Friday, March 6, 2015

Lakeside Bank Opens at 1350 S. Michigan

They've been open for a little while now, but figured we would officially write that the (twice relocated) Lakeside Bank is open for business at their new building (1350 S. Michigan):

As a reminder, to make way for the construction of the McCormick/DePaul arena at Indiana and Cermak, the city bought land from Lakeside Bank.  As a result, the bank purchased this vacant lot at 14th and Michigan.

While a bank might not be the sexiest business to open in a relatively high-profile lot, the good news is that they clearly invested some serious coin to build a nice building.  It appears that everything is pretty upscale at this building.  The Lakeside Bank sign is relatively subtle even though it has LED lights that change colors at night.  Another relatively interesting design element is the spotlights protruding from the sidewalk on Michigan Avenue.  While some might argue that this is a little invasive, in our POV it's a nice/unique element that adds to the street-scape (and for that matter safety as more light tends to help with that type of thing).

From a pure cosmetic standpoint, our only qualm is the cheap looking screen that hangs over the entry way door.  It seems unnecessary and quite unsightly, but whatever...clearly they see it as being necessary.

Anyway, the bank is open and a nice building has replaced a vacant lot.  Welcome to Michigan Avenue Lakeside Bank!

The 2015 Business counter is updated also.

Be Prepared: Construction Updates for the Jane Bryne Interchange

If you're a driver in the Sloop you've probably experienced some of the headaches of the construction at Jane Bryne Interchange (aka the Circle).  Well looks like it's about to be ratcheted up - be prepared (via Connecting4Communities):
During construction of the interchange flyover, existing expressway ramps will be closed and lanes will be reduced:
  • The ramp from the inbound Dan Ryan expressway (I-90/94) to the outbound Eisenhower expressway (I-290) will remain open but shift to a temporary roadway. 
  • The ramp from the inbound Dan Ryan to inbound Congress will be closed. Traffic will detour from Roosevelt Road to Jefferson to Harrison to Wells. 
  • The ramp from Roosevelt to Congress will be closed, and traffic will follow the Jefferson/Harrison/Wells detour. Traffic for the outbound Eisenhower will detour from Roosevelt west to Ashland and north to Van Buren. 
  • The ramp from Taylor Street to the inbound Dan Ryan will be closed. Traffic will detour north on Jefferson to Adams. 
  • The right lane of the inbound Dan Ryan will be closed from the Stevenson expressway (I-55) to Roosevelt. 
  • The inbound and outbound Stevenson ramps to the Dan Ryan will be reduced from two lanes to one. 
  • Four weekends this summer or fall will see a near-total shutdown of the entire interchange while beams for the flyover are installed. During those weekends, all lanes of the Eisenhower and Congress will be shut down, and an almost two-mile section of the Dan Ryan will be reduced to one lane in each direction. IDOT has not yet determined the four weekends for shutdown. 
  • The flyover is scheduled for completion in July 2016.
(Hat tip: BK!)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Spoke & Bird Officially Open at 18th and Indiana

Congrats to the crew at the Spoke & Bird, the new restaurant that took over the space from the quirky Cafe Society.

We've been following this one pretty closely and have been excited for their opening.

It seems like the renovations paid off as the space looks much different and much less hodge-podgey.

It also appears that they've stepped up the culinary game at the spot judging by this menu (posted from the PDNA Facebook page):

While we're excited to try them out, part of our heart is sad.  A Sloopin fave "The Chicken Spinach and Guacamole Wrap" has apparently died.  Such is life...

Rumors Around the Sloop:
BBQ Joint Coming to Renovated 1132 S. Wabash?

We got a good and reputable tip yesterday that the recently remodeled building at 1132 S. Wabash might have a new restaurant moving in.  Our source said that the deal has just gone through and that the restaurant/bar will be a BBQ spot that will also have live music.  The source said "think a mix between Bub City (in River North) and Honky Tonk BBQ (in Pilsen)".

Sounds like they're shooting for a "mid-summer" opening...but let's be honest, that seems aggressive.

Old Advance Uniform Storefront at 1132 S. Wabash
It was also noted that the restaurateurs behind this spot would be the owners of Vinyl (121 W. Hubbard) and Bellweather Meeting House & Eatery (302 E. Illinois).  While we've never been to either of those places, browsing the yelp reviews and pictures has us optimistic.

As a reminder, this building was pretty in pretty bad shape (ahem picture on the right).  The ground floor retail was occupied by Advanced Uniform but they were evicted in 2013 and subsequently moved down to 33 E. 13th Street.

The new owners of the building did an amazing job (don't believe us take a look at their website) and while we've been hearing rumors of a restaurant/bar coming to the ground floor it's been pretty quiet since May of 2014.

Hope this comes to fruition, because our mouths are watering over the idea of some delicious BBQ in the Sloop!
Front of renovated 1132 S. Wabash

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

So About that Grateful Dead Reunion Show (Part 2)....

Remember when we said that this Grateful Dead reunion show was a big "get" for the city and soldier field?  Well if our earlier post wasn't strong enough for you, maybe some of the recent news about the concert's tickets sales will do the trick (via Chicago Tribune):
The good news for die-hard Deadheads who got shut out of the Grateful Dead's reunion concerts July 3-5 at Soldier Field when tickets went on sale over the weekend: Tickets are showing up in droves on the secondary market.  
The bad news: They don't cost the list price of $59.50 and $199.50 (plus service fees) anymore. 
According to online ticket aggregator, tickets are going for as high as $8,660 for a front-row seat. The average price for a seat is more than $2,000, and three-day passes are selling for an average of more than $4,000. Other sources have reported three-day tickets selling for as high as $15,000.  
The Ticketmaster sale Saturday was moved up to meet demand, apparently before many fans who had requested tickets via mail had been notified by the Grateful Dead ticket office whether their order would be filled. The Dead's website reported that it had received 60,000 envelopes requesting hundreds of thousands of tickets for the reunion shows. Soldier Field capacity is about 60,000. The online sale Saturday briefly crashed Ticketmaster's site, and tickets sold out within minutes.

We unfortunately recently got a letter in the mail notifying us that we didn't get tickets (which wasn't super surprising - clearly).

And if ticket demand isn't indicative of the affects on the city, try to get a hotel room that weekend:
A search of popular travel search engines Expedia and Travelocity for the Dead dates, focusing on the Loop, found that 83 of 85 hotels were sold out.  
The only two options on Monday afternoon were $589 a night for a room at the Holiday Inn Express Chicago-Magnificent Mile, and $689 for a room at a hotel in the Chicago Athletic Association building.
So it seems like there is an opportunity for us Sloopers.  Either stay in the neighborhood and partake in some partying or sign up for airbnb and rent your place out and make some cash.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Au Bon Pain Opens Today at East-West University at 829 S. Wabash

Looks like Au Bon Pain is officially opening today via an email that was sent to us:
I just wanted to send you a quick note to let you know that the Au Bon Pain in our Student Life Center at 829 S. Wabash is opening tomorrow. Finally! Let me know if you want any info.

If you still don't believe us maybe this tweet from their handle will persuade you (and maybe get you some free coffee):

2015 Business Counter is up to date as well.

(Hat tip:  JL!)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Hand & Stone Spa Now Open for Some Relaxation

It's time to check-in on our budding South Loop "Spa Corridor".  We just got word on some news:
The Hand & Stone team wants to let you know that we are officially open for appointments on March 1st. We offer massage, facials and hair removal services and have extended hours to fit our customers’ schedules. We have a great introductory offer of $49.95 for a massage or facial. We also offer a Lifestyle Program that includes great pricing, product discounts and membership rewards.  
We have parking discounts in the building at 1130 as well.
Now you can eat some delicious food at Yolk and stumble over to Hand & Stone for some relaxing spa treatments.  Seems like a pretty good day to us.

Best of luck to them and welcome to the Sloop.

The 2015 Business Counter has been updated as well.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Sloopin Open House:
Soaring Ceilings at 70 East 18th Street

As we said last week, we're going to try to highlight some of the more interesting open houses we see every week.  We're not claiming they're the best deals or that we would necessarily recommend jumping all over an opportunity, but I doesn't hurt to look, right?

If you're a sucker for soaring ceilings and Kroll's (we do), then you might want to head on down to 70 East 18th Street on Sunday between 1-3pm.  While this 2 bed/2 bath seems pretty pricey at $494K, this living room looks pretty sweet to us:
It also appears that the price for this unit recently had a price reduction.  Enjoy!

Friday, February 27, 2015

South Loop Market to Open a Store at Michigan and Cermak

A reader sends us the following:
"You may or may not be aware, but The LEX has a business tenant coming into the commercial space at the corner of Michigan Ave & Cermak Rd. South Loop Market is coming this Spring! Please pardon the intermittent noise as the build out takes place. We apologize for any inconvenience and we look forward to welcoming the 4th location of South Loop Market, and to the fresh grocery options coming soon. Check out for more info."
It appears that the South Loop Market empire continues its out 7-11!

This will be their 4th South Loop Market in the neighborhood.  They are also opening up a market in the Marina Towers in River North (it's unclear, albeit doubtful, that they will call this one South Loop Market).

While a convenience store might not be the most sexy retail business, it seems like you have to chalk this up as another good development for the Motor Row area.  The guys at South Loop Market clearly seem to have a model that's working but there is another market (McCormick Market) that's just across the street in the retail strip on the northwest side of Cermak and Michigan.  As they say...competition is a good thing.

Could Motor Row really be gaining momentum?   Maybe...maybe.

(Hat tip:  DT!)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Jamaica Jerk Villa Signs Lease on Motor Row

Burn (via Chicago Tribune)
On December 31st, 2014, Jamaica Jerk Villa was victim to a huge fire that destroyed their business and all the others at the rundown strip mall at the northeast corner of Cermak and Indiana.

However, with every obstacle comes an opportunity and it appears that the owners of the restaurant have seized this moment.  DNAinfo reports:
Jamaica Jerk Villa plans to return to the South Loop despite losing its business to a fire late last year.

The Caribbean restaurant serving jerk chicken and fish has signed a lease at 2216 S. Michigan Ave., according to building owner Windy City RE LLC. Jerk Villa is applying for a liquor license and plans to open the new Motor Row restaurant this summer.
While we've never been to the restaurant, we have contemplated it many many times.  For whatever reason the conspicuously questionable corner of State and Cermak has always caused us to opt for different options.

Anyway, the move to Motor Row seems like a great thing for this business.  While they might not get the foot traffic, theoretically they could be setup better for the longterm as the city continues to push for Motor Row to become something.

Looking forward to trying them out (finally!).

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Missed the PDNA Community Meeting? Don't Worry Read the Overview Powerpoint Deck

It's unfortunate that it took us this long, but we just wanted to give a big shout-out to the Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance for a great community meeting back on February 16th.

We weren't able to attend, but they did a great job providing live tweets on what was going on.  Honestly, job well done.

Townhouse Project at 18th and Prairie
If you didn't have a chance to attend the meeting and weren't following via twitter, don't fret.  You can flip through their powerpoint deck at this link.

The meeting had a wide range of topics.  Some serious (see South Loop Schooling situation as well as Crime/Safety update) and some not as much (look a new dog spa called Blu Dog Play Stay Spa at 2000 S. Wabash) it was pretty informative - even if you weren't able to attend.

There were a ton of development updates.  It looks like attendees were treated to an overview of all the prospective Motor Row developments.  They also had updates on two new townhouse projects (one at 18th and Prairie and the other on the 1800 block of South Calumet).

Keep up the good work - the community thanks you!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Loop "Connector" Could Revolutionize Public Transportation for the Sloop

While public transportation is pretty good in the sloop, an old plan called the "Loop Connector" has apparently resurfaced and is gathering support and love from local groups. DNAinfo has the story:
A big ghost of urban planning past is returning to Chicago.  
The Loop "Connector," an ambitious public transit plan that has been discussed and discarded by city officials for decades, is the subject of a new report being developed by the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Chicago Central Area Committee, a Downtown planning group.  
The report's steering committee will meet next week after securing more than $100,000 supporting the study, Chicago Central Area Committee Executive Director Kelly O'Brien said.  
The Connector, which was first proposed in the 1970s, would connect the east and west sides of the Loop via train, and add new stations at presently unconnected destinations, including Navy Pier and the Museum Campus.

While it sounds enticing, it also sounds pretty unlikely.  We're fortunate that people are willing to see the big picture, but we're not optimistic that the necessary government agencies could pull something like this off.

But regardless it's fun to dream.  The image on the right pretty much speaks for itself.  At the idea's core, a new CTA El line would intersect various existing lines.  The major selling point is that the new line would better connect the Metra lines to the El lines as well as provide one train access to Navy Pier, Museum Campus and McCormick Place (which is seems like a no brainer given the amount of tourists each attract from around the area).

From a loop standpoint, this could also mean some new stations that could better serve our neighborhood.  The map above shows a new stop at Roosevelt and Wells, Museum Campus, 18th street and McCormick place.  The last three stops would be a pretty big deal since it would better connect the southeast portion of the neighborhood (albiet also probably make it more crowded and noisy compared to its current state which is tranquil and quiet).

The plan also shows a potential "south loop" of the El which could also create a line that seems to follow Wells south and would have a stop at 18th street and then turn left at Cermak (and utilize the new Green line stop at Cermak).  While this seems even more unlikely, it could dovetail with the city's plan to build the Wells/Wentworth connector (seems like there would potentially be some efficiencies if you were building a road and train track at the same time).

Anyway, this all feels like a pipe dream.  Or could it be a revolutionary solution for Mayor Emmanuels desire to provide better access to museum campus?

Obviously his focus is on his re-election, but wasn't he the one who said "you never want a serious crisis to go to wasted."

While this might not be a "crisis", maybe he can drum up the support to solve this problem.

Monday, February 23, 2015

La Haven Coffee by La Colombe Coming to 1240 S. Michigan

A reader writes:
If you have not heard already, the Crave space has a sign up that says Barista wanted. Hopefully a coffee spot works there this time!
La Colombe in the West Loop
After some more digging based on the image above, it appears that La Colombe has three established coffee shops in Wicker Park, West Loop and Andersonville (and all appear to have pretty solid Yelp ratings of 4+ stars).  They also have other locations in New York, Philly and DC.

While we've never been, it clearly seems like they have a model that has proven successful (and we imagine good coffee to boot).  The fact that they're an established company seems like they will have a better chance of succeeding compared to the last two or three businesses that have habited this retail spot.

If you recall, Winestyles (1240 S. Michigan) was open their the longest, but closed in 2010.  After that, Karamela Cafe had some hiccups trying to open, but eventually did in 2012.  But they appeared to have some consistency and management problems and then closed in 2013.  The last business to give it a go, was Crave.  Their model of being a bar/restaurant/night spot was a tough ask for this little retail space.  They opened in late 2013, but closed in 2014.

Anyway, it seems like a coffee shop could flourish in this space.  We've heard comments that the neighborhood has been clamoring for something like a coffee shop where neighbors could gather and hang out along this stretch (specifically along Michigan Avenue between Roosevelt and 16th), so have to imagine this could quell those desires.

Like much of Chicago and the country for that matter, coffee seems to be the hottest thing around (that and craft beer).  Obviously there are numerous places to get coffee in the area whether it's your standard restaurant or convenience store.  But more and more, we're getting coffee shops to enjoy your cup of jo and hang out.

Let's not forget about locally owned, Overflow Coffee Bar (1550 S. State) which has been going strong since 2011.  Bridgeport Coffee Company opened at Roosevelt Collection in late 2013.  We also heard news of a Coffee Shop opening at 800 S. Clark.

Just North of us, there are a bevy of specialty coffee shops ranging from HERO Coffee Bar (439 S. Dearborn),  Dollop Coffee Co. (343 S. Dearborn),  Intelligentsia (53 W. Jackson) and Asado Coffee Roasters (22 E. Jackson)

While we don't need to spend a ton of time talking about Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts, another large, well regarded coffee shop, Peets coffee & tea, replaced Caribou last year at 8th and Wabash.

Point being, there are more and more places to get your caffeine fix and hangout in the Sloop.

(Hat tip:  GS!)