Thursday, January 29, 2009

Buyer Beware

If you put money down for a condo in a new construction building within the past couple of years this story unfortunately probably sounds way to familiar. This article on Crain's Chicago talks about a number of horror stories, but of particular relevance for Sloopin readers is the proposed Glashaus development at 1327 S. Wabash Ave:
Buyers of units in stalled condo tower projects face a tough decision: walk away and lose their deposits, or wait in hopes that the condos of their dreams will be built eventually.

Manish Shah is all too familiar with this bind. He agreed in December 2006 to buy a two-bedroom unit at the GlasHaus development, 1327 S. Wabash Ave., and plunked down $24,000 in earnest money.
This is unfortunately seems to be a sign of the times and something many people are dealing with around the neighborhood and city.

However, based on this long (but interesting) thread of comments on, Manish and others at Glashaus have been able to get their money back. Hopefully others will be as lucky.

Chicago Olympic Venues Approved by International Federations

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the International federations of sports that participate in the Olympics have approved all of Chicago's proposed venues for the 2016 games. All other competitors (Rio, Tokyo and Madrid) have announced similar approvals.

Of more interest is the looming February 12th due date for the 'bid books' to the IOC. At this time, all applicant cities will publicly unveil their detailed plans for everything from venues to financing to impact on the city (among other things).

Friday, January 23, 2009

Sloopin's Public Housing Situation

A recent article in the Chicago Journal detailed new plans by the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) to close more buildings at the Harold Ickes Homes (which is located at the far southwest corner of the near south neighborhood).

The topic of Public Housing and gentrification always proves to be a touchy subject and this is no different. From their controversial conception in the 1930’s to the current dilemmas they face now, Public Housing tends to be viewed negatively, but as a necessity for poorer, underprivileged citizens.

Without getting into to much detail and nuance, the “older” public housing complexes (like the Ickes Homes) tended to only be comprised of poorer citizens that couldn’t afford housing. As you can imagine and have probably read, these complexes bred illicit and underground markets (such as drugs and prostitution) where gangs fought for control and power. Many documentaries, books and movies have chronicled this history (most famously in the Cabrini-Green complex on the near north side).

More recently, the federal department of housing and urban development (HUD) in conjunction with other local government agencies has started a ‘new’ initiative that tries to encourage mixed housing with people of different socioeconomic backgrounds (public housing, affordable housing and market rate housing). The idea is to have a diverse neighborhood with a variety of different types of people.

Public housing continues to be a tough situation, but the newer approach seems to make more sense then grouping large numbers of underprivileged and sometimes desperate residents together (however, who buys the market rate housing? Would you?).

In the near south side neighborhood resides two complexes, the Ickes Homes and the Hilliard Homes (as seen on the map). The Hilliard Homes is comprised of two unique buildings that are considered architectural gems and are on the national register of historic buildings. In 2002, the city started a project to convert the complex into the new mixed housing model (and includes public housing, affordable housing and senior living). Across the street, The Harold Ickes Homes are currently listed as 'TBD' in regards to their future plans.

Given the proximity to McCormick Place, other proposed Olympic venues and the cities general plans for the near south side neighborhood, it will be interesting to see what happens with the Ickes Homes. If the Hilliard Homes (which sit across the street) prove to be a success, maybe the government will implement a similar strategy here. If not, who knows?

One thing seems inevitable though, the Harold Ickes Homes probably won’t be around much longer in their current form and for many residents of the South Loop and Near South Side neighborhoods that’s probably welcomed news.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

"Major" Developers Line Up for Olympic Village is reporting that some of Chicago's biggest developers are interested in taking on the Olympic Village project assuming Chicago wins the bid. This is good news for the bid and city as it will alleviate some of the fears citizens and the IOC might have with this 'privately' funded portion of the plan:
The willingness of well-known developers to take on the project boosts the
credibility of Chicago's Olympics bid, which relies heavily on the private
sector. At an estimated cost of $1.1 billion, the athletes' village, planned for
the site of Michael Reese Hospital near 31st Street and Cottage Grove Avenue,
was the most expensive and perhaps riskiest element of the plan.

To us this isn't surprising. We figured that a developer would be salivating at the opportunity to develop this high profile and great piece of land. Obviously the city is making this area a priority for its future plans and it seems like a no brainer for most developers.

Previously our only reason for concern was how the current economic and real estate situation could effect this plan, but this article puts those fears to rest...well sort of puts them to rest.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

No Go for YMCA HQ

According to the, the YMCA is potentially scraping plans to build their US headquarters in the South Loop. To be honest, we didn't even know that this was on the table, but regardless it's unfortunate.

When we walk down State street, between Congress and Roosevelt, it still amazes us at how many random (and ugly) concrete parking slabs exist undeveloped. This recently has been changing with new condo buildings and retail going up, but hopefully someone will develop this slab of land. It truly is an eye sore for a prominent area (and street) for the city.

Our guess is that over the next 10-15 years, these parking lots won't exist. Or at least that's what we're hoping for!

A Green Dentist?

If you care about the environment and want to ensure your dentist does as well, we have the place for you...ORA Dental Studio. They just opened there new practice at 1827 S. Michigan, enjoy.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Closer Look at the Michael Reese Hospital Site

With all the recent talk about TIFs to help fund the Olympic Village, it sparked us to take a closer look at the area. Below is an aerial shot of the proposed Olympic Village area. Although the official bid book has not been released, pieces of information have leaked through various media reports and interviews with 2016 officials.

We've identified four areas on the map that look to play a vital part in Chicago's 2016 Olympic Plan (assuming Chicago wins). With that said, let's take a look at each one:

Michael Reese Hospital Site
This area was recently bought by the city and looks to be a less expensive way to create the Olympic Village while still having it close to the city, by the lake, and next to many proposed venues. This area is prime real estate and in our mind a big win for the city and the bid.

Air Rights over McCormick Place Parking Lot
For the initial bid submission to the USOC and IOC, this area was originally slated to be the Olympic Village. The problem with that plan was that it was very expensive to build large housing structures over the air rights. From what we've read recently, the city still owns the air rights and plans to build a park connecting the Michael Reese site to the Lake/South Burnham Park. We like this idea as this area has been an eye sore for a long time and will help build a new park which will bolster the lake front.

Unknown Real Estate
The area shaded green is an unknown to us, we're not sure if it's part of the Michael Reese deal. After going down to the area it's still hard to tell. However, there is a McDonald's so we imagine that it's private property not owned by the city. The reason we call this out is because it butts up against the southern part of McCormick Place and would potentially be between the Olympic Village and McCormick Place (which plays a vital role in the plan). Although it would be ideal if the city owned this area, it probably wouldn't diminish the plan if it's not part of the village. Just an area to ponder...

Metra Rail Lines
Shaded in yellow are the Metra Rail lines that run Metra trains and South Shore trains. This is another great resource for this area and hopefully something the bid organizers and other Chicago urban planners are considering. These train lines don't connect to the current CTA train grid, but we would love to see them somehow join them. Check out our post from 2008 called "Sloopin's Grand Plan" that talks about this in more depth. Regardless, the 27th street station most likely will become a large hub for trains, buses and various other transportation resources as it looks to be one of the central points for the Olympic plan.

How do you feel about this site? Do you think the bid is using it well?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Interview with Patrick Ryan

The Chicago Tribune recently sat down with Pat Ryan, former CEO of AON and current chairman of the 2016 Chicago Olympic bid, to talk about the bid's potential legacy and how it relates to and draws inspiration from Daniel Burnham's plan for Chicago.

Two answers stick out to me as specifically interesting for Sloopin residents as he talks about how northerly island and the south side of Burnham park (which is south of McCormick Place) could be transformed for the Olympics:

Q. What sort of legacy might the 2016 Games leave in Burnham Park and the portion of that park called Northerly Island?

A. We are talking about using Northerly Island a lot more to build upon Burnham's vision. During the Games, Northerly Island would be the site of beach volleyball, sailing and canoe/kayak events. Afterward, we want to create an outdoor recreation oasis on the island.

In addition to a kayak slalom course, the center will have a permanent center for wall-climbing, rafting and kayaking. And there will be a center for youth sailing. We also want to develop the southern section of the island into a wetland environment, to promote conservation and increase the bird population.

Q. How about the southern end of Burnham Park, south of McCormick Place?

A. We're going to have our Olympic Village on the site of Michael Reese Hospital. There will be a new harbor at 31st Street for sailboats and powerboats. We envision a sizable park over the site of the McCormick Place truck marshaling yards west of Lake Shore Drive. And we are looking at pedestrian bridges over Lake Shore Drive -- at least one and hopefully more.

Thanks to Daniel Burnham

Why are we thanking him? Well most Chicagoans and historians credit Daniel Burnham's plan for Chicago as the reason we have such a beautiful city today. Although the plan hasn't been followed exactly, it has served as a template and inspiration during the past 100 years. Since it's the centennial year for the Burnham plan many Chicago institutions (such as the Chicago History Museum) are featuring his work as well as other plans that look to shape the future of the city for the next 100 years. The Chicago Tribune has a great story summing up his legacy and how he shaped Chicago:
The Burnham Plan charted a course that made the city—especially downtown—the vibrant, livable urban center it is today. It redefined not just the city's map but its character, affirming for its citizens the belief that big plans—such as the 2016 Olympic bid—can yield spectacular results and that Chicago, with its history of powerful alliances between business and political leaders, can bring them off.

Smoke Free Apartment Building

Last year the City put into effect a smoking ban in all restaurants and bars, but apparently this apartment building at 900 S. Clark took it to another level.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Your Brain on City

Interesting read in the Boston Globe about how living in a city hurts your brain. As one would probably expect, the stimuli of a city makes living in one exhausting and harder to remember things.

For most of the article it makes the argument that living in more "natural" spaces is better for people. However, at the end it touches upon the fact that city living tends to produce innovation and creative solutions.

So at the end it's inconclusive in my mind...regardless I would advise enjoying Grant Park and the various parks throughout the Chicagoland area.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Do You Have $2.3 Million?

If so, you can have a spectacular condo in One Museum Park, which is the immaculate new building on the south end of Grant Park. What this gets you is 3 bedrooms, 2,910 square feet and ridiculous views:

For more One Museum Park coverage check out these Sloopin stories.

A Look Back at 2008 in the Sloop

Although we know that it's now January 8th, 2009 and people are done looking back at 2008, we still thought you should see this wrap up article from the Chicago Journal taking a look back at the year that was in the South Loop. They talk about a variety of topics that we covered as well. Below are some of the Chicago Journal's headlines as well as Sloopin's coverage of them. Enjoy and Happy New Year!

The new infrastructure: Sloopin's take on Infrastructure
The day development died: Sloopin's take on Development
They're busy over there in Grant Park: Sloopin's take on Grant Park
Sea change coming to selective schools: Sloopin's take on Schools

Freight Trains Could be Diverted Out of the South Loop

The Chicago Journal has a follow-up article about a story we were following in early December. Canadian National, the company that runs the freight trains that often pass through the South Loop, have won their legal battle to acquire a different company that has the rights to train tracks that go around the city of Chicago. What this means is that the trains that pass through the downtown area (and South Loop) could now be diverted around the city instead of through it.

For residents in the South Loop (particularly those that live close to the tracks) this is great news. Hopefully they won't hear trains laying on their horns in the middle of the night. However, the ruling is being contested by various suburb groups that are trying to block this move as it will make their communities more congested and busy with the diverted trains. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

More on Sloopin Real Estate from Crain's

Brief news bit on Real Estate in Chicago and specifically the South Loop. Gail Lissner, VP at Appraisal Research Consultants, is "cautiously optimistic about the South Loop" in the long run (1:46 seconds in)...

Bob Ctvrtlik and the Olympic Bid

Who is he and why do we care? Well besides a weird name, he will be instrumental in helping the Chicago 2016 bid reach and connect with the often ornery IOC members. If you're really interested in the Olympic bid check the story out on Chicago Sun-Times, if not don't bother...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Interesting Discussion at YoChicago about SL

For those of you who don't know, YoChicago is a website devoted to covering the real estate market in Chicago. And as you can imagine, the South Loop is one neighborhood that is often covered due to its recent growth.

About two days ago YoChicago posted a conversation starter comparing the South Loop in its current state to Edgewater a couple of decades ago (According to the website real estate in the Edgewater neighborhood lost approximately 60% of it's value from 1972 to 1992). Although this has garnered a fare share of comments, most of them seem to think that the South Loop is nothing like Edgewater. In my opinion here was an insightful post comparing the two:

I don't think that there is much of a historical parallel (between the South Loop and Edgewater). Yes, the supply of condos in both neighborhoods skyrocketed, and skyrocketed over the a period of 5 years or so, before the market collapsed, but that's probably where the similarities end.

As John succinctly put it, the South Loop location is downtown and attractive, unlike Edgewater. Yes, the South Loop currently has a large inventory of unsold units, however, the South Loop is a very attractive place to live unlike Edgewater was/is - and while it will take quite some time to absorb this inventory, it will be absorbed much more quickly than Edgewater, due to it being so attractive to live in the South Loop.

Also, while I agree with most of what Abuyer had to say, I disagree with his comment that the inventory in the South Loop is overpriced. There may be a couple buildings with units that are overpriced, but most of unsold units in the South Loop are such a bargain compared to other neighborhoods that are close to the Loop such as Lakeshore East, the Loop, Streeterville, River North, Gold Coast, or even the West Loop and River West neighborhoods. When the overall market begins to pick up again, the South Loop's inventory will be absorbed a lot more quickly than the inventory of these other neighborhoods, given that the South Loop is a better bargain.

Will the South Loop's condo prices takea a little bit of a hit, due to the overall market's problems? Of course. But I don't see anything even close to the 60% loss Edgewater suffered between 1979-1992, happening to the South Loop from 2008-2021.

Olympic Prediction

The Sports Business Journal has an article on what to expect in the world of sports for 2009. Although it's a secondary point in their article they do predict that Chicago will win the bid this year (however, they also said it's impossible to predict how the IOC will vote).

Anyway, in light of the article I just posted about the South Loop cooling, I still strongly believe that the Olympic bid would really, really, really help the neighborhood.

Cool Down

In terms of real estate and development, the South Loop is going to feel some pain in 2009 according to an article today on This probably isn't the biggest surprise for residents in the South Loop, but as you can imagine it's a little disheartening to hear.

Although I'm not arguing the facts of the article or the current real estate predicament, but if you don't have to sell your place tomorrow I think you should be fine. As the article states, the South Loop neighborhood has a lot of attractive attributes for it's residents, such as close proximity to the loop, lake, Grant Park, Museum Campus, public transportation and major highways.

As they say in real estate, it's all about location, location, location...and I think that should help the South Loop continue to evolve.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Employees Have Fun at Potbelly's in the South Loop

If you haven't been to Potbelly's, you probably don't live in Chicago and you probably don't like sandwiches. If that's the case, you can probably stop reading this post. Like most "faster" food chains, their process is pretty much perfected and as a result the food is always the same (which in this case is good).

So I'm not writing this to review the food, I'm writing to say that employees at the Potbelly's at 45 E. Roosevelt (essentially at the corner of Roosevelt and Wabash) are always joking around and having fun. I'm not saying this is a problem, but just an observation. To be honest, it's kinda nice, usually you get a stale experience at these types of restaurants. Good to know Potbelly's is a little different.

Development Alterations in the South Loop has a recent story about two developers that are changing there plans in the South Loop due to the current state of the economy. Although this is the case around the city, country and world for that matter, it's still interesting to study different the ways each developer approaches their current predicament.

The main point of interest in my mind is that the piece of land directly north of Target on Clark (1000 S. Clark) is going to be built as lower end retail. In my mind this is perplexing as it seems like this area now has an abundance of retail space with the already existing Southgate market, Jofco Square and soon to be completed Roosevelt Collection.

However, what do I know....