Monday, October 31, 2016

Chicago Connector Rail Line Project Seeks $100 Million Grant

In case you missed this last week, we got our first peak at an ambitious public transit plan that would undoubtedly change Chicago forever (via Curbed):
With the lofty goal of curing downtown’s congestion woes while also providing better transit access to the South Side and the site of the Obama Presidential Center, the civic group known as The Chicago Central Area Committee has released its plan to realize the long-discussed 14-mile ‘Chicago Connector’ rail line. The organization has submitted its proposal to the MacArthur Foundation in hopes of scoring a $100 million grant earmarked by the nonprofit to "solve a critical issue." 
The first phase of the project, dubbed the "minimum operable segment" or MOS, would be built to connect the busy West Loop Metra hubs at Union and Ogilvie Stations to the intersection of Columbus and Illinois in Streeterville. Taking advantage of the existing Carroll Avenue below grade right-of-way, this two-mile segment will reportedly cost $750 million.
Minimum Operable Segment

While the "MOS" obviously doesn't directly impact the Sloop, the broader vision would dramatically change how we and others get to and from the neighborhood.  Take a look at this map and your jaw will probably drop:

It's clearly ambitious, but that's probably needed.  Ironically, the group that is behind this vision is also one that is partially credited for sparking development in the Sloop (via Crains):
CCAC Chairman Greg Hummel said he's had preliminary conversations with Obama library officials and aides to Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "What I've heard back is they're interested.”  
Though CCAC was involved in the development of the Dearborn Park project in the 1970s, which was the spark that led to a rebirth of the Near South Side as a residential neighborhood, it has only begun to vet its plans with the many local groups that would be affected.
Needless to say, we are excited to see if and how this progresses.  The $100 million grant would be a great start, but we would need a ton more to really make this happen.

This video is worth a watch if you're interested in the vision:

Saturday, October 29, 2016

56-Story Tower Finally Gets Green Light at 800 S. Michigan

The real estate news keeps on coming (via Curbed Chicago):
After a temporary delay awaiting the all-clear from the Chicago Commission on Landmarks, the five-story garage and pool structure serving the Essex Inn is ready to bite the dust. With demolition permit in hand, LondonHouse developer Oxford Capital is now free to start swinging the wrecking ball at 800 S. Michigan to make way for a planned 56-story tower designed by Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

"Urban Buddha" Lands in Grant Park

Finally, the Urban Buddha arrives (via DNAinfo):
The latest sculpture in Grant Park is "Urban Buddha," a 15-foot-tall effigy meant to send a message about global deforestation. 
The sculpture was installed Tuesday morning at the Grant Park Skate Park near Michigan Avenue and Roosevelt Road. Designed by Tibetan artist Tashi Norbu, the piece is comprised of about 3,500 pounds of reclaimed wood. 
Norbu said his artwork tries to send a message about the rampant deforestation in his homeland and throughout the world. "Urban Buddha" is his first piece in the United States.
We first heard about this in June.  It appears to have been delayed slightly, but better late then never.

(Hat tip: MK!)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

290 Foot Apartment Building Approved by Plan Commission for 1408 S. Wabash

In case you missed this last week, looks like we're getting another big building on South Wabash (via Curbed Chicago):
The Plan Commission voted on a planned development from American Landmark Properties to construct a 290-foot, 296-unit apartment building in Chicago’s South Loop (at 1408 S. Wabash). The plan includes a landscaped motor court with a water feature, ground floor retail, and 30 affordable-rate units to be located on-site. While the project was approved, Commissioner Linda Searl offered a critique of the pseudo-French Provincial design from architect Lucien Lagrange.  
"We’re now in the 21st century and here we have a building style that’s been around since the 19th century," stated Searl. "We would hope that future projects would bring forward more creative and interesting designs, especially in the South Loop."

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

100 Motorcycles vs. 1 Squad Car at Wells and Taylor

A reader writes:
About 100 (loud obnoxious) motorcycles hanging out pulling stunts at Wells and Taylor at 9pm Saturday... 1 squad showed up.....chases them somewhere else....anyone else have this experience...?

We didn't get any other emails, but did any other readers witness a similar thing?

(Hat tip:  SE!)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Monday, October 24, 2016

Old Zapatista Restaurant Space Gets a New Owner

A reader writes:
Big fan of the blog and 3 year resident of the sloop! Wanted to share I had a chat recently with the new owner of the space where Zapatista used to be as it is the first floor of our building at 1307 S Wabash. He was very excited and in the process of cleaning the restaurant out immediately after he purchased it. Sounds like he may be looking for another Mexican restaurant to move in asap. Good to hear another good Mexican restaurant may be moving in (hopefully) in the near future. 
As a reminder, Zapatista closed back in June of 2015 at 1307 S. Wabash.  Honestly, we've been slightly surprised there hasn't been more interest in this specific space given that it's on one of the Sloop's more prominent strips.  Couple this with the influx of high-rises being built and seems like a winning formula.

Granted, they did have some sanitation problems in the past and our guess is that the old owner wasn't exactly keeping it in tip top shape.

Regardless, glad to hear we're getting some new blood and excitement managing the space.

(Hat tip: CB!)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Old St. Mary's Girls Cross Country Win State

Shout-out to Old St. Mary's Girls Cross Country Team:
While Chicago cheers on the Cubs in their pursuit of a championship, the girls cross country team from Old St. Mary's School in the City is celebrating its State of Illinois Cross Country Championship. 
Hailing from Chicago’s South Loop, the Old St. Mary’s Knights scored their dominant victory at the annual Illinois Elementary School Association (IESA) Class 1A State Cross Country Meet. It was held Saturday, October 15, 2016, at Maxwell Park in Normal, Illinois. This talented group of fifth-through-eighth graders finished a resounding 30 points ahead of runner-up St. Thomas School of Palatine, IL. In cross country, the lowest point total wins; the Knights, coached by Sue Urban-Crowley and Aimee Hwang, finished with 81 points, compared to 111 by St. Thomas. 
The girls of Old St. Mary’s turned in consistent performances which contributed to their margin of victory. In outpacing 27 other squads, the Knights benefitted in their team scoring from many fine finishes. They included 5 th Place by Olivia Syftestad, 7th place by Summer Cardenas, 15th by Reese Crowley, 19th by Ella Hwang, 35th by Emily Hwang, 51st by Ally Dombrowski, and 53rd by Sandy O'Malley. Also on the State team are Meghan Semmer and Stacia Konow.

(Hat tip:  TS!)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Ride Sharing Scam Hits South Loop

Beware (via Fox 32):
Two customers of ride-hailing services fell victim to a scam and had their money stolen in two separate incidents within the last month in the South Loop.

In both incidents, the driver of the ride-hailing service picked up the customer in the same type of vehicle the customer had requested through their cellphone app, such as Uber or Lyft, according to a community alert from Chicago Police. 
The driver took the customer to their destination, but then said the transaction did not process and told the customer to manually enter their debit or credit card information, police said. The driver then asked for the customer’s PIN number.  
Immediately after the trip, the driver headed straight to an ATM or currency exchange and withdrew cash, police said.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Ald. Dowell, Police and Businesses Work to Address Safety and Loitering Concerns at Roosevelt/Wabash

This week, Alderman Pat Dowell and 1st District Police Commander Robert Klich met with the owners of BP, Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks and Jewel to devise a plan to address the public safety issues on the corner of Roosevelt Rd. and Wabash Ave. Currently that corner experiences a high volume of loitering and passive and aggressive panhandling, potentially causing a disturbance for neighborhood residents as they pass through this highly trafficked area. 
The businesses at the meeting were quite receptive to working together, with the police and with the community to make sure the area is clean and safe. The BP has committed to moving its fence to the property line, increase security on-site to 24 hours a day and remove the patio on its property. The Dunkin Donuts has expressed interest in sharing security with the BP. Jewel stated it will ensure their security moves individuals from the area. All the businesses, including the Starbucks, have signed complaint forms with the 1st District allowing the police to respond to issues immediately without having to wait for residents or businesses to call in a complaint. Additionally, all the businesses committed to calling the police when issues arise.

(Hat tip: ND!)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Donation List for Women's Park and Gardens

Women's Park is a great community asset and to help them out figured we would post a call for donations they recently posted:

(Hat tip:  NS!)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Monday, October 17, 2016

76-Story Vinloy Tower Gets Permit to Start Construction at Roosevelt/Indiana Corner?

A reader sends us this note:

It's been slow moving, but we assume this means it's going to be moving quicker.  As a reminder, we just posted about this project.  If it comes to fruition it will be a definitive building for the neighborhood:
Left side of building gets green light?

(Hat tip: VA!)

Friday, October 14, 2016

15 Minute Parking - A Reader Asks if this is Legal

A reader writes: 
For a couple of years I have used the 15 minute parking zone on the west side corner of Wabash and Harrison, which was convenient for a barbershop right around the corner. Recently Dunkin Donuts/Subway placed what looks to be a makeshift sign on the sidewalk that prohibits non-customer 15 minute waiting. Is this legal? Thanks.

Interesting.  We don't know, but figured we would see if anyone does.

(Hat tip: OI!)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Dental Office and Pediatrician Coming to Vacant Retail Spaces on S. Michigan

It appears the 1400 block of Michigan ave is getting more doctor offices:

First up at 1468 S. Michigan - where the consignment store urban remix once held down the fort - it looks like a new Dentist office is opening judging by the permit:
Buildout of existing residential space for Medical/Dental office per plans 

Across the street at 1471 S. Michigan, the permit reads:
Interior remodel to convert existing vacant shop 1 story with mezzanine to new pediatrician office, new parking lot with driveway.

We're guessing most people will not be happy about this.  It seems like Michigan Ave is saturated with Doctor offices and spas.  Thoughts?

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Conceptual 80-Story "Woodscraper" Renderings Unveiled

All we can say is wow (via Curbed Chicago):
Could Chicago claim another world’s tallest record? If a wild new conceptual design for an 80-story wooden tower from architects Perkins + Will moves forward, then Chicago could claim the record for having the world’s tallest timber tower. ArchDaily revealed the renderings late last week and offered a few hints about the concept. According to the story, the building is a “part of a masterplan along the Chicago River,” which helps narrow down the location of the project. Considering that the design concept comes from Perkins + Will and that it’s a part of a master planned project, this leads us to believe that this could become a part of the Riverline mega development which just broke ground last month.
Seems like this is a little bit of a pipe dream, but it would be stunning and it surely is fun to talk about.

Rylon's Smokehouse Opening Today (Oct 12th)

In case you missed it, looks like we have an official opening date (via DNAinfo):
Rylon’s Smokehouse and Batter and Berries owner Derek Rylon is downplaying rumors of a move to Bronzeville as his new barbecue restaurant opens Oct. 12 in the South Loop.
As you may recall this is a fast moving buildout.  This restaurant was announced in August of 2016.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Our Take: Mago Grill & Cantina (1010 S. Delano Ct)

Food options at Roosevelt Collection have been slow to materialize, but that changed this year.  Yes, Chop opened last year and there always was the bar/restaurant at the Kerasotes movie theater.

This year saw Nando's Peri Peri Chicken and Mago Grill & Cantina open.  Both we're established spots so seemed like they would be good additions to the neighborhood and shopping complex.

We recently had the opportunity to head on over to Mago and we were pleasantly surprised.  Upon walking in, you're greeted by a strikingly colorful and huge "bar" space:

On the Saturday night we were there, there were no issues getting a table.  Maybe half the tables were taken?  But there are three different distinct spaces - high top bar area (when you walk in), regular tables in the bar area (see pic above) and then the main dinning area.  It's a really big space.

After sitting at our table, we were immediately greeted by our waiter - a nice and cordial man who immediately gave us a run down of the menu.  We quickly ordered drinks - a spicy margarita with a beer back for me and a sangria for the lady:

All I can say is that the margarita was better then expected.  

While all dinners get standard chips and salsa, we opted for the guacamole.  Like most "newer" American Mexican restaurants, they have the rolling guac carts which allows you to input on any additions/subtractions you desire.

One nice thing about our experience was that I like my guac spicy and the wife doesn't.  So the guac lady actually split the order and made each of us our own order to our taste - a very nice, but appreciated gesture.

In terms of ordering, we went the simple route and ordered a bunch of tacos.  My favorite was the "Camaron" which featured chipotle shrimp, queso fresco, picked purple cabbage and pico de gallo.  We also got the Tinga de Pollo (Chicken) and the Carne Asado (Steak).  All solid, but not super unique.  Presentation was nice though:
All in all our overall experience was good and we most likely will be back.  That being said, if you're looking for something unique or cutting edge, we'd recommend skipping Mago.  But if you're looking for traditional American Mexican food, with good and fast service we would say check it out.

To equate it to some well known spots, it reminded us of Uncle Julio's in Lincoln Park.  And for the locals, in our opinion it was better then Zapatista (the neighborhood mexican stalwart that closed in June of 2015).

Monday, October 10, 2016

Sip & Savor Coming to Motor Row; Shooting for Opening this Week (10/15)

A reader sends us this news:

After looking at their website, it appears that this will be their third location (other two are in Hyde Park and Bronzeville).

We're not familiar with this coffee shop, but generally speaking seems like it would be a good addition to the Sloop and Motor Row.

(Hat tip:  CD!)

Friday, October 7, 2016

Trucks/Cranes Move In to Start Construction on 24 Story High-rise at 1136 S. Wabash

A reader writes:
Any idea what is going on just north of Five Guys on Wabash? They have that crappy parking lot all fenced off and this morning had a ton of activity - big trucks and cranes.
Another condo building perhaps?
Indeed!  This is going to be another apartment building:

As you may recall, we posted about this plan back in March of 2015.  But yesterday, Curbed Chicago posted some new news:
The South Loop neighborhood is about to get another big tower project. At 26-stories tall, the new tower for 1136 S. Wabash Ave. is not going to be breaking any height records, but with 320 units, 9,000 square feet of retail, and 143 spaces for vehicle parking, it’s quite a dense development. Initially proposed as a 24-story, 280-unit building, it now appears that Keith Giles, the project’s developer, is looking to max out the total units and height allowed for the site. The city issued new construction permits for the project yesterday which will allow the developer to build out the tower’s foundation.
We also saw the huge trucks and cranes from the El, so it appears this guy is happening.

The Curbed article also brings up an interesting point:
It should also be noted that the site is also the location of one of the better known Flyboy murals from famed local artist and muralist Hebru Brantley. Judging by the elevations and renderings for the project, it is highly likely that the podium base of the new building will block the popular mural.

Seems unfortunate that such a cool and high-profile mural is going to be blocked, but I guess it was to be expected.

 (Hat tip:  TM!)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Reader Asks About An Attempted Carjacking

A reader writes:
My husband and I were trying to remember when the man was found shot in his car near the park at 15th between prairie and Indiana.  
Some of the info at that time suggested it was a failed carjacking...that he was a visitor to the neighborhood, and that he was related to an alderman.  
Was wondering if that was ever solved... And when it happened. I have tried googling news reports but nothing. Was hoping you remember!
Was it this?  If not, we're not really sure, but figured we would throw this one out to you to see if anyone has any more details?

(Hat tip:  JH!)

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

What's Going on with Crescent Heights Development at Indiana/Roosevelt?

A reader writes:
Have you heard anything about what's going on with the Crescent Heights development project at Roosevelt/Indiana/Michigan? Last I heard/saw was that they were supposed to break ground in June and so far nothing.

As a reminder, back in March this high-profile project was reviewed at a Town Hall meeting and we assume that's where the reader is referencing the June start date:
Phase I of the project is scheduled to begin in June 2016. Phase I is a 76 story tower with 792 rental units and approximately 640 parking spaces. The base building will be 17 stories tall with the building narrowing as it rises toward the top. There will be approximately 100 paid parking spaces available to the public on a daily basis; along with zip cars and a bike share program. 

Well as you can probably assume that didn't happen.

Does anyone have any updates?  It's a gigantic project, so not super surprising that it's slow to get going.

(Hat tip:  EG!)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Joe Aurelio Recipient of 2016 Good Neighbor Award from OSM School

From a press release:
Old St. Mary’s School, a faith and service-based growing Catholic school in the South Loop of Chicago, is proud to announce that Joe Aurelio, owner of Aurelio’s Pizzeria, is being named the 2016 recipient of the school’s Good Neighbor Award.  
Aurelio’s is a south suburbs favorite and recently opened in the South Loop at 1212 S. Michigan Avenue. Joe Aurelio inherited the family business from his father, who started the pizzeria in 1959 in Homewood, Illinois at age 26.  
The Aurelio family has a long history of giving back to local communities. Even in the short time they’ve been in the South Loop they’ve made a difference. Aurelio’s Pizza hosts many fundraising events for schools, parent teacher associations and local sports team. Organizations can earn 15 percent of the proceeds from the events.  
Aurelio’s also recently partnered with Shedd Aquarium for Great Lakes Action Day to pick up debris along Lake Michigan specifically along 12th Street Beach.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Phase 1 of Transformative Wells-Wentworth Connector Begins

Big neighborhood infrastructure news late last week (via DNAinfo):
Daniel Burnham proposed it. Engineers and laborers moved the Chicago River to make room for it.

But more than a century passed before construction got started on a road connecting Chinatown and Downtown. 
Work began this week on the long-promised Wells-Wentworth Connector, according to city officials and Ald. Danny Solis (25th). 
The new $62 million roadway will realign Wentworth Avenue and Cermak Road, in turn easing congestion for Chinatown and South Loop residents heading Downtown.

This is probably the single biggest civic project happening in the neighborhood.  It might not have the biggest price tag (see McCormick Place Arena Project), but it no doubt will spur development alongs this corridor.

While this concept has been discussed for a long time, it most recently became resuscitated in 2014.

The first phase is slated to be done in June 2017, with the final phase to be completed in 2018 - which should pave the way for the massive redevelopment of the former Rzeko 62-acre vacant lot.

(Hat tip:  DD, GF, JB!)