Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rio: Beautiful...Check, Dangerous...Check

ABC 7 has a good video today talking about some of the negatives and positives surrounding Rio's 2016 Olympic Bid. One thing is for certain, it really is a beautiful city and would be a picturesque setting for the Olympics.

On the other hand, violence is a huge factor. According to the video more then 2,000 people were murdered in Rio last year (which averages to nearly 38 a week. Yikes!).

We couldn't post the video, but here is the link if you want to check it out.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rio's 2014 World Cup Touted as an Advantage in Quest for the 2016 Olympics?

Take that with a grain of salt, but it's an argument that Brazilian Sports and Olympic officials are touting. According to an article on today:
"The 2014 World Cup is an important part of Rio de Janeiro's bid," Rio de Janeiro state governor Sergio Cabral told the IOC members on Wednesday. "The improvements in accommodation, security and transportation will be useful for both events."
While these points are valid, Governor Cabral is forgetting another factor: Ego. Let's not forget that the world of international sports is driven by some huge personalities. Would the Olympic movement really want to come to Rio/Brazil two years after arguably the second largest international sporting event, the World Cup?

There is precedent for the World Cup to follow the Olympics, but not vice versa (or as far as we could tell). It's impossible to know how IOC officials feel about this, but we imagine it's something that they do consider.

The Sloop's Newest Neighbor? Where are the Peregrine Falcon's Nesting?

We need your help! Stephanie Ware (a reader, Field Museum employee and fellow Slooper) recently reached out to us about helping her program find a new resident to the South Loop, the Peregrine Falcon. They've been spotted in the South Loop (around 14th and Wabash), but they're specifically trying to determine where or IF these Falcons have chosen a new nesting site in the neighborhood:
Hi There,

I work with a program that monitors the Peregrine Falcon population here in Chicago. Two years ago, a pair of peregrines new to the Chicago region tried to nest on the Field Museum, but they were unsuccessful. They returned the following year and, after laying a few eggs in a precarious location on the museum, tried to set up shop at a construction site in the south loop. That nest failed as well.

The pair is back this year and we have been tracking them since early March. However, we haven't been able to determine where or IF they have chosen a new nesting site. At this point in the season, this pair will have likely laid eggs and they should be hatching in the next couple of weeks. We would like to find them in order to put leg bands on the chicks and record the identities of the adults.

Peregrines nest on cliff ledges, so our wild urban population makes fine use of the ledges on Chicago's taller buildings as nesting sites. Residents of those buildings may see the adults frequently and we would love to hear about those sightings. Perhaps your readers may be of some assistance. If you would consider posting a picture of a peregrine on your blog and mention my email address (, that would give people an easy place to report those sightings. I have been seeing them most frequently in the area of 14th and Wabash.

I have attached a picture I took last year of the museum's adult male, which should provide ample information regarding physical characteristics.

Thank you for your consideration!

Stephanie Ware
Collections Assistant, Insect Division
Secretary, Scholarship Committee
Member, Chicago Peregrine Program
Zoology Department
The Field Museum
1400 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL 60605-2496
For those of you who don't know, the Peregrine Falcon is Chicago's official bird. For more information about the bird you can check out Stephanie's blog or this article.

Keep your eyes peeled to the sky and hopefully we can help figure out where the Falcons are nesting!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Columbia's Media Production Center Under Construction

There has been a lot of recent press about the success of downtown colleges in the Loop and South Loop. As a result it's not surprising to see many of these organizations continuing their expansions in the area.

Last year we got word of Columbia College's proposed Media Production Center at the corner of State and 16th. The construction is officially underway:
The official groundbreaking is tentatively scheduled for early 2009, possibly in February if weather permits, Micki Leventhal, director of Media Relations, said. The building is slated to be finished by spring 2010.
The building will provide some new facilities for the school and their students:
The Film, Television and Interactive Arts and Media departments will all be working together in the new space. The building will include two sound stages and a motion capture studio.
Here is a picture of the construction progress from a High rise in the South Loop:
(Hat Tip for the picture: Ryan L)

No Smoking in New Printer's Row Rental Apartment

For non-smokers looking to live in Printer's Row a new rental building might be exactly what you're looking for. The recently finished 24-story highrise, AMLI Residential at 900 S. Clark, mandates that residents can't smoke inside or outside of the building. Although this might limit some people from living here, for others it's exactly what the doctor ordered:

"I don't smoke, so I love the smoke-free building," said Benz, a professional filmmaker and student at Columbia College.

"I've gotten used to going to places that don't smell like smoke. The loft I lived in before this really smelled bad, cigar and what have you," Benz said. "What I like most about AMLI 900 is that it smells fresh and clean. There are no weird odors."

For more information on the building check on the article at the Sun-Times website.

(Image: Brian Jackson / Sun-Times)

Monday, April 27, 2009

IOC in Rio for 2016 Evaluation

The 13 member IOC 2016 evaluation committee touched down in Rio today and is set to judge how their bid stacks up to the competitions (Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo).

The committee has already been to Chicago and Tokyo and from the sounds of it, both cities did relatively well. It's hard to get a good read on how successful the presentations were, so the thinking is that as long as there is no major problem or gaffe, then they will be considered a success. If something bad happens on the visit we would most definitely hear about it.

With that said, we will be scouring the internets monitoring how Rio's evaluation goes over the next week. Our guess is that the committee will use words like 'dynamic' and 'vision' to praise Rio's bid, but at the end of the day, we won't really get a good read on how Rio really stacks up.

Regardless, we will be watching...

Howie's For Sale?

According to and, one of our local Sloopin favorites, Howie's (at 1310 S Wabash) , is for sale:
Most everybody loves South Loop greasy spoon Howie's — but do you love it enough to make it your legally binding very own? Because it's for sale — drop a scant $105,000 and the quick-service 50 seater (and, presumably, as much grape soda and cheese fries as you're interested in consuming) is all yours through 2014, when the lease is up for renegotiation.
If there are no buyers, will Howie's close? We sure hope not!

(Hat Tip: Karen)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Motor Row Sign?

Over the past couple of years, the city has spent a lot of money upgrading the street scape on Michigan Avenue south of Roosevelt. With these improvements have come some increases in pedestrian traffic, but it's still relatively minimal probably because a lot of the retail space hasn't filled in yet. We can only imagine that will change...

One of the improvements we noticed was a blank sign close to the corner of Michigan and Roosevelt (on the east of the street):
Although we don't know what this will be used for our guess is that it will highlight some of the historic areas in the neighborhood (ie - the historic motor row buildings along Michigan Avenue). Has anyone heard what this sign will be used for or when it will be used?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Central Area Action Plan: South West Loop Part 2

As we posted a couple of weeks ago, Chicago has recently unveiled a plan for many neighborhoods in the downtown area. Many of these plans affect various areas of the Sloop and as a result we are going to have some posts over the next couple of weeks looking into these changes. Some of the changes are already underway, but most are plans that could happen sometime before 2020. Will they happen? Who knows, but it's still good to consider.

South West Loop - Part 2
For more info on Part 1 of this area click here.

1) South Branch Bridges
In our opinion these projects are no brainers. By adding bridges at Polk, Taylor and 16th street (in order from north to south) it will better connect the "South West Loop" to the rest of the city grid. This in turn will help the area with traffic flow and make the greater Printers Row area easier to access.

2) Bicycle Lanes & Markings
This is a minor addition and probably relatively inexpensive. So, there is not much argument coming from us. If it happens great, if not no big deal.

3) Clinton Subway (Station at Roosevelt)
Although this is debatable, we're not sure a Clinton Subway line is the best use of public transportation funds. We realize that it would connect to the main proposed multi-billion dollar "West Loop Transportation Center" but won't the circle line also connect everything? In a perfect world the city could afford both the Circle Line and Clinton Subway line, but we truly hope that the Circle Line is the priority. It seems easier to implement and would be better for the greater region. We would love to hear your thoughts on this one...

4) South Branch Riverfront
As we stated in part 1 of this segment, we love this idea. However, it shouldn't be a priority. There are a ton of other projects and things the city needs to focus on (transportation, schools, etc.). Although it would be great to have additional riverfront paths for recreational purposes we don't think it's necessary.

What do you think about these proposed additions? Which ones do you think should get the green light?

Public Transit Humor

It's Friday and after a long week of CTA buses taking forever and crowded El trains we thought we would pass along this public transit "sign" courtesy of CTA Tattler:

Central Area Action Plan: Update from the Trib

On the front page of today the main story was about Chicago's Central Area Action Plan. It sounds like the plan is set to be approved by city council next month, which might be alarming to some. However, they still haven't said how it's going to be funded and our guess is that many of the projects have a loooooong way to go.

The Olympic bid (which is set to be decided upon in October) proves to be the wild card again. If Chicago is awarded the games, we expect a lot of these projects to get fast tracked and hopefully receive a larger share of federal funds.

The Tribune has some "interactive" maps here. However, these are only a couple of the major parts of the overall Central Area Action Plan. Like we said earlier, we're going to focus on some of the projects that specifically touch the South Loop. Stay tuned, we hope to post something later today.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Marquee Adds Rental Options; 1555 S. Wabash Closings to Start Soon?

YoChicago has two recent posts looking at two of the newer developments in the South Loop.

The first is a post about Marquee (1464 S. Michigan Ave. - pictured to the right) rolling out rental options for some of the remaining units that haven't sold yet. We've heard about similar approaches in the neighborhood given the difficult real estate market.

Also of interest is that 1555 S. Wabash looks to be finally closing on some of their units:
The building has obtained certificates of occupancy for its first three residential floors and should be ready to "rock and roll" (which I interpret as "start closing units") around the first week of May.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Shots Around the Sloop

Beautiful shot looking east from the Roosevelt Green and Orange line platform from our friends at The Windy Pixel. If you haven't checked out their blog, you should...simply awesome!

(Image from:

"The Shrine" is Coming

Today we got word from a reader that a new sign for "The Shrine" has gone up around where we heard the new club/lounge/bar would be. After doing some more digging, this looks to be the new club. The Shrine is located at 2109 S. Wabash Ave and looks to be a relatively big space. According to Metromix:
This South Loop club-lounge combo with so-called "Africa meets James Bond" decor debuts in the former Chicago Legends space in late May.

Expect to find two distinct spaces with separate entrances. On one half, you'll find a DJ-driven dance club with a stage and sound system ready to host local and national music acts. On the other half, The Coup d'etat lounge will offer a sophisticated space for cocktail-sipping on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (when the club half is closed) and VIP treatment throughout the weekend. And both smokers and non-smokers will appreciate this: A separate outdoor smoking patio that eliminates the in-out hassle as well as the requisite cloud of smoke near the entrance.
The name of the club doesn't really spark to us, but we will give it the benefit of the doubt and reserve our judgment until it opens and we can check it out.

(Hat Tip: TD)
(image from:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Synogogues No, but South Loop has Jewish Food and Culture

We recently went to Eleven City Diner (at 1112 S. Wabash) and had a good, quick meal. The diner had an old fashioned feel, relatively friendly service and a nice atmosphere that helped us enjoy our Corned Beef sandwich. The restaurant seemed to take a page out of the book from the popular East Coast delis (specifically one that comes to mind is the recently moved Second Avenue Deli in NYC). We enjoyed our visit and most definitely will be going back. This experience got us thinking about how the neighborhood caters to its Jewish residents.

The South Loop interestingly doesn't have a Jewish Synagogue in the neighborhood (at least we're not familiar with one). There are a lot of other religious institutions in the neighborhood (Soka Gakkai, Old St. Mary's Church, True Rock Ministry and the planed Church of Scientology to name a few). For Jewish residents the closest synagogue we found was the Chicago Loop Synagogue which is located at 16 South Clark. Technically it's not considered in the Sloop, but still pretty close.

However, even if there isn't a place for Jewish neighbors to practice their religion at least they have some great restaurants and cultural activities that can keep them connected to their faith. As we mentioned above, Eleven City Dinner serves many Jewish staples like potato latkes, matzo ball soup and our personal favorite the traditional corned beef sandwich.

Arguably the most famous Jewish deli in the city (maybe even the region) is Manny's Deli which is located in the Sloop at 1141 S. Jefferson. If you haven't been, we highly recommend you check it out. Not to beat a dead horse, but we highly recommend the Corned Beef! The deli has had it's share of celebrities and politicians hit up the spot (most recently Barack Obama).

Finally, if you want real Jewish culture (although in our opinion the food is a big part of the culture) then you can go over to the recently renovated Spertus Museum at 610 S. Michigan. We haven't been yet, but have been intrigued by some of the lectures and plan to check some out eventually.

So the moral of the story is that you don't have to fret if you're a Jew in the Sloop, there are ways to engage with your Jewish identity. Best of all you don't have to go to services on Saturday morning...

2009 Lollapalooza Lineup Set

The 2009 Lolla headliners were leaked a couple of weeks ago and to be honest we weren't too pumped. Today the full roster has been released and once again it has us excited for the annual August rock fest in our beautiful Grant Park.

Besides the headliners, some of the other big names are:
Lou Reed, Ben Harper, Thievery Corporation, Snoop Dogg, Rise Against, Andrew Bird, TV on the Radio, Vampire Weekend, the Decemberists, Neko Case. STS9 (Sound Tribe Sector 9), Animal Collective, Band of Horses, Of Montreal, Arctic Monkeys, Coheed and Cambria, Ben Folds and Fleet Foxes.
Personally we're super pumped to see the one and only Snoop D,O, double G:

Over the course of the next couple months we will be looking at some of the groups set to rock Lolla, so stay tuned for that.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

IOC Committee Finishes Evaluation of Tokyo's 2016 Bid

When the IOC evaluation committee left Chicago a couple of weeks ago, by all accounts things went well. The chairwoman of the committe, Nawal El Moutawakel of Morocco, used words like "dynamic" and "vibrant" to discribe the city and bid and said she liked and understood the "vision" of the bid.

Well those words were uttered again at the end of the IOC's visit to Tokyo. Our guess is that similar words will be mentioned after Rio's and Madrid's bid as well. It's hard to read to much into these press conferences, but it's clear Chicago and Tokyo survived their IOC evaluations.

The IOC Evaluation Commission members are on to Rio April 29-May 2 and Madrid May 5-8 to inspect their cities' bids. We will see if they survive...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Buddy Guy's Legends Celebrates its 20th Year

The South Loop has changed a lot over the past 20 years, but one thing remains consistent, great blues at Buddy Guy's Legends (754 S. Wabash). The club remains a popular spot for locals, tourists and even some of the worlds best musicians:
As soon as the doors opened, Buddy Guy’s Legends quickly drew a celebrity crowd with Guy’s friends eager to get on stage. Special guests have included Stevie Ray Vaughn, the Stones, Eric Clapton, David Bowie and B.B. King. The Legends stage has also been a launching pad for up-and-coming talent like Derek Trucks (the Allman Brothers), who first played at the club when he was 13. Guy has said time and again that he owns his club to keep that burgeoning talent coming in, vowing to keep the blues alive and strong.
In honor of the anniversary, the club will have drink specials and giveaways during the month of June. We also wanted share that the official 20th anniversary party will be held on Tuesday, June 16th. We're not sure about the details, but if you can somehow go, it should be fun!

The other thing we recently found out is that people who live in the 60605 zip code don't have to pay cover Sunday through Thursday (excluding special events on those days). Simply show up with a drivers license, ID or bill with the 60605 code and you can enjoy a good time and some great music.

In case you don't know about Buddy, here is an old classic:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Michael Reese Demolition to be "Fast Tracked"?

Blair Kaman had a post yesterday on his Chicago Tribune blog, The Skyline, about the city's invitation for contractors to submit bids on the demolition of the Michael Reese Hospital. As many of us know, this land is the proposed Olympic Village if Chicago is awarded the 2016 games. The city claims that this land will be developed regardless of whether or not Chicago gets the games.

The post mostly goes into the architectural conservation of some of the buildings since they were designed by world renowned architect, Walter Gropius. Of particular interest to us is the quote about the buildings being "fast tracked" and demolished prior to October:
Qualification submittals are due Thursday, April 23, according to the PBC's (Public Building Commission) Web site. Peters (president of Illinois Landmarks) said he expected the PBC to launch a request for proposals process soon afterwards in order to "fast track" demolition before October, when the IOC is scheduled to select one of four cities to host the 2016 Games.
This Peters guy is obviously not a supporter of the demolition, so we're not sure how much stock to put in his prediction of demolition starting prior to October. Regardless, food for thought.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Central Area Action Plan: South West Loop Part 1

As we posted a couple of weeks ago, Chicago has recently unveiled a plan for many neighborhoods in the downtown area. Many of these plans affect various areas of the Sloop and as a result we are going to have some posts over the next couple of weeks looking into these changes. Some of the changes are already underway, but most are plans that could happen sometime before 2020. Will they happen? Who knows, but it's still good to consider.

South West Loop - Part 1
This area is bound by Congress Pkwy on the north, 16th street on the south, the Chicago River on the east and the Dan Ryan Expressway on the west. This area has gone through some drastic changes and continues to evolve. Although there isn't much residential living in this small area, it has developed as a major center for 'big box' retailers such as Best Buy, Whole Foods, Home Depot, World Market, Bed Bath & Beyond, and so on.

These stores are in a good position to serve various neighborhoods south of the downtown core. Some of the neighborhoods this area serves are Printer's Row, South Loop, Near South Side, Pilsen, Chinatown, Little Italy, West Loop, University Village and the UIC Campus.

The plan calls for two 'signature streets' at Congress and Roosevelt:
Congress Parkway
Two major issues we see with this. First, the old post office is a behemoth. Many, many, many developers have proposed ways to transform this property, but nothing has actually happened. We've read about casinos, hotels, office space and most recently a mixed use development. It seems like they should figure this out before planning to many improvements to this area.

Second, Congress Parkway is essentially a major highway which doesn't lend itself well to pedestrian traffic. This plan tries to address some of this, but in our opinion Congress simply can't be a pedestrian friendly street. Hopefully we're wrong, but we have yet to see something that convinces us otherwise. Can anyone think of any major streets in Chicago that would pose as a template for making Congress pedestrian friendly? Michigan? Wacker?

The stretch of Roosevelt road from Michigan Avenue to the Chicago River in our opinion is a great example of a major road being beautifully transformed. Although we're not entirely sure about the city's plans for their other proposed 'signature streets', in our mind this stretch is what they should copy. With that said, we envision an extension of these improvements west towards the Dan Ryan Expressway.

The one thing we are unsure about is the red asterisks on the graphic above that is labeled "gateway feature". Will that be some sort of sign designating the area (similar to Old Town or Boys Town or Chinatown)? That's our guess, but not entirely sure.

Additional Thoughts
One of the consistent things and bigger initiatives for the central area action plan is continuing the river walk so that it extends down the south branch of the Chicago River. In our opinion this is a great idea. We've frequently walked down Wacker and truly enjoy being on the river. However, this idea is pretty ambitious and probably something that the city doesn't really need until other issues are solved (schools etc.). We can dream, though.

So what do you think? Is this necessary? good urban planning? a waste?

(images from Central Area Action Plan)

"X/O Has Basically Failed"

Crain's is reporting that X/O, the controversial South Loop highrise development, has defaulted on their loan:
A venture led by Mr. Giles has defaulted on a $19.1-million loan secured by a Prairie Avenue property where the developer had planned a controversial 479-unit project called the X/O Condominiums, according to Joubin Khorsand, an investor in the venture.
The proposed development was planned to be located 1712 S. Prairie Ave.:

IOC in Tokyo for Evaluation, but Chicago Should Fear Rio

The IOC has moved to Tokyo to evaluate their 2016 Olympic Bid, but Chicago shouldn't fear the Japanesse. In our opinion, Rio poses the biggest threat to Chicago's chance to host the 2016 games.

We recently stumbled upon this great article by Universal Sports that summarizes the pros and cons for Rio's bid. As has been repeatedly stated, this would be the first ever Olympic games hosted in South America. That is a pretty powerful attribute and something that differentiates Rio's bid from the rest of the competition.

However, often lost are the cons associated with Rio's bid:
It's abundantly clear what Rio is up against. In a March, 2008 report assessing the merits of what initially were seven 2016 bids, that list cut a few weeks later to the four formally designated "candidate cities" that will be put to the Oct. 2 vote, the IOC itself noted, "Crime in parts of Rio de Janeiro was considered to be an issue for the safety of people attending the Olympic Games. Should Rio be selected as a candidate city, assurances regarding protection and safety of persons traveling through certain parts of the city would be required."

This, too:

Those "new markets for sponsors"? In this economic climate, how much sponsor money and interest will the IOC members figure can possibly be left over after the 2014 World Cup in soccer-mad Brazil for an Olympic Games just two years later? Moreover, why would the IOC, which seeks to get the benefit of every single day of the seven-year run-up from vote to opening ceremony, willingly cede five years of attention to FIFA, soccer's international governing body, and the World Cup?

Moreover, which of these observations are IOC members likely to remember most:

Lula (president of Brazil), speaking in London to The Times after his visit to Olympic Park at the end of the G-20 summit: "We are not a banana republic. Brazil has one of the most sound economies that many European countries do not enjoy today. I hope the international community will take that into consideration.”

Or Lula, speaking in Brazil in advance of the G-20 conclave, addressing the press at a news conference with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at which, according to the BBC, the Brazilian president said of the global economic turmoil:

"It is a crisis caused and encouraged by the irrational behavior of white people with blue eyes, who before the crisis appeared to know everything, but are now showing that they know nothing." Questioned by a reporter, Lula went on: "As I do not know any black or indigenous bankers, I can only say it is not possible for this part of mankind, which is victimized more than any other, to pay for the crisis."

The IOC, dominated by European interests, tends to note such slights. It tends to move cautiously. China got those 2008 Games only after coming up short in a first bid, for 2000, won by Sydney -- and in the 2001 vote for 2008, the one thing the IOC could be certain about was that in giving a Games to China they would be Organized flawlessly. And they were.
Yes, crime in Chicago is bad...but nothing like Rio. In terms of sponsorships, it's hard to expect Rio to compete with American (and Chicago) corporations. And this craziness about what their president (Lula) is saying...could you imagine if Obama said something like that?

All these things could play a role, but again having the first ever Olympic games in South America is pretty powerful. Only time will tell if it's going to happen in 2016 or in the future.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

South Loop Wine Cellar Club

The Chicagoist had a recent post about The South Loop Wine Cellar's 'Wine Club':
South Loop Wine Cellar’s wine club allows patrons to receive 2 bottles of wine a month, chosen by Amy, and guaranteed to exceed the cost of membership. For $30, you receive a “Silver” membership and for $50 a “Gold” membership - the only difference being the price of the wines. You can chose two reds, two whites or one of each, and she will take into account any strong personal preferences. We got our first two bottles of red last week, and for $15 each, we were very impressed.
We haven't been yet, but are eager to try it out!

Northerly Island Provides a Wide Range of Shows

Charter One Pavilion at Northerly Island is considered one of the best and most scenic outdoor music venues in Chicago. Lucky for us, it's right in our backyard. Similar to years past, the scheduled acts are a wide ranging and most are well known. While some might be past their prime, they still put on a good show:

If noodling is your thing, then you can join the spreadheads in September as The Allman Brothers Band and Widespread Panic team up for two shows:

Other acts include:
  • Nine Inch Nails
  • Ziggy Marley
  • 311
  • O.A.R
  • The Offspring
  • REO Speedwagon
  • Styx
  • Incubus
  • O'Jays

Monday, April 13, 2009

Is Chicago the Most Diverse 2016 Olympic Candidate City?

Much has been said about Chicago's Olympic Bid, but one point we recently read about that hasn't gotten much attention is the fact that Chicago has a pretty diverse groups of citizens. They might not be very integrated (ie every group tends to have their own neighborhood), but it's an interesting point that seems to differentiate Chicago from the other bid cities. recently touched on the topic:

"From athletes' point of view, when you come to a place where people speak your language ... it's very convenient for the athlete," Comaneci said before talking with IOC commissioners. She noted Chicago is home to many Romanians, making it more comfortable for her and her mother when she visits.

Organizers hammered on that message time and again. Mayor Richard Daley spoke of a city built and rebuilt by immigrants. Ryan noted the dozens of languages spoken in Chicago. On the IOC's final day here, the IOC viewed a video about the city's ethnic diversity in which the narrator said every Olympic team that comes to Chicago "will feel like the home team."

And Obama, in his video, painted Chicago as "a city where races, religions and nationalities all live and work and play and reach for the American dream that brought them here."

If it sounds like overkill, Frazier said it was necessary.

"Chicago's biggest advantage is it is the only one of the bid cities that the Poles should be cheering for, the Romanians should be cheering for," he said. "Show me a Greektown in Tokyo."

Although we don't know if it's Chicago's biggest advantage, it is interesting and if true is a powerful thing. We tried to find some stats on diverse international cities, but couldn't find much credible information.

Out of the four 2016 candidate cities (Chicago, Madrid, Tokyo and Rio) which do you think is the most diverse?

CTA Wins "Most Improved" Global Transit Agency Award

Believe it or not, our very own Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) recently won a prestigious global award as the 'most improved' transit agency in 2008. The CTA cited the following reasons for the award:
CTA achieved a 4.1 percent increase in rail ridership in 2008 compared to 2007. For 2008, the rail system recorded a total of 198.2 million rides – an increase of 7.9 million rides over the previous year. The agency also significantly reduced slow zones in 2008.

Safety improvements made last year were recognized, including upgrades to subway emergency exits. Upgrades included brighter lighting, high visibility signs, improved stairways and an instructional video to help prepare customers for evacuation procedures in case of an emergency.

We love the new bus tracker and their new website is much easier to navigate. Congrats to the CTA on a successful 2008...hopefully the progress continues in 2009.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

South Loop: Yuppie Playground for the "Creative Class"?

Interesting article on that poses the question, what is urban success for a city? They start the article by saying that if you ask most people around the country the standard answer would be Chicago. However, the article goes on to praise other Midwest cities such as Indianapolis, Kansas City and Columbus. The point of the story is that cities can be successful for different reasons:
Chicago is tailoring its offerings to where it believes it can most effectively compete – new immigrants and world class talent. Places like Columbus, Indianapolis, and Kansas City are focusing on a broader middle class. Neither way is right or wrong. Both types of places, and others too, can all find success by offering unique places for people to realize their own personal American Dream.
A pretty neutral and politically correct stance, but it's hard to argue with it...we guess.

The other thing we found interesting was their take on the South Loop (and other neighborhoods in Chicago):
If you told someone 15 years ago you lived in the South Loop, they would have said, “Huh?” If you had told them you lived by the old Chicago Stadium, they would have thought you had lost your mind. These and other neighborhoods that were once derelict or dangerous, as well as some that were low key ethnic enclaves, have been transformed into bustling yuppie playgrounds for the new “creative class”.
Personally, we hate the word yuppie, because of the negative connotation that comes with it. On the other hand the classification of "Creative Class" seems innocent and positive to us, so it doesn't really bother us.

What do you think? Are these fair classifications for the Sloop?

Friday, April 10, 2009

South Loop History Lesson: Chess Records

You probably already know that the South Loop has a pretty amazing history. From Al Capone's infamous speak easies to the homes of the cities wealthiest and most influential families back in the early 1900s on Prairie Avenue.

The area is also home to the legendary Chess Records (2120 South Michigan Ave.). The story of Chess records was recently made into a Hollywood story called "Cadillac Records" that garnered good reviews, but didn't really bring too much interest to the Chicago blues and rock history or movement. However, Beyonce's rendition of the Eta James' classic At Last has become extremely popular again (not that it wasn't popular to begin with):

Chess Records has also hosted various legends such as Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Chuck Taylor and even the Rolling Stones which imortalized the address by recording an instrumental during their first U.S. Tour in 1964 called "2120 South Michigan Avenue". Here is a cover of that instrumental:

The building is still there and is actually now home to Willie Dixon's Blues Heaven Foundation, which is also a museum of sorts. For more info on the foundation, The Chicago Journal has a good article about it as well information on the History of Chess Records.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

"Host City Contract" Could Prove to Be an Issue for Chicago 2016

There are a host of reasons why many Chicagoans and other opponents feel the city of Chicago shouldn't host the 2016 games. Whether it's the lack of funding for basic local needs (schools, infrastructure, etc) or simply the cities infamous run of corruption, there is a extensive and valid list as to why Chicago shouldn't host the games.

Another potentially problem that we haven't read or heard much about is the "Host City Contract" that the winning city historically has to sign. The problem can be summed up here:
At issue is a complexity rooted in the American system of federalism as it intersects with Rule 37 of the Olympic Charter. That rule essentially shifts the ultimate financial responsibility for an organizing committee to the city in which the Games are staged. In practice, it has proven typical in other countries for the national government to backstop an organizing committee's operating budget. In the United States, it can't work that way.

Chicago has proposed an addendum to the contract, but the issue hasn't been publicly resolved or addressed. Chicago's rivals for the 2016 games have already pounced on this issue and probably will continue to bring it up to IOC members. Our guess is that this will be resolved, but this is still a big issue that is hanging over the Chicago bid.

This article by Universal Sports does a great job going into more detail about the "Host City Contract" issue. The article also brings up an interesting point that Chicago's financing approach could be seen as an innovation:

There's the possibility it (The Chicago 2016 Bid) may, in time, come to be seen as an innovation -- a new model of financing for future bids, even in those nations that typically have relied on national government underwriting. With the downturn in the global economy and the erosion in the credit ratings of some governments, among them Spain, it may yet prove shrewd indeed to spread risk not only across different levels of public entities but to obtain insurance coverage.

How much, for instance, would a guarantee backed by the government of Iceland
be worth now?

Will the IOC see it that way? Who knows...

(image from

Home-Brewing Competition at Binny's South Loop

If you're like us, you love a good home-brew. If that's the case, you will definitely want to head over to Binny's this weekend for the Chicago Home Brew Contest:

In conjunction with the annual Sam Adams Longshot home-brewing competition,
Binny’s South Loop is holding a Chicago Home Brew contest. Along with the
judging, there’ll be a brewing demo, tastings of some of last year’s Longshot
winners, and cheese and sandwiches for nibbling. The winner gets a trip for two
to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver in September. Contestants should
bring a six-pack of home brew and a detailed written recipe. To enter the
Longshot competition, register at and bring six additional bottles
to be shipped to Boston (on Sam Adams’s dime). 11 AM-3 PM, beer must be
submitted by noon for judging, 1132 S. Jefferson, 312-768-4400.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Your Shots Around the Sloop

View from Condo in the South Loop.
(Thanks Mustafa!)

IOC Wraps Up Chicago Bid Inspection

So the 13 member IOC evaluation committee finally wrapped up it's big visit to Chicago to "kick the tires" of the city's plan for the Olympics. It was four long days of Mayor Daley, Chicago Big Hitters and various other people pitching the IOC on why Chicago would be a great host in 2016. From most indications, it seems like it went pretty well. The chairwoman called the city 'vibrant' and said she understood and liked the 'vision of the bid' and 'how it was centered in the heart of the city'.

However, it's hard to get a good sense of how they really feel since they have to put a good spin on everything at this point. There will be many news stories tomorrow and we will post anything we fell is interesting.

If you have some time you can check out the IOC's press conference today about their impressions and feelings about Chicago's bid here.

The IOC committee now goes off to Tokyo to check out their bid followed by Rio then Madrid. We will keep you posted on any interesting developments coming out of those evaluations.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sloopin Recognized as One of Chicago's Best Blogs

Although we don't like to toot our own horn very often, we're going to! It's been just over six months since we launched Sloopin and things are going pretty well. On March 23rd we had a new record for visitors and were also featured as one of 'Chicago's Best Blogs' on the front page of
Most importantly, we wanted to say thanks to all of our Sloopers for the great comments, emails, feedback, tips and help. Without you we would have never gotten this far. We appreciate your help and look forward to the future!

(Image created from

Lakefront Makeover > Lakefront Takeover

Sorry to take it back to grade school mathematics (lakefront makeover greater than lakefront takeover), but like we said yesterday, the potential restrictions of the lakefront during the Olympics would justify the long term benefits we would receive due to the games.

Blair Kamin had a great blog post about the subject and like us he sees the benefits outweighing the drawbacks.  

U2 Sells Out Soldier Field; Announces Second Show

Chicago has a great music scene and one of the biggest venues in the city is Soldier Field.  This year there are a couple big summer shows scheduled, but none bigger then U2.  The Chicago Tribune is reporting that they sold out their first scheduled show on September 12th and as a result announced a second show on September 13th.  Get your tickets fast:

You probably won't see us there, but we still imagine it will be a pretty good show.

Familiar Face Pitches in For 2016

There has been much ado about Obama's relationship with Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid, but today his formal rival turned ally, Hillary Clinton addressed the IOC committee via video. Many forget that Hillary is an Illinois native and today she spoke about customs and immigration for athletes and other visitors.

The other big story today is that Valerie Jarret (who is a Chicago native as well as a senior adviser and close friend to Obama) said that:
the White House would set up an office to provide support for the Games and oversee a host of federal agencies. They said it's the first time the White House has done so before the final selection of a host city
Again this displays the federal governments intentions to the IOC, which should be seen as a big sign of support (something that has been publicly criticized by the media and Chicago's rivals).

Tonight is the big gala at the new modern wing at the Art Institute. Oprah among other Chicago and international luminaries are scheduled to wine and dine with the IOC committee tonight.

Central Area Action Plan Dreams Big for the South Loop

The city recently updated and released it's plan for improving many areas downtown and we quickly read through some of it. It has seven chapters all of which were pretty interesting to us. However, please read it with a skeptical eye as it is definitely a 'dream'. Regardless, it gives you a good glimpse into the vision of the city planners and where we could be by 2020. Here is the link to the files.

The Chicago Tribune also has an interesting article today specifically criticizing one of the plans biggest attributes, the West Loop Transportation Center.

For more coverage, check out the Chicago Journal's take on parts of the plan.

There is a ton of plans for the greater Sloopin area and we will be reading/looking into plans for our specific neighborhood over the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned and please let us know what you like, hate or don't understand.

(Image from

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Lakefront Takeover? It's Not That Big of a Deal...

Today the main story on the Chicago Tribune's website stokes Olympic fears by pointing out that parts of the lakefront likely will be restricted during the games:
Plans for the proposed 2016 Olympic Village and lakefront sports venues would force cyclists, runners and walkers to divert from long stretches of the paths east of Lake Shore Drive during virtually all of July and August 2016.
This article obviously will stir the pot and upset many people that are already against the idea of having the games in Chicago. But come on...wasn't this assumed? You don't host a massive global event and expect the city to function as it would on any summer day.

We at Sloopin use the lakefront a ton and feel it's a huge asset to our neighborhood, but are fine with these restrictions. Are we upset that we won't be able to use our beloved lakefront for two months? Obviously. But we also realize that these small inconveniences would make the area nicer once we can use it again. The way we see it is that two months of restrictions is well worth it since we will be able to reap the benefits of these huge improvements for years to come.

More College Dorms Coming to the Neighborhood?

If there is one trend that seems to be picking up speed in the South Loop, it's the expansion of downtown universities and colleges. With that seems to be a demand for housing and recently there have been a couple of stories of new dorms or as the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting, old buildings being converted to house students:
The new owner of the Old Colony Building would like to turn the South Loop landmark into student housing. The Old Colony at 407 S. Dearborn is an 1894 Holabird & Roche design that's a seminal work of the "Chicago School" or architecture.
(Image from Sun-Times Library)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Obama Comes Through Again for Chicago 2016

Although this wasn't a big surprise, anytime Obama lobbies for the games you can't help but think Chicago might actually get them.

It was a beautiful day today in Chicago, but unfortunately almost the entire day was spent in conferences. Tomorrow is the big venue tour and the weather doesn't look very good. If it's any consolation for Chicago, when London was chosen to host the 2012 summer games the IOC toured their city when there was a blanket of snow on the ground. It shouldn't be that bad tomorrow...

Friday, April 3, 2009

Chicago Architecture Foundation Lecture: Roosevelt Collection

Our coverage of the Roosevelt Collection is obviously on the border of becoming obsessive based on our recent posts here and here. If you're like us and can't get enough of this developments concept then we highly suggest you take a look and listen to the Chicago Architecture Foundation lecture on RC.

You can listen to Keith Campbell, who was one of the leads in the development, talk through the concept here and download the PowerPoint he is going through by going to this link (it's the February 11th session).

Campbell talks about the planning and design of the project and how it was influenced by European walking streets and plazas. We're a huge fan of this idea, but are skeptical that they can pull it off. If they do we will definitely be in for a treat.

Regardless, we found the lecture very interesting and enjoyable!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Are You a Chicago Optimist or Pessimist?

Today the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Reader both have hypothetical 'letters to the Olympics' introducing our city to the IOC officials that are here to evaluate the plan for the 2016 games. The 'letters' couldn't be more different. To be fair, both articles are truthful and make a legitimate claims supporting their causes and opinions.

If you're up for the test, read both and tell us how you feel. Our guess is that you will sympathize with one opinion or the other.

Optimist - Chicago Tribune's "A letter to the Olympics"
Pessimist - Chicago Reader's "An open letter to the IOC"

Let us know which one you feel better portrays our city.

A Meal Fit for a King and the IOC

A couple days ago we had a post about the VIP treatment the IOC would get when they touch down in Chicago and today the Tribune has more details on that story. Some of the "best" chefs and restaurants around the city will be putting their best foot forward to dazzle the committee. The highlight of the culinary portion of the IOC visit has to be on Monday night:
The grand finale will be a gala dinner on Monday night in the new wing of the Art Institute, where the participating restaurant is a closely guarded secret (it's Spiaggia), there will be surprise guest performers (Jennifer Hudson) and security will be extra tight.
You would think the IOC will get a taste of our famous deep dish pizza at some point, but it's not bad if they have to settle for Table Fifty-Two, Naha and Aigre Doux.