Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Music Headliners Announced for 09 Taste of Chicago

Greg Knot of the Chicago Tribune is reporting that the following musicians and groups will headline the annual Taste of Chicago starting on June 27th:
Ne-Yo, Buddy Guy, Counting Crows and the Wallflowers are among the headliners scheduled for the Taste of Chicago main stage this summer, the city confirmed Monday.
Although none of these acts have the appeal of last years headliner Stevie Wonder, it's a decent group. Remember, the idea is to appeal to a large and diverse audience since the Taste draws a ton of different people.

If you don't know the headliners, here are some popular youtube videos of the headliners performing live. Out of the group, we're most excited to see Chicago's own Buddy Guy performing the cities 'unofficial' anthem, enjoy!

Romney Talks Obama & Chicago 2016

2008 Republican Presidential Candidate, Mitt Romney was in Chicago for a fundraiser today and commented on Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics. Before running for president, Romney was influential in helping secure the Winter Olympics for Salt Lake City in 2002. In this article he talks about President Obama's influence:
“If President Obama is actively involved in recruiting IOC (International Olympic Committee) members, particularly from the non-committed nations, that will make a big difference.”
This isn't new news really, but regardless we wanted to put Mitt Romney on Sloopin. In all seriousness, it could come down to Obama and how active he is in lobbying for Chicago 2016.

Chicago is Leading, Chicago is Losing, Chicago is....
In other Olympic news (and there is a lot this week), two different news sources are claiming completely different things about Chicago's bid. Reuters is stating that "Chicago may lead" the race to host the 2016 games. On the opposite end of the spectrum, this article on the Global Post website poses the question "Is Chicago's Star is Falling?" The moral of the story is that everything in the media is going to be complete speculation until the IOC votes in October. However, this will continue to get attention until that date comes.

All 13 Ickes Buildings to be Demolished?

The Chi Town Daily News has more info on the proposed demolition of the Harold Ickes buildings that we mentioned a couple of days ago. The most surprising part of the article is the end:
"It's unfortunate that there's not a lot of tenants organizing in the area, but there's just so few people left," says Villinski (a lawyer for the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago).

Villinski says she and many others were surprised by the move to demolish, but doesn't know what, if anything, residents can do to halt demolition or get answers.

"It's like a train that can't be stopped now that it's gotten going," says Villinski.

And that train may be moving faster than CHA is telling anyone just yet. Although the agency recently submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to raze just six buildings, the application contains a letter, dated Dec. 12, 2008, from Mayor Daley to CHA CEO Lewis Jordan, expressing his approval for demolishing all 13 buildings on Ickes' property.
Previous reports said that 6 of the 13 buildings would be demolished, but it sounds like the conductor of the train, Mayor Daley, approved all 13.

IOC Officials Getting the VIP Treatment from Chicago 2016

It goes without saying that the small group of IOC officials that are set to arrive in Chicago this Thursday to review the city's Olympic plan are in for a treat. The AP (among other sources) has an article today talking about some of the steps the city is taking to wow the officials.

Whether it's getting a sneak preview of the new modern wing at the art institute or simply having Chicago's business world bow down to you, we imagine these officials will see the best that Chicago has to offer across the board.

Besides giving them the VIP treatment, the 2016 bid team will obviously be detailing Chicago's plans for the games as well. If we could be a fly on the wall for one portion of the visit it would be to hear what the bid team will say about transportation improvements. In the bid book that was released in February many observers and media outlets pointed out the lack of 'improvements' to the CTA and Metra systems.

However, more recently Governor Quinn and Senator Durbin have made mention of the cities often dreamed about 'circle line' that they both say would play a key role in the 2016 Olympic games. There seems to be a disconnect between what the bid team is saying and what our government officials are saying. With that said, we're curious what the IOC officials are going to hear about this issue this week. To be honest, our guess is that it won't be addressed publicly, but we're pretty sure there will be talk about improvements that are 'planned'.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Roosevelt University Set to Open New Housing

Last week the Sun-times reported that Roosevelt University 'has filed a zoning application to build an academic and student center' at 421-25 S. Wabash. Essentially they're building another dorm that will also have some student services such as labs and class rooms.

This follows the article that we pointed out two weeks ago from the Chicago Tribune that dubbed the area 'Loop U'.

For many sloopers this expansion doesn't come as a surprise and from our perspective is a great thing for the neighborhood (again like we mentioned in the old post).

Of particular interest in the Sun-Times article is the reasons cited as to why the university seeks this expansion:

"What's driving this is that Roosevelt has grown by 50 percent in the last six years -- from 3,400 full-time students to 5,100. Projections are we will sustain that growth. We'll move right in filled to capacity. We need more of everything," said Roosevelt University President Chuck Middleton.

Noting that the Loop has the nation's largest concentration of college students, Middleton said, "This project will contribute to the continued growth of that phenomenon. The presence of all these students and faculty adds to the vitality of the downtown core."

The largest concentration of college students? We're a little skeptical of that statement, but hope it's true.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

More Info on Demolition of Ickes Buildings

As we stated a couple of weeks ago, the city announced that six of the Harold Ickes buildings in the South Loop will be demolished as part of the projects being funded by the federal stimulus package.

Since we know there are some readers who have asked about these buildings, we wanted to point you to a recent article in the Chicago Journal about the demolition as well as some reaction about the decision. Also in the article is a statement from the CHA (Chicago Housing Authority) about the buildings:
"Six of these buildings (Harold Ickes Buildings) are scheduled for demolition in the near future to remove what could become a haven for illegal activity. These highly dilapidated structures, a high vacancy rate and unsafe conditions make the consolidation and demolition of the buildings necessary."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

New Development Round Up

It looks like our friends at YoChicago ventured down to the South Loop recently and as a result have updates on various new construction/development projects. Here are links to each post:

Howie's Breakfast: No Frills, No Gimmicks, but Solid

Today we went to Howie's (1310 S. Wabash) for breakfast and had a solid experience. The place is the epitome of a good, but basic local spot. You're not paying for fancy, cute or trendy decor, you're simply paying for good food.

Although we went for breakfast, you can get anything on the menu, anytime of the day. Most of us went with standard breakfast fare of eggs, sausage, hashbrowns and pancakes, but one weirdo in the group decided it would be a good idea to get a caesar salad for breakfast. Regardless, everyone agreed that the food was good, but pretty standard (including the salad).

However, you can't beat the price in the area. Bongo Room and Yolk tend to overshadow Howie's in the eyes of the South Loop breakfast/brunch crowd, but those places are usually very busy and more expensive. If you want a quick and simple but basic breakfast, check out Howie's.

Friday, March 27, 2009

How Fast Things Can Change in the World of the Olympics

Just four days ago we pointed out that things seemed to be going in the wrong direction for Chicago's Olympic bid. But just like that, some of the biggest issues facing the bid seemed to have been dispelled by IOC president Jacques Rogges, who naturally is the most important and influential person within the organization.

Coming out of this weeks Sportaccord in Denver, multiple sources are confirming that the IOC and USOC have found a solution to the revenue sharing issue. This is great news for Chicago as it seems to remove the cloud that was said to be hanging over its bid.

Additionally another issue dogging Chicago's bid was addressed:
Rogge said Chicago's limited government financial guarantees would by no means be a deal-killer for its bid.

"What we definitely want is a guarantee, but the form of the guarantee is not an issue. The bottom line is there has to be a strong guarantee, and I'm quite sure Chicago is able to deliver."
What does this mean? Well, it appears that the USOC and IOC are on better terms then they were a week ago. Many in the media (including this blog) were making a big deal about the fact that the USOC leadership was changing. Evidently we were wrong, which again is good news for Chicago's bid.

Grading the 2016 Candidate City Presentations from Sportaccord
Around the Rings, a website that follows Olympic news, has a great recap and analysis of the presentations made by each 2016 candidate city. Chicago and Rio had the highest grades according to them (however all the grades seem pretty high):
  • Rio De Janeiro: A
  • Chicago: A-
  • Madrid: B+
  • Tokyo: B

Police Union to Protest During IOC Visit Next Week
The Sun-Times and other media sources are reporting that the police union will picket during the IOC visit to Chicago next week. We imagine Da Mayor won't be very happy about this one...

More Info on the 'New Club' Opening in the Sloop

A couple of weeks ago we mentioned that we heard a rumor about a new club opening up around 21st street and Wabash. Today we found out that this club is coming from Mark Klemen, the guy who brought the Funky Buddha Lounge to the West Loop. According to our source it will also have national music acts from time to time, so our guess is that it's a pretty big space.

Clubs aren't necessarily our thing, but if it's anything like the Funky Buddha, we welcome it!

(hat tip: LR)

Rio's Passionate Presentation for the 2016 Games

We've been following the events at this weeks Sportaccord in Denver and yesterday each 2016 Olympic candidate city had its chance to make its case to the IOC delegation on hand. Although there will be bigger platforms for each city to strut its stuff (like the IOC's visit to Chicago next week), this was seen as a big opportunity.

From this article on Gamesbid.com, Rio seems to have made a big, passionate impression with the attendees:
Rio 2016 President Carlos Nuzman made an emphatic plea for the IOC to send the Games to South America for the very first time while showing a map of past Olympic cities scattered across the rest of the globe. The delegates erupted in applause unlike any other during all four presentations.
As we've stated before, this is the main reason we think Rio is Chicago's biggest competition for the games.

In other Olympic news from Sportaccord, it sounds like the USOC and IOC have made some progress in terms of their revenue sharing dispute. As you might remember, this has been a sore subject between the two parties because many on the international side feel as if the US is getting too much money. Although both parties claim that this dispute wont affect Chicago's bid, most people feel as if it's a big cloud ready to rain on Chicago's potential parade.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Room 21 Morphs into Via Ventuno

As we mentioned a couple of weeks ago Room 21 is closed.

Instead a new restaurant by Jerry Kleiner called Via Ventuno opened this past Tuesday and focuses on regional Italian cuisine. The name of the restaurant literally translates to "Street 21" in Italian.

It's a beautiful space, hopefully the food lives up to the decor.

(hat tip to James, thanks!)

Olympic Round-Up

A lot of news going on in the world of the Olympic 2016 race and probably the biggest news today is word that the Chicago Police Union might picket during the IOC's visit to Chicago next week. The popular blog Second City Cop thinks that they shouldn't just picket one day but during the entire IOC visit:
Why one day of pickets? Why not a few days worth? Why not a bus on standby for the "grand tour" and drive ahead of the IOC entourage to conduct "informational pickets" at each and every whistle-stop the convoy makes?
This is just one of many groups that is using the Olympic stage to force the city and bid leaders to insure that their interests are being considered. The Sun-Times also has a story today about an agreement with the city that will guarantee that 30% of Olympic construction projects go to women or minority owned businesses.

Two other stories that are of slightly more favorable for the Chicago 2016 bid is an 'Olympic insider' who told the Denver Post that Chicago has the edge on its competitors and an interview with NBC's Dick Ebersol at this weeks international Sportaccord in Denver.

Ebersol tackled a lot of different issues, but one that's seen as an advantage for Chicago is the fact that it's in the US and would bring the most revenue for the Olympic movement:
Ebersol said that of course U.S. broadcasters want Chicago to win, but each of the cities bidding for the 2016 Games has value.
Sounds like a diplomatic thing to say, but the underlying statement is that they want Chicago to win.

"Agora" Interesting and Unique, but Weird and Eerie

We highly recommend that you check out a great new blog called The Windy Pixel. We spent an exorbitant amount of time captivated by their unique images and commentary on the city. Of particular interest is the shot above taken at the corner of Roosevelt and Michigan in our hood. Their take on the project is spot on and we imagine many people feel the same way:

Magdalena Abakanowicz, a Polish sculptor, brought “Agora” to Grant Park in 2006. The permanent project is located on the south end of Grant Park, near the Roosevelt Metra station. I have had mixed feelings on Agora. On the one hand, I think it’s a very interesting piece of public art and the way it was designed really does make you feel crowded or claustrophobic. On the other hand, seeing about 100 cast iron legs is kind of creepy. And they now have signs up prohibiting dogs from peeing on the statues - apparently it can cause quite a rusting problem. Maybe the dogs are creeped out the “legs”, too.

Despite my mixed feelings on this particular piece, I adore public art and I am thankful that Chicago is brimming with it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Shrimp Bandit Hits South Loop Whole Foods

We probably would have opted for Tuna Steaks, but whatever floats your boat:
A 42-year-old man has been charged with stealing over $200 dollars worth of shrimp from a South Loop Whole Foods grocery store.

Paul Harding, out on parole for retail theft, grabbed several bags of the seafood from the store at 1101 S. Canal Street, and placed them in double bags Monday afternoon, authorities said.

He then walked past the last available register without paying the $203.44 he owed, according to Chicago police spokeswoman Laura Kubiak.

Parking Meters Annoying, but Could Be Beneficial Long Term

There has been a lot of discussion and coverage about the city's sale of our parking meters to a private corporation for $1.2 billion. The effects of this are starting to boil over and people are angry. A fellow Slooper and host of the blog American Crow recently reached out to us about some correspondence with 3rd ward Alderman, Pat Dowell about the parking issues. They bring up some valid and important issues that need to be addressed.

Carol Marin, a blogger for the Chicago Sun-Times also weighs in on the issue:
A teacher who lives in the South Loop along Printer's Row wrote, "Now I have to wake up at 7:30 on Sunday so that I can move my car. Many of the businesses in my area are not even open on Sundays. My street is like a ghost town. It's lost its vibrancy. . . . "
The Printer's Row teacher brings up a valid point about the neighborhoods loss of vibrancy. We assume the teacher is implying that the parking meters are deterring people from parking and coming to the neighborhood. If that's the case it would be interesting to hear about how businesses are coping with this lack of 'traffic'.

However, there is a silver lining in our opinion, but we need to think long term.

By increasing the cost to use parking meters it inherently will force people to weigh the benefits of driving downtown. Hopefully it will deter people from this action which in turn could ease congestion and possibly encourage them to use other forms of transportation (CTA, Metra, Bikes, walking). As we heard throughout the presidential campaign, we need to ween people off their dependency of cars and foreign oil.

This brings to mind an old theory about a "gas tax" that would encourage US consumers to be less dependant on gas and cars. Thomas Friedman, the renowned NYT columnist, is a big proponent of this theory and discussed it in this column from 2005:
...with a higher gasoline tax locked in for good, pump prices would never be going back to the old days, adds Mr. Verleger, so they (US consumers) would have a much stronger incentive to switch to more fuel-efficient vehicles and Detroit would have had to make more hybrids to survive. This would have put Detroit five years ahead of where it is now.
Another similar theory or concept that has been considered in Chicago is a congestion tax for drivers entering the loop or business district during peak times. London has had this scheme in place since 2003 and overall the impact has been successful (depending on who you ask).

All three of these controversial theories or actions (higher cost to use parking meters, a gas tax or a congestion tax) have one thing in common and that is the ability to make people reconsider their transportation choices. It will affect some of us more then others, but gradually we will adapt and at the end of the day, we think that's a good thing.

Would love to hear your thoughts as it's obviously a controversial subject. What do you think?

Chicago 2016 Prepares For a Crucial Week

The Tribune has an article today talking about preparations and the schedule for next weeks important visit from 16 IOC officials to evaluate Chicago's bid. There is going to be a ton of news on the Olympics and like usual we will do our best to weed through the stories and pick out what's important or interesting to the South Loop.

According to the article one of the major selling points will be our lakefront as well as the South Loop's museum campus:
Chicago organizers hope to dazzle IOC evaluators with the city's storied lakefront. Chicago 2016 board member Bob Berland noted that visitors to the Games could walk from sporting events to museums along the lakefront, "just steps away. ... That's unprecedented."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"Spectacular" Movie Theater for the South Loop

It seems like we've been talking about the Roosevelt Collection a lot recently, but needless to say we're excited about some of the amenities the complex will bring to the neighborhood. The movie theater is by far the most interesting thing to us and today we found this little tidbit from a random film website:
Coming up at the end of the year is what DeBruzzi calls the “exclamation point” of the Chicago effort, a “spectacular” new theatre at the Roosevelt Collection, a mixed-use retail and condo development in the fast-growing South Loop area. Both this project and an upcoming complex in Minneapolis are, according to Dean Kerasotes, “in a different class than we’ve done before, with reserved and VIP seating, more luxurious ambiance, full-service bars and a restaurant component.”
Hopefully he's not overselling!

Vetro Auction Sets New Highrise Condo Prices?

Back in February we mentioned a high rise in Printer's Row (Vetro) that was auctioning off some of its remaining units. Well the auction has come and gone and has now sparked some debate on how this affects other housing (mainly high rises) in the South Loop, Loop and West Loop:
"The market is speaking. The market has adjusted," said Millie Rosenbloom, a broker associate with Baird & Warner who is heading Vetro's sales and market efforts. "What we tried to do here is figure out what people are willing to pay in a declining market. It was our choice to accept that but other developers don't have to accept that. We got less than we wanted to, there's no question."
The article goes on to state that other high rises in the area claim to be holding prices and not adjusting based on this auction.

Olympic Date: Chicago 2016 Hopes to Rendezvous With Obama in Copenhagen

President Obama and Chicago's 2016 Olympic Bid are inextricably linked for better or worse. Judging by his worldwide popularity, intelligence, charisma and charm many people feel as if he's going to make the biggest impact on whether or not Chicago wins the bid.

Today, this topic is buzzing around the interwebs as it's a potential game changing factor in the race to host the Olympic bid. The website Around the Rings states:
Bid chairman Patrick G. Ryan (of Chicago 2016) said he can't guarantee an Obama appearance if "something really critical comes up." He told Around the Rings, "Our belief is that he has been so supportive of the bid that he would want to be there, but he can't commit."

Would Chicago be at a disadvantage if Obama doesn't show?

"I don't want to speculate on that," Ryan told reporters at Sportaccord, "because if there's no catastrophe, I think he'll be there."
We think that's a fair statement given Obama's responsibilities and our country's current recession. Our bet is that the president will be in Copenhagen for the vote, but the uncertainty builds anticipation and ultimately could mean the difference for Chicago 2016.

If he comes, it will REALLY help Chicago's bid...if he doesn't would the disappointment ultimately spell doom for the bid?

We will let you know in October.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mayor Daley Plans the Olympics

If you come here often you know we support Chicago's Olympic Bid, however we like to think we have a sense of humor as well. The Blog, Daily Daley, drew up an amusizing cartoon titled "Mayor Daley Plans the Olympics":
You can check out a bigger version here.

South Loop Review: Gyms & Fitness Clubs: XSport

It’s time to finally add a post about the newest gym in the South Loop, XSport (at 819 S. State Street). This brand spanking new gym opened up last winter and truly is gigantic. It encompasses three floors with the main workout area located on the second.

The first floor is on the street level and the entrance is on State street. On the first floor is a juice bar, computers, retail area and seating. Probably the most noticeable thing when you walk in is the gigantic rock climbing wall that the sales staff claims is the tallest in Illinois.

Downstairs are locker rooms, child care, an entrance to a full basketball court and the base of the rock climbing wall (which goes all the way up to the third floor). There is also a 4 lane lap pool and a cascading hot tub that looked like a grotto to us (however there are usually no attractive women in it).

The second floor is the main workout area and it’s massive. About half the floor is comprised of cardio machines and the other half is weights. It seems like they have every machine you could possibly want and everything is brand new. Every cardio machine has a TV screen that has about 30 channels. The third floor also has two “workout class rooms” and given the gyms size it seems like they should have a couple more. Also included is a spa with tanning, waxing, massages and even a hair salon.

However, all is not perfect as XSport. During the weeknights the gym was packed! There are usually enough machines, but if you have a strict routine you will have to be patient. The weekends are much more low key and usually less crowded. One of our other pet peeves is the amount of useless flat screen TVs on the walls. Although we concede that some our nice, most are useless and just plain stupid (they have pyramids of flat screen TVs mounted on the wall for some reason).

The crowd is probably the most diverse out of all the gyms we went to in the South Loop. There are college students, professionals, parents and retirees off every nationality. The price point at XSport is $35 a month which is relatively cheap for the quality and quantity of amenities you get at this gym. However, this obviously attracts a lot of people and as a result the gym is always crowded during the peak times.

So there it is…a beautiful brand new gym with tons of machines and amenities. However, if you’re sensitive about working out in a crowded place or don’t like busy a busy gym we suggest you stay away, it probably is only going to get busier.

Roosevelt Collection to Open Model Units in June

As we mentioned recently, Roosevelt Collection (150 W. Roosevelt) is progressing nicely. Yochicago has some updates today and according to them prices are staying relatively stable.

Two other tidbits of interest from their post:

The new intersection of Roosevelt Road and Wells Street should open in May or June.

The one thing on which Forman (a representative from Roosevelt Collection) wouldn't speculate is when Roosevelt Collection's first stores and restaurants would open for business. Plans call for 50 retail spaces comprising more than than 400,000 square feet of commercial space. A movie theater is set to anchor that space, but I don't recall seeing any new announcements for other tenants lately.

We also went by the site this weekend and here are some pictures:

Comments on Sloopin

Dear Sloopers,

We truly appreciate your comments and relish the opportunity to engage with our readers. Our main goal is to provide updates, opinions and relevant information and one of the main ways we do this is by communicating with readers.

However, today we had a couple of people post some comments that had to be moderated. Please keep the discourse on Sloopin civil and respectful. Avoid using hateful comments that insight fear and either claim or allude to unlawful actions. If we deem that your comments step over this line we will erase them accordingly.

Best Regards,

Lolla Adds Two Headliners: Tool & The Killers

Greg Kot at the Tribune is reporting that Lollapalooza has added two additional headliners to it's set list scheduled for August. To be honest neither got us too excited, but when you have 170+ bands it's impossible to like them all. Tool, which came to fame in the 90's, is a Grammy award winning band known for their "style-transcending act and part of progressive rock and art rock".

The Killers, in our opinion, are a tough band to figure out. Our experience with them is very hit or miss; One second we're singing along the next we're quickly looking the other way. Regardless, their unique style and showmanship should yield a interesting if not good live show. Here is one of their more "popular" songs, When You Were Young:

Did we mention this song was in Guitar Hero? Maybe that's why we like it...

The Decemberists are also rumored to participating in this years Lolla festivities.

Proposed Chinatown Hotel is Beautiful, but has it Stalled?

Last week a reader tipped us on a beautiful Chinatown hotel development called the Grand Imperial Hotel that was planned for the corner of Clark and Archer (which is toward the northeast portion of Chinatown). Here is a old video on the project:

As you can see it's a beautiful, ornate plan that would have been a unique and welcomed addition to the neighborhood. However, as far as we can tell this project has stalled. The developer, See Y. Wong, also has a building planned at 1327 S. Wabash that technically broke ground last summer but has been dormant for months now. As a result we're guessing that both projects have fallen onto hard times (big surprise, right???).

Will the Grand Imperial Hotel rise? We will have to simply wait and see...

Sloopin's Olympic Poll Mixed

Thanks to all of you who weighed in on the poll. In our opinion, if Chicago wins the right to host the Olympics there is a good chance all three of these things will happen.

Obviously, we're partial to the South Loop, but feel as if Chicago will benefit as well. However, we're not naive enough to think that corruption wouldn't take place, after all this is Chicago...

From First to Last for Chicago 2016

Bad news became worse for Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid as the most recent rankings from gamesbid.com has Chicago in last place out of the final four cities that are vying to host the 2016 Olympics:
Previously Chicago was in first place, but has fallen in the most recent ranking due to uncertainty at the USOC, questions about its reliance on corporate sponsorships and lack of federal funding.

However, the US Senate looks to have approved $250 million to back Chicago's bid in case of funding issues. Although this isn't a blank check like many of Chicago's competitors, it should help temper fears about funding.

Chicago's bid team will also have some opportunities to address these problems with two upcoming events. First, the bid team will pitch their Olympic plan this week at the SportAccord in Denver. Then in early April, IOC bid officials will be in Chicago to examine proposed 2016 sites and get more information about the bid.

Sometimes not being the favorite is a good thing...however being in last can't be good.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Obama's Special Olympic Comment Could Affect Chicago 2016

This week President Obama appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno for a unique interview which unfortunately produced a so called gaffe about the Special Olympics:

As we watched this segment, we didn't even notice Obama's zinger, but thanks to the main stream media it seemed as if it was plastered all over the place the next day.

Today, two articles take it a step further and talk about how this comment could effect the Chicago 2016 Olympics (Around the Rings and Chicago Examiner). As we know, Chicago 2016 has pinned much of its bid on the celebrity and popularity of Obama. When one of your main spokespeople directly or in this case indirectly insults a major constituency naturally things could backfire. During the Tonight Show gaffe Obama offended the Special Olympics and at the end of the day they will have a voice in which city is chosen to host the Olympics. Will this sway the vote? Doubtful, but again it can't help...or can it...

Ironically, all this press has given the Special Olympics a platform to talk about their organization and goals. As the old advertising mantra goes: There is no such thing as bad press.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

We recently read an article on the Chicago Journal website profiling Dave Gupta's restaurant called Chef Luciano (at Wabash and Cermack). We've driven and walked by the restaurant many times and never once thought to try it, but based on this article we most certainly will be heading there soon. We're literally drooling as we write this post:
He and his staff marinate the chicken for 24 hours in olive oil and garlic, ginger, peppers, paprika and other spices, giving them a bright red appearance in their raw form. The chickens are roasted in deep cast-iron pans in a stand-up oven at 600 degrees. Gupta said he's willing to put his chicken up against anyone's - he proposed a chicken cook-off where each contestant would bet $5,000, with the winner donating the money to charity. "I'm not afraid," he said.
He certainly is confident about his chicken and as a result we figure it must be good.

Friday, March 20, 2009

More Olympic Protests Scheduled for April 2nd

This isn't the first and probably won't be the last protest scheduled to coincide with the IOC's visit to Chicago on April 2nd to formally review the Olympic plan.

We're not sure, how much of an impact these will have on the ultimate decision, but regardless, they are getting a lot of press locally. As we mentioned a couple days ago, the bid seems to be losing support locally based on the coverage we've seen in the news.

Glashaus Goes Bye-Bye? and Other Development Updates

We recently noticed that the sleak and contemporary Glashaus development (planned for 1327 S. Wabash) seems to be closing up shop. The signs above the protective concrete walkway have now been removed and the sales center at 1420 S. Michigan seems to be packing things up. One of many 'sign of the times' indicators in the South Loop.

Also along those lines, Yochicago has a post today about the larger and more high-profile XO development that has also fell on similar hardships during the current recession. Ironically, their signs are still promoting that the development is "The Future of the South Loop". Big promises...unfulfilled.

If XO and Glashaus got you down, don't fret! Two other large, high-profile developments seem to be progressing nicely; Musuem Park West and Roosevelt Collection. This isn't a surprise to us as we see these two developments as uniquely positioned in the South Loop.

First, Museum Park West is a high amenity building that is going to have some of the best views in the city and that's always going to be in demand.

Roosevelt Collection also seems to be uniquely positioned due to it's blend of condos and retail. Although we don't expect the place to be packed with retail out of the gate, it will have some key retail that isn't currently offered in the South Loop (ie bowling alley & movie theaters).

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Circle Line Funding Included in Initial 2010 State Budget

In case you didn't know, our new trusty Governor Pat Quinn recently unveiled his 2010 budget. The document is jammed packed with information, but of particular interest was the $1.5 Billion set aside for state transportation improvements. Although we don't know how much is reserved for the Circle Line, the fact that it's called out is encouraging. Here is what the budget proposal stated:

Preliminary engineering on the Chicago Transit Authority’s planned Circle Line – adding a circumferential loop and connecting all CTA and Metra rail lines in Chicago. Modernizing and replacing Chicago Transit Authority railcars.

There is a ton of back and forth that still needs to go on, but like we said it seems like discussions are progressing...

Priorities? Olympics versus Potholes

The latest outrage circulating about the Olympics is the cities attempt to repair streets and potential areas where IOC officials will visit instead of fixing other 'more needy' streets around the city:

Obviously some of the criticism is warranted (read the 400+ comments on the Tribunes article on the subject), but we really wish people would also consider the potential benefits the city and region would receive if Chicago wins the right to host the Olympics.

In other Olympic news, the Illinois House approved $250M for the Olympics if there are shortfalls with the funding for the games.

Earmarks, Stimulus and the South Loop: Continued

Last week we had a post about the Federal Stimulus hitting home in the South Loop. Along those lines, the Chicago Journal a recent article about some of the additional projects that are being funded by the stimulus plan. Below are 4 projects and where they will happen in the Sloop:

A) $3.28 million to demolish six Harold Ickes Homes
B) $9 million for street infrastructure work on Congress Drive between Wells and Michigan
C) $1.65 million for street infrastructure work on Michigan between Congress and Roosevelt
D) $825,000 for street infrastructure work on Clark between Madison and Congress

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bad News All Around for Chicago 2016

As you know we've been following the Olympics pretty closely and almost everything we've read lately seems to be bad for Chicago's 2016 Bid. Although we're not going to get into a ton of detail on the articles, it simply isn't positive news. The most damaging seems to be an upcoming showdown between the IOC and USOC about revenue-sharing deals. Hopefully both parties can reach an agreement because frankly both rely on each other heavily. If this issue isn't solved it could be the death of Chicago's bid due to the negative feelings that would be harbored by IOC voters.

Other recent negative news include the firing of USOC CEO Jim Scherr and the announcement of various public protests of Chicago's bid when the IOC comes on April 2nd.

Should be a couple of interesting months for Chicago and its 2016 Olympic Bid.

Where to Watch the NCAA Tournament in the South Loop?

It's the eve of our favorite annual sporting event, the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, and as a result it got us thinking, where is the best place to watch the tournament in the South Loop?

After much deliberation, Krolls (18th and Michigan) gets Sloopin's nod as the best place to watch the tournament in the Sloop. The bar and dinning areas within Kroll's are packed with large projector screens and numerous HD flat screens well positioned throughout the place. The booths, large tables and comfortable seating is a perfect place to plop down and camp out for a couple days of buzzer beaters, brackets and beers.
Other Honorable Mention Bars: Weathermark Tavern, Blackies, Wabash Tap

Anyone disagree or have other places they prefer?

'Loop U' Helps the South Loop

The Chicago Tribune had a story today talking about the relatively recent expansion of many downtown college campuses, which they called "Loop U". For those of us in the South Loop (particularly north of Roosevelt) it's impossible not to notice the influx of students around the area:
A sprawling urban campus has taken hold in the Loop and South Loop, with close to 60,000 students from 20 institutions of higher learning inhabiting a slice of downtown Chicago and making a significant economic impact.

"Loop U," as boosters call it, encompasses 1.65 square miles bounded by the Chicago River, Wacker Drive, Roosevelt Road and the Lakefront and includes students from Columbia College Chicago and the Loop campuses of DePaul and Roosevelt Universities. In the last two years, businesses that cater to students have proliferated, especially coffee houses, burger joints and bars.

For real estate developers this must seem like a godsend as well. As it has been well documented, the South Loop (and loop) was one of the fastest growing areas of the city during the boom. As things slowed down, naturally inventory in the South Loop began to sit vacant. Luckily for many developers (and owners), they found a market for renters with these college students. Realize that the demand still hasn't caught up to the supply, but without these 'college student' renters our guess is that the area would be in worse shape.

Although the article also talks about the problems students bring (for example they cite an infuse of cigarette butts), we welcome them with open arms. In our opinion they bring a energetic, artistic and youthful presence to the neighborhood.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Aykroyd Coming to the South Loop

Some know him as Elwood Blues from the Blues Brothers, some know him as a Ghost Buster, but on Friday March 27th you will know him as creator of the premium vodka, Crystal Head Vodka. According to Binny's website:
Away from Hollywood Dan Aykroyd has had a fascination with ghosts, spirits and extraterrestrial life. His pursuit of the supernatural inspired his creation of this super premium vodka called Crystal Head, made with water from a deep aquifer in Newfoundland and sculpted into a glass rendering of a human skull. Hear Aykroyd tell the story and get a signed bottle from the Hollywood star. Free admission.
The event will be held at Binny's (1132 S. Jefferson) on March 27th from 3-5pm. Enjoy!

Anti-Olympic Protest Set for IOC Visit

It looks like the group, No Games Chicago, has organized and gained permits for a April 2nd rally at the Federal Plaza (Dearborn and Adams). They are expecting around 2,000 people.

This coincides with the IOC's (International Olympic Committee's) visit to Chicago to evaluate the cities bid to host the 2016 Olympics. The IOC will make similar visits to other competitors shortly after the visit to Chicago.

$6M Just a "Small Part" of Circle Line Budget

Last week we reported that $6 million was being earmarked for the Circle Line. As many suspected, this obviously wasn't for the actual creation of the new line. Yesterday, Chi-Town Daily news had a story confirming that this was just the first step. They also spoke with a couple CTA representatives:
Carole Brown, the CTA's chairwoman, says the $6 million included in the approved spending bill for the project "is but a small part of the capital budget for the Circle Line."

"The $6 million that were set aside for the Circle Line was to help with some of the alternative analysis that needed to be done, some of the initial engineering," Brown says. "Clearly if the Circle Line proceeds and is one of the new start projects, we'll need a full-funding grant agreement from the federal government to fund the construction costs."

That Time of the Year: Open House Season

It's St. Patty's day and it finally feels like spring is here! With the end of winter hopefully just around the corner, it is usually the time when the real estate market begins to pick-up. Whether or not that actually happens this year is the big question, but one thing seems to be consistent from prior years...open house signs are popping up all throughout the South Loop.

We will do our best to monitor prices, sales and what not, but chime in if you have any insight into the happenings of our market. Many websites have current listings, but we tend to use urbanrealestate.com to monitor the sloops market (however, everyone pretty much has the same sort of capabilities).
Chicago Public Radio also has a good piece today about the current state of the downtown residential real estate market. It touches on the South Loop and gives a good but broad status.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Inside Coliseum Park Condos

A couple days ago we posted an update from YoChicago about Coliseum Park Condos. They've had a recent post also, but here is the accompanying video to give some more images and texture to this development:

Friday, March 13, 2009

Buckingham Fountain Almost Done

For many people who were around in the late 80's, Buckingham Fountain is known as the glorious fountain that erupts prior to Al Bundy sticking his hand down his pants during the intro of the infamous sitcom Married with Children.

To others, it's simply a Chicago icon that many people associate with Summer, Taste of Chicago, Lollapalooza and other lovely 'warm' weather things. This past year it went through it's largest renovation in its 81 year history and the Chicago Tribune has an update on the progress. Thankfully it looks like the phase to replace the loose pink gravel is almost the complete and ready for the warm weather.

Olympic Slogans: A Class in Being Cheesy

Chicago 2016 Olympic Officials announced today a new slogan for the proposed games, 'let friendship shine'. This is a change from the previous slogan of 'stir the soul'. All we can say is 'wow, that's cheesy'.

Chicago's Olympic competitors aren't much better:
  • Rio de Janeiro - Live Your Passion
  • Tokyo - Uniting Our Worlds
  • Madrid - Games with the Human Touch

Thursday, March 12, 2009

One More Recent Restaurant Opening

Yesterday we mentioned two new businesses that recently opened in the neighborhood, but somehow forgot to mention one that was specifically called out by one of our readers (Hat Tip: SM).

Tapas Valencia just opened this past month and is located at 1530 S. State. The restaurant features traditional Spanish Tapas and from what we heard, they were delicious.

Personally the name of the restaurant is ironic since the first place I ever had Tapas was in Valencia, Spain. If Tapas Valenica is anything like the ones I had in Valencia, Spain the restaurant is going to do well.

Coliseum Park Condo Update

Yochicago has a recent post updating some of the developments at Coliseum Park Condos (1440 S. Wabash). If you live in the South Loop you've probably been wondering what the hell is going on with this building. From the sounds of it, luck doesn't seem to be on their side. However, we're a little skeptical that they're completely innocent in the delays.

First off, the building doesn't resemble the prototype images on their website (pictured at the right). As of now there are no steeples and it looks like the roof is flat (maybe these will come later?). Second, we're pretty sure last summer we saw workers striking outside of the construction zone. Third, most of the recent work happens during weird hours (nights and weekends).

There might be an explanation for all of this, but it just seems peculiar to us. In all fairness to these developers, the pictures on YoChicago look great. We will be watching this one closely...

More Love for Guerrilla Gay Bar: South Loop

We found out about this through the power of facebook last week and now Time Out Chicago has some more information.
Money quote:
“This is like faggotpalooza!” That’s not a phrase often heard at Grace O’Malley’s, a South Loop Irish bar where a mostly straight clientele comes to wash down bangers and mash with a pint of Guinness. For the 200 gay men crammed into the saloon on February 13, however, the sentiment, uttered amid the jubilant chaos, couldn’t have been more fitting. The event was the second installment of Guerrilla Gay Bar–South Loop, a free monthly bar night in which gays gather at a traditionally straight watering hole.

Olympic Bid Team Wants More $$$'s from the State

Not a huge story here, but wanted to pass it along since we know a lot of you are following the Olympic developments...the Tribune is reporting that the Olympic Bid is asking for a larger guarantee from the state.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Circle Line is Gonna Cost How Much?

Yes, we're excited for the circle line. We strongly feel that it will benefit everyone in the region (and obviously the Sloop as well). The Daily Herald has some more information about our faithful senator Dick Durbin's earmarks. If you have some time, check out the list, it's pretty expansive. Specific to the Circle line it says:
CTA Circle Line, Chicago. $6,000,000 for new transit service extending from North Riverside Park Mall to Chicago central business district. The Circle Line's goal of connecting existing lines with commuter lines is particularly important to serving the entire region. The Circle Line is a key component of the City's transportation strategy for the 2016 Olympics. It provides improved access to venues throughout the entire Chicago region by greatly facilitating transfer connections between all Metra and CTA rail lines
Ok, before we get too excited, $6 million ain't gonna get the job done. Just for perspective, the new block 37 station is well over $2oo Million and it's not even close to being done.

So what does this mean? It means the circle line is back on the radar of our government officials. The other thing to note is the mention of the Olympics...like we've said, expect big things if Chicago gets the Olympics.

Also, if you have some time and are really interested in the Circle Line, check out this pdf from the city addressing some of the questions from residents. The CTA also has a webpage addressing some of the research and work that has been done on the Circle Line here.

New Businesses Popping Up? A couple...

It's nasty out there and we're not talking about the weather (well today the weather was pretty bad). Anyway, the current economic situation is putting a strain on almost everybody. However, a couple of new businesses have sprung up in the sloop recently:

Elements of Style Boutique is located just north of Roosevelt on Wabash (1130 S. Wabash). According to their website, the focus on 'high-quality women's apparel and accessories'. We haven't had a chance to check it out yet, but plan to soon.

The Art of Modern Dentistry is located at 1339 S. Michigan. Again, we haven't been inside yet, but judging from the finishes we can see through the windows, it looks pretty amazing. Flat screen TVs, exposed brick walls, beautiful finishes and trendy glass work decorate the waiting room, so we can only imagine what the actual rooms look like.

Finally, all of the recently completed high rises on Michigan avenue seem to be having some trouble filling their retail space. The exception seems to be the high rise on the northeast corner of Michigan and 14th (100 E. 14th Street). They now have two of their five retail spaces filled with the recent openings of Art of Modern Dentistry and Homemade Pizza Co. The space between these two businesses is also showing some signs of life as the walls are being painted and carpet is being laid (However we're unsure if this is for a specific business or just basic touch ups to appeal to potential businesses). Regardless, this building seems to be doing better in regards to retail development then any of the others on Michigan Avenue.

To be specific, there seems to be no signs of retail life at Michigan Avenue Tower II (14oo S. Michigan), Marquee (1464 S. Michigan) or 1720 S. Michigan, all of which are high rises that have delivered units this past year. There are numerous other retail vacancies around the South Loop, so when/if the economy turns it will be interesting to watch how these spots develop.

Earmarks, Stimulus and the South Loop

In every walk of life it's almost impossible to escape buzzwords (if we hear twitter once more, we might scream)... and over the past year "earmarks" and "stimulus" have tended to be unavoidable. During the presidential campaign it seemed like every sentence included at least one of them.

Well today we're going to jump on the bandwagon, but only because both of these words are finally hitting home for us at Sloopin.

Today, Chicago Public Radio reported that the recently passed federal Omnibus spending proposal includes an $8 million earmark for the often dreamed about CTA "circle line". According to Dick Durbin's office:
The plan is a key component of the city's strategy for the 2016 Olympics.
However, this 'strategy' wasn't detailed in the 2016 Olympic Bid Book. This isn't a big surprise and we always had a hunch that the federal government would foot the bill for bigger infrastructure improvements if Chicago wins the right to host the Olympics.

Additionally, the CTA Tattler has a recent post talking about Chicago's plans to use their Federal Stimulus money. One of the major "shovel" ready projects looks to be a renovation of the Chinatown-Cermack Red Line station.

So for the Sloop, these two pieces of news are very encouraging. We realize that it's easy to be pessimistic and skeptical when the federal government is talking about hundreds of billions of dollars, but it's always good to see that money actually impact our neighborhood. Like we've suspected and argued before, the Olympic Bid and Obama's push for better public transit are two large public initiatives that could immensely benefit the Sloop!