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 gamesbid.com 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":