Monday, December 29, 2008

Grant Park during Lollapalooza

Here is a link to some amazing shots from the crane on top of Trump's new tower. Below is a great one of Grant Park during the Lollapalooza weekend. You can also see some great shots of the South Loop at the top right.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Chicago Is Segregrated, Big Surprise

For most of us who live in Chicago and have been to different neighborhoods, won't be surprised to read that Chicago has been classified as the most segregated city in America according to the Tribune.

The article essentially says that the North side is white, the West and South side is Black, and the Northwest and Southwest sides are Hispanic. Yes, this is a generalization, but overall this is probably accurate.

It's an interesting read, especially for those of us who live in the South Loop. The reason we say this is because much of the South Loop is a new neighborhood. The article makes the point that newer cities with a "blank slate" (ie San Jose, Austin, Phoenix) usually tend to be more racially integrated and older cities (ie Chicago) tend to be more segregated.

Since the South Loop neighborhood could fall into the category of "blank slate" we feel that our neighborhood is more integrated. However, this point could be argued.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Olympic Village - More Info

New article from the Chicago Journal about the city and the Olympic village. Not a ton of new information, but regardless some more detail for those of us who are interested in the progress of this site.

Friday, December 19, 2008

What is the Vietnam Veterans Art Museum?

Well it's located in our fine neighborhood (1801 S. Michigan Ave.), but I've never really understood it's purpose. With that said, I've embarked on a quest to figure it out. According to their website:
The National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum inspires greater understanding of the real impact of war with a focus on Vietnam. The museum collects, preserves and exhibits art inspired by combat and created by veterans.
Pretty specific focus and pretty interesting concept, but I doubt I'm going to go...sorry just not my thing. If you're not a member of the museum then it costs $10 to go for adults and $7 for students. Enjoy, but go soon because the Chicago Journal just reported that the museum is eventually going to move since it can't afford the space. The city is going to take over the land and convert it into a field house to serve the prairie district and the greater South Loop neighborhood.

What does this mean? Well it's not completely decided yet, but the neighborhood was surveyed and said it would like arts and educational activities, sports and exercising space and potentially even a rock climbing wall...yes a ROCK CLIMBING WALL! Just what the neighborhood needs.

So in all seriousness, if you're intrigued by the Vietnam Veterans Art Museum I would suggest you go sooner than later. Or you will have to go check it out at it's new location...which hasn't been decided on.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Alderman Appprove Olympic Village Deal

The cities alderman today agree to an $86 million deal for the city to buy the Michael Reese land for the proposed Olympic village. Early in the week they demanded that the city give more minorities contracts associated with the Olympics, but this seems to be lip service. At the end they voted 48-0 in favor of the deal.

If you read this article on the Chicago Tribune, please read the user comments as well, pretty entertaining. Not one positive comment...but that's too be expected given the current economic climate. The governor's corruption case also puts a spotlight on the bid and make people pretty skeptical and cynical about any government program or action.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A True Local Market

Yes, there are a lot of good, large grocery stores in the South Loop (Jewel, Dominicks, Whole Foods), but one thing they lack are character. If you like friendly people, quality products and all things Italian, then Panozzo's Italian Market is right down your ally.

Although it tends to carry higher end, pricey products it's usually worth it. They have a variety of pastas, sauces, drinks and various other things. Probably the best thing about the place is the deli, which has freshly cooked dishes, various meats and cheeses and as I mentioned before, friendly service.

My personal favorite at Panozzo's are their sandwiches, which are fresh and large. Although some of the chain's claim to have great deals, I still believe that Panozzo's has the best deal in regards to what you get for the price. Sandwiches range from $6-$8, but they're large and have much superior ingredients then any of the changes.

Lastly, the people are super nice. Every time I go in they're warm, respectful and seem to genuinely appreciate my business. The same can't be said at Jewel...

Friday, December 12, 2008

2016 Bid Would Generate $22.5 Billion in Economic Activity

Calif.-based Tootelian and Associates found has concluded that if Chicago wins the bid to host the 2016 Olympics, it could generate $22.5 Billion in economic activity for the city, state and region in the 2011-2021 time frame.

This far exceeds the cost to put on the Olympics which is being estimated at $4.7 Billion. However, many skeptics will point out that estimates are purely estimates in Chicago. Look at other major public projects (Millennium Park, Soldier Field, etc.) that were late and way over budget.

The other suspect thing about this $22.5 billion number is that the study seems to have been funded by the 2016 bid. So one would think the numbers would support the bids intentions.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

USA Today on the US TV Rights Negotiations

USA Today goes into more depth about the negotiations for the Olympic US TV Rights:

They sum it up well:

TV profits are, of course, largely a product of advertising revenue, and all that money is the backbone of the Olympic movement's financial statement.

TV rights made up 53 percent of the IOC's revenues from 2001-2004, and the percentage figures to be around the same for the four-year period ending in 2008. NBC paid $894 million to televise this year's Beijing Games, more than double what the European Broadcasting Union paid to televise the games to the entire continent. Chinese television, meanwhile, paid $7 million.

Given its huge financial stake in the games, NBC negotiated with Olympic organizers to move some high-profile swimming and gymnastics events to the morning in China so they could be televised in prime time in America.

Although such an arrangement might be possible if the Olympics go overseas again, most signs point toward American bidders paying more to televise an Olympics on their home turf, where scheduling changes would not have to be made and where the hype would be more easily felt.

More Information About the Olympic Village Real Estate Deal

Today the Chicago Tribune has more information about the proposed Olympic Village Real Estate Deal and how it differs from the original.

We still get caught up when we read that the seller (Medline Industries Inc.) will give a "charitable" donation to the city. It all smells fishy...but I guess that's to be expected in Chicago these days.

Museum Park One Update

Museum Park One has become the corner stone and symbol of the South Loops recent boom, however the building isn't even completely done. Yes, people have started to occupy the building, but the developers won't be putting the finishing touches on the building until early next year.

According to YoChicago 64 original units are still on the sale block:
Most of those are priced above the $1 million mark, but there are a few two-bedrooms left in the low $800s and even a single 955 square-foot one-bedroom priced below $500,000.
There are also currently 22 units that are being sold through brokers and 20 units available for rental.

Office Depot Closing Store at Southgate Market

We all know the economy is bad and it looks like it's effected another big box retailer in the South Loop. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Office Depot is closing their store at the Southgate Market Mall (1101 S. Canal). They are closing 15 stores throughout the Chicagoland area and 112 nationwide.

This is the second big tenant in this complex to close its doors (Linens-n-Things being the other). It's an interesting development considering, Best Buy and Bed, Bath and Beyond just opened huge new stores caddy corner from this complex.

Also of interest is the Roosevelt Collection which is said to have upwards of 1Million square feet of retail space. Although it's not open yet, it looks like it's on pace to open sometime next spring/summer.

There could be a lot of big retail vacancies on the market next year.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Follow-Up: IOC to Postpone Negotiations about US TV Rights

Lots of Olympic news today...

As we posted earlier this week, the IOC has now said it will postpone negotiations for the US TV Rights. Again, this could be beneficial for the Chicago bid because the conventional wisdom goes that potential bidders (NBC, ESPN and FOX) would pay more for the rights if the Olympics were held in their primary national markets.

The IOC's top TV negotiator was quoted in the article by and also sees this as potentially beneficial for the IOC:
He added that knowing the host city could be an advantage in negotiations, especially if Chicago won. "It could, as this removes some of the uncertainty and could work to our advantage".
The question then becomes, will the IOC members who vote on the bid city be swayed by this news? If Chicago gets the 2016, the IOC could stand to make more money...

What Not to Say When You Want Help From Obama

According to the Chicago Defender, a couple local groups are trying to get President-Elect Barack Obama to help in their attempts to move the site of the proposed Olympic Village. Here is a word of advice to them, don't say things like this:
“It’s bad enough all these white folks have moved here and pushed ‘our’ people out and into the suburbs. Now the city wants to force the few remaining Blacks living in Bronzeville out by displacing them with the Olympics,” said Nathan Kunjufuwon, executive director of Black Pride. “Obama is a brother and lives five minutes from Bronzeville, so he knows what this community means to Blacks, and if he is true to his word, he will step up to help us save ‘our’ community.”

Yea, I'm sure Obama is going to step in and help you...Just like he helped Rev. Wright when he was making racist comments.

The Cynics Have Some Meat to Feast On

It goes without saying that many people are skeptical of our government (especially state and local for that matter). Given the recent developments with Blago, they definitely have some meat to feast on.

Here is Gapers Block's dire take on yesterday's story about the Olympic Village and it's relation to corruption and the recent events:

While most of us stood in amazement at the criminal complaint filed against G-Rod yesterday, you can bet that after hearing the news, Daley's mind immediately gravitated to its impact on Chicago's Olympic bid. Just as the first thought through Blagojevich's head following Obama's election victory was, "I'm to make some [expletive] money off this thing,"

What an Idiot!

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past day, you've probably heard our esteemed, trust worthy and beautiful Governor (check out his hair), Rod Blagojevich, has been arrested on numerous charges of corruption. All we can say is...what an idiot!

But we're not here to talk about his stupidity, but more importantly how this effects the Olympic Bid. According to some IOC officials that were quoted in the Chicago Tribune, Blagojevich is 'irrelevant' to the cities Olympic bid.

Although this is good news (depending on how you view the bid), we find it hard to believe. When the most prominent state government official is in the news for corruption, it's not good. It taints the city, state and everyone and everything associated with it (including the Olympic Bid).

As most people know (especially long time residents of the area), Chicago is infamous for its political corruption. Although Sloopin still supports the bid, it does give us some pause when this type of blatant manipulation and corruption still remain so prevalent. It's going to cost a lot to stage the Olympics in Chicago (if we get it) and with that comes a lot of opportunity for corruption, favors and kickbacks.

At least we won't have to worry about Blago...but something tells me there are other corrupt officials waiting to step in.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Future of the Olympics

As many loyal Sloopin readers know, the Chicago 2016 Olympic Bid is one of our favorite topics to follow. However, to most of us, 2016 seems a long time away. So just in case you're having some issues realizing what the Olympics could look like in 8 years, Saturday Night Live is here to tell us:

Ok so the 3022 Olympics might be a little different then the 2016 Olympics, but one thing remains constant "There was a bit of a budget snafu".

Soldier Field: The Spaceship has Landed

So this past Sunday we were lucky enough to get some tickets to watch the Bears mop up on the pitiful Jacksonville Jaguars. As most Chicagoans know, a December home game experience at Soldier field can be summed up in one word...Freezing. That was the case this past Sunday as the wind chill read -1 throughout the day.

As I froze, one of the many things that caught my attention was the design of Soldier Field. The most recent renovation has been met with a wide range of reviews. The New York Times called it one of the best new buildings of 2003, while one Chicago Tribune architecture critic dubbed it the "eyesore on the Lake Shore."

Personally, I think it has an interesting exterior design. Yes it looks like a spaceship landed on the old Soldier Field, but in my opinion it's an interesting example of modern progressive architecture blending with a historic venue. Regardless of your views on the exterior, the interior is a great place to watch an event. The stadium seating is very steep and as a result there aren't many bad seats. Another interesting thing about the stadium is that the entire east side has an enclosed, indoor concourse (which is unusual for football stadiums as far as I'm aware). As it stands now, Soldier Field is the smallest stadium in the NFL in terms of seating capacity (61,500).

For those of you who are unaware of the remodeling here are two images. The first is the old stadium prior to the space ship renovation (from the south side):

The next picture is after the renovation:

The funny thing about the stadium is that since 1984 it was on the list of National Register of Historic Places, but after the renovation this designation was revoked (in 2003).

I still like the place!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Olympic Village Deal Back On

According to the Chicago Tribune, Medline (who owns the Michael Reese Hospital Land) and the city have reached an agreement for the land that the proposed Olympic Village would be built on.

Complications arose earlier this year when demolition estimates soared. The new deal is supposed to be announced on Tuesday and has Medline chipping in more money:

The newly hammered-out deal with the Mundelein-based hospital supplier raises the overall price on the 37-acre property by $1 million, but it also significantly boosts the sum the seller will contribute toward demolition and site remediation, from $20 million to as much as $32. 5 million, sources said.
As you can see by the picture below this land (highlighted in red) is prime real estate:

Good news for the Chicago 2016 bid...

How Does Business Effect the Olympic Bidding Process

We've been following the Olympics pretty closely on Sloopin and as a result we bring you this recent article in Sports Business Journal.

It talks about the US broadcasting rights for the 2014 and 2016 Olympics. This is a side story to the bidding process, but nonetheless important since ESPN, NBC, FOX, etc. most likely will pony up billions of dollars to broadcast the games.

Since the US rights are the most lucrative to the Olympics (as compared to Asia, Europe, etc.), it's often said that the IOC likes to have the games staged in the US because it appeases the broadcast partners and their potential advertisers/sponsors.

One theory is that this is an advantage for Chicago's bid because broadcast partners (ie NBC) and sponsors (McDonalds, Visa, etc.) would like to have the Olympics in their primary markets rather then secondary, foreign markets (like Rio).

The thing to note from the article is that the IOC is rumored to be contemplating awarding the broadcast rights after they decide where the 2016 games would be held (normally they award broadcast rights prior to naming the host city). If this happens, I think it sends a strong signal that the IOC is aware and looking to optimize how much they can get for the next round of Broadcast rights.

Although this is only one of many variables that the IOC will look at when determining the host city, I think it's a big plus for the Chicago bid. After all, the IOC is a business and at the end of the day it needs capital to exist.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Roosevelt Collection Update

One of the biggest developments currently taking place in the South Loop is the Roosevelt Collection. This project is very interesting as it provides a wide variety of things to the neighborhood (lots of retail, condos, movie complex, gym, among other things). According to the article in YoChicago, residents will be able to move in sometime around June of 2009.

Also of interest is that the sales person says they will be disclosing the retail tenants next month (January 2009). There is space for a ton of retail...the one thing I'm hoping for is a Chipotle!

South Loop Review: Gyms & Fitness Clubs: Bally’s Fitness Club

This is part two of our attempt to get a lay of the land for those of us trying to stay fit (or like me become fit) over the winter months.

I recently tried out the Bally's Total Fitness at River City - which is located at 800 S. Wells. My initial problem with this gym is that there is no free parking (besides street parking, which is hard to find). There are two parking lots - the River City Garage which costs $3 for two hours and a parking lot just outside the complex that is $2 for two hours. I don't have a car, but that's a bit of a pain in my mind.

The club is actually rather large and has most desired amenities that one would need: cardio, free weights, machine weights, numerous class rooms, racquetball, squash, pool, sauna and steam room. I'm probably missing a couple things, but the moral of the story is that they have a full fledged fitness club. When I went it wasn't busy and there were plenty open machines (both cardio and weights) to use.

The club looks to be a little dated and doesn't have a some of the bells and whistles that the newer clubs have (ie individual TV's on cardio equipment, towel service, the lockers require your own lock, etc.). However, you get what you pay for and Bally's is considerably less expensive then some of the other gyms.

In terms of price, for two people it was approximately $35-45 per month per person (not including the initiation fee). This also get you access to other Bally's locations throughout the county, which is nice since they have a lot of locations.

I like the price, but the location doesn't work for me (the fact that there isn't free parking is also a problem in my eyes). The El isn't very close and Wells isn't the easiest street to get to. If you live in Printer's Row or north of Roosevelt I would tell you to strongly consider this gym, but if not, don't bother.

Bally's River City - Yelp Review
Sloopin Fitness Club/Gym Review - Check it

Daaaaammmmnnnnnn, Lou Makes Good Pizza

So earlier this week, we hit up the new Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria at 805 S. State Street. As you would imagine with any brand new restaurant, it’s clean, nice and comfortable. To be honest, it seemed a little small to me, but I was reminded that most of their business probably comes from delivery so a huge dinning area isn't necessary.

Anyway, everyone loves their legendary deep dish, but this time we opted for the plain cheese thin crust. I don’t claim to be an expert on pizza, but daaaammmmnnnn it was good. All I gotta say is welcome to the neighborhood Lou.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Leave it to the Chicago Reader

Surprise, Surprise, the Chicago Reader takes the negative, pessimistic angle about Chicago’s 2016 Olympic Bid. Generally speaking, I like the Chicago Reader and their independent voice, but sometimes they are so cynical, sarcastic and skeptical about things (especially local politics).

They do bring up points that need to be considered (ie the cities propensity to underestimate costs and its cronyism), but in typical fashion they avoid talking about the positive attributes the Olympics could bring to Chicago.

The Olympics are a global platform to show off our city. The Reader talks about tourists coming and leaving after the Olympics are over, but forget about how many people across the world will be watching our city serve as the backdrop for this prestigious international event. It’s like a two week global commercial for Chicago.

I’m confident that people across the world will see our beautiful skyline, parks and lakefront and be intrigued. They will hear stories about the restaurants, museums and culture and want to visit Chicago. I visited Barcelona and I attribute my desire partly due to what I saw, read and heard about their Olympics in 1992.

Besides boosting Chicago’s image, the city can fast track numerous infrastructure programs. As anyone living in Chicago knows, our public transportation system could use an upgrade. Yes, this might happen eventually (either through state or federal funding), but throw the Olympics into the mix and suddenly we have a deadline that our government needs to act against.

So yes, I concede that this will cost more then our government tells us, but please look at the benefits as well as the costs…

Amtrack Reaches Deal with Canadian National Railroad

Unless you follow this closely, it might be new news to you. Essentially through some proposed acquisitions, Canadian National Railroad Co. (CN) will become the owner and operator of a wide variety of tracks throughout the Chicagoland area (including many of the tracks that enter the city through the South Loop).

The purpose of these acquisitions was so that CN could avoid the bottleneck of train tracks that occurs within and around the city. With these new moves, CN now has the ability to use newly acquired tracks, which will enable the rerouting of trains to avoid the city. This in turn will help improve efficiencies in regards to time, costs and labor.

Their are many obstacles that have arose from a variety of parties interested in these acquisitions. One of them seems to be resolved according to this recent article in Chicago Business. CN and Amtrack have come to terms in regards to the passenger trains that enter the city from the south (specifically along the lake and ones entering into Union Station). Which is good news for the city and it's residents.

The main opponent of these plans seems to be coming from the wealthy suburbs (mainly Barrington). Since the plan calls for cargo trains to avoid the City of Chicago, as a result many suburbs will get more train traffic. As you can imagine, these powerful and rich suburbs aren't happy and are citing a variety of reasons as to why this shouldn't happen. It sounds like it's mostly just an inconvenience to them from what we've read (like waiting at train crossings in their Hummers for 5 minutes).

The one plausible point they make is that emergency vehicles could be stuck at a train crossing which could prevent them from getting to their destinations in a timely manner. Although this sounds like a reasonable gripe, something tells me there are alternative routes and bridges that could resolve this issue.

For South Loop residents, these developments are good. Essentially all cargo trains will avoid the city. Besides our benefit, it sounds as if it would also be great for the country and city in terms of GDP.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Detroit Sucks!

Nothing to do with the sloop...but I couldn't agree more with Ari Gold:

Maxwell Market Vendors Feel the Squeeze

This was reported by the Chicago Journal last week, but for those of you who enjoy going to the Maxwell market, it looks like the vendors there are feeling the squeeze.

Gioco: A South Loop Gem

Winter's upon us and nothing goes better with the bitter cold then a warm Italian dinner. With that in mind we recently decided to venture out and hit up one of our local South Loop gems, Gioco. Located on the west side of the 1300 block of Wabash, Gioco was Jerry Kleiner’s first restaurant in the South Loop. The restaurant has now been open for about 10 years and has garnered plenty of positive reviews and even awards from prestigious magazines such as “best new restaurants” in Chicago Magazine and Bon Appetit’s “Favorite Places in 2000”.

In typical Kleiner fashion, the d├ęcor is distinct and unusual. However, the decorations aren’t as over the top and whimsical as some of his other restaurants (ie Room 21, Carnivale and Opera). The exposed brick and low lighting levels provide an intimate and warm feeling which provides a subtle romantic atmosphere. The kitchen is open to the dinning room for those interested in watching the chefs scramble. The bar area isn’t huge, but has an interesting and hypnotic red glow that gives it an unusual “loungey” type of feel.

During the warmer months, the front windows of the restaurant swing open and lead to a couple of tables on the Wabash sidewalk. Other restaurants in the area also provide amble outdoor seating on Wabash and collectively all the restaurants provide a fun, lively scene for enjoying warm weather and nights (Gioco, Opera, Zapatista and Exposure Tapas Supper Club).

In terms of the food, we’ve been twice and loved the tortellini. The veal dish however received mixed reviews from our table. Most recently we tried the scallops, which were very tender and had a great tasting garlic flavor. Like most Italian restaurants, wine is a staple and Gioco doesn’t disappoint. Their list is extensive if that’s your thing.

The place is usually very busy on the weekends and caters to the later dinner crowd. So if you’re up for an earlier dinner you will have no problem getting in, however after 7:30 I would make sure to call before hand.

As our good friend Borat would say, “Weee Liiiiike”! Hope you do too.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Jones College Prep to Get a Brand New School?

If you walk down State Street south of congress parkway you might not notice it, but here lies one of Chicago's premiere public schools, Jones College Prep. The school was founded in 1938 and has garnered numerous awards and attracted top students throughout the area.

Since the Pacific Garden Mission next door was recently demolished, the school was planning on expanding and building a new gymnasium and pool on this parcel of land directly south of the school. Well according to a recent article in the Chicago Journal, there are new plans to build an entirely new school on the land between Polk and Harrison. The proposal currently stands at $130 Million and could potentially cater to neighborhood residents as well as the typical qualified students that attend Jones.

If the school is going to expand, I truly hope it allows South Loop students to attend the school or at least be given additional points on their application to the school (especially if the school plans to use TIFs from the neighborhood).

"The Future of The CTA on the South Side"

Here is an interesting article from the Chicago Weekly about some CTA improvement projects specifically on the South Side. They provide some more insight on the discussions around the 18th street and Cermack Green line stations (here is Sloopin's take on the proposed green line stations).

They also have an interesting bit about a "Gold Line" which would run on the Metra tracks from Millenium Station along the lake front down to 93rd street.

The "Gold Line" concept is similar to our post entitled "Sloopin's Grand Plan" that we published in October. The main problem and difference from Sloopin's plan is that the "Gold Line" doesn't physically connect with the existing CTA lines. They proposed a transfer fee (ie - 25 cents similar to transferring from a train to a bus) but we think a physical connection is a very important step to the legitimacy of this idea. We understand that this would cost a lot of money, but without this connection, in our eyes it's really not part of the EL. Here is their proposed "Gold Line":

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Lost in Translation: Joy Yee's Noodles

It was the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend and my cousins and I decided to venture down to Chinatown. Without knowing exactly where we wanted to go, we wandered and almost entered a restaurant through the back door. Thankfully we found the proper entrance to the "China Place Street", which is essentially a walking street similar to what you would find in European cities.

Anyway, we ended up at Joy Yee's Noodles, which was bustling with people eating and also getting bubble teas and other unique drinks. After awkwardly figuring out how and where to sit, we were given a massive menu. Ok, so massive is an understatement. This menu was quite impressive as it had over 500 dishes (and most with pictures). It also had a ridiculously extensive drink menu and when I say drinks I don't mean of the alcoholic variety (bubble teas, yogurts, fruits, etc.).

After spending about 30 minutes looking through the menu, we decided on a wide variety of things to try. To be honest, I had a hard time focusing on the menu due to its volume of contet, so if you try this place out, make sure you're ready to focus and not be indecisive.

In terms of the food everything was solid. The highlight was a curry dish served with soft shell crab and chicken over white rice. The service was quick and good, but if you're looking to be waited on, this isn't the place. The decor was nice, simple and basic. If you like asian simplicity, design and soap operas, you will like the look and feel of the restaurant.

All in all, we had a nice time and were happy with the decision. Most likely will be heading back sometime in the near future.

Potential in the Near South Side

The Chicago Tribune has an article about some new loft developments just south of McCormick Place.  If you've ever looked into buying (or making an investment) in the South Loop, you've probably realized some of the points made by the article.  And as most of us know, the golden ticket is the possibility of the the 2016 Olympics.  This is especially the case for this area in the neighborhood:
"The proposed Olympic Village is planned on the Michael Reese Hospital site, so there's a lot of opportunity as far as neighborhood planning."  

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Interesting Post from the Chicago Tribune about the Olympic Bid

Read this and take it for what it's worth. It sounds like some of the 2016 Bid Officials have been given pretty prominent roles in Obama's inaugural committee. Interesting:
President-elect Barack Obama's ties to the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid were
reinforced even more this week. Four of the five co-chairs of Obama's
inaugural committee announced Wednesday have roles in the Chicago bid. Two
are on Chicago 2016's 13-member board of directors: Patrick Ryan, the bid
committee chairman; and John Rogers.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Recent Pizzeria Openings

A couple weeks ago we mentioned that Lou Malnati's and Homemade Pizza Co. were working on opening restaurants in the South Loop.

Well in case anyone wants some pie, both places are now open.

David Barton Gym to Focus On South Loop Location

The Chicago Tribune reports that the David Barton Gym has decided to pull out of the much maligned Block 37 development. Instead, the Gym will focus on it's expansion at the Roosevelt Collection.

By the way, the construction teams at Roosevelt Collection are still had hard work. I recently went by the development and one of the wings looks to be almost fully enclosed.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Oh Snap - Chicagoist disses NYT

So on Wednesday I posted this story from the venerable New York Times talking about Chicago's recent blossoming. Well today I just read a great post by the Chicagoist taking issue with the article:

Have you ever heard a song by a band and totally been turned on to that band, rushing out to buy their record, listening to it, and then excitedly telling your friend all about your "discovery", saying, "Hey, have you ever heard of this band called The Rolling Stones??? They ROCK!" only to have your heart crushed when your friend tells you that band's old news? We hate to be "that friend," but...

Yesterday, the New York Times' Jeff Zeleny looked at the "renaissance" of Chicago in his cheekily titled article, "A New Wind Is Blowing in Chicago." One doesn't necessarily envision Zeleny and his colleagues (Maureen Dowd, perhaps?) sitting around a computer looking at pictures of Chicago with wonder and saying, "They have...buildings! And...parks!" but judging from the article it feels like they haven't actually stepped foot in Chicago in quite a while. It's all O'Hare, Obama, and Oprah to these people, isn't it?

Funny and maybe a little true...but to be honest, the Chicagoist is playing into the "inferiority complex" that most Chicagoans tend to have. We'll always be the second city, whatever that really means...

Reese Hospital a Possibility for Olympic Village Again

About 2 or 3 months ago, word got out that the negotiation to turn Michael Reese Hospital into the 2016 Olympic Village had stalled. The reason was said to be due to demolition and environmental clean-up costs which had significantly changed. This in turn, through the whole negotiation off supposedly.

Well according to the Sun Times, the negotiation is back on and Pat Ryan is on the case (Chairman of the Olympic Bid, Former President of Aon, and Big Bad Chicago Businessman). If it doesn't work out, I'm sure he can foot the bill, he definitely has the money.

Another interesting thing coming from this article is that Ryan expects to show off the city's final Olympic plan in Mid-December.

Maybe they incorporated Sloopin's Grand Plan? Doubtful though.

Transcript of Obama Video at EOC Annual Olympic Convention

As Part of the Chicago 2016 Olympic Bid presentation to the European Olympic Committee's Annual convention, President-Elect Obama had an 85 second video addressing convention. Here is a transcript from the video...pretty good stuff for Chicago:

``Mr. (IOC) President, members of the International Olympic Committee, ladies and gentlemen.

``While I am unable to be there in person, I wanted to take this opportunity to speak with you because I deeply believe in the Olympic movement and have long supported hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games in my home city of Chicago.

``Over the past two years, I have spoken often about my belief that while we may come from different places and backgrounds, there are certain shared values that unite us, values at the heart of the Olympic movement: friendship, excellence and mutual respect.

``In the coming years, my administration will bring a fresh perspective on America's role and responsibilities around the world. But if we are to truly meet our shared challenges, we must all work together. By uniting the world in a peaceful celebration of human achievement, the Olympic Games reminds us that this is possible.

``The United States would be honored to have the opportunity to host the Games and serve the Olympic movement. As President-elect, I see the Olympic and Paralympic Games as an opportunity for our nation to reach out, welcome the world to our shores and strengthen our friendships across the globe.

``Thank you very much.''

Obama Loves Corned Beef!

And so do I, especially from Manny's in the South Loop at 1141 S. Jefferson.

The President Elect hit up Manny's, which was referred to as a "Chicago Institution", for Lunch today. Money Quote:
Asked about a federal bailout for the auto industry, Obama responded: "I got the corned beef."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

2016 Candidate Cities Invade Turkey

It's the first Olympic Committee meeting since Obama has been elected and that seems to be the talk of the convention. This week, the EOC or European Olympic Committee convenes for there annual meeting in Istanbul, Turkey. All four 2016 finalists will be present and giving presentation about their bids.

The most interesting development seems to be from Rio, who has adopted Obama's candidacy message of change. They also have stolen his "Yes, we can" rally call:
Chicago's rivals are adjusting to the Obama factor. Rio is even using his "Yes, we can" and time-for-change slogan as an example of why the Olympics should go to Brazil and South America for the first time.
Kinda funny...Hillary and McCain also tried to play off of and steal some of Obama's "marketing" thunder but it didn't work for them. Maybe it will work for Rio.

More Talk About New Green Line El Stations in the South Loop

About a month ago on Sloopin, we talked about the possibility of two locations for new Green Line El stops in the South Loop.

Well today, one of the urban planners came back with their first thoughts. He cited the North, Damen and Milwaukee intersection and El stop as an example of what he envisioned for this area. I don't see how it would be like that, but regardless there is definitely potential for both of these stops (either 18th street and/or Cermack).

Here is a picture of the area proposed (yellow is residential, orange is hotels and gray is retail):

I sure hope they're taking the 2016 Olympic Bid into consideration while planning. I know the Olympic Bid could speed up the process for these projects to get the green light, but still it seems like development down here could be a big opportunity for the bid. I'm pretty sure they're smart enough to consider this, but I've seen our fabulous government do some pretty stupid things before.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Chicago's Blossoming?

I'll be honest, this article in the New York Times doesn't have much to do with the South Loop (however it does briefly talk about the 2016 Olympic Bid), but it has some good information about Chicago's recent "blossoming".

It also talks about Obama replacing Oprah:
One sign that the Obama brand is replacing the Oprah brand? The talk show tycoon is not mentioned in the city’s new tourism campaign, which invites visitors to “Experience the city the Obamas enjoy.” Ms. Winfrey’s studio is not mentioned along the list of stops, which range from Mr. Bayless’s restaurants to a bookstore in the Obamas’ Hyde Park neighborhood to Promontory Point along Lake Michigan. And souvenirs are on sale across town, with Obama shirts, hats and knickknacks arriving just in time for holiday shopping.

What's a Cuban Sandwich?

I've never had one, but judging from this review in the Chicago Reader, it sounds like the shiznit.

Cafetico has only been open for 4 months...has anyone been there? How is it?

Two South Loop High Rises Get the Axe

Not a huge surprise given the market and financial issues right now, but today Crains Chicago reports that developer Warren Barr has decided to not move forward with two high rises at 830 S. Michigan and 1000 S. Michigan.

830 S. Michigan would have been the tallest building in the South Loop standing at 80 stories and 855 feet.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New Yoga Joint Invades the South Loop

I can barely touch my knees, so as you can imagine, yoga ain't my thing. But if it's yours, CorePower Yoga just opened it's first Illinois studio in the South Loop at 555 W. Roosevelt (in the same building as Best Buy). Judging by their pictures online, the studio looks pretty sweet, especially if you enjoy becoming limber and looking at our beautiful skyline:

For a more detailed summary on what makes CorePower Yoga different then other studios check out this review in the Chicago Examiner.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hangover Cure: Bongo Room

After a long night of drinking and debauchery, some friends of Sloopin decided to hit up Bongo Room (1152 S. Wabash) for brunch.  All I can say is that Bongo Room evidently is the cure for a hangover.  One of Sloopin's friends was ridiculously hung over prior to Bongo Room.  An hour and a half later, she came back a new person.  Their eggs must be magic. 

Restaurant Review: Room 21

This past Friday we went to Jerry Kleiner's latest dinning creation, Room 21.  The restaurant is located on Wabash, just south of 21st street (2110 S. Wabash).  For those who don't know Jerry Kleiner, his restaurants tend to have extravagant, eclectic and over the top decor.  If you're into his restaurants, then you will love Room 21.  

Out of all the Kleiner restaurants I've been to (Opera, Gioco, Marche, Red Light, Carnivale) this is probably the most interesting in terms of design and history.  According to Kleiner, Room 21's building used to be Al Capone's largest liquor warehouse and speakeasy.  When renovating the building, they accidentally stumbled onto a secret passage and found a door leading to 21st street that said "Room 21".  He tells the story better then I do:  

If you made it to the end of the video, you saw the private dinning room that overlooks the kitchen.  This was by far the coolest thing about the restaurant (and to be honest probably the coolest thing I've ever seen at a restaurant).  However, they did tell us that it takes a lot of coin to eat in the private dinning room.  A minimum of $1000 on the weekends and $500 on the weekdays.

In my eyes, the building and history kind of overshadow the food.  Although everything we had was really good, nothing was amazing.  However, with most Kleiner dinning experiences the food is only part of the package.

Besides the large dinning area, their is a large bar/lounge and a nice outdoor patio.  I'm also a big fan of Eric Clapton and they must have played 3 or 4 Clapton songs, so in my mind the music was great.  The service was prompt, but our waiter was kind of spacey and wasn't the best.  However, after dinner we asked the manager for the "tour" and he spent about 5 minutes telling us about the history of the building and so on, which we all appreciated.

So all in all, Room 21 is a very cool and interesting place and Sloopin would highly recommend it.  If you go, don't forget to ask the manager for the tour of the building, you won't regret it.

November 4th Revisited

It's been 12 days, but I was just thinking about the Obama rally and the spectacle it was to behold.  The whole thing was so surreal.  The craziest thing was the crowd after the rally. Everyone was peaceful, happy and plainly just enjoying the moment:

Dance Party at The Congress Theater

So I've never been to the Congress Theater or been to a Girl Talk concert, but judging by what I've read and watched in this video it looks like it would have been fun:

However, I did have a co-worker that went to the show and he said it was horrible.

Backdraft Filmed in The South Loop

A friend of mine recently went to The Chicago Firehouse  and mentioned that he really enjoyed the historic building and the great food.  I haven't been there in awhile, so I decided to look at their website again and learned something new.  According to the website, the movie Backdraft was filmed in the building

This isn't important information to know, but regardless an interesting fact for those who like these types of things. 

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Some South Loop Construction Updates

Here are a couple updates on various improvement projects around the South loop. Of the most interest to me is the Roosevelt Metra Station.

If anyone has been to this station you would know that it's something. Part of me likes that you feel like you're going to fall through the floor, but in all honesty this thing is probably pretty dangerous. There are holes in the roof and the walkways leading to the actual station sway and move. Anyway, looks like it's going to be gone in early 2009.

It also talks about improvements on wabash and the solidarity drive underpass by the Shedd Aquariam and Field Museum.

Baseball or Golf?

Which would be better for the 2016 Olympics? They both are lobbying for inclussion in the 2016 Olympics and according this article on According to the article Chicago might help Baseball get a leg up:

It is believed that holding the 2016 Games in either Tokyo or Chicago, where professional baseball stadiums are available, would help lure MLB to participate.
Although it would be pretty cool to see a gold medal game at Wrigley Field, I think Baseball probably won't be included since logistically it seems tough to interupt the MLB season (which would be in the middle of its regular season).

On the other hand, Chicago has many great golf courses and seems to always be lauded for its support of the sport. It would be pretty fun to see Tiger compete for a gold medal towards the end of his career (he would be 40 when the games would be held).

The other sports, besides Golf and Baseball, competing to be included in the 2016 Olympics are Karate, squash, rugby, roller sports and softball.

So, what sports do you think would be best for the 2016 Olympics?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Green Line in Jeporday?

According to Chicago Business that's the case. I'm pretty sure a deal will be reached but essentially AIG's financial issues have caused some contractual problems with the Green Line's lease of land, tracks and stations on the green line...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

No Obama Effect for Chicago 2016 According to Spain

Spanish Olympic officials today said that they doubt Obama will have an impact on the 2016 Olympic race.
"I have my doubts that Obama can have such an influence" in favour of his hometown, Secretary of State for Sport Jaime Lissavetzky told a news conference. "I think that the members of the IOC are quite apolitical, even if I don't really like that word."
First of all, I think Obama will have some impact on the decision and I think it will help Chicago. However, I don't think that Obama means Chicago has it in the bag. I merely think this is a PR statement by Spain to seem confident and not show any weaknesses.

Second, I know the Madrid Olympic bid did well in the first round of evaluations. However, I have a hard time believing that they seriously have a chance to win this. Would the IOC really want to have back to back summer Olympics in Europe (London is hosting 2012)? My guess is no.

Like I've said before, Chicago's main competition in my eyes is from Rio.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Legend at Legends

How often do you get to see a Grammy award winning, rock-n-roll hall of fame inductee play an intimate show at his own club? Well the answer is every January…but just to warn you the show sells out quickly. Buddy Guy invades his own South Loop club (754 S. Wabash) for his annual performances in January.

So with that said, consider this a favor to our avid Sloopin readers…tickets go on-sale on Saturday November 29th, so mark your calendars.

In case you don’t know, here is a little taste of Buddy Guy (however Eric Clapton most likely won’t be backing him up at the shows in January):

Restaurant Review: Grace O’Malley’s

Grace O’Malley’s is an upscale Irish pub and restaurant located just south of 14th on Michigan (1416 South Michigan Ave.). The bar itself is beautiful, classy and traditional. There is approximately 5 or 6 tables in the bar area and I’ve never had a problem finding a seat (there is also seating at the bar). That is not to say it doesn’t get busy, but more often then not you can find a seat if you desire.

In the back of the building there is a more formal and traditional restaurant area which caters to people and families looking to avoid the TV and rowdier bar crowd. There are also stairs to the second level, but I’ve never been up there. Judging by pictures online it looks like it can be reserved for private parties.

Besides a couple of appetizers that you can find anywhere (Quesadillas, Buffalo wings, nachos), the menu is mainly traditional Irish food. I’m not the biggest fan of Irish food, but overall everything I’ve had was solid, but not spectacular.

On to my favorite thing about the place, the bar. They have a variety of beers, drafts and liquors, but if you’re in the mood to try out some whiskey and scotch go for the flights (three samples of different kinds). I went for The Walker (black label, gold label and green label), but let’s be honest, I barely could tell the difference.

There aren’t a lot of specials, so if you’re looking to eat or drink for cheap try out it’s sister restaurant Wabash tap (on Wabash between roosevelt and 13th street). All in all Grace O’Malley’s is solid…

Sizing Up 2016 Olympic Competitors

The Chicago Daily Herald has a nice article summing up some of the competitors for the Olympics:

Madrid was already a strong finalist for the 2012 Games and knows what it's doing. Rio de Janeiro is benefiting from the fact that the supposedly international Olympics have never been hosted in South America. Tokyo has the experience of having hosted the Games in 1964 and is in the midst of a 10-year improvement plan.

As I've said before, I think Rio is Chicago's main competitor because of the reason listed above.

Chicago Ranked 8th Most Global City

A recent report in foreign policy magazine ranks Chicago the 8th most global city in the world (according to a variety of factors, some of which are displayed in the chart below). In my mind it's pretty impressive company, especially when looking at some of the cities that are ranked above Chicago:

The Chicago Tribune editorial board also talks at more length about the potential for a higher ranking in the future. They cite Obama and the Olympics as two potential platforms to help showcase the city.

In my mind, one of the major things that hampers Chicago’s “global perception” is its anonymity. I used to work in New York and I remember people joking about the Midwest as “fly-over” country. Although they were joking, there is always some truth to jokes.

I like to think of Chicago like Barcelona in Spain, a hidden gem that is often over shadowed by other worthy European cities. It wasn’t in the news a ton, it wasn’t the biggest city in its country, but nonetheless it was a great, worldly city.

Chicago often cites Barcelona's Olympics as an example for the 2016 bid. I think this is an excellent comparison as Barcelona used its Olympics to showcase its amazing city to the world. As a kid I remember the images of the diving competition (yes, I watched diving) with the cityscape in the background. I was intrigued by this city and eventually went there when I was traveling in Europe. I’m not sure if that’s completely due to Barcelona’s Olympics, but I know it had some effect.

If Chicago is lucky enough to land the 2016 Olympics, I’m hopeful that it will expose the world to some of Chicago’s attributes that are often not mentioned. And hopefully it will also influence some young international kid to want to see Chicago one day when they get older.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Three New Restaurants Opening Soon

As you probably realize if you're out and about sloopin...there aren't a ton of "moderately" priced restaurants in the area. It's either really nice expensive restaurants, bar food or sandwiches (with a couple exceptions of course). Well here are three new "moderately" priced dining options for us Sloopers who can't afford a $45 steak at the Chicago Fire House:

Homemade Pizza Co – 1347 S. Michigan Ave.
Fresh, gourmet pizza’s that are created from scratch at their restaurant. Customers buy the pizza’s at the restaurant and then bake them at home. They also have homemade cookies and salads.

Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria – Corner of 10th and State Street
Voted Chicago’s favorite pizza, Lou Malnati’s is a local legend and a great addition to the South Loop. They’re known for their famous deep dish pizza, but also have a variety of other options on the menu.

U Food Grill – 823 S. State
Opening it’s second restaurant in Chicago, U Food is all about a simple message; Feel Great, Eat Smart. With that in mind, U Food has a robust and broad menu that tries to provide healthy and good tasting options. I’ve never been there, but that’s what they’re claiming.

Old Post Office to be Converted in '09

The Old Post Office Building, which sits on top of Congress Pkwy and has been vacant for years, looks like it will finally start to be redeveloped soon. The Sun Times reports that it will be split into office space, condos and a hotel.

The old pipe dream was for the huge building (2.5 million square feet) to be converted into a casino, but the city never received a license for that.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Lollapalooza Forever

The historic Hutchinson Field, where Mr. President Elect Barack Obama just had his election night celebration, looks like it will be hosting more historic performances (of the musical variety this time). The Chicago Tribune reports that City Officials and C3 (who puts on Lollapalooza) are in contract extension negotiations.

I'm a huge fan of this event and am happy to see this news. If I'm not mistaken, the event was scheduled for a couple more years, but the current talks are to extend it through 2018 at least. In honor of this, please enjoy the Lollapalooza headliner from 2007, Daft was rad:

And here is the view behind the robots...

Chicagoist Obama Recap and the Implications for the 2016 Olypmic Bid

Much of the article is a recap of other sources and opinions, but the following talks specifically about the crowd at the Obama rally:
What also bodes well for Chicago’s reputation is the fact that no arrests or serious incidents occurred at the rally, a testament to the city’s ability to smoothly manage a large-scale, impromptu event – or maybe, more realistically, the good behavior of its citizens.
This is a great point that is often overlooked. The world knows Chicago for Al Capone, Gangsters and violence. The country hears about our homicides (which doesn't seem to be getting any better). But Obama and the peaceful rally really helps showcase Chicago in a different way.

South Loop Review: Gyms & Fitness Clubs: Formula Fitness Club

The first gym/fitness club that I tried out was Formula Fitness Club on 1151 S. State Street. In my eyes, the location is the biggest plus for this club. It is centrally located in the South Loop and is right next to the El (red, green and orange lines). Another great thing is that they have free 2 hour parking.

In terms of amenities, all the equipment looks to be new. There looks to be enough cardio equipment to support rush hours (5-7pm on weekdays), however there were a lot of people using the treadmills. All cardio equipment has individually mounted TVs, which I liiiiiike. The free weight area also had new equipment and wasn’t overly crowded when I went.

In terms of classes, there were two areas (however the club is expanding and said they would have more rooms to accommodate classes). There was also a Pilates studio, but if this is what you’re looking for, I have no idea if it’s a good setup. One disappointing thing about the actual workout floor, was that there wasn’t much room for stretching/abs/etc. There are places, but is seems like an afterthought.

The male locker room was pretty basic (lockers, showers and a steam room), but they do have a free towel service. There is also a spa (with tanning beds) and a small retail and food area.

The price seems a little higher then some of the other places we’re looking at, but as they say, sometimes you have to pay a little more for location (for 2 people it was about $60 per person per month and not including initiation fees).

Some of the things they don’t have that I would like:

  • Racquetball Court
  • Basketball Court
  • Pool, whirlpool and Sauna
  • Running track

All in all, it’s a nice, new and well kept fitness club, with all the basic amenities that are necessary for general fitness.

Yelp Reviews - Formula Fitness Club - South Loop
South Loop Review: Gyms & Fitness Clubs: Check it

Chicago 2016 Clinched? Hopefully, but not Yet

The CTA Tattler has an interesting post today about Obama’s potential impact on the CTA. Although I agree on many fronts, I think this statement in the post is a little premature:
"My prediction is that Obama's presidency won't make much of a difference to the CTA -- except that his election cinches the city's Olympics bid. And with that bid will come some federal dollars to improve public transportation to mostly South Side venues. But those dollars would have come regardless of who is president."

I agree that if (and that’s still a big if) Chicago gets the Olympics the CTA will get federal funds to beef up the South Side portion of the CTA. However, I know Obama helps Chicago’s profile internationally, but I think Rio has a compelling story that will be challenging for Chicago (no country in South America has ever hosted the Olympics).

Sloopin came up with some ideas to beef up the South Side CTAtake a look.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

South Loop Review: Gyms & Fitness Clubs

Despite this unusually beautiful November weather we’ve recently had, it’s going to get cold. Winter will be upon us soon and that means people stop going outside and stop being active. Or at least that’s what I do in the winter.

With that said, I’m thinking about joining a gym. So over the next month or so, I’m going to try all public gyms in the South Loop. As of now, I’ve identified 5 gyms:

  • Fitness Formula Club - South Loop - website
  • Bally’s Total Fitness - River City - website
  • LA Fitness - South Loop - website
  • X-Sport - South Loop - website
  • Phenomenal Fitness - website