Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Dearborn Park Losing 12 Trees, but Getting All Replaced

A reader sends us the following pick:

If you're not familiar with the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), the Chicago Park District has a pretty good FAQ page on the subject.  Here is the first entry:
What is EAB?
 The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), Agrilus planipennis, is a beetle native to Asia. In North America it is seriously invasive pest species.

(Hat tip: DW!)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Look at Rio's Olympic Stadiums Ain't Pretty

While we doubt a Chicago Olympics would have been as disastrous as Rio's, it still nice to know we probably dodged a bullet.  Deadspin took a look at the Olympic venues just 5 months after they ended and it ain't pretty:
Even before the 2016 Olympics kicked off in August, the state of Rio de Janeiro had declared a “state of public calamity in financial administration.” Five months later, things aren’t any better. 
The famed Maracanã stadium, which was given a $600 million retrofit to host the finals of the 2014 World Cup and the soccer gold medal matches at the Olympics, has fallen into a state of extreme disrepair. There is patchy grass, thousands of missing seats, and festering mold, among other problems, with the Rio 2016 organizing committee saying there are still some repairs it must do. But at least club football is still ongoing in the stadium—and it hosted a Chapecoense benefit match last month—so there is a chance things will be fixed. 
That’s better than can be said about most other Olympic venues. Barra Olympic Park, the complex of nine venues (two of them temporary) that hosted a huge portion of the Games was supposed to be auctioned off. But when the auction only drew a single bidder—who couldn’t meet the stipulations—it was cancelled, and the venues turned over to the federal government. It is unclear how they will be used, and who will control them long-term.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Another Historic Speech in Chicago and Sloop

While some will argue about whether or not President Obama delivered on his aspirational and transformation vision he campaigned on back during the 2008 campaign - especially given the current political environment - it can't be argued that he is an exception role model on many, many fronts.

History will tell us what Obama meant to our nation and where his presidency stacks up, but thinking back to where we were 8 years ago, we are still struggling to really comprehend the old political adage - are you better off now then you were back then?

Statically, it seems like a resounding yes (hello global economy collapsing in 2008/2009?).  Personally, I would say i'm better off, but not sure about you?  Guess that's subjective to your own thoughts.

But as a nation, I'm unsure.  This past election opened my eyes to something I never really questioned - how fragile is our country and our democracy?  It's something that Obama warned about in his speech last night (via ChicagoTribune):
The address presented a dichotomy of Obama's traditional attempts to inspire optimism while also warning his belief that democracy was showing signs of gradual erosion. He cited perceived dangers that include rising income inequality, growing racial tensions, fear of terrorism and a fracturing of media that allows people to exist in their own political preference "bubbles" to hear what they want to hear regardless of fact or science. 
If anything, the speech demonstrated that while Obama is leaving the White House, the 55-year-old president is not headed to quiet retirement amid one-party Republican control of the nation, a controversial successor in the White House and a Democratic Party that finds itself in disarray and without focused leadership.
I didn't vote for Donald Trump for many reasons.  But he won and at this point, I'm hoping I was wrong about him and he is successful.  Like many, I have extreme doubts on many fronts.

But I heard a quote from Elon Musk that for whatever stuck with me.  When asked about the election way back in May of 2016 at Code Conference he said he wouldn't discuss specific candidates but that it was good that the founding fathers ensured that the president was "captain of a large ship with a small rudder".

While I hope Musk is right, it's scary to think that I'm actually questioning that sentiment.

Anyway, glad the neighborhood was able to host another historic event for Chicago's president.  Sad to see him go...but he's a young dude - he'll make his presence felt for a long time.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Car Jacking and Shots Fired at Target Yesterday Afternoon

Yikes - a scary scene at Target today (via ABC7):
Police were searching Tuesday afternoon for a man who fired a half dozen shots as he carjacked a mother with a newborn in the Target parking garage in Chicago's South Loop. 
The incident occurred at about 1:30 p.m. at the Target located at West Roosevelt and South Clark Street.

(Hat tip:  CT!)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Is Yolk a Good Proxy for Defining the Sloop?

We have some great brunch options in the Sloop, but our favorite is Yolk.  So when we see how much success they're having a tear comes to our eye.  It's almost like a proud parent seeing our kid do good.

The Tribune recently sat down with founder Taki Kastanis:
Q: How did you get started in the restaurant business?
A: I grew up in it. In college, I attempted to get out of the restaurant business, and I went pre-med for a couple years. Then I decided to do some real estate, but the restaurant industry was in my blood, so when I had an opportunity to purchase the land and a restaurant out in the suburbs, I jumped at the chance. It was called Egg'lectic Cafe. I opened that one, putting my doctor aspirations behind me, slowed down on the real estate and went back in full force to the restaurant industry.
From there, we experimented with the menu and different systems, which turned into the first Yolk. The original store in the South Loop opened Nov. 21, 2006. River North opened next in line, then Streeterville, West Loop and Lakeview up on Diversey.

Another interesting question and answer in the interview pertained to why Yolk has been so well received:
Q: What is the secret to your success?  A: I think the secret is that we created something different that appeals to a broad range of customers. We're kind of a new-age diner, if you will. I don't really like using that term but same idea where people from all walks of life — businessmen, tourists, families — feel comfortable at Yolk. We're not trying to be too fancy, we're not trying to be too "hipster" or something we're not.
While we know he's specifically talking about Yolk, the sentiment also seemed to pertain to the Sloop.  People often ask us "what is the Sloop like?" and while we are able to define it, for whatever reason it seems to be long-winded.

But maybe the best way to sum up the Sloop is that it just has broad appeal to people from all walks of life?  Thoughts?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Gates Appear to be Up Around 62-Acre Related Midwest Site (aka "Rezkoland")

A reader sends us this picture as it looks like gates are up around the infamous "Rezkoland"

Last December we posted about work to clear this land from the vegetation.  We're still not sure what the plans are, but something tells us we will learn a lot more this year.

(Hat tip:  PO!)

Friday, January 6, 2017

Pediatricians Taking Note of South Loop Growth

If you live in the Sloop and have a kid, this story probably doesn't surprise.  Heck, if you live in the Sloop and don't have a kid it still probably doesn't surprise.

Chicagobusiness.com has a pretty in-depth look at the Sloop and how pediatricians and hospital networks are rushing in to cater to the population growth:
...And while Paral traces the South Loop boom to 2000, it has taken doctors and hospitals more than a decade to catch up to this hotspot for potential patients. But catch up they have. On the list of academic medical centers that have set up shop there or plan to are Northwestern Medicine and University of Chicago Medicine. (At this point, neither plans to have pediatrics, though Northwestern has doctors who specialize in primary care and family medicine.) 
By 2018, Rush University Medical Center says it will open a pediatric office with four to five doctors near another new addition: a $36 million outpatient site pegged to open the same year at 14th Street and Michigan Avenue, up the block from Weissbluth's future practice. And Advocate Medical Group, which is part of the largest hospital network in Illinois, is spending $20 million to replace its dated outpatient site near McCormick Place with a modern 55,000-square-foot facility and immediate care center. The practice has one pediatrician and is recruiting after losing another—to Weissbluth, says Dr. Rick Bone, vice president of medical management for Advocate Medical Group's south region.
Definitely a good read about trends in our neighborhood and how docs and hospitals are moving in to serve the neighborhood.  It's pretty easy to understand why other businesses are moving in as well.

(Hat tip:  AR & NS!)

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Big Construction and Development Picks Up Where it Left Off in 2016

It's the first week of January 2017.  The air is freezing.  We're just waking up from our holiday hangover, but apparently development in the Sloop isn't.

We wandered over to Curbed Chicago and noticed three separate posts talking about progress for a 76-story building, a 56-story building and a 26-story building.

None of these are new, but all three posts offer some new information.

First - and probably the most high-profile of the bunch (via Curbed):
While it may not look overtly significant to a typical passerby, the heavy machinery currently humming away at the corner of Roosevelt and Indiana in Chicago’s South Loop marks the official start of construction on One Grant Park. Designed by notable Uruguay-born architect Rafael Viñoly for Florida-based developer Crescent Heights, the 792-unit rental tower began site preparations late last year. Utilizing a bundle-tube design similar to Chicago’s Willis (Sears) Tower, the skyscraper is poised to bookend the south end of Grant Park with some much-needed height and provide some visual balance to Chicago’s skyline.

Second - and while not as high as Vinoly's, is primed to make a substantial impact on the skyline of the city (via Curbed):
2017 is shaping up to be a particularly big year for Chicago’s South Loop as a new 600-foot skyscraper moves one step closer to joining South Michigan Avenue’s “Cultural Mile.” Dubbed “Essex on the Park,” the planned 56-story tower is ready to move forward following the recent announcement of a $170 million construction loan by development partners Oxford Capital Group and Quadrum Global, reports Crain’s.
The project will see an old low-rise parking structure at 800 S. Michigan Avenue demolished and replaced by a glassy apartment building designed by Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture. As this tower climbs skyward, the adjacent (and recently landmarked) historic Essex Inn will receive a major overhaul as it is expanded from 254 to 271 guest rooms and rebranded as the Hotel Essex.

Third - compared to the first two, this isn't exciting, but that just goes to show you how much action is happening in the Sloop.  A 26-story building is easily overlooked (via Curbed):
Another tower for the South Loop is officially underway. Construction has recently kicked off on a new 26-story glassy high-rise for the surface parking lot at 1136 S. Wabash Avenue near the the Roosevelt Red Line station. The project, a joint venture between CA Residential and developer Keith Giles, will deliver 320 rental apartments and 5,000 square feet of ground level commercial space. While the project is located just around the corner from a Red Line station and major bus lines, the new development will feature 141 parking spaces in a five-story parking podium facing Wabash Avenue.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

President Obama is Coming Home & to the Sloop for His Farewell Speech

In case you didn't get enough politics in 2016, January 2017 shows no signs of slowing down.

Obviously the inauguration is happening on January 20th and that means a certain former Chicago resident will officially be out of a job.

Before President Obama is done, he's coming back home to our neighborhood (or should we call it McCormick Square) for his final farewell speech (via ABC7):
President Barack Obama will give his final farewell speech on Jan. 10 at Chicago's McCormick Place, the White House confirmed Monday. 
The event will be free and open to the public, but tickets are required. 
Tickets will be distributed at McCormick Place on Saturday. The exact time of the ticket release has not yet been set. Only one ticket per person. 
"This is where his roots are. This is where his biggest support is," said Alderman Joe Moore (49th Ward). 
When Obama speaks in Chicago, city that launched the 44th president's political career, it will be 10 days before Donald Trump takes over as president.

This isn't super surprising.  Obama has held some of his most important and historic celebrations and speeches in our hood.  For his re-election he held the election night celebration rally at McCormick Place in 2012.

He also celebrated his victory in 2008 on Hutchinson Field in Grant Park.  That was a pretty amazing night and felt like a different time.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Row 24 Event Space Aiming for a Spring 2017 Opening

A reader writes:
I see that they are opening this year

It took us a little bit to remember what this was in reference to, but to jog your memory we posted about an event space at 2411 S. Michigan that was apparently opening back in October of 2015.

Looks like things are progressing.  They have a coming soon page for their website, but are slightly more active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

If you're still questioning what Row 24 is, here is what the Facebook page says:
Row 24 Events & productions! A historic landmark building, fully restored into a beautiful event space. Weddings, Private Events, Corporate Events, etc.
We'll continue to watch and see what progresses here.

(Hat tip: TS!)

Monday, January 2, 2017

McCormick Square - A New Community, a New Vision? Maybe, but Also New Confusion for Us

We hate to start the new year out with a head-scratcher, but here we are.  We just heard and read about a new initiative to re-brand part of the neighborhood as McCormick Square.  Apparently this initiative has been underway for most of 2016, but we're just hearing about this now.

So what is this?  According to their website:
Nestled between the South Loop, Chinatown, the Prairie District and Bronzeville, the McCormick Square community is built on a vision of growth, economic stability and entertainment for its surrounding communities. From McCormick Place to the new Wintrust Arena to Motor Row, McCormick Square is a destination fit for tourists, convention goers and native Chicagoans alike. Above all, McCormick Square is committed to serving and bettering its community as a good neighbor.
Clear?  Not to us.  Seems like an unnecessary addition to an area that we thought was going to be called the Motor Row entertainment district.  Obviously they're acknowledging Motor Row in the description above, but seems convoluted to now have to try to establish/brand two "districts" from scratch.

To get more literal - it's still not clear what is and isn't part of "McCormick Square".  Is it a set of buildings?  Does it have specific boundaries?  Do they realize the logo is a diamond and not a square?

We're not experts in the convention industry, but the only sense we can make of this is that it allows the McPier peeps to sell in this new "community" to existing and potential clients.  Maybe this will work, but from our perspective it only confuses the situation for residents of our city.

We like to think we have a good understanding of what's happening in the neighborhood.  We read a lot and we talk to a lot of people about happenings in the Sloop.  But this just confuses us, so we can only imagine what a layman thinks (or knows for that matter).  That's why we're left scratching our heads about this initiative.

The vision for the broader area around Cermak is confusing.  We know about developments here and there, but it just seems like leaders can't get out of their own way for this area.

Maybe we're overreacting, but this just seems counterproductive to us.