Friday, February 27, 2009

Obama Set to Go to Copenhagen for Chicago 2016

According to a news source in Denmark, it looks like President Barack Obama will be in Copenhagen for the final vote to determine which city will host the 2016 Olympic games. As Sloopin and numerous other people have speculated, Obama's presence could significantly boost Chicago's bid. Some analysts have gone so far to say that if Obama shows up, it's a lock for Chicago.

Although we're not that confident, we agree that Obama's star power, eloquence and most importantly his relationship with the city of Chicago could be very beneficial. The mayor of Copenhagen seems excited:
Lord Mayor Ritt Bjerregaard is happy at the prospect of Obama coming to town.

“A great bit of news. I’m really looking forward to it,” she says, adding: “Now we just have to make sure we can get him out of the meeting rooms and into the city so citizens can meet him in real life and not just see black limousines rushing by.”
Will the IOC members be as excited to meet him? Our guess...Yes they will (sorry, we had to have some cheesy Obama catch phrase attempt)!

Obama's in Their Heads
Yesterday, Juan Antonio Samaranch, a former IOC committe president and influential leader for Madrid's 2016 bid said Obama would be "a positive point for Chicago's candidacy". Key leaders for Tokyo's bid have said similar things. And if that's not enough, Rio's bid has adopted Obama's campaign slogan, Yes We Can. Sounds like they're scared to us.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Deja Vu - Chicago Reader Style

Way back in the beginning of December '08, we at Sloopin took issue with the Chicago Readers cynical, sarcastic and skeptical take on Chicago's Olympic bid. With that said, today we had a moment of Deja Vu!

As we went through the latest article the same tone was taken. Everything is negative in regard to the Olympics...nothing positive could possibly come from them...or at least that's the way it sounded to us. Anyway, if you're interested in monitoring the comments on today's article here it is; I'm sure we're going to provoke some backlash from the cynics.

Sloopin's comment:
What a surprise...the Reader takes a cynical approach again. You don't trust Chicago's politicians and government; we get it, yada yada yada.

The things that you seem to overlook are many of the positives the Olympics can bring. Like it or not, Chicago remains a city that is often overlooked globally despite its world class characteristics. The Olympics provide a platform that allows the city to showcase itself globally to billions of people (honestly, you can’t put a price on that promotion…ask Barcelona). Not only will this help tourism, it most importantly will help attract regional, domestic and global businesses that will continue to fuel our economy which in turn will provide more money for the issues you raise (potholes, CTA issues, schools, police). Let’s also not forget that the Olympics are a time for the country to shine as well. With that said, I would expect federal funding to increase and fast track a lot of infrastructure improvement projects throughout the city and the region. That’s a huge ‘long-term’ benefit that normally would take decades to come to fruition.

Yes, your skepticism is warranted in some regard, however, in my opinion the positives outweigh the negatives of the bid (but your readers won’t have a chance to evaluate on their own since you don’t state them anywhere in this article). Look, Chicago isn’t perfect, we know. As I like to remind people, no one is holding a gun to your head saying ‘you must live in Chicago’. If you don’t like it, move to the suburbs or maybe your Utopian ‘city’ in Montana where potholes and public transportation don’t exist and the only thing they’re murdering is cattle.

Festivals are Just Around the Corner

In honor of this rainy but unusually mild February day, we at Sloopin are getting anxious for the Spring and Summer. As you're well aware, this is the time when Chicagoans and Sloopers arise from the depths of winter hibernation and enjoy all there is to enjoy about the city.

One of our favorite things about the South Loop is it's proximity to Grant Park. With that comes an enormous amount of events in our front yard ranging from large scale productions like Lollapalooza to intimate smaller gatherings like Chicago's 'Movies in the Park' series. Stay tuned to Sloopin as we will do our best to update you on news, schedules and general information about the events.

Our first look is at something we unfortunately didn't get a chance to attend last year, Columbia College's Manifest Urban Arts Festival. There is a wide variety of activities and shows during the festival and in 2009 it looks like it will be primarily put on by the students, faculty and people associated with the College. The event will be taking part all over the Columbia campus which extends throughout the South Loop.
Mark your calendars because May 15th isn't that far away.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Church of Scientology Coming to Printer's Row?

Anytime we hear anything about the Church of Scientology there is usually some form of controversy surrounding the story. With that said, the controversy that is the Church of Scientology seems to be creeping into the Sloop as the church continues to lobby for a zoning change in Printer's Row. The plan would allow the church to build a structure at 650 S. Clark.

Although we're not going to offer our official opinion on the religion, we highly encourage you to check out the Wikipedia entry for more info. If that doesn't entice you, maybe Tom will:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What Do Miami, Las Vegas and the South Loop have in Common?

If you said, “real estate internet blogs and message boards trying to compare them”, you win.

Someone on yochicago’s message board recently brought up the question, so we tried to defend the Sloop. Although the housing boom can be credited for the large amount of development in these three places, in our opinion that’s where the comparisons should stop:

I understand peoples desire to compare Miami and Las Vegas to the South Loop, but it's really not a fair comparison. Compare Miami to Phoenix or Houston.

If you want to compare the South Loop, compare it to Soho, Chelsea or Harlem in New York. These areas had similar booms to the South Loop. Although they may not be in as good as shape as the upper east/west sides of New York or comparably the Gold Coast in Chicago, they're desirable neighborhoods in large, dynamic cities. As long as Chicago and New York remain viable global cities, these neighborhoods will be well positioned for the long term (unlike Miami and Vegas).

Monday, February 23, 2009

Not a Good Time to Be a Landlord

According to Crain's Chicago rent in the downtown market has fallen to it's lowest levels in 7 years. The article goes on to call out the South Loop specifically saying:
The new South Loop projects “have hit the market at the worst time, if you want to live in the South Loop, you have lots of options. That has really slowed down the leasing.”
This isn't a big surprise especially since there are also a lot of condo owners who would rather try to rent their properties instead of selling them.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Economy Crashes...but Chicago Wins

We recently came across the feature article in the March issue of The Atlantic titled, "How the Crash Will Reshape America". Although it's not a quick read, we highly recommend it as it takes a step back and looks at the long term effects of the current economic crash. The gist of the article is the emergence of what they call 'mega-regions':
Worldwide, people are crowding into a discrete number of mega-regions, systems of multiple cities and their surrounding suburban rings like the Boston–New York–Washington Corridor. In North America, these mega-regions include SunBelt centers like the Char-Lanta Corridor, Northern and Southern California, the Texas Triangle of Houston–San Antonio–Dallas, and Southern Florida’s Tampa-Orlando-Miami area; the Pacific Northwest’s Cascadia, stretching from Portland through Seattle to Vancouver; and both Greater Chicago and Tor-Buff-Chester in the old Rust Belt.

Internationally, these mega-regions include Greater London, Greater Tokyo, Europe’s Am-Brus-Twerp, China’s Shanghai-Beijing Corridor, and India’s Bangalore-Mumbai area.

Economic output is ever-more concentrated in these places as well. The world’s 40 largest mega-regions, which are home to some 18 percent of the world’s population, produce two-thirds of global economic output and nearly 9 in 10 new patented innovations.
As you would imagine (and probably already know), Chicago is the largest and most important metropolitan area in the Midwest region. While other Midwest manufacturing cities suffer (ie Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, Buffalo) due to their inability to evolve with the changing times, Chicago has blossomed into a dynamic, global city with a variety of industries and professions. Although Chicago isn't immune to the current recession, the article argues that it is (among other 'mega-regions') better prepared for the future.

The article also has an interesting take on the limits of suburban life and growth:

Suburbanization—and the sprawling growth it propelled—made sense for a time. The cities of the early and mid-20th century were dirty, sooty, smelly, and crowded, and commuting from the first, close-in suburbs was fast and easy. And as manufacturing became more technologically stable and product lines matured during the postwar boom, suburban growth dovetailed nicely with the pattern of industrial growth.

But that was then; the economy is different now. It no longer revolves around simply making and moving things. Instead, it depends on generating and transporting ideas. The places that thrive today are those with the highest velocity of ideas, the highest density of talented and creative people, the highest rate of metabolism. Velocity and density are not words that many people use when describing the suburbs. The economy is driven by key urban areas; a different geography is required.

For those of us who like maps, they have a great interactive map that looks at patent activity, income and population growth throughout the country starting from 1860:
So we share this with you not because it specifically cites anything in regards to the Sloop, but provides an interesting take on macro trends potentially coming out of the current crash.

It's going to be a cold and snowy weekend...turn up the heat and enjoy some good and interesting reading!

Local Scandals and the 2016 Bid

Whenever something controversial happens in Chicago these days, people are quick to question the effects it will have on the cities Olympic bid. Whether it's Blagojevich's recent exploits, the CTA's budget issues or a man dying at the Chicago Marathon two years ago cynics are quick to pounce on these issues.

The Chicago Tribune has a great opinion piece today putting these local 'controversies' in context as compared to other Olympic scandals:
If the International Olympic Committee can see fit to have the Summer Games take place in Germany while Adolf Hitler is dictator, it's hard to believe the latest Illinois gubernatorial dust-up registers on its radar screen.

The Nazis had risen to power in 1931, when the event was awarded to Germany, and subsequent years leading to 1936 saw Hitler illegally—and publicly—declare the Treaty of Versailles void, books burned, anti-Jewish laws codified, Dachau opened, and, just for good measure, the Rhineland invaded by his troops and reclaimed.
The article goes on to cite additional examples where major global controversies accompanied the Olympics in Moscow, Motreal, Seoul and most recently Beijing.

Although we don't want you to think we're minimizing the importance of our local scandals, in all honesty they're probably not big enough (from a global standpoint) to influence the Olympic bidding process. I wonder how many IOC members even know who Blagojevich is?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

CTA Bus Tracker Amazes

The CTA gets a lot of bad press and some of it's warranted, but in our opinion it's usually not. So when they do something right, we feel it's our job to applaud. The CTA Bus Tracker deserves this recognition and praise.

One of our oldest gripes with public transportation is the unreliability of their so called 'schedules'. In the past trains were the most reliable since they operate on tracks solely devoted for their purpose. Bus schedules obviously depend on traffic and as most Chicagoans know...good luck figuring that conundrum out.

However, the new bus tracker system helps to alleviate this problem. The system has been rolled out slowly, starting with a couple test routes, but seems to be well received by all parties involved. Recently, many routes that service the South Loop have been added to the system and upon our tests, it's truly a great and useful technology.

Below is the web based version which shows you a variety of features (ranging from the route of each bus, where it is on the route, when it will get to your desired stop, and so on):
So great, that's helpful if you're on a computer at home or at work, but what if you're out and about enjoying the Chi. Don't fret because there is a mobile version which isn't quite as simple or user friendly, but after some practice just as convenient.

Although we've only been using the bus tracker for a couple of weeks, it's honestly improved our commuting experience. You probably don't hear that from CTA commuters very often!

However, one question remains, why can't they do the same thing for the El trains? It seems like it should be easy if they've been able to roll this technology out to hundreds of buses, right?

Regardless, congrats to the CTA for a useful and consumer centric improvement to the system!

Franklin Tap - Deal of the Day at Groupon

We just got word that the popular coupon website, Groupon (, is featuring Franklin Tap (320 S. Franklin) as its deal for Wednesday, February 18th. The deal is a $50 gift certificate for $20. We doubt you can use the gift certificate for golden tee, but think about it this way…you could use the $30 you save to play.

If you’re not familiar with Groupon, it’s based on a fantastic idea…the idea of collective buying power. Since launching in November of last year, Groupon has saved Chicagoan’s over $100K. Moral of the story…they must be doing something right!

Manny’s Deli, one of Sloopin’s favorite places, is one of the many businesses that has taken advantage of Groupon’s popularity:

Manny's Coffee Shop & Deli, a Chicago institution, recently agreed to offer a $15 gift certificate for only $5 through Groupon if at least 35 people signed up for the discount. The offer far exceeded expectations, bringing Manny's a total of 500 customers. "On the date of our feature, Manny's was the talk of the East Bank Club!" says Manny's owner Ken Raskin. "It was a pleasure working with Groupon, and we'll definitely work with them again. The only complaints came from those who didn't visit the site in time to buy their Groupon!"

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Vacant Properties Litter Chicago

Not a phenomenon solely in the South Loop, but this article references Linens-n-Thing leaving southgate market in the South Loop:
Several retailers closed stores last year in Chicago, including Circuit City and Linens 'N Things.

The bedding and home-furnishing retailer closed its flagship Michigan Avenue store and one at Southgate Market shopping mall in the South Loop.

The retailer brought in "a lot of people" to the shopping center at Roosevelt and Canal, said Robert Medina, manager of Visionworks at Southgate. Medina said he's seen fewer people come to the shopping center since the store left a few months ago.

"People are always asking what happened to Linens 'N Things," Medina said. "Business has been smooth, but we are seeing less traffic coming in," he said.

He said other retailers at Southgate are not panicking just yet. But Medina knows that another giant retailer, Office Depot, has announced plans to shut down a few locations, including the one at Southgate.

Federal Funding for the Olympics

Jack G recently directed us to this old but relevant article from the New York Times circa 1999. The article talks about federal spending associated with the Olympics. Obviously this is relevant for us to consider as Chicago's bid for the 2016 games progresses.

From what we've read, the federal government is on tap to pay for the security if the games come to Chicago. This no doubt will be a lot of money given the size of Chicago and awareness of security post 9-11. The story states that the most recent American games in Salt Lake City, the first after 9-11, cost the federal government upwards of $200 million. Compare that with the '96 Atlanta games ($92 million for security) and the '84 Los Angeles games ($68 million) and it's easy to assume that the cost of security for Chicago could potentially be twice as much as the Salt Lake City games.

However, the biggest federal expense might come from new infrastructure projects that are sped up due to the Olympics. Olympic loyalists argue that this would happen eventually, but given the stage the Olympics provide enables these projects to be greenlighted quicker.

Our guess is that long term CTA, Metra and highway projects that are on the table but currently 'unfunded' could fall into this category. We hope so, because right now the current Olympic transportation plan for Chicago is pretty unimpressive.

Café Bionda’s Valentines Day Menu Delivers

Ahhhh….The Hallmark Holiday…a special day, with special meanings created by corporations to make some money. Although we’re not generally down with this concept, we still seem to celebrate it annually. We try to avoid the traps of chocolate and silly stuffed animals and rather focus on the benefits of the holiday…

And by benefits we mean a great dinner. This year we decided to try out the much raved about Café Bionda, located at 1924 S. State street (not to be confused with it’s sister restaurant up in wicker park). As imagined it was packed with various couples and parties enjoying the ‘holiday’.

Upon walking in we were greeted warmly and settled in for a quick pre-dinner ‘valentine’ martini. Like most flavored martinis, half the appeal is the presentation and this one was no exception. Although I’m not a fan of sweet drinks, this was actually pretty good. I personally opted for the house cab which hit the spot.

The seating was cramp, but thankfully that didn’t backfire for us as the people sitting next to us were nice and actually offered some recommendations on appetizers. The atmosphere overall was lively with traditional fixtures, but contemporary art sporadically placed throughout the restaurant.

It was relatively late, so we focused on our main courses which were both on the special Valentines Day menu. The decision: Parmesan Encrusted Chilean Sea Bass and Jumbo Stuffed Tortellini. The sea bass was definitely the highlight as it did a great job of blending flavor with the tenderness typically found with the fish. Although the tortellini was solid, we weren’t as impressed with this dish.

The service was prompt and seemed well educated about the menu. We did suspect that there was some mix-up in the kitchen since the people next to us received their entrees much quicker then we did, but overall it didn’t take away from the experience. With that said, no doubt we will be hitting up Café Bionda again…probably before the next Hallmark Holiday.

Don't trust us...checkout Cafe Bionda reviews on yelp and metromix.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Transportation Plan and the Olympics

Since our main gripe about the 2016 Olympic bid book was about the transportation plan, we didn't want to lose sight of this article in the Chicago Tribune. It looks like they asked experts and bid officials about the specifics of the plan. Of most interest was the part about 'unfunded projects' that potentially could be sped up if Chicago wins the Olympics:
Opportunities for more transportation improvements exist, but officials were not permitted to include them in the Chicago 2016 proposal to the International Olympic Committee released Friday because the projects currently are not funded.

There's no guarantee holding an Olympics will yield buckets of federal money. But the promise of millions of dollars for Chicago-area mass transit emerging in the economic stimulus package, plus a reauthorization of multiyear transportation funding for the nation in the fall, could hardly come together at a better time for a city competing to host an international event.

Add to that synergy a new president who's from Illinois, and urban planners are picturing some projects springing into the construction phase after having been stuck on the drawing board for years.

"We anticipate there will be significant transportation projects that will be accelerated by 10 to 20 years if we were lucky enough to win the games," Arnot said.
We sure hope so!

More Real Estate Stats for Sloopin

Recently we had some correspondence with Lakeshore Analytics about the real estate market in the Sloop. For a .pdf with in depth information about our specific neighborhood check this link out. When we asked them to provide their thoughts on the South Loop's real estate market here is what they said:
1. The neighborhood has very high incomes for Chicago ... over $45,000 per capita, like the fifth highest in Chicago. Neighborhoods with higher incomes have generally more stable households. (Good.)
2. This was one of the hottest neighborhoods in the city for a while, but it didn't experience lurches up or down because of the new construction. The fact that so much was new actually helped smooth things because those sales are all pretty high and developers don't panic-sell the way some existing home owners do. (Good.)
3. Along similar lines, the loan-to-value ratio in the neighborhood averaged 77%, one of the lowest in the city. This is good because people will in general be less susceptible to default if they have more equity. It basically signals a buyer who's got a strong handle on his or her finances. (Good.)
4. The development cycle for a high rise is very long. So when there are signs of trouble somewhere near where I live (northwest side), a developer can call off a condo conversion. You live with your decisions for like a year in the northwest side, but a high rise new construction could take two or three years to complete the development cycle. (This is bad.)
5. The key question marks that I don't have access to are, How many condo's are on the market currently and how many are coming online in 2009? You may have a better idea of that. It could well be there is a long backlog of homes left to be sold and more coming online -- that doesn't necessarily mean lower median prices, but it does portend a difficult time for an existing owner if they want to sell and move. The early evidence is that the number of existing homes sold has been increasing every year -- people are still able to sell their homes -- so I would guess that existing owners have escaped some of the pain so far. (This is mixed.)
Interesting stuff.

For more information on the greater Chicago real estate market check out their website. Also they're providing a $10 discount for Sloopin readers who are interested in purchasing their entire report, The Neighborhood Report 2009 (simply type in "SLOOPIN" when purchasing). Check it out, we found it interesting.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

South Loop is Chicago's Vegas?

Interesting video and bit on about the South Loop:

The South Loop gets a lot attention, but from what we've read it's doing no worse then any other area in Chicago. Obviously it's not a good time to sell given the amount of high rise inventory on the market (especially in the neighborhood), but the video brings up some good points as to why the long-term prospects for the South Loop remain strong (proximity to the center of the city, parks, museums and lakes).

Hackney's Mediocre This Time

After a long night of Flacos Tacos and drinking, we decided to hit up a well respected Printer's Row spot, Hackney's, for a late lunch. We've been once before and enjoyed our meal that time, but the star of that visit was the distinctive beer selection.

This time, beer wasn't on the mind so the food took center stage. After everyone decided on their main entrees, we had second thoughts and put in a quick order for the "Original French Fried Onion" appetizer which amounts to a large loaf of beautifully fried onions strings. Judging by the pace that we took down the mountain of onion rings it's safe to say they were enjoyed.

The main courses got mixed reviews. Two of us got the 'Chicken Avocado Club, which was good but noticeable large and messy. The 'Stuffed California Burger' seemed appealing, but unfortunately didn't live up to the hype of the menu. It was noted that the cheese wasn't as prominent as expected.

Breakfast is usually consumed prior to noon, but given the option one of us opted for the omelet with avocado. Again, solid but not excellent. The final person wasn't particularly hungry and decided on the soup of the day, Clam Chowder, which was probably the best received out of the group.

All in all the food was ok, but not something most of the group would seek out again. Regardless, the atmosphere was nice, the service was relatively prompt and it was a nice place to catch up with some good peeps.

Flaco's Taco's Now Open Late

So Sloopin hit up Flaco’s Taco’s in October of ’08 and although we were all a little intoxicated at the time, it was a big hit and somewhere we knew we wanted to go again.

Fast forward to some random late, drunk Friday night in Wicker Park and man were we hungry. We flag down a cab, head south on 90/94 back to the Sloop when a great thought enters my mind…“I need a burrito, I need Flaco’s Taco’s”. We quickly call an audible to the cabbie and it’s off to Flaco’s. We pull up and to our chagrin it’s closed. Evidently Flaco's isn’t open at 2:35am. Naturally we’re disappointed, especially since this same thing has happened at least twice since this initial incident.

Needless to say, this past Friday presented another opportunity to hit up Flaco’s. Lucky for us it was open when we strolled up to the restaurant this time. We had a large group and although we didn’t take a formal poll, it seemed like everyone was quite happy with the decision. The highlight for me personally was the $3 beer that was on tap. I can’t remember the name, but damn it hit the spot.

The moral of the story is that it now seems that Flaco’s is open late night, which is good or bad depending on what you think. Sloopin’s take…it’s a good thing.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Metra and The Olympic Village Stop Question?

Ok, by our calculations it seems like the bid team intentionally left out the fact that there is a 27th street Metra stop right by the proposed Olympic Village. Why would they do this? We thought it provided them a great opportunity to connect the Olympic Village to the rest of the city with Mass Rail Transit.
From our calculations, there really are not many close CTA stops to the proposed Olympic Village (see chart below). The closest Red Line stop is the Chinatown stop which is approximately 1.5 Miles away. The closest Green Line stop is also about 1.5 miles away. So the CTA really won't be accessible to the Olympic Village.
So this leaves the Metra, which literally stops at the proposed Olympic Village. Let's also not forget that the Metra stops at McCormick Place and 18th street (both places that are either at or very close to proposed venues). So again why would they leave these off their maps? Are they hiding something? It's weird because they put random CTA stops on the map, but leave out major Metra stops that could actually affect the bid.

Not sure the reasoning, but the only logical explanation would be security concerns. Do the Athlete's only use buses? I imagine they do when they're going to venues to practice and compete, but when they're done wouldn't it be good if they could jump on a train and enjoy the real CHICAGO culture!

Just a thought on our part...can you think of any other reasons?

First Take on the 'Final' Chicago Bid

Let's be honest, it's impossible to sort through the 500+ pages of bid information quickly. However, as I thumbed through the plan, the venue portion (volume 2) did impress me. The 'Olympic Waterfront' cluster, which is centered around Grant Park, Museum Campus, McCormick Place and the new proposed Olympic Village, would truly be spectacular and showcase some of the most beautiful areas of our city to the entire world.
However, the biggest disappointment has to be the Transportation plan. Our hope, as well as many other people judging by the comments on this article on, was that the Olympics could serve as a spring board for the City, State and Federal governments to invest and upgrade our decrepit CTA. Anyone living in Chicago knows upgrades are desperately needed!

We were hoping for some new lines (maybe the circle line project) or something connecting the Olympic Village to the rest of the CTA. Amazingly this doesn't exist. I think it goes without saying that the Olympics would bring funding for the CTA, but right now it looks like it would solely be used to upgrade the existing system; which is needed but not the scale we were hoping for.

However, 2016 is a lonnnnnnnng time away! If Chicago gets the Olympics it wouldn't surprise me if the transportation plan changes (remember Chicago and the US are all about CHANGE these days thanks to Obama). I know it would cost a lot to expand the CTA, but we see this as an opportunity Chicago can't pass up.

More Olympic thoughts to come as we continue to read, listen and digest all that is the 2016 Olympic bidding process...

Happy 2016 Olympic Bid Submission Day!

Well technically it was yesterday, but the public finally gets to see all of the cities plans. It's a ton of information and there is no way we will be able to go through it all, however as we see interesting stuff we will try to post it.

So far I've spent the most time on Tokyo's bid. First this city looks amazing. I guess I already knew that, but still always impresses me. Here is a cool picture from the proposed Olympic Village for Tokyo's bid. Pretty cool view of the Tokyo harbor if you ask me:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dead Silence is Awkward...or Brilliant?

Ok, so if you're only here for South Loop stuff, feel free to skip over this post. However, if you're up for some interesting, but awkward TV from yesterday (2/11) check out this rediculous interview of Joaquin Phoenix on Letterman:

From what I've read there is a chance the whole thing is a hoax...if so, well done...

For more 'classic' Letterman interviews check these out.

Mercat a la Planxa Gets Mixed Reviews

We haven't been there yet, but from what we've read reviews are mixed. It looks beautiful and this most recent review from the Chicagoist makes us want to go tomorrow!

Chicago Mass Transit Doesn't Stack Up

A great article and video on Medill's website comparing Chicago's transit system to Madrid's and Tokyo's. Based on the video it's pretty clear that Chicago doesn't stack up to either of these transit systems. Tokyo's system simply looks amazing!

The fact of the matters is that Chicago has the second largest mass transit system in the United States (behind New York). However, compared to many foreign cities it's pretty weak. Hopefully our new president can help change this trend, but Americans love their cars...

Stimulus Bill: Mass Transit Compromises cont.

Yesterday we spoke about some compromises that needed to be hashed out between the House and Senate in regards to Mass Transit funding. Greg Hinz at Crain's has a new post about rumors on what happened and how this will affect the Chicagoland area. Unfortunately, it sounds like the CTA and Metra won't get as much as they were asking for. Ditto for O'Hare.

According to the article the big surprises were funds allocated to High Speed Rail development and Amtrack:
The one local winner in the last-minute bargaining appears to be Amtrak.

It will get $850 million for capital grants and $450 million for security upgrades, a portion of which will end up here.

But the big money was a surprise $8 billion added for development of high-speed rail.

While President Barack Obama says the bill will contain no earmarks, word out of Washington is that Mr. Reid is in line to get that much of that money for a high-speed line from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. If so, it will be particularly interesting to see what Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin -- Reid's number two and big advocate of Midwest high-speed rail -- has to say about it.

Mr. Reid is up for re-election next year, and is facing an uphill battle to retain his seat. According to Nevada media, he last summer secured $45 million in federal funds for preliminary environmental work on teh proposed $12-billlion magnetic levitation (maglev) line.

So we will see what develops with that battle, but in the mean time here is a map detailing what the Midwest high speed rail network could look like (realize some tracks already exist, it would just be improving them to accommodate higher speed trains, among other things):

Chicago the Favorite?

According to this article by BBC Sport, Chicago is the current favorite for the 2016 Olympics:

Chicago: 11/10 odds
Madrid: 15/2 odds
Rio: 5/2 odds
Tokyo: 3/1 odds

The article also does a great job of quickly summing up each bids premise, pros and cons. They also have audio interviews with representatives of each bid talking about their respective games.

Yesterday I mentioned that Tokyo and Chicago have very similar bids in regards to 'Compactness'. One thing this article points out is that Chicago's bid is compact but also at the center of the city (which according to the interview is unique for a bid). Tokyo's bid is also compact but isn't in the heart of the city. It's in a run down, industrial portion of Tokyo that would be part of an urban revitalization (very similar to what London is doing for their games in 2012).

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Stimulus Bill: Mass Transit Compromises?

Interesting post on the CTA tattler talking about the mass transit portion of the proposed Stimulus bill. The House and Senate seem to be on different sides of the table on this issue. Take a look at this chart:
We're pulling for the Senate's version. More funds need to go to high-speed rail and mass transit! Poke around the Midwest High Speed Rail Association website for more info on some proposals (hat tip: Jack Gable).

Lots of Olympic Information Floating Around

It's a big week for the 2016 Bid Cities! The final bid books are due to the IOC this Friday, February 13th. With that said, there are a lot of articles talking about each cities respective bids. So here are a couple links and our take on each one:

Chicago, Tokyo, Madrid and Rio in race for the 2016 Olympics - The Times UK
Claims Chicago is the front-runner (which is being said in many other articles). Mentions Barack Obama as a big wild card and goes on to say:
Olympic insiders say the new American president need only show up for the IOC vote in Copenhagen in October and Chicago will sweep aside rivals Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro.
If that's the case, it looks good for Chicago since all indications we've read state that he will be in Denmark, schmoozing with the IOC.

Tokyo aiming to woo 2016 Olympics with vow to use 'green energy'
- Japan Today
The more we read about Tokyo's bid the more it sounds similar to Chicago's. Both tout their compactness and efforts to provide a 'green' and 'sustainable' games. The problem for Chicago...Tokyo's bid seems to do address both attributes better. The problem for Tokyo...the 2008 games were in Beijing. Will the IOC want to go back to an Asian city so quickly?

Let the 'Games' Begin - Forbes
Surprise, surprise, the conservative magazine Forbes warns of the monetary issues associated with putting on the games. The article brings up many issues that are often cited by Olympic cynics. Prime examples are the next two scheduled Olympics in Vancouver (2010) and London (2012) which are both running into big issues as their projected costs skyrocket (mostly due to the current climate of the economy).

"Safest Choice" Madrid 2016 Presents Bid to IOC -
First we've heard this designation, but if it's true it probably is good for Madrid given the current world economy. Main problem for Madrid? The summer games will be in London in 2012. Again, will the IOC want back-to-back summer games in Europe?

Racism could compromise Madrid's bid for Olympics and World Cup
- The Canadian Press
Wow, this is a pretty amazing article. Although we're not naive enough to think racism doesn't occur, it's pretty remarkable how prevalent this article makes it seem in Madrid. Will this seriously jeopardize the bid? We will see...

Support for Chicago Olympics tempered by opposition to using taxes for games
- Chicago Tribune
According to a poll by the Chicago Tribune, it seems as if residents have cooled on the bid a little bit. 64% support the bid, while 28% oppose it. However, 75% say they oppose using tax payer dollars to fund the bid. Given the economy this isn't a surprise. Also, Mayor Daley has also said no tax payer dollars would be used. Will this happen? Our guess is no...we still support the Olympics, however we realize tax payers will probably have to foot a piece of the bill.

Printer's Row Condo Auction!

A sign of the times...Vetro (at 611 S. Wells) is auctioning off it's final 40 units on Saturday, March 7th. If you're in the market for high rise living and a potential deal, I would recommend taking a serious look at this opportunity. Here is a list of the units being auctioned:

Obviously it's an auction and prices will go up, but as I poked around their website most of the floorplans looked sensible and practical. I also imagine there are some great views from this building.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New CTA Entrance on Polk

Good news for Printers Row, the CTA has just opened up a new entrance for the red line Harrison stop.

The new entrance can be found at the intersection of Polk and State (point A on the map below). In our opinion, this is a great sign for the area and especially this developing corridor of the South Loop. Polk street already is a great location and place to visit with it's variety of bars, restaurants, festivals, venues and stores. This new entrance will help funnel people directly into the heart of Printer's Row and we applaud the city on this new improvement.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Buddy Guy's Legends Lives Up to it's Name

When you drive by Buddy Guy's blues mecca it's pretty unassuming. The building isn't in the best shape and it doesn't scream high profile. However, according to this article in the Lake County News-Sun, it has had it's fair share of high profile appearances and concerts:

June 1989:Buddy Guy headlines the Chicago Blues Festival; after his last song, he invites the crowd to his "new home of the blues," Buddy Guy's Legends.
July 1989: Guy celebrates his birthday at the club with guest Stevie Ray Vaughan.
1990:Willie Dixon plays a show at the club.
1992:First Bluesletter is published.
1992: "Damn Right, I've Got the Blues" wins Guy his first Grammy.
1993: First official January shows by Guy, who plays four shows in that residency.
1993: Van Morrison (left) stops in at Legends to jam with Junior Wells after a Civic Opera House gig.
1993:Derek Trucks, 13, plays a show at Legends. (In 2008, he and his wife, Susan Tedeschi, play on Guy's latest album, "Skin Deep.")
May 1994:Guy and G.E. Smith & the "Saturday Night Live" band record "Live: The Real Deal" at Legends.
November 1994: Eric Clapton plays three sold-out shows.
1996:Johnny "Guitar" Watson (right) plays his last Chicago show; just a few weeks later, Watson dies onstage in Japan.
1996: Legends is featured in the karaoke scene (above) in the Julia Roberts movie "My Best Friend's Wedding."
1996: Junior Wells' "Live at Buddy Guy's Legends" is released.
1998:Legends' Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya is one of the Top 10 foods featured at Taste of Chicago.
1999: News comes out that the club will be "closing" after the property is donated to Columbia College; the news resurfaces in 2007. The move is still pending.
2002:Mick Jagger and Ron Wood stop by after a concert to jam.
2003: Legends starts serving lunch during the week. There is live music Monday through Friday from noon until 2 a.m.
May 2003:The club throws a celebration for Delmark Records' 50th anniversary.
2004-08: Legends is the Citysearch audience winner for best blues club.
2005:Guy is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
July 2006:Guy turns 70 with a big party at the club.
January 2007: Vaclav Klaus (right), president of the Czech Republic, checks out a Guy show.
2007: Johnny Winter plays his first show at Legends.
June 2008: B.B. King visits the club for the first time after his Blues Fest gig; he dines on smothered catfish.
Pretty I would have like to see Clapton at this venue in 1994.

Friday, February 6, 2009

560 Pages of Olympics

If you've been following the Olympic Bid process then this news probably isn't surprising, but the Chicago 2016 Olympic Bid Team has officially sent in their final applicant bid book to the IOC.

Although it hasn't been released to the public, we should be able to look at it sometime next week according to team officials. I'm sure it will be 560 pages of fun!

Gigapan Technology - Chicago Style

Checkout this Chicago Tourism website.

Sweet Technology + Iconic Chicago Places = Fun Times

The Real Estate Market: Sloopin

As everyone knows, the real estate market is the great unknown right now. Credit has stopped flowing and as a result not many people are buying. The proposed federal stimulus package is trying to help potential home buyers out by offering them a $15,000 tax credit. Although I would think this would help entice people to get off the sideline and buy a place, unfortunately it's not going to help me since I bought a place last year (However I realize its goal is to help the real estate market and economy in the long run, so hopefully it will help all of us eventually). As my accountant told me when I asked about this proposed tax credit:
I am sorry to say that you're right. In retrospect, you took things into your own hands to personally jump start the Chicago South Loop real estate market without any stimulus benefits.
First off, everyone can thank me for personally taking matters into my own hands! Second of of all, I said 'my accountant' to act special, but who am I kidding it's my uncle. Regardless, it still means that I'm not getting a stimulus tax credit.

However, I did run into this 'median price heat map' chart on According to this chart, the Sloopin area (excluding printers row) had the largest median price % gain over the past 12 months.

This makes me feel special, but something tells me that next year we could be the largest % decrease in the area. Like usual, I'm going to be pessimistic and expect the worst. However, could the South Loop be in a good position to weather the current economic storm? What do you think?

White Elephants at the Olympics

If you have ever watched the Olympics (especially the summer games) you have probably been amazed at the unique and innovative architectural designs that they produce. Two perfect examples of this phenomenon are the Olympic stadiums at the last two summer games in Beijing and Athens.

Although no one would argue that these stadiums are truly remarkable and served as a spectacular site for the Olympics, the question is what happens to these stadiums after the Olympics?

A recent article from Indiana State University begins to address some of the issues. The main point is not only did these structures cost millions to create, but they leave behind gigantic 80,000+ stadiums that often aren't conducive to hosting any other 'lower' profile events. Besides that point, to keep a structure like this pristine involves costly and meticulous maintenance that usually isn't worth the cost.

Smart planning can help alleviate some of these problems. A couple good examples of this are the Atlanta (1996) and LA (1984) Olympics. In Atlanta, their local baseball team, the Braves, got a new home once the Olympics left town. In LA, they actually renovated an existing stadium to accommodate the 1984 Olympics. Today it's the setting for USC football, other various events and a proposed home of an NFL franchise (if one ever returns to LA).

From those two examples it's pretty clear that if you can get a permanent resident for the stadium, you could solve this problem. However, the Chicago 2016 bid proposes a new model to avoid this 'White Elephant' conundrum. Chicago plans to build a temporary Olympic stadium that will eventually be condensed into a 10,000 seat amphitheater for concerts and other events. The idea is that it would produce a venue that's aligned with community needs as opposed to a huge permanent structure that isn't needed (aka a 'white elephant').

Although this approach has garnered praise from a variety of sources (including the president of the IOC), it does pose one problem; The IOC encourages and grades applicant cities on the legacy the games leave behind. Would this approach minimize the Olympic legacy if Chicago is awarded the 2016 games?

We will leave that question for the IOC to ponder, but in the mean time it's refreshing to know that Chicago most likely won't have to deal with a new 'White Elephant' within the city limits.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The India Grill: South Loop

We recently checked out The India Grill at 1112 S. Wabash to see what was cracking at this new joint. We've been by a couple times and it usually looks pretty dead, however on this Saturday night it had a decent crowd.

The menu looks to be your typical Indian fare and I can attest that the Tandori chicken is pretty tender. The prices seems comparable to most Indian restaurants (main courses are $10-20) and the wait staff was attentive and quick. They also have a daily Indian Buffet if that's your sort of thing.

The decor is nice and classy, but definitely nothing extraordinary. The one issue we had was that they have a gigantic neon red sign in the window that casts a weird glow throughout the restaurant.

So to sum it up...standard, good Indian food, but not much to write home about.

Here are the Yelp and Metromix links for additional information and reviews.

Does the Chicago Spire depend on the Olympics?

Although we realize that the Spire isn't technically in Sloopin's jurisdiction, it's probably the best and highest profile gauge on Chicago's real estate market. Two years ago all systems were go. The largest propose building in North America was under construction, a new icon would be added to Chicago's legendary skyline, and surprisingly to some sales at the Spire seemed to be doing well.
However, times changed, the bubble burst and today we're left looking at a gigantic 7 story hole at one of Chicago's most high profile and important pieces of land (at the intersection of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan).

According to a recent article in the New York Times, the Spire is on hold (which is obvious if you drive by the site). Most people probably read the writing between the lines an infer that this project is dead. However, according to Garret Kelleher (the developer) it's not over. At this juncture, Sloopin's going to take a cynical approach and hope we're proved wrong.

In the NYT article one of the most interesting quotes from Mr. Kelleher is his statement about the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid and it's impact on the Spire:
Specifically, Mr. Kelleher is waiting for next fall, when the city will learn whether it will be the site of the 2016 Olympics. “If Chicago lands the Olympics,it will certainly be a boost to the local economy,” Mr. Kelleher said.
Why is this interesting? It seems as if many people in the business world are on the edge of their seats to see what happens with the Olympic bid. As you know, we're all for the Olympics here at Sloopin, but it does raise a red flag when we hear talk like this. What happens if Chicago doesn't get the Olympic bid? Will this loss spell even more deflation in development and business in Chicago?

Conversely, winning the bid would probably help the local economy a lot (which is what Mr. Kelleher is saying). Obviously Chicago would get a lot of free international publicity which would help Mr. Kelleher sell units to across the globe.

So what do you think? Does the Spire need the Olympics to actually get built?

Funding Problems for Tokyo's 2016 Olympic Bid

According to the Manichi Daily News, proposed funding for Tokyo's 2016 Olympic Bid has encountered opposition within their government. Although this doesn't mean Tokyo is eliminated, it's not a good sign especially since the final bid books are due to the IOC next week.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Security and the Olympics

One of the biggest costs for an American city (or any city) hosting the Olympics is security. Security for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics cost over $300M. If Chicago ends up winning the 2016 Olympics, our guess is that the security line item on the budget will be a record.

This article on Medill's website begins to address the concerns, costs, and preparations that are going on in case Chicago wins.

I've been to a fair number of large scale events around Grant Park and for the most part the City of Chicago does a pretty good job in my opinion. The best and most recent example of this prowess was the November 4th Election Night rally for Obama.

The city is rightfully touting it's ability with the Obama example, but still the Olympics are larger, longer, and of more interest to the entire world. Which also means it can be a bigger target for the crazies out there.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Will the U.S.' Olympic and World Cup bids affect each other?

My guess is no, especially since the Olympics (2016) would happen before the world cup (2018 or 2022). This blog entry on the Chicago Tribune points out some interesting examples of cities to host both events within a short span:
Mexico hosted the 1968 Summer Olympics and the 1970 World Cup, West Germany hosted the 1972 Summer Olympics and the 1974 World Cup and the United States hosted the 1994 World Cup and the 1996 Summer Olympics. Also, Brazil is hosting the 2014 World Cup and is currently in the running for the 2016 Olympics. England is hosting the 2012 Summer Olympics and is a contender for the 2018 World Cup.
As you can see above, the World Cup always followed the Olympics. My question to everyone is whether Brazil hosting the 2014 World Cup will affect Rio's chances of landing the 2016 Olympics?

Do the egomaniacs at the IOC really feel comfortable about their precious Summer Olympics following the World Cup? My guess is no, what do you think?

1720 S. Michigan

Although the real estate market is down, it's still fun to look at some of the properties around the sloop. With that said, check out this 2bed/2bath at 1720 S. Michigan. From what it looks like, it's listed at $340,000 for 1,134 sq. feet. If a highrise is your thing, then this could be yous...

Monday, February 2, 2009

Jones College Prep: New School on Hold

According to a new article in the Chicago Journal, Jones College Prep's new addition/school is temporarily on hold due to the leadership changes within the Chicago Public Schools (school chief Arne Duncan has been tapped by Obama to head the federal Department of Education).

Regardless of the fate of the new building, it sounds like the debate on whether to allow local kids to attend (without testing into the school) will rage on. Stay tuned.