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.