Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Retail Rumors at Library Tower

A reader writes:
I spoke with the property managers at Library Tower and they said the second retail place is being rented out to something along the lines of Illinois Broadcast School. Small place for a school, but if you go by you can clearly see it is some type of office so this makes sense.
(Hat Tip to AC)

TIF News

The Chicago Journal had a recent article about the always controversial TIF program.  It focused on the Calumet-Cermack TIF fund which serves McCromick Place among other areas in the near south side.

A good read if you like these things!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

News on Roosevelt Collection's Retail

Lost in all the hoopla about the new Kerasotes ICON movie theater is that there is nearly 300,000 square feet of empty retail space at Roosevelt Collection.  It's easy to imagine how this might look eventually, but the reality is that it's weird that the retail portion of the complex won't open until late 2010 or even 2011.  Given the state of the economy it's been rumored that many of the rummored retail occupants have backed out of their leases.  It's hard to know since Centrum Properties, the developer of RC, has been relatively tight lipped about the retail portion of the complex.

Regardless, we wait patiently to hear more about the retail at Roosevelt Collection.  Last week, the Chicago Tribune had a small paragraph about the retail:
Windows in the plaza's storefronts now are covered with colorful vinyl murals, but eventually, said Lisa Balis, senior vice president of retail leasing and marketing, 300,000 square feet worth of retail space will be occupied by a mix of local and national chains. The retailers to include apparel, home furnishings and accessories, health and beauty products, shoes, jewelry, and restaurants are expected to move in by late 2010 and early 2011, she said in a statement.
Again, more vague statements.  It would be great to have all of these types of stores, but if you already have some people lined up, why can't we know?  I guess we will just have to wait....

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Decade to Remember in the Sloop

Since the end of the year is rapidly approaching and various news sources are looking back at the decade, we figured it's a good time to have a post about what this decade has meant for the Sloop.  Although the neighborhood has been around for a long long time, it probably can be argued that this past decade was one of the most transformative ones for the Sloop.

With the real estate boom, came a big boom in buildings and high-rises in the South Loop.  With this came more people, shops and restaurants.  The neighborhood looks much different then it did in 2000. 

We know some readers have been in the neighborhood for a long time and some are relatively new, so we wanted to open up this post and have people comment on what they liked or didn't like about all that has transpired over the past ten years within the Sloop.  We also encourage people to predict what will happen in the next ten.  So here is our take:

Looking Back
We like that the neighborhood is increasingly becoming a desirable residential neighborhood.  In our opinion it's a great hybrid of downtown living mixed with the characteristics of a calm and peaceful residential neighborhood.  We like how the character of the neighborhood continues to evolve and is hard to stereotype.  We like that the neighborhood is diverse.  Go to Jewel on Roosevelt and Wabash and you will see all walks of life.  We like that there are more and more artsy college students shooting movies in our allies, we like that there are more and more families playing with their dogs and kids in the South part of Grant Park.  We like that Mayor Daley moved into our hood.  We like that we can live so close to the lake and world class museums.  We like a lot of things about this neighborhood.

Looking Forward
We're excited for the next 10 years in the Sloop.  We predict that we will have two more El stops at Cermak and 18th.  We predict that Cermak will evolve into a major retail/restaurant corridor that will bridge McCormick Place to Chinatown.  We predict that Roosevelt Road will increasingly become a headache in regard to traffic congestion.  We predict that there will be plans to house Obama's presidential library/museum in our hood (ok, this might be a long shot, but it seems like a good fit to us).  We predict we will have a new NFL football coach in the Sloop (probably within the first year of the new decade).  We predict that at least one more residential high rise will be built on Roosevelt Road east of Michigan by 2020.  We predict that the neighborhood will continue to grow, but at a much slower pace then we saw this last decade.

So please look back and look forward and let us know what you think about the Sloop!

(image from

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Mysterious A Cappella Storefront

If you've lived in the South Loop (especially on Michigan Avenue) for awhile you probably can relate to this post. We've been receiving a lot of emails from readers recently asking us about the mysterious A Cappella storefront on the southeast corner of 13th and Michigan Avenue.

As long as we've been in the South Loop, this restaurant looks like it could open any second. The tables are set, decorations are on the wall, but we've never seen anyone inside. A reader writes:
Recently I was walking past A Cappella Bistro looking inside I saw lights on and a lot of activity 4 or 5 people working. Do you have any info about this restaurant opening soon?
Anyone have any insight on this? We still have never seen anyone inside.

We've heard a lot of far fetched theories on this place, but don't really have any proof behind any of them.

(Hat Tip: PF and BT)

Manny's for Dinner = Calm & Enjoyable

Manny's Deli (1141 S. Jefferson) is known around the city and region for it's delicious sandwiches (among other things). Historically it catered to the lunch crowd and was not open for dinner. However, in recent years they changed their hours and now are open during the evening as well.

For the first time we ventured over to the Deli for dinner. As expected the food was the same as lunch, but the refreshing thing was that the place was calm. You weren't in a long line and they weren't churning out orders at a frenetic pace.

The man cutting the corned beef for us was quite friendly and probably spent 5 minutes talking with us on a variety of topics (such as real estate, in-laws, and the dinner business at the deli). Although we were eager to eat our sandwiches, it was nice to get some friendly conversation as well.

If you've been to Manny's you know that there are three rooms of seating since it's typically super busy during the lunchtime hours. During dinner, the only room open for seating was the first room where the cafeteria line is. There were probably 10 or 15 people eating in the restaurant, so it was pleasant and enjoyable.

We love Manny's...even for dinner!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Meeting Tonight to Discuss Possible Local School Changes

Just wanted to quickly pass along an important email we received today from the GSLA (Greater South Loop Association) in regard to a meeting for potential changes to the local schools:

Monday, December 21, 2009
A Local School Council Meeting for the South Loop School
Location: South Loop School, Little Theater at 1212 S. Plymouth Court
Time: 6pm
Agenda & Discussion: Review the recommendation to the board that was approved on 12/14/09 which reads:
Relocate 6-8th grade students to NTA, in conjunction with the creation of a 9th grade class as a foundation for a K-12 support school which would have both a neighborhood and selective component. 8th grade graduating students from South Loop School would have first choice on 9th grade slots. The move of the students to NTA must be accompanied by funding and resource allocations which would provide the following to our middle school students, staff, and families:
  • Implementation and funding of necessary components to ensure student/staff health and safety, including but not limited to: Student ID system, dedicated security guard, dedicated/separate entrances, dismissal/entry security assistance, dedicated parking, a hot breakfast/lunch program.
  • Staggered start times
  • Busing from/to South Loop School main building to NTA site
  • Administrative Staff to support a third site, to include but not be limited to: Vice-Principal, Clerical, Janitorial, Security, Lunchroom etc.
  • Commitment of a top-notch Principal with high school experience to provide the experience necessary to establish a K-12 school.
  • Commitment on the part of CPS to add a grade year-after year to this school to achieve the goal of making it a K-12 school.
  • Availability of AP classes/ability to obtain high school credit
  • An expanded foreign language program with funding for a Spanish Teacher
  • A Full Time Band instructor with a middle/high school band program.
  • An expanded Athletics program with funding for team sport programs and development of a ball field
  • A Technology Support resource
  • An Art Education resource
  • An additional counseling position to support students (particularly in support of LRE)
  • Funding for extracurricular programming commensurate with high school programs.
The establishment of the above would include involvement by a Parent leadership group to help identify needs, define the programs, set schedules, access safety concerns, etc.
Revisit other options including the "kick the can" option of closing entry to new gifted classes and the 5 year plan proposed by Lynne Pieper
Discuss the recommendations given by Ms. Shelton:
  • Move only the 7th-8th graders to NTA for school year 2010-2011 with recommendations from the above plan
  • Expand to the 9th grade in year 2011-2012 adding a grade each year resulting in a high school from 9th-12th grade
  • Reopen 4 pre-k classrooms in the ECC
Establish an ad hoc leadership committee to reach out to the 6-7th grade teachers and students to get their input on this idea and what they would like included, etc. Also the counselor and other teachers who would like to participate by giving suggestions.

Friday, December 18, 2009

No Pre-Show Ads at Roosevelt Collection Movie Theater?

If you're sick of us talking about the movie theater then stop reading this post. However, today we read some interesting tidbits from a CBS article on the theater:
Also, you won't be bombarded with commercials, because there is no pre-show advertising.

You also won't have to deal with people looking for seats during the opening minutes, because there is no seating once the movie starts.
Interesting. We're not really sure how the seating things if you're late you can't get in? or you just have to wait?

Epic Burger Set to Branch Out to Lincoln Park

Just wanted to say congrats to Epic Burger for their expansion into Lincoln Park. The Original South Loop Epic Burger, which opened its first restaurant in our neighborhood in May of 2008, is located at 517 S. State. For more info about the restaurant and its expansion check out this link.

Thanks for choosing our neighborhood first and good luck with the expansion!

(image from

Thursday, December 17, 2009

More Roosevelt Collection Movie Theater Coverage

Joseph at YoChicago recently went to Roosevelt Collection and took a good video for those of you who are interested:

They also found a piece on the topic that aired on WGN. For those of you interested it's a good sneak peak inside the theater and the lounge:

Rumors Around the Sloop

Word on the street is that there are some businesses opening and closing:

One reader writes:
It's come to my attention that Cafe Mediterra (formerly the Gourmand coffee house) will close it's doors this Sunday night . . . making this the third business in a row (on that block) to go dark. GNC closed maybe two years ago and the Doggie Bath House folded last month. I've heard that the owner of this property block has been really jacking-up the rent on these businesses despite the down economy.

Now the good news: Scuttlebutt on the street is that a couple of local guys want to develop the entire three, recently closed, street-level properties into one big bar/eatery! I can't give a name but it should surface pretty quick as my source indicated that this new establishment was shooting for a St. Patrick's Day 2010 opening.

Personally, I'm really bummed to see my fav coffee shop go but I'll keep my fingers crossed regarding the potential new place.

With another bar/restaurant on Dearborn you could almost argue that this area is a legitimate 'nightime' destination that rivals other neighborhoods. We had a poll a couple of months ago asking which corridor in the South Loop would be the best bar/restaurant/shopping corridor and Printer's Row came in second to Motor Row. Although that might be the case in 10 years, in our opinion Printer's Row beats Motor Row currently. Printer's Row has Hackney's, Kasey's Taver, Bar Louie, the Jazz Showcase, Villians Bar & Grill and Blackies. We will keep our fingers crossed for this new place as well!

In other restaurant news, another reader writes:
Thought I'd drop you a tip and let you know something's going into the old Sam's location at Wabash and Roosevelt. It's gonna be a restaurant/lounge. From my contact: they purchased the furniture/appliances from the old Blue Water Grill that was at 520 N. Dearborn that has since lost it's lease and closed down...maybe a bit upscale? I'll let ya know if I hear any more!

That location would be a great spot for a restaurant, however it's a large amount of space. It seems like it would be better suited for a sports bar due to its proximity to soldier field, but something is better then nothing in our opinion.

Maybe the owner of the building is willing to split up the space. If that's the case then a upscale restaurant could fit. Good news if this one is true.

UPDATE: We walked by the old Sam's space and it appears that there are a lot of chairs and tables stacked up. Does this give more validity to the email above? Maybe. Take it for what it's worth.

(Hat Tip to JC & KG)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Email From a Reader About Roosevelt Collection

We saw some ads at the red line Roosevelt stop promoting the new "ICON" Kerasotes theaters opening at Roosevelt Collection, so it means it's actually coming and soon! We also saw that traffic lights outside Roosevelt Collection are up and running.

Finally a reader writes:
Just wanted to share some information with you about some news from the Roosevelt Collection.

The Theater is opening Thursday night at midnight with their first movie "Avatar." Sky spotlights will run from Wednesday–Monday the 21st.

The retail plaza opens Wednesday afternoon, I believe this is when the new traffic lights turn on. The retail parking garage opens Thursday morning and I'm told that there will be free parking for movie-goers until further notice.

On a separate note, for what its worth, I've been told by a reliable resource, that a BIG name retailer is showing a lot of interest. (My source is a store manager at a local chicago retailer of the same company)

So things are pretty exciting around here. The plaza, from what I've seen is pretty cool. Its got some great lighting sculptures and stunning views of the skyline.
So there you have it...we're pretty excited to have this great asset finally open in the Sloop!

We're probably not going to make it there for the opening, so if you do please let us know how it is.

UPDATE: With this speculation, it would be fun to discuss/share what retail stores are missing or would be valuable to our neighborhood. Please let us know what you think!
(Hat Tip: ND & JP)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Joffco Square Owners Run Into Loan Snag

Joffco Square, the big box building that's home to Best Buy and Bed, Bath and Beyond on Roosevelt Road, looks to have some loan issue according to a couple articles we read last week a couple articles we read last week:
Thwarted in a bid to extend a $26.2 million loan, the owner of a Roosevelt Road retail center whose tenants include Best Buy Co. and Bed Bath and Beyond Inc. has file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

When the five-story project at 555 W. Roosevelt Road was completed in March 2008, it was part of a wave of developments looking to take advantage of retailers' keen interest in the fast-growing commercial district. Built by developer Leon Joffe, the development, called Joffco Square, includes 95,000 square feet of retail space and a 323-car garage.

Now, despite signs that the credit crunch is easing, the development is another reminder of the tough challenges landlords face in an era of lowered property values and stricter lending practices.

Although things don't look good for the owner, it appears that the development won't be going anywhere as many tenants have long term leases:
The center has a solid core of tenants under long-term leases. Best Buy has 45,000 square feet under an agreement that expires in January 2024. Bed, Bath and Beyond has 27,482 square feet under an agreement that expires in January 2018.
(Hat Tip: Nitman!)

We Will Continue to Allow People to Comment Anonymously

After reading comments from our post in November, as well the poll above, we've decided to continue to let people post anonymously.  However, we will continue to monitor the comments and reserve the right to delete anything we deem inappropriate.

If you see a comment that you find offensive please flag this to us by email us at

As always, we appreciate all the comments!  

Thursday, December 10, 2009

'Vertical Campus' to Begin Construction in February

Two weeks ago we posted about Roosevelt University's new building and yesterday the Chicago Sun-Times reported that construction of the building is scheduled to start this upcoming February:
Construction is scheduled to start in February on Roosevelt University's new 32-story "vertical campus'' at 421-25 S. Wabash.

The building's wavelike design was based on a well-known Romanian sculpture, The Endless Column, and meant to convey that education is endless and infinite, officials said.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Blackhawk Convention Tickets On-sale Today

Since most of our mainstream Chicago sports teams are not looking very good these days (did you see that the Bulls lost to the New Jersey Nets...the same nets that lost 18 straight games to start the season!), we wanted to recommend that you jump on the Chicago Blackhawks bandwagon.  The Hawks are off to a great start and currently are in first place in their division.

Also, if you really want to take your love of the hawks to the next level, you might want to buy tickets to the annual Blackhawks Convention which went on sale today.  This fun event is located in the Sloop at the Hilton on Michigan Avenue:
Weekend passes for the third Blackhawks Convention go on sale at 10 a.m. Wednesday. The event will take place July 31-Aug. 1 at the Hilton Chicago. The passes can be purchased at the United Center, the Blackhawks Store on Michigan Avenue and Ticketmaster locations.
Finally, if you need to be sold on the Blackhawks, enjoy their catchy retro song (which in my opinion is better then "Bear Down" or "Go Cubs Go"):

Mayor Daley Sounds Off About the Olympics

It's been awhile since we had any Olympic news (since there really isn't any news since it's dead...), so we thought we would take a trip down memory lane.  Today we read about Mayor Daley's 'rant' at the 2016 final group meeting.  Not surprisingly he wasn't happy about the Olympic outcome, but according to witnesses his displeasure was the most obvious its ever been.  The part of the story that we found most interesting was:
"He started by saying we spent $75 million, and the next city was going to have to spend $100 million, and we didn't even have a chance," said one attendee, paraphrasing the mayor, who was the driving force behind the bid. "It was all politics and all money. All politics and all money. (The International Olympic Committee) didn't care about the athletes, and they didn't care about the quality of the bid."

Another attendee said she came away from the 15-minute speech believing the city never understood the depth of its disadvantage. And Daley reportedly told the group that had the city known from the start that the International Olympic Committee was intent on taking the games to new regions of the globe, they never would have spent the time or the money on the effort.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Parking Issues on South Dearborn

The Sun-Times reports about some parking issues on South Dearborn:
The company that collects city parking meter fees on Monday put up new signs in a confusing South Loop parking zone where cars have been getting tickets for meter violations but a city traffic-control aide had been parking for free.

The two signs went up hours after the Chicago Sun-Times published an article about the mess, which has angered people who have been paying to park along the west side of the 600 block of South Dearborn. Later, the city's Revenue Department concluded that a handful of spaces are free . . . for now.

Pockets Opens in South Loop; The Grille Looks to be Struggling

We've actually never been to Pockets (and have heard mixed reviews), but regardless a new Pockets location has opened in Printer's Row (at 555 S. Dearborn).  We recently got a coupon in the mail and it looks like you can order online now so we assume it's up and running.
Publish Post

In other local restaurant news, the Grille (at 823 S. State), hasn't been open the last couple of times we went by the spot. We're not sure the status of this place, but when we went by during the early evening the place wasn't open.  As you probably remember, the restaurant was originally called UFood, but shut down shortly after it opened for some reason.  Anyone know the status of the Grille?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Job Opportunities at New Roosevelt Collection Movie Theater

We had our first snow fall last night, so it definitely feels like December.  To some this might mean the holidays are right around the corner, but to us it means the new Kerasotes Movie Theater at Roosevelt Collection is set to open soon (last we heard the date is supposed to be Friday, December 18th).  Another good sign that the movie theater is progressing came from a newsletter we received from Ald. Fioretti's office and numerous readers:   

A new Kerasotes Theaters is coming soon to Roosevelt and Clark and Al's Italian Beef is opening a new location on Adams and Jefferson.  Both businesses have pledged to hire from local communities and will be accepting applications out of my Committeeman office next week. 

Wednesday, December 9th from 2 to 5 p.m. representatives from both businesses will be present at my office, located at 721 S. Western Ave, to accept applications and discuss job opportunities. Come over and fill one out; don't forget to bring your resumes!

We know there have been some comments about the people who the movie theater will attract, but to us the theater is nothing but a good thing for the Sloop.  We were recently visiting a friend in Streeterville who lives down the street from the AMC movie theaters on Illinois and the street was buzzing.  It was truly a diverse crowd, beaming with life and activity.

Our friend said the movie theater was a great addition to the neighborhood, eventhough he doesn't go very often.  It gives people a reason to come down to the neighborhood, which in turn stimulates the area with money (which will be spent within Roosevelt Collection retail as well as other places around the Sloop).

We welcome this addition to the neighborhood! 

(Hat Tip:  JC, ND, and NN!)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Gazette Chicago's Coverage of the Printers Row Park Dedication

Not new news, but thought people would be interested in the link to the article:
The Printers Row Park on Dearborn Street between Polk and Harrison Streets officially opened Nov. 7, with 2nd Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti and 5th District State Representative Ken Dunkin in attendance. More than 200 people came for the elaborate event, which featured several speakers and musical interludes.

Local resident Jack Scott played the lute, and the Rev. Christopher Coon, pastor of the Urban Village Church, which holds services at Grace Place across the street from the park, gave the invocation. Mary Ivory, Gail Merritt, and other members of the South Loop Neighbors (SLN) read poetry. Members of the Columbia College band and Jones College Prep student jazz ensemble performed.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Soprano Cast Members Coming to Binny's in the South Loop Tonight

If you're a fan of the iconic HBO classic, The Sopranos, you might want to head over to Binny's Beverage Depot on 1132 S. Jefferson tonight to meet some cast members:
Thursday, December 3, 5:00-8:00pm
Tony Sirico (a.k.a. Paulie Walnuts) and Steve Schirripa (a.k.a. Bobby) are coming to our joint. Two of television's most famous “wise guys” will be signing bottles of Sopranos wine during their exclusive appearance at Binny's South Loop. An amazing holiday gift or stocking stuffer for under ten dollars. Bada Bing! Free valet service at the entrance on Jefferson Street!
Call 312-768-4400 for more information. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Our Maiden Voyage to the White Palace Grill

Two weekends ago we got our first taste of an infamous South Loop mainstay, the White Palace Grill, which is located on the corner of Roosevelt and Canal.  Although we've driven by it many times, we've never actually stepped foot inside.

To level set and make sure everyone understands where this review is coming from our memory is a little hazy since it was 4:00am and we were at a wedding prior ( bars are dangerous for the memory).  Anyway, as we jumped out of the cab it was impossible not to notice the bustle going on within the White Palace Grill (1159 S. Canal).  Upon entering, it was obvious we were a little overdressed (suits and formal dresses are not needed at this establishment).  The place was packed with a wide range of patrons.  There was the old man reading his newspaper.  Two local college students getting a late meal.  And a ton of larger crowds that were loud, having a good time and presumably intoxicated.

There was a wait for booths, so we opted for the first available seat which ended up being the counter by the cash register.  The menu was pretty standard, but for some reason I was having a tough time making a decision.  The rest of the group didn't have that problem as they quickly ordered country-fried steak, jalapeno poppers and some roast beef sandwich.  In a last second decision, I made a mistake and went for a hot dog.

It was busy, so the food took much longer then it should have.  Maybe the waitress didn't put our order in or maybe they just had a ton of orders, regardless the food took awhile.  Regardless, the scene was entertaining so the time passed.  Once we got our food, the winner seemed to be the fellow with the country-fried steak.  The hot dog was pretty gross (especially how it looked) and the roast beef sandwich although good, wasn't what our friend wanted (it was open face style).

With that said, the place was fun but probably somewhere I wouldn't go back to unless I was craving some diner food (which tends to happen every so often).  A couple of other interesting tidbits.  The diner has a picture of Guy Fieri, the host of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.  So apparently he's been there.

Also, when we were leaving it got a little dicey as the cops were called on a man who was trying to skip out on a bill.  The on premise security guard had to run out of the place to stop the man.  Luckily for us we were also leaving so we didn't see what came of that situation.

Monday, November 30, 2009

2nd Ward Holiday Toy Drive

The holiday season is officially underway! Hopefully you survived the craziness of Black Friday and are in the thick of Cyber Monday. But if you find yourself with money or present left over it would be great to donate something to less fortunate people. Below please see an announcement from Alderman Fioretti's monthly newsletter:
2nd Ward Christmas Toy Drive

Christmas is just around the corner!

Alderman Bob Fioretti is conducting his annual 2nd Ward Toy Drive.

If your family or your business would like to join in making Christmas a brighter holiday for less fortunate children please call our office, 312-263-9273, for information on how to donate toys or time.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Printer's Row Church of Scientology To Open Next Year

In February we had a post about the Church of Sceintology coming to Printer's Row and today the Chicago Tribune has more on this topic. It sounds like the new Illinois Headquarters of the Church of Scientology (at 650 S. Clark) could open next year.

More interesting pieces from the article:
The restoration of the $4 million red brick edifice at 650 S. Clark St. built in 1914 follows the church's plan of acquiring and restoring historic structures that embody a city's aesthetic.

More than 70 buildings have been acquired around the globe as part of a multimillion dollar expansion program. More than two dozen churches are set to open in the U.S. before the end of next year.

In Chicago, the 50,212 square feet of space will accommodate worship, courses, spiritual counseling known as auditing, community outreach and church administration.

"That's one of the reasons we need such a large space," said the Rev. Jesse Wells, an ordained Scientology minister, "to accommodate all the activities."

And here is a picture from Google Maps of the building:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Higher Education Update: Spending and More Development

It has been interesting to watch and read about the evolution of higher education in the Loop and South Loop.  It's impossible not to notice the youthful energy of students walking to class or hanging out on State, Wabash and Michigan avenue (to name a few places).

Although some residents have voiced displeasure with the growth around these universities and colleges, we feel that they're good for the neighborhood in various ways.  One way that was recently validated by a report commissioned by the Chicago Loop Alliance was spending:
Twenty-four higher education institutions in Chicago’s Loop, through their employees, students and own expenditures, generate more than $4 billion in regional economic activity annually, including at least $60 million in student retail purchases, according to the 2009 Higher Education Economic Impact Report and Student Survey Update released Nov. 23.

Commissioned by the Chicago Loop Alliance ( CLA ), with student survey data compiled by researchers at DePaul, the study shows that the Loop’s higher education sector is a vital economic engine that contributes to the growth and overall health of the economy in the Chicago region. The findings update and expand upon research released by CLA last June and in 2004.
Although this area was defined as the Chicago River on the north and west, the study also includes parts of the South Loop as it extends south to Roosevelt and east to Lake Shore Drive.  Love them or hate them, students are an important part of our neighborhood.  Without them our retail situation would most certainly be different (and probably much worse).

With that in mind it's a good sign that Roosevelt University just announced that it will move forward with a new tower on the 400 block of South Wabash Avenue (see old Sloopin post on this subject).  The building will serve a variety of purposes for the University and is currently planned to open in 2012.  This is a block north of what we consider the Sloop, but regardless it will still impact the area:

Officials at Roosevelt University are moving forward with a plan to build what they say would be the second-tallest university building in the nation.

Construction on the 32-story, $110 million building is set to begin in February on the site of the old Herman Crown Center in the 400 block of South Wabash Avenue. The groundbreaking will begin once demolition of the old building is complete, with the center itself slated to open in January 2012, officials said.

The state-of-the-art building, which will house classrooms, laboratories, a student recreation center and residence suites for more than 600 students, will be the university's first newly constructed building in the school's history, officials said. 

The 469-foot-tall building will also be constructed as a "green" building and showcase a glass exterior on three sides, drawing in natural light and cutting energy costs. The new building, school officials said, would be the sixth-largest university building in the world and second in the U.S. behind the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning.
It's definitely an interesting building.

In other higher education development, Columbia College's media production center (at 16th and State) looks to be  nearing completion.  Although we don't have a picture of the actual site, you will have to take our word for's also an interesting building.  Here is a sketch of how it is supposed to look.  Although we didn't see it illuminated like the picture below, it looks very similar in our opinion:

For more on this building, here is another old Sloopin post.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The 'Chicago Way' at McPier

Crain's Chicago recently took an in depth look at the 'Chicago Way' of business going on at the government agency commonly known as McPier (which runs Navy Pier and McCormick Place):
The chief executive officer won his post after raising campaign cash for disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The just-departed human resources director owed her job to a powerful state senator. Other top executives have long ties to Mayor Richard M. Daley's political machine.

That's what clout looks like at the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, known as McPier, a little-understood government entity that operates the city's primary convention venue, the vast McCormick Place complex; the adjacent McCormick Hyatt Regency Hotel, and the lakefront tourist center Navy Pier.

Since it's a neighbor of Sloop and potentially could be a driving force behind growth in our neighborhood we thought some people might be interested in reading about it. It's been a brutal year for the McPier agency and the article doesn't make it sound like it's getting any better.

(image from

Blackie's...Holding Down the Fort for Years in Printers Row

Don Terry, of the Chicago Sun-times, had a recent article about Blackie's, the old bar/restaurant that's located at the corner Polk and Clark. It's been a family run place for 70 years and has seen the neighborhood boom, bust and come back around.

Terry specifically calls out the diverse wait staff and says that's why he likes the place:

For 70 years, the DeMilio-Thomas family has owned and operated Blackie's restaurant and bar at the corner of Clark and Polk. I love the apple sauce pancakes, but it's the diverse and longtime staff, which includes African Americans, Latinos and Italian Americans, that keeps me coming back.

It is a snapshot of what the rest of the city should be like.

Although it's a nice thought, we would argue that many of the city's restaurants also have diverse wait staffs, just not very diverse clientele. For a highly segregated city, the South Loop in tends to be pretty diverse. Maybe that was the point he was going for...

Anyway, back to the article. It provides a nice history of the joint and even drops some names of the famous celebrities that have graced the place over the years:
Blackie's is across the street from the old Dearborn train station. During the 1940s and 1950s, there was no telling who you might run into having a beer at Blackie's. Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., the Harlem Globetrotters, Rocky Marciano, Sam Cooke and Lena Horne were just a few of the celebrities who ate and drank there on their way in or out of town on the Santa Fe Super Chief.

The Three Stooges and the Marx Brothers also spent time in Blackie's. One night, the Stooges and the Marx boys got into a food fight when one side criticized the other's comedic skills.

"It was right over there near the window,'' Jeffrey says, pointing behind. "I can't remember who my grandfather said started it.''

(Hat Tip: SC!)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Shots Around the Sloop: The Windy Pixel

We love the Windy Pixel and we haven't posted one of their pictures in here are two recent ones from locales in our hood:

(Images from

City & State Differ on Effectiveness of Red-Light Cameras

Hate them or love them red-light cameras are a hot topic. We had a post on them a month ago and yesterday the Chicago Tribune had an informative piece on the discussion around them:
Cameras (red-light cameras at intersections) are said to reduce accidents, but collision records compiled by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) indicate that accidents increased at many city intersections the year after red-light cameras were installed. In fact slightly more intersections saw an increase than a decrease, the data show.

The city tells a very different story. Crash statistics compiled by the city reflect broad success in reducing accidents with cameras, and the city could not explain why the numbers are so different.

Overall the article claims that nearly 60 percent of intersections with red-light cameras had an increase in accidents based on the following analysis:
With or without cameras accident totals fluctuate year to year at every intersection. For that reason the Tribune analysis of accident trends treated crash numbers that rose or fell less than 10 percent as essentially unchanged.

The read from the state numbers is this: Although some Chicago intersections indeed appear to benefit from the presence of cameras, nearly 60 percent do not.

So what about the Sloop? As of now only the State and Roosevelt intersection has statistics to look at:
So based off of IDOT's information, the Tribune would classify this South Loop intersection as one where the presence of red-light cameras caused more accidents. The city's numbers would prove the opposite. Judge for yourself.

The one thing these numbers don't take into account is increased traffic. Although we're not 100% sure, we assume the amount of traffic in the South Loop (particularly at this intersection) has increased from 2005 to 2008.

For more information specific to other intersection check out this Chicago Tribune link.

Pay to Park Comes to 18th Street

We know many people are infuriated with the parking situation in the Sloop (and the city) and this weekend we received an email from a reader who said pay to park kiosks have recently been installed on 18th street:
There are new “pay to park” kiosks along 18th Street. I noticed that formerly free street parking had been converted to metered parking during the week ending 11/13/09. The formerly free spaces are on the south side of 18th between Wabash and Michigan and the north and south sides of 18th between Wabash and State. There could have been others, but these are the stretches that I noticed.

As a traveling consultant, I often get stuck with rental cars over the weekend. I was infuriated last Friday when I tried to park in the formerly free spaces that I used to count on. Of course, the still-free parking on the south side of 18th between State and Clark, was packed with cars that could not park in newly metered spaces. I had to park west of Clark. Granted, this probably isn’t the worst parking situation in the city, but knowing that Chicago is not even benefiting from these really makes me angry. I did a quick search of the Internet, but I couldn’t find a map delineating free and metered stretches in the South Loop. Do you know if one exists?

We didn't have much luck finding a map either, does anyone know if one exists?

(Hat Tip to Jay for the email and pic!)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ideas for a New Northerly Island

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the future of the high profile Northerly Island. It's prime property and many people have many different views on how this space should be used. Last week the Chicago Journal had a nice write-up recapping some of the current additions being considered:
On Tuesday night, park district planners and its contractors shopped four different concepts for a future iteration of Northerly, culling feedback from hundreds of residents in a three-hour session downtown.

The additions contemplated in the designs range from the natural (like dunes, berms, trees; one idea calls for a river running through the island. In another, there are a series of new barrier islands in Lake Michigan) to the athletic (beaches, a canoe and kayaking course) to the cultural (a Great Lakes research institute, an amphitheater, a nature center).

Jeanne Gang, principal at Studio Gang Architects, one of the firms working on the designs, said a video message played at the beginning of the night that past input about Northerly indicated a preference for a natural space that wasn’t thronging all the time.

“People wanted to see this as this ecologically rich and diverse space — not a Millennium Park that’s super busy all throughout it,” Gang said. “Because it’s so close to the water and further away from the city, it’s a place where you can actually find some solitude.”
Since our neighborhood is the closest to the land (and yes we consider this in the Sloop) we're very interested to see how, when and if any of this actually happens. We reference New York a lot on this blog, because we're a big fan of their public spaces (especially Central Park). We love the beauty of Grant Park and Millenium Park, but they feel a little overly manicured in our opinion (which is also the case for some places within central park). However, in Central Park there are many places where you feel like you're in a natural park and don't feel like you're in a bustling city.

From reading some of the coverage on the plans for Northerly Island, it sounds like the island could evolve into something similar to central parks 'natural' areas. This would be great! Although the current 'natural' space on Northerly Island is serene, it's nothing special and actually a little boring in our opinion. The concept pictured below would make this area interesting and somewhere we would like to go to explore.
The one major request we have is to provide some form of access to the island besides Solidarity drive (which is the street to get to the Planetarium). Every sketch we've seen addresses this problem, so it's obviously on the planners radar.

In terms of next steps for the planning of Northerly Island, the Tribune reports:
Tribune reporter Erika Slife reports that park district officials said they will analyze the feedback they got from the nearly 200 people who attended the meeting and will make another presentation to the public in 2010. Perhaps the Friends of Meigs Field, who boycotted the workshop, will attend next time around. For now, the idea of bringing back the airport is thankfully off the public policy agenda. This is one place where nature, not technology, should prevail.
Also, as you might remember we had a post on Sloopin talking about another design for Northerly Island (as part of the Daniel Burnham 100th anniversary celebration: Big. Bold. Visionary. Chicago Considers the Next Century Exhibit). This idea, pictured below didn't purely picture the island as a natural oasis, but more of a functional and practical space that would serve as a place for a variety activities. This idea is much more conceptual, but wanted people to get a full sense of some of the ideas being floated around.
(Images from Chicago Journal and Chicago Tribune)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ray Lamontagne Solid, but Star is Auditorium Theater

Last Thursday we had the pleasure of taking in our first concert at the Auditorium Theater (50 east Congress). The historic building is run by Roosevelt University and was designed by famous Chicago architects Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan. The building was completed in 1889 and is registered as a national and Chicago landmark.

Last week we took in the soulful folky singer Ray Lamontagne and although he was solid, the venue slightly overshadowed the crooner. The auditorium is truly a remarkable thing. The murals, architectural detail and sheer size is something to behold. For this show, Lamontagne played a stripped down concert where it was just him, a rug and a acoustic guitar. In fairness to the artist, he really does have an amazing voice, but the venue probably wasn't the most conducive to a solo performance.

In between songs, Lamontagne seemed nervous and at times awkward as he stumbled through rambling stories. We don't blame him though, the venue is pretty intimidating as there are three balconies (with the top two pretty high up and seemingly ontop of the performer). Although we weren't that high up, we've heard that it's not the best place to take in a show or performance.

Regardless, the venue was truly beautiful and classic. It has signs of deterioration, but any building that's 100+ years is going to. It also had a slight lean to the staircase, but we like to call that character.

Anyway, the Auditorium Theater has a pretty wide variety of shows (music, balet, comedy, etc) so we highly recommend checking out whatever floats your boat.

For more info on the history of the theater here is a wikipedia page on the topic.

And for those of you who like Ray Lamontagne, enjoy:

Monday, November 16, 2009

South Loop Condo Auctions Prove to be Relatively Successful

We've been following the condo auctions of Michigan Avenue Towers (1400 S. Michigan) and Motor Row Lofts (2301 S. Michigan) for a couple weeks now. This past weekend the auctions were held and they proved to be relatively successful.

The Michigan Avenue Towers auction had more units and was advertising that the starting auction prices for some units were up to 62% off the original list price. The auction came and went and overall 43 units sold for 26% off the original list price (however this doesn't include parking which is still going for $35K a spot). Although that's still a lot off the price, it sounds like the general feeling was that the developer did pretty well. According to a post on YoChicago:
I got the sense that these homes sold for more than many had expected — “The developers have to be thrilled with this,” I heard one agent say. The units sold for an average of $276 per square foot, down 26 percent from an original average of $375 per square foot. In all, sales surpassed $11.2 million.

The other auction at Motor Row, seemed to be successful as well:
The auction was well attended and resulted in the sale of 20 units (several at reserve) at prices ranging from $187,000 to $316,000. You can see more details on pricing from commenter neo at CribChatter.
Although none of this is particularly good for the neighborhood as it drives down real estate comps, at least some of the rates were higher then expected.

Groupon has Manny's Today!

We love Manny's (1141 S. Jefferson), the famous Jewish Deli, however it's a little pricey. If this is a concern for you, today is your lucky day. Groupon has a deal for Manny's where you pay $11 and get $22.

Over 1,500 people have already signed up and there is a limited quantity, so hurry up and get your groupon!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Demolition is the Word of the Moment in the Sloop

It feels like we continue to hear and read about buildings being demolished in the Sloop. A couple of months ago the Harold Ickes homes felt the wrath of the wrecking ball. Last week we read about the historic YMCA building on Michigan Avenue that might be coming down.

This week the Chicago Journal had an article about two buildings on Wabash that are owned by East-West University coming down and today two people let us know that the old Firestone garage (at the corner of Wabash and 16th) was also being demolished.

Seems like a lot of stuff is coming down in the Sloop.

Does anyone know if there are plans to build something else at the property at 16th and Wabash?

(Hat Tip: Nick D and BT!)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Code of Conduct Comes to 11th Street

We recently got an email about a new place opening at 14 East 11th Street (where the old Hi Tea shop used to be). Although we're not 100% if it's open or not, it looks like they're making progress according to their facebook page.

Code of Conduct is:
an environmentally conscious high-end tattoo studio integrated with a clothing boutique located in the South Loop neighborhood of Chicago, IL.

And their mission statement is:
Code of Conduct has blossomed from a shop name into a mantra that we as partners and entrepreneurs choose to abide by in both business and life. We are a team of young energetic professionals - the respect, trust and admiration we have for one another are the roots of our Code. We have chosen to take action in a time of economic uncertainty. We believe in the future of our generation and those to follow. We believe in a Code of Conduct.
They also have a twitter page and a website (that isn't very evolved yet).

(Hat Tip: JC!)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

We Love Your Comments and Want Your Opinion

As Sloopin has grown we've appreciated and enjoyed reading all the comments. One of the main goals of the site is to be a forum where residents and people interested in the neighborhood can come to discuss their opinions. There have been many intelligent, thoughtful and entertaining discussions that we feel have added to the discourse within the neighborhood.

Since we wanted to encourage anyone to comment, we've had a pretty lax policy towards our 'comments' registration process. As of now anyone can post a comment anonymously. However, there have been some instances where this has been abused.

With that said, we've had some discussions, received some comments and emails from people who think there should be a more stringent policy towards commenting on Sloopin. Since the goal of the site is to encourage discussion, we thought we would open it up to the readers.

Should people be required to register if they want to comment on Sloopin?

Let us know what you think by voting on our poll on the right or commenting below. After the poll closes we will re-examine our policy based on the feedback.

Some Sad, Some Glad to See Venetian Nigth Go

Monday, November 9, 2009

A New Favorite Entree

Like most people, we like to go out around the neighborhood and try new dishes. Last week we were happily surprised when we opted for a new entree at Ma & I (1234 S. Michigan). When we've gone to the restaurant before we've gone for noodles, sushi, curries and standard Thai entrees which have mostly been solid.

This time we decided to try out the "Sear Tuna Salad" which is described on the menu as:
Seared tuna tossed with citrus soy dressing on organic salad
To be honest, this doesn't do it justice to the dish. We love ourselves some seared tuna and have tried out variations of this fish at various locations throughout the city and this was probably the second best seared tuna dish we've ever had (FYI - Catch 35 at 35 West Wacker is slightly better, but it's also nearly double the price).

Anyway, the tuna at Ma & I was very tender and practically melted in your mouth. When we've had this type of dish in the past it's typically encrusted with pepper and sesame seeds, but at Ma & I they had an interesting seasoning that gave it a different taste. The cold raw tuna coupled with the slightly spicy seasoning was different and really nice. The salad also comes with a refreshing citrus dressing that we really enjoyed. In terms of other ingredients it had a lot of avocados and grape tomatoes, which is always a plus in our book.

All in all a new favorite for us in the Sloop. At $14.95 we will be enjoying this one again!

Friday, November 6, 2009

South Loop School Tries to get Creative for Funding

The Gazette Chicago has a small article about how the South Loop Elementary School is seeking funds to offset budget shortfalls due to issues with local and state funding.

Although the idea was dropped, we liked that the school council was willing to think creative to get funding:
The South Loop Elementary School Local School Council (LCS) in September proposed leasing the school's parking lot during Chicago Bears games to raise money for the lot's upkeep during winter months.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

"Auctioning Off the South Loop"

The Chicago Journal has a good article about the upcoming auctions for the Motor Row Lofts (2303 S. Michigan) and Michigan Avenue Tower II (1400 S. Michigan).

The most interesting quote was in regards to people who bought before the auction was announced:
Thomas FitzGibbon, executive vice president at MB Financial Bank, said it was safe to assume the units offered Nov. 15 would be sold for less than what the developers originally hoped for.

That could help push home values down, he said, tough for those who bought “at the top of the market in a development that has suffered in sales.”

“Does that mean you overpaid? I don’t know. You may have paid the right price when you bought it,” he said.
Although we've had people tell us these auctions had nothing to do with the Olympics not coming to Chicago, we still think this was a driving factor. If an auction was inevitable, they should have done it prior to the Olympic decision as demand/speculation probably would have been greater (in our opinion).

For some of the older posts we did on this subject here are a couple links:

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More on the Old YMCA Building that Might be Demolished

Last week we had a post about the possible demolition of the old YMCA building (830 S. Michigan) and today the Chicago Tribune has a nice article providing more detail about the buildings history and the current mess the building is in:
Instead of having the look of a typical charitable organization, the YWCA building was lavishly ornamented with brick and terra cotta and used to house working women newly arriving in the city, said Jim Peters, president of the nonprofit advocacy group Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois, which placed the structure on its endangered landmarks list last year.

Now, the building is dilapidated, abandoned for at least 20 years after having been a hotel since 1929, Peters said. Although saving the integrity of the entire building seems too costly at this point, Peters and others would like to save the facade, now hidden by scaffolding, to keep with many of the surrounding historic buildings. The strip of buildings is known to some as South Michigan's "Streetwall" and encompasses buildings on Michigan between 11th Street and Randolph Street.

Recession Rocks McCormick Place

At the South end of the South Loop sits the huge McCormick place complex, home of many conventions and events. In prosperous times, this is a huge cash cow, but in this time of the recession it's hurting.

Chicago Tribune outlines their issues in this article.

(Hat Tip: Nikki D!)

Jerry Kleiner's Bar in Roosevelt Collection to Open Dec 20th

According to a metromix blog entry, Jerry Kleiner's bar/lounge that will be within the movie theater will open on December 20th. Kleiner describes the lounge as:
"It'll look like the lobby lounge of a boutique hotel," filled with comfy chairs and loveseats, with a view of the downtown skyline, he says. "It won't look like anything else I've ever done,"
The other good news is that the name of the bar won't be StarBar (as previously thought).

For those of you not familiar with Kleiner he is the mind behind some eccentric Chicago and South Loop eateries like Opera, Gioco, Marche, Red Light, Carnivale.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Two South Loop Developments Still Moving Forward?

It doesn't seem like building new condo buildings in the South Loop would be a good idea right now given the over saturation and subsequent auctions going on, but according to the Chicago Tribune a developer who has gained success from some Chinatown projects is still moving forward with two projects in the neighborhood.

See Wong, owner of the Wabash Development Group, has two properties that in or very close to the South Loop that sound like they're still moving forward. To be honest, we were under the impression his planned building at 1349 S. Wabash was off the table, but the article makes it sound like it is still moving forward (however no time frame was mentioned in the article).

The Grand Imperial Hotel at the corner of Clark and Archer (on the fringe of the South Loop depending on who you talk to) looks like a unique piece of architecture that could bring some interesting character to the neighborhood. We had a post on the development a couple of months ago which includes a video and interview of Wong. According to the Tribune article this is scheduled to break ground in 2010.

So why move forward with two new projects in the current environment? According to Wong it's because he caters to a different buyer and market:
While many builders have yielded to the recession, Wabash is thriving, says Wong, because the neighborhoods where he builds -- primarily Chinatown and Bridgeport -- serve an influx of immigrants. "There isn't an oversupply of housing here, especially of condos that cost less than $300,000," he reports.

Wabash developments that serve the Chinese-American market have units that are small by intention, says Wong. "In China, an 800-square-foot condo is a luxury condo," he explains. "So, here, this community wants small units." While his buyers do want nice finishes such as hardwood floors and granite countertops, he says, they are willing to forgo extras such as fireplaces, whirlpool tubs and balconies to minimize their home prices.
Although we're still skeptical about anything going up in the current environment, maybe Wong is right. We will continue to follow this and see if these developments actually happen.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bears Come Home This Weekend

The Bears come home to the Sloop this weekend after a hugely embarrassing loss in Cincinnati last weekend. If you didn't watch the game you were spared an ugly performance by an uninspired team.

Lucky for the Bears they get to take on the Cleveland Browns who come to soldier field with a horrendous record of 1-6. If the Bears don't win this one...yikes. Especially since this is a home game. The game starts at noon on Sunday.

Speaking of home games, a film student at Columbia College sent us a great video of Bears fans tailgating prior to the opening game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. We love tailgating and this captures it well:

Tailgating : Chicago Bears Home Opener 2009 from Christopher Bales on Vimeo.

Bear Down!

(Hat Tip to CB!)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Not Getting the Olympics Good for the Sloop?

We were all for the Olympics for a variety of reasons but mainly because of the infrastructure improvement that would have come to our neighborhood. However, the Chicago Tribune blog, Chicago Tribune 77, has a post today essentially saying that the South Loop will be better off because we didn't get the Olympics:

A healthy, sustainable real estate market requires a balance between supply and demand. Supply includes commercial and residential units available for sale and rent, as well as funding required to buy or lease these properties. This supply would have undoubtedly increased markedly with the increase in demand prior to and during the events. Olympic-related jobs would have provided income for purchase and rent of these properties, and commercial enterprises would have set up shop to serve workers and visitors at a record pace. Following the closing ceremony, however, visitors return home, jobs end, and demand would have dropped off drastically.

This imbalance would have had a significant negative impact on existing property in and around the Olympic venues. Empty commercial space does not indicate a healthy neighborhood to potential buyers, and I wholeheartedly believe that prices of residential properties in both near south and South Loop neighborhoods would have taken a serious hit in pricing. As we have recently seen, high levels of inventory take years to absorb. Nothing good comes of an oversupply situation. Post-Olympic buyers would not have benefited either - there wouldn’t be enough of them to take advantage of the situation.

It's a valid point and an argument we brought up and debated with people a lot. We still think the infrastructure improvements would have improved the neighborhood which in turn would have encouraged more people to come to the neighborhood which in turn would help with retail and real estate.

We still think the neighorhood will grow and flourish, but it will be slower since we did not get the Olympics in our opinion.

Hope we're wrong though.