page, "representatives from the city and Bally’s Corporation will be there to share additional information, respond to questions, and hear from community members."

While this is increasingly becoming less of a South Loop story, we will continue to monitor. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Sources: River West Proposal to Get City Casino

Well it looks like the South Loop Casino proposals for The 78 and One Central are sitting on a "bust" hand and waiting for the final card to be played (via Sun-Times):

Mayor Lori Lightfoot is preparing to turn over her cards in the Chicago casino game, with all signs pointing to a winning hand for Bally’s Corporation and their River West bid, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday. 
The city signaled in a March report that Bally’s proposal for the Chicago Tribune printing plant site at Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street was the front-runner over two other finalists for the casino. An official decision could come Thursday. 
The publicly traded Rhode Island corporation was the only one to offer an upfront payment of $25 million for the license — and was projected as the top revenue generator over a Hard Rock casino proposed across DuSable Lake Shore Drive from Soldier Field, and the so-called “Rivers 78” plan backed by billionaire Neil Bluhm for the South Loop. Those are key considerations for city officials desperate to start pumping casino tax revenue into depleted police and firefighter pension funds.

If this reporting is accurate from the Sun-Times, the South Loop got lucky.  Although a casino would have given these developments a big shot in the arm and likely accelerated their plans, it would have brought a completely new element to the neighborhood which likely would have altered it dramatically forever.

It's not over yet, but seems like a positive development for the neighborhood.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Dollop Cafe, Bar & Kitchen Opens at NEMA (1210 S. Indiana Ave)

Looks like the new Dollop Coffee at NEMA is now open and providing some unique options from their other locations (via Eater Chicago):

South Loop: There are now 19 Dollop cafes around town and in the suburbs, but the location that opened Thursday, April 28, is special, says a rep. Unlike the majority of the other locations, Dollop Cafe, Bar & Kitchen will have full table service and offer all-day breakfast and lunch — including chicken and waffles and smash burgers — in addition to the usual coffee and pastries, with evening hours and cocktails coming next month. Dollop Cafe, Bar & Kitchen, 1210 S. Indiana Avenue, Open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Ambulance Stollen in Chinatown - Doesn't End Well for Thief

Interesting vehicle to take in Chinatown/South Loop.  Obviously this didn't end well (via Sun-Times):

A man has been charged with stealing a Chicago Fire Department ambulance Monday in Chinatown and leading police on an 80-mile chase downstate.

Benjamin K. Herrington, 46, entered the ambulance as it sat empty, parked on the street outside a fire station in the 200 block of West Cermak Road around 4:40 p.m., police said.

The Twitter video was interesting