Monday, March 30, 2020

Tribune: South Loop neighbors stand outside dying man’s condo to pay tribute in his final days

During these uncertain and challenging times, it's nice to read stories like this.  We're going to post in its entirety (hopefully the Chicago Tribune and the author Heidi Stevens doesn't care) because it's one of those nice things we need right now:
At noon on Saturday, under gray skies threatening rain and the pall of a global pandemic upending life in a million ways, Bill Hession’s friends and neighbors stood outside his South Loop condo and sent up their love.
Hession, 83, was inside his sixth-floor unit, where he lay dying. His daughter, Katie, and his wife, Joan, stood on the balcony, waving at the 60 or so people standing below on Calumet Avenue, just north of 21st Street.
A woman with three kids — two in a double jogging stroller — waved a giant Irish flag. A couple held up a sign written on the back of a roll of gift wrap: “BILL, FOREVER IN OUR HEARTS. LOVE, TORRES FAMILY.” Another man held a sign reading, “We love U Bill Hession.” Another sign: “Thank you for your friendship.”
Most people brought their dogs. A few exchanged elbow bumps. Bill Hession’s son, Daniel, walked around offering thank-you’s and hellos from a safe distance.
At 12:08 p.m., a woman led the group in “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.” A few minutes later, another woman walked down Calumet with a portable speaker playing Bing Crosby’s rendition.
“It was amazing,” Katie Hession told me afterward. “I knew my dad touched people. I had no idea how much.”
Bill Hession was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in October. He was receiving treatment at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, but he moved home March 20 (the one-year anniversary of his only brother’s death) to live out his last days surrounded by his wife, his four children and his beloved dog, Veronica.
Katie Hession knows her dad doesn’t have many days left. He hasn’t eaten since Tuesday. He floats in and out of consciousness, mostly out.
She knows when he passes, she and her mom and her siblings won’t be able to hold a proper wake and funeral for him, given coronavirus-mandated restrictions on crowds.
So she typed up a flyer. She added a photo of her dad walking Veronica. She explained the situation.
“This adds to my family’s heartbreak," she wrote, “he is Irish after all and is so deserving of a fine send-off for a life well lived.”
She invited anyone who might recognize the duo to stand outside his condo Saturday “with more than six feet of social distance” and pay him a small tribute. She would hang a dog leash from the balcony so they knew which one was his.
“I hope you’ll just look up and send up a special thought or prayer to Bill,” she wrote. “He may not see you or hear you, but I hope to capture the procession from above in a photograph and show him how much the neighborhood cares for him, a friend, a fellow dog walker.”
She had six copies of the flyer made at a UPS store and hung them around the neighborhood.
And people showed up.
“We came inside, and I just said, ‘Dad. You had so many dog walkers and friends standing out in front of the building, and they brought their dogs and they sang, ‘When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,’” she told me afterward. “And he opened his eyes a little bit, and he whispered, ‘Oh my God.’”
Bill Hession grew up in Chicago. He graduated in 1954 from Leo Catholic High School, where he was a standout football player. He earned a scholarship to Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, and married his longtime girlfriend, Joan, his senior year.
After college, he returned to Leo Catholic to coach football and teach Spanish and English. (He was inducted into Leo’s hall of fame in 2011.) As the family and expenses started to grow, he got a job at Reavis High School in Burbank, where he taught and coached for more than 30 years.
At one point on Saturday, a gentleman in a Reavis jacket yelled up to Katie Hession on the balcony, “Your father coached me in football!”
“I told my dad,” Katie Hession said. “You had a Reavis Ram downstairs, and he wanted to thank you for being a great coach.”
Friends and neighbors dropped off cards as well. One was addressed to “The mayor of 2001 S. Calumet and his first lady Veronica.”
Katie Hession, who lives four blocks north of her parents, said she’ll soon be the one walking Veronica, a little bichon found on a Chicago street and saved by an organization called Small Paws Rescue.
“It was a match made in heaven,” Katie Hession said.
Before Bill Hession got sick, the family — Bill, Joan, four kids, nine grandkids — gathered every July in Lake Geneva for a weeklong “Papa-palooza.” (His grandkids call him “Papa,” and his birthday is July 5.) Katie Hession figures they’ll turn that tradition into his memorial this year, “if the world is right by then.”
“He’s a great man and a great person and a great father,” Katie Hession said. “He really deserved this.”
And his people delivered.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

What's Up With All The Shouting (er Singing) at 8pm Everynight?

It appears that some residents have noticed some strange behavior throughout the weeks:
What’s up with the flashing lights, music in the Sloop at 8:00 pm?

Another reader writes:
I was wondering if you or any readers could solve a small mystery!  Have you heard the people screaming and shouting from their windows in the neighborhood at 8pm every night?  Do you know why? 
I've heard about folks in Spain doing something similar as a salute to health care workers, but I haven't been able to track down what the meaning is here.
Well it started on Saturday night and was a city wide thing (via ABC7 Chicago):


The act of unity has continued each night.  One reader sent us this video:

Most of the daily organizing is going on at HSL on Facebook here.  NBC 5 also has an update:
Another massive sing-along - this time to two iconic Queen songs - was set to take place across Chicago Friday as Illinois' stay-at-home order remains in place amid the coronavirus pandemic. 
This week's sing-along was scheduled to start at 8 p.m. on March 27, organizers say, inviting everyone to sing "We Will Rock You" and "We Are The Champions."

(Hat tip: JN, AH, BS!)

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Hilton Chicago at 720 S. Michigan Shuts Down on Friday

Yesterday we spoke about the city tapping hotels to house the sick.  Today it looks likes one of the Sloop's biggest hotels is shutting down for now (via Chicago Tribune):
The artsy 21c Museum Hotel made its River North debut in February. A little over a month later, the 297-room property has gone dark. 
One of the largest hotels in the city will soon follow suit. The 1,544-room Hilton Chicago at 720 S. Michigan Avenue is notifying guests that it will suspend operations as of Friday, Hilton spokeswoman Laura Ford said. 
Like a growing number of hotels, the properties will be closed indefinitely as the new coronavirus continues to cripple the industry and spark massive job losses and cutbacks that are affecting employees in every department, from housekeeping to the c-suite. 
What started a week ago with a couple of luxury properties downtown has turned into a wave of hotel closures across the city. Ace, Loews, Virgin, The Hoxton, Omni, Four Seasons, Chicago Athletic Association, Park Hyatt, The Peninsula, Hotel Zachary — the list of shuttered addresses keeps getting longer, and experts predict there’s more to come.

While I know it's serious times, some entertainment and humor can be beneficial.  With that said, here is the end of the move The Fugitive which ended at the hotel:

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Some Vacant Hotels in Chicago to Serve As Coronavirus Overflow Beds Once Hospitals Run Out of Beds

Beyond the fear and uncertainty that Covid-19 has brought to the world, one of the more interesting side stories is how different countries, states and city's deal with the threat.

Obviously big cities get a lot of attention given their population and density.  New York is a current hot spot and we were interested when they mentioned they are going to use the Jacob Javits Center to help alleviate some of the strain and demand being put on their hospital infrastructure.

For those who don't know, the Javits center is a huge convention space similar to our McCormick place campus.  This got us wondering if McCormick Place might be used for overflow patients who were sick, but didn't require ICU type of treatment a hospital could provide?

We haven't seen any news about this and did a quick Google search which didn't provide much insight on the thought.  Instead, it was announced that the city of Chicago was working with hotels to use their empty floors/room to meet the demand of sick patients (via Chicago Tribune):
The city of Chicago plans to rent thousands of hotel rooms to be used for people diagnosed with the new coronavirus or those who believe they’ve been exposed, in an effort to stop the spread of the virus and relieve the burden on hospitals.
By Tuesday, the city will have more than 1,000 rooms in a combined five Chicago hotels available to isolate people who are mildly ill with COVID-19, who fear they’ve been exposed, and for those who are awaiting test results. The city already has an agreement to rent rooms in the 215-room Hotel One Sixty-Six Magnificent Mile, formerly a Cambria hotel.
By the end of this week, there will be more than 2,000 hotel rooms available, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced at a Monday news conference.
“People in Chicago are stepping up and rising tall in this moment,” Lightfoot said.
In addition to helping on the health care front, the effort will provide a source of revenue and continued employment for the hospitality industry, which has been hobbled by travel restrictions and the growing number of cases.

It's an interesting idea and at face value seems like an ingenious solution.  Sure there are a ton of questions - who is paying?  how will the hotels be cleaned afterwards?  are the hotel staffs really equipped to tend to the sick?

Assuming the details get sorted out, it meets the likely demand surge most experts are warning us of and potentially props up a sector of the economy that has been decimated by the shelter in place order.  The article notes some chilling (yet unsurprising) stats about this industry:
Chicago’s decision to rent hotel rooms comes as the hotel industry struggles to weather a plunge in demand for guest rooms. Occupancy levels at hotels in the central business district hovered at nearly 53% during the first week in March and dropped to 35.6% the following week — about half as high as occupancy rates for the same time period last year, according to hotel industry data firm STR.
Occupancy levels are “in the single digits across the city,” Jacobson said. “I heard one of the largest hotels downtown had one flight crew last night of 10 rooms and one other person. Another hotel had a single guest check in earlier last week.”

Will any of the Sloop's hotels be tapped to help here?  It seems like the hotels around Northwestern in Streeterville are likely the first ones that will be utilized, but we will see. 

Regardless, we applaud this thinking by the city and hopefully it lives up to its potential. 

Sunday, March 22, 2020

South Loop Resident Sets Up Volunteer Network to Help Residents in Need

A reader writes:
My name is SM (abbreviated for privacy) and I am a proud South Loop resident.  Currently I am coordinating volunteer efforts for Covid-19 pandemic mutual aid. Right now I have over 200 volunteers that are ready and excited to help, but we do not have anyone with a need yet. If you know any neighborhood groups to share this form it would be greatly appreciated. Then we can start matching volunteers to neighbors in need.  
https://forms.gle/k5q18tDsBVThkvrd7

Hoping to help spread the word - please do!

#ShotsAroundTheSloop: Light Traffic


Friday, March 20, 2020

Acadia Introduces ala Carte Carry Out Starting Today at 4pm and Free Market for Restaurant Industry

It's a tough time for many and we wanted to amplify some of our cherished local businesses.  Here is a facebook statement by Acadia:

(Hat tip: ND!)

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Boutique "Motor Row Hotel" Pitched for South Michigan at 2328 S. Michigan

Some more big plans for Motor Row (via Chicagobusiness.com):
A former Related Midwest executive has picked up a property just west of McCormick Place with a plan to develop a boutique hotel on the site.
A venture led by Nick Anderson paid nearly $6.3 million last month for a property at 2328 S. Michigan Ave. in the heart of historic Motor Row, according to Cook County property records and people involved in the deal.
Anderson's real estate investment firm, Fern Hill, which he launched in 2018 after a decade at developer Related Midwest, bought the property from a venture of Chicago-based real estate firm JRG Capital Partners.
Details of the plan for the 30,415-square-foot parcel are unclear and Anderson couldn't be reached. But multiple people familiar with the firm's vision for the site confirmed its plan for a hotel. The Fern Hill website also promotes a "Motor Row Hotel" project that would "engage the community and encourage visitors to interact with other local businesses and entertainment venues."

The article goes on to say that the current land is a Burger King that has a lease through 2021.  So we will see how this progresses, but more action in Motor Row to watch.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Who Needs a Some Sloopin Sushi

We took our own advice and ordered dinner from one of our favorite places - Asian Outpost.

To our surprise, as we looked at the online menu we saw something we've never seen before:
SLOOPIN on Da Big Island
Sushi rice | softshell crab | tempura shrimp | avocado | topped w salmon | hamachi | tuna | lemon miso aioli | spicy creamy Sriracha aioli + mini riceless poké bowl: mixed greens | salmon | hamachi | tuna | beets | red peppers | cucumbers | seaweed salad | carrots | red cabbage | avocado | mukimame | sliced inari

It was a sign and we have the photo proof:


By our count that makes two dishes in the neighborhood named after this here blog (also a hat tip to Umai Sushi's Sloopin roll).

Go out and support our local businesses and restaurants!

Stay safe everyone.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Don't Forget About Your Favorite Local Store

Strange times.  All we can say is follow the science and be safe.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you're probably aware of this (via Chicago Tribune):
Chicago moved closer to a total shutdown Sunday as the number of cases of COVID-19 in Illinois grew to 93 and Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered all bars and restaurants in the state closed to the public. Hours earlier, international travelers awaiting screenings were packed together at O’Hare International Airport, sparking an outcry from local officials for more staff. 
Effective end of business Monday, bars and restaurants will be closed to dine-in customers, with options of delivery, drive-thru and pickup through March 30, the governor said. The state is working with bars and restaurants across the state to ensure they can keep kitchens safe enough to continue home food delivery.
While everyone is trying to adapt to a new normal, there has been much discussion about the impact this news is having on small and medium sized businesses.

To that point, we want to urge everyone to think about your favorite restaurant or shop.  Order some lunch or dinner.  Buy a gift card.  Go on a shopping spree.  It's going to be difficult so if you think they're important to the fabric of the Sloop then we need to support them.

Stay safe everyone.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

#ShotsAroundTheSloop: End of the World As We Know It

A reader sets the scene:
Trying unsuccessfully to beat the weekend Coronavirus panic crowd by shopping the morning of Friday the 13th at South Loop Costco, where checkout lines ran the length of the store. Oops. Kudos to amazing Costco workers though!

Seems like a time to post to this song:


(Hat tip: TC!)

Friday, March 13, 2020

New Health Innovation Center Floated for Part of Former Michael Reese Hospital Site

Looks like there is some new momentum around the former Michael Reese lot south of McCormick Place (via Chicago Business):
The group planning a huge mixed-use project just south of McCormick Place has landed an anchor tenant to kick off the first phase of the development: a medical innovation center founded by the largest hospital in Israel.
The ARC Innovation Center would open in the first building on the former site of the Michael Reese Hospital, part of a 15-million-square-foot development that could cost as much as $7 billion. The project’s developers, a joint venture led by Chicago-based Farpoint Development, aim to build an ARC-anchored health-science cluster that would spin out new biomedical technologies—and create thousands of jobs—by harnessing the collective power of the area’s universities, companies and entrepreneurs.
The focus on health will seep into all aspects of the project, which will include apartments, a community center, and retail and office spaces.
“We envision it being the healthy community of the future,” said Farpoint Principal Scott Goodman.
The ARC deal represents a key first step for the project, known as Bronzeville Lakefront Development, currently 100 mostly empty acres stretching from McCormick Place to 31st Street. Once considered a site for Amazon’s second headquarters, Bronzeville Lakefront exists only on paper right now, one of a group of Chicago mega-developments that could add tens of thousands of jobs and homes to neighborhoods ringing the central business district.

So when could this move forward:
Before it can break ground on Bronzeville Lakefront, GRIT needs a zoning change from the city and financing for the project’s first phase. Goodman, who aims to begin construction in 2021, has one financing edge: The Michael Reese site sits in an opportunity zone, part of a federal program that provides tax breaks to investors if they back projects in blighted areas.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

All-Star Seafood and Sports Set to Open This Friday (3/13) at 730 S. Clark St.

Looks like All-Star Seafood & Sports is opening this Friday (via Hello South Loop Facebook Page):

There is certainly a lot of activity happening in Printers Row right now and we're curious to see how this concept resonates with the neighborhood.

As a reminder, this space (730 S. Clark) housed Villain's - a swanky bar with one of the most interesting beer lists in the neighborhood.  That bar/restaurant closed in August of 2018 presumably due to slow business.  It simply was never very busy.

That said, All-Star is a completely different concept and maybe the owners know something we don't.  Looking forward to seeing it.