Thursday, June 30, 2016

Where to Watch the 4th of July Fireworks

The 4th of July is just around the corner and it wouldn't be the holiday without some fireworks.  Curbed Chicago mapped out the top 15 places to watch the annual event - which takes place at 9:30pm from Navy Pier on Monday (7/4).

If you don't want to stray far from the neighborhood, they highlighted to spots within the Sloop:

#14:  Shedd Aquarium/Field Museum
The grassy slopes surrounding Shedd and the Lakefront Trail roundabout are both solid spots for fireworks gazing. It's an intimate refuge from the craziness at Navy Pier, but still close enough to get a great view.

#15:  Adler Planetarium
Located near the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium also has some grassy knolls and plenty of concrete breakwall to hang out at on Monday evening. The Adler is located at the very edge of the Museum Campus and offers unobstructed views of the lake and the greater downtown area.

We're big fans of the lawn in front of the Field Museum.

Regardless of if/where you watch the fireworks - hope you have a nice 4th of July!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Mago Grill & Cantina Looks to be Officially Opened at Roosevelt Collection

Well looks like this happened since yesterday.  A reader writes:
Visited Roosevelt Collection and discovered Mago officially opened this evening! 

Business Counter is updated as well!

(Hat tip: TK!)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Mago Grill May Be Opening Soon

A reader writes regarding Mago Grill at Roosevelt Collection:
Could it be? It might actually open? After years of signage?

Well that's a positive development!  As a reminder, signs went up for Mago Grill way back in November of 2014.  It wasn't until April of this year that it was officially announced.

Nice to see this one actually happening.

(Hat tip: TR!)

Monday, June 27, 2016

It's Official - Lucas Museum to Be Built in a State Far, Far Away

In the midst of the global news of the Brexit last Friday, another, more local, piece of surprising news came out.  George Lucas officially announced that his propose Lucas Museum of Narrative Art would be dropping their plans to build on Chicago's lakefront in favor of building it in California (via Chicago Tribune):
The Lucas Museum saga in Chicago has ended.  
"Star Wars" creator George Lucas announced Friday he is abandoning plans to build the project in Chicago, ending months of debate and controversy. Lucas, who wanted to build a museum showcasing his art collection along the city's lakefront, said in a statement he would shift his focus to trying to build the museum in California.  
The Lucas Museum proposal has been on hold since November 2014, when the group Friends of the Parks filed a federal lawsuit blocking construction.  
"No one benefits from continuing their seemingly unending litigation to protect a parking lot," filmmaker George Lucas said. "The actions initiated by Friends of Parks and their recent attempts to extract concessions from the city have effectively overridden approvals received from numerous democratically elected bodies of government."

While it seemed like this move back to California was a real possibility, it also seemed like there were some backroom negotiations going on to make this happen.

This development sorta feels like how we felt after Chicago didn't get the 2016 Olympics.  Not saying they're similar situations, just saying right now it feels like Chicago is losing out similar to how it felt way back in 2008.  In hindsight, Chicago not getting the bid seems like a blessing - maybe we'll feel the same way when this museum finally gets built in California.

Anyway, as you can imagine there are some pretty interesting reads on the fallout.  Here are some of the articles that caught our eye:

Friday, June 24, 2016

Mayor Expresses Interest in Idea to Convert Metra Electric District Line to Rapid-Transit Line

From the Trib:
A proposal to convert the Metra Electric District Line into a rapid-transit line with more frequent stops to serve the South Side and suburbs has drawn the interest of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has asked the head of the Regional Transportation Authority to facilitate discussion on the issue, RTA officials said.
So why does this impact us in the Sloop?  Well for some of the Sloop residents, more stops on this line could better and more frequent access to downtown (especially for residents who live closer in and around the east side of the Prairie Ave District and close to McCormick Place.

While the definitely has pros and cons for the Sloop, it's mainly being floated to help bolster access from the south side of Chicago and south suburbs to the downtown core.

Despite this news and expressed interest from the mayor, it sounds like there are some major hurdles to overcome:
The Metra Electric rapid-transit idea is not new — community activists had proposed it as the Gray Line in 1996 and the Gold Line in 2009.  
The proposal has many obstacles, primarily the shortage of funding for transit expansion and the difficulty of using Ventra with Metra's distance-based fares.  
The coalition brought the proposal to Metra last month. Metra had previously begun a study with the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District examining capacity along the Metra Electric District Line, including whether it has the electrical power to support more trains and what changes would be needed in the track and power system. That study, which should answer some of the questions about the coalition's proposal, is expected to be done in early 2017, Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said.
Will this happen?  Seems unlikely.  But it's good to see that "creative" solutions are being considered to help with public transit.

While who knows what's going to happen with the Lucas Museum, we do know that the mayor and politicians have their eye on improving access to Museum Campus/McCormick Place/Motor Row.  Is this a potential solution, maybe?  Definitely worth the consideration.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Looks like Work For Pizano's is Underway at Vesta Lofts (2106 S. Indiana)

A reader writes and sends us this picture:
Work going on inside Vesta Lofts where the new Pizanos will be.

For those of you who don't believe this, here is a link to the building permit from cityscape:
Renovation/alteration permit at 2106 S Indiana Ave in Chicago Interior build-out of partial 1st floor for new restaurant/ pizanos pizza and pasta per plans **certified plans corrections: conditional permit subject to field inspections **
Looks like they're looking to cash in on all the planned motor row development!

(Hat tip: SR!)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Lucas Museum "Negotiation" Appears to Be Playing Out Via Chicago Media Organizations

The long-running controversy over the fate of the planned Lucas Museum took another bitter twist Tuesday when the head of the group opposing the project said it had been given a deadline to accept the original site for the $743 million museum — a claim city officials immediately denied. 
"We have been told that Mr. Lucas, the Lucas Museum, will leave Chicago at any moment," Friends of the Parks Executive Director Juanita Irizarry said. "The official word we have been given was that Tuesday was our deadline." 
But city officials said the timeline was not as specific. 
"No deadline was delivered, but as we've been saying, time is not on our side," said Adam Collins, a spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Apparently this "negotiation" is going to play out via Chicago news organizations.  It seems like this is all in an attempt to sway public opinion.

All we can do is sigh...  

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Not So Fast! Legal Hurdle Could Slow Down 62-Acre Related Midwest Project

One of the many big real estate stories currently being discussed in the Sloop is the 62-acre "urban jungle" that Related Midwest wants to develop south of Roosevelt (between clark and the river).

This land has been in limbo for some time, but ever since Related got involved last year, it seemed like it would be moving in the right direction.  While it still may happen, there is a new complicating factor (via ChicagoTribune):
Photo from
An Iraqi-born British billionaire who bought the largest undeveloped plot of downtown Chicago land from politically connected convicted felon Tony Rezko a decade ago was in on a scam "amounting to theft" when he cut a North Shore businessman out of nearly $13 million he was owed from the deal, the 7th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled.  
The ruling Monday against Nadhmi Auchi and his company, General Mediterranean Holding, throws a potential road bump in front of the proposed development of the 62-acre parcel of land connecting the South Loop and Chinatown, hailed last month as a transformative project that would alter Chicago's skyline.  
Auchi, 79, was convicted in 2003 in France in a corruption scandal, and his involvement in the huge plot southwest of Roosevelt Road and Clark Street has long been a subject of intrigue. Court testimony in 2008 indicated then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2004 attended a party Rezko threw for Auchi in an attempt to interest Auchi in the property.  
Auchi eventually bought the land from Rezko for $31.8 million, and last month partnered with Related Midwest to develop the site in a deal Mayor Rahm Emanuel is backing.
It's always been interesting that Obama is tied to this story.  Anyway, should be interesting to see how it plays out.  While there are tens of millions of dollars involved in this case, it seems like the scope of what Related has proposed is much more than that.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Sounds Like Motor Row Brewing Is Hosting a "Blues and Brews" Event Every Monday

A reader writes:
Live Blues Monday's starting at 6pm at Motor Row Brewing

According to their website this is happening!

(Hat tip:  TB!)

Friday, June 17, 2016

Popular Sandwhich Spot, Pork & Mindy's, Opening Pop-up Spot at Museum Campus

The Chicago Horizon Pavillion at the base of the Shedd
Looks like we're getting a trendy Wicker Park sandwich shop in the Sloop (kinda) - via ChicagoTribune:
The Chicago Park District has partnered with Pork & Mindy’s, the Wicker Park sandwich shop helmed by Food Network star Jeff Mauro, to open what amounts to a pop-up lakefront food court steps from the Shedd Aquarium, and walkable from The Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, Soldier Field and Northerly Island. Dubbed The Link, the pop-up is housed in the Chicago Horizon, an open-air structure built last fall.   
Pork & Mindy’s is the first restaurant to make use of the award-winning space, but other vendors are encouraged to apply. The 4,000 square-foot-space can host up to five vendors and has seating for 40 people. You can also ask for a picnic blanket, and take your lunch or dinner to the surrounding lawn.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Backstory on the Confusion With Friends of the Parks Lawsuit Against Lucas Museum

Late last week, we posted about some mixed messages coming from the civic group called Friends of the Parks who was in strong opposition of the Lucas Museum.

Yesterday, Greg Hinz, a columnist who broke the story, spilled the beans on his story and stance on the situation:
If you're going to hold yourself out as the great defender of the public interest, it sure helps to be, well, public. 
I wish the good folks at Friends of the Parks would get that message.  Whatever its intent, the Chicago civic group is acting like a secret special interest that can't be bothered to answer questions and level with those it's supposedly representing in its continued battle with Mayor Rahm Emanuel over the proposed Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. 
My reference is to the media exchange late last week in which both I and Michael Sneed at the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Friends' badly divided board had voted to sue for peace, offering to drop the federal lawsuit that has blocked construction of the Lucas Museum in exchange for creating hundreds of new acres of park space elsewhere. 
Sneed can speak for herself, but my story had multiple sources and I stand by it. But ever since, all the group has done is issue a clear-as-mud statement denying that it's pulling its lawsuit, at least for now, and that the principle of preserving the lakefront for public use must not be "ignored." 
That's far less than definitive. So I've directed more than a dozen emails, calls and messages through intermediaries to Friends Executive Director Juanita Irizarry and board Chairwoman Lauren Moltz saying I'd like to talk with them and clarify exactly what happened at that board meeting and where the group stands now. I contacted them not only because they are in charge of the organization but because, according to my sources, they were on the losing side of a 12-4 board vote.

It's a good read and provides an interesting backstory to the swirl of media coverage on the topic last week.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Look at Average Real Estate Prices Based on Proximity to 'L' Stops

Maybe not the most scientific research in the world, but an interesting visual representation on real estate prices per square foot (via Estately):
Home prices vary across the Chicago real estate market, but Estately wanted to show how those prices vary depending on which transit stop a home is near. To do this, Estately analyzed the last six months of home sales for houses, townhouses, and condos within a half-mile radius of each transit stop on the CTA 'L' System's Red, Blue, Brown, Green, Orange, Purple, Pink and Yellow Lines. We then broke them down by price per square foot.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Trib: "The Kitchen is Absolutely Killing it Right Now" at Acadia

White-asparagus cremeaux anchors a miniature garden of baby vegetables
that is surrounded by a hot, charred-onion broth. (Via Chicago Tribune)
This is a relatively old review (back in April of 2016), but a good and descriptive read of the Sloop's preeminent fine dinning experience (via ChicagoTribune):
True enough, Acadia, just south of 16th Street on Wabash Avenue, doesn't present much to the outside world. From the street, it's a drab little building on a very quiet stretch (at 10 p.m. that night, the sidewalk was populated by me, the car valet and a guy walking his dog). But once you walk through the front door, it's like Dorothy stepping out of her farmhouse.  
The dining room is drop-dead gorgeous, a warmly minimalist, softly lit and serenely quiet space with alabaster walls, neutral carpeting and beaded-metal curtains. Seating, replaced a year ago, is plush and comfortable.  And the kitchen is absolutely killing it right now, producing a parade of eye-candy dishes that display intelligence, humor and, occasionally, clever riffs on the food of chef/owner Ryan McCaskey's beloved New England region.  
Had McCaskey opened Acadia on Randolph Street four years ago, he'd probably be driving a Lexus by now.  
"I think about it every week," McCaskey said, in a mixture of ruefulness and defiance. "Whenever I talk to Nick Kokonas (Alinea, Aviary, Next, Roister), he tells me, 'You know, you'd have doubled your revenue in the West Loop.' But the South Loop will have its day; I know it's going to happen."

The article goes on to give a vivid description of what you can expect when dinning at Acadia.  Beyond this, the Tribune has rated the restaurant the #7th best in Chicago (you can find an interactive maps here).

Lucky to have this one in the neighborhood.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Coming Soon Sign Shows Up for Gordo's Handmade Ice Cream Bars on Printer's Row

After Saturday's heat, it comes as a refreshing sign that the rumored ice cream shop on Printer's Row is apparently coming soon:

There is not much on the interwebs except some trademark info for the shop.  While that might not be super informative, it does provide some insight into the name (for those of you who are like us and aren't fluent in spanish):
The English translation of Gordo's in the mark is Fatso's.
So if we had to guess, this is either a coy poke at some of their potential customers or a hint that this is going to be the "real stuff" - not some yogurt spot.

Also interesting is the reference to "ice cream bars".  We're stretching here a little bit, but it seems to imply that this isn't just going to be a traditional ice cream shop.  It presumably will have "ice cream bars" and other more unusual treats.

Looking forward to this one!

(Hat tip: TR!)

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Friends of the Park: We Are Dropping Our Lawsuit, Wait We're Not...

A rendering of the proposed Lucas Museum
at the McCormick Place Lakeside Center (via DNAinfo)
Quite the furry of back and forth yesterday on the subject of the Lucas Museum (via DNAinfo):
Friends of the Parks will not drop its lawsuit blocking the Lucas Museum, its executive director says, denying earlier contrary reports.  
Friends of the Parks is using the lawsuit to block the museum from being built along Lake Shore Drive between Soldier Field and McCormick Place.  
Reports Friday morning said the group would drop that lawsuit and that the museum would be built at the site of McCormick Place's Lakeside Center.  But the group's executive director Juanita Irizarry denied that on Friday.  
“Contrary to recent reports, our board remains fully united on the preservation of our lakefront and ensuring that the public trust doctrine is not ignored. We do believe that the Lucas Museum has a place in Chicago for all to enjoy, but not at the expense of one our most precious public resources," according to a statement released attributed to Irizarry and the group's president Lauren Motlz.
While the initial report was surprising, it did seem odd.  If anything it may signal some mixed feelings within the Friends of the Parks group.

What will happen...who knows, but no doubt the saga will continue.

(Hat Tip:  sincerely TF, symbolically LH!)

Friday, June 10, 2016

Printer's Row Lit Fest Commences This Saturday & Sunday

One of our favorite and arguably one of the neighborhood's most distinct events commences this weekend - The Printer's Row Lit Fest.  As a reminder, it's happening this Saturday (6/11) and Sunday (6/12) in, as you would guess, Printer's Row (specifically Dearborn and Polk).

For those not familiar with the event, the website has a good overview:
The Printers Row Lit Fest was founded in 1985 by the Near South Planning Board to attract visitors to the Printers Row neighborhood (once the city's bookmaking hub). By 2002, it had grown to five city blocks (on Dearborn, from Congress to Polk), attracting more than 200 booksellers from across the country displaying new, used and antiquarian books and featuring more than 200 authors participating in panels, discussions and a variety of other programs.  
As part of its ongoing commitment to the written word and its support of literacy and literary endeavor, the Chicago Tribune purchased the Printers Row Book Fair in 2002 from the Near South Planning Board. Recently renamed to be the Printers Row Lit Fest, it is considered the largest free outdoor literary event in the Midwest-drawing more than 150,000 book lovers to the two-day showcase.

The event has a mix of free activities and ticketed events.  This years special guests include R.L. Stine, Rick Bayless, Ethan Hawke and Buzz Aldrin to name a few.

If you've never been, we highly suggest checking it out!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

What's Going On With The Chicago Firehouse Rebuild?

We've gotten a ton of emails asking about what's going on with The Chicago Firehouse restaurant.

As you may recall, the restaurant (ironically) went up in flames back in December of 2014.  The ownerships announced they would rebuild and reopen, but some remained skeptical.

There have definitely been signs of the rebuild.  Crews can often be spotted and we've had readers send us pictures like this one that we received recently:

We haven't heard anything official about a reopening, but another reader recently sent us this note:
Chicago Firehouse Restaurant - They're expanding and said to be open in 20 weeks however worker suggested December or January.
Seems unlikely, but glad to hear that talks of reopening are happening.  Can anyone corroborate this?

(Hat tip: TM & BB!)

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Manny's Deli & Cafeteria Shows Off New Remodel

Beloved Jewish Deli, Manny's (1141 S. Jefferson), just unvieled their remodeled deli (via Chicago Tribune):
Any change a beloved Chicago restaurant that has operated successfully since 1942? That's the question Ken Raskin, the third generation co-owner of Manny's Deli & Cafeteria, asked his son, fourth generation co-owner Dan Raskin, when the latter wanted to add a deli counter to the South Loop institution. And for 10 years, Dan Raskin tried to find the right answer to that question.  
While it has always sold Jewish deli-style foods, Manny's has existed for most of its history without a counter selling sliced meat and breads, which is not how most Jewish delis operate around the country. "In other cities like New York and Los Angeles, the Jewish delis have a counter selling items," says Dan Raskin. "In the 40s we used to have a deli, but not at this location."  
After over eight months of construction, this week that all changes. Now you can buy Manny's corned beef and pastrami by the pound, along with fun cuts like pickled tongue. But the center of attention, at least for Raskin, is the fish section. "There's nowhere in Chicago that has a nice fish counter like this."
We're pretty lucky to have Manny's and Eleven City Dinner in the Sloop!

Looking forward to heading over to Manny's to check out their new digs.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

New, "Natural" Landscaping Proposed for the Field Museum

A cool landscape project for the Field Museum (via Curbed Chicago):
Chicago’s Field Museum has revealed a planned makeover of the institution’s grass lawn along Chicago’s lakefront. Modeled on the natural prairies found throughout Illinois, the project — dubbed the Rice Native Gardens — is being made possible thanks to a gift from the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Foundation.  
According to an article by the museum’s sustainability manager Carter O’Brien appearing in the latest issue of the In the Field member’s magazine, the new landscaping goes much deeper than improved aesthetics. "The replacement of turf grass with native plants and permeable pavers will increase storm water retention and carbon absorption, reduce urban heat island effect, and improve the quality of stormwater draining into Lake Michigan by reducing fertilizer usage," explains O’Brien.
While the post doesn't go deep on the topic, from the pictures it appears it will be on the north side of the building.  The other thing the post doesn't do is specify how much of the lawn will be transformed to the native plants.

While the concept is cool, we  hope they don't alter the three tiered expansive lawn that lead to the walking paths and the lake.  That has always been one of our favorite places to hang out.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Is Artists Cafe Closed at 1150 S. Wabash?

A reader writes:
Has the Artist's Cafe on Wabash closed?  
They sidewalk cafe thing is broken and they haven’t been open for a few days.
We actually noticed the same thing recently and snapped the following picture:

If we're not mistaken, the family that owns Artist's Cafe also own the building.  So they're probably still collecting rent from Five Guys.

Anyone have the scoop if they're closed for good?

(Hat tip: DK!)

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Sloopin Open House: Lofty Studio

If you've paid attention to some of the open houses we've featured, you would have noticed that we like old, converted buildings in the Sloop.

With that in mind, today we're highlighting a 1bd/1bth (which looks like a studio to us) at 801 S. Wells St.  This particular unit is listed as a penthouse and seems pretty affordable to us at $200K.

The pictures showcase a nicely setup orientation for those of us who like the concept of loft living:

We would imagine it might be a little tight for two people, but if you're a single person trying to enjoy the city, seems like it would work just fine.

If this looks interesting, head on over at noon on Sunday (6/5).  They will be having an open house until 2pm.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Chicago TIF's and Development

We've generally been supportive of any plans to redevelop the Old Post Office or the 62-acre wild land south of Roosevelt (between clark and the river).  While our pro-development stance continues to stand, it doesn't hurt to hear concerns around these developments.

This one specifically is of the proactive nature and one that is rooted in the TIF debated that has ranged for years in our city.  Ben Javorsky of the Chicago Reader (a common stalwart on the topic) use his sarcastic style to pen this piece on what he anticipates will be a funneling of TIF funds to developers of these properties.  He ends it with the following:
Maybe I shouldn't be so hard on Mayor Emanuel. Throwing TIF money at developers is what Chicago mayors do.
Mayor Daley did it for the better part of the 90s and 00s, and look where that got us. We can't adequately fund our schools because the tax growth from the new development is diverted to the TIF fund that underwrites the developer's profits.
It's a form of madness, people. Maybe we should call Rezko Village the loony bin.

While the existence of and use of TIF funds is a head-scratcher, they're a reality right now.  These developments have the potential to generate a lot of taxes and other benefits for the city and South Loop, so in our eyes, they seem warranted.

Not saying we support TIF's as a concept, just saying in this case they would most likely generate additional revenue for the city.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

How the Debate Around the Lucas Museum Mirrors the Building of the Field Museum

This whole Lucas Museum debate has been hard to follow and a roller coaster of emotions.  One day we (and many) feel like we're losing out if Lucas takes his museum somewhere else.  On the next day, we feel like the friends of the park group is looking out for the long term vision of our fine city.  Oh the internal struggle.

The Field Museum Debate:
Marshall Field vs. Montgomery Ward
(image via Chicago Tribune)
Anyway, the Tribune has an interesting historical article on how the Field Museum ended up on our lakeshore and some of the similarities this current struggle has vs. the old one:
Devoted Chicago history buffs must be experiencing repeated episodes of deja vu during the struggle over the proposed Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. It eerily mimics the struggle, more than a century ago, over the site of the Field Museum.  
Both fights involve bitter differences of opinion over the city's lakefront: Should it be left pristine or dotted with cultural amenities? Both involve head-butting by the rich and powerful. The current one pits a Hollywood mogul, "Star Wars" creator George Lucas, and the city's hard-driving mayor against a group of do-gooders, the Friends of the Parks.  
In the earlier donnybrook, two local moguls squared off: Marshall Field, who made State Street the city's shopping rialto, on the side of a proposed museum, against Montgomery Ward, who made Chicago the hub of the mail-order industry and was a staunch protector of the city's lakefront as a public space.

It's a fun read for those of us who like Chicago history and fun Chicago facts.  For instance, Marshall Field originally didn't want the museum to be named after himself.  Another one is that the museum was originally slated for the lakeshore and Congress Pkwy.

If you have a moment, we highly recommend reading the piece.