Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Fencing Goes Up Signaling Movement for Micro-Apartments and Roots Pizza Building?

A reader writes:
Empty Lot on Dearborn and Polk. Fencing and two portable toilets were dropped off in the past 2-3 days. Maybe we will get another pizza place!!
The reader is referencing a surprising article we posted about back in the Summer where the owner of the 50/50 restaurant group said one of their Roots Pizza restaurants would presumably be coming the well trafficked SW corner of Dearborn and Polk.

We chalked that up to lofty talk by an aspiring restaurateur, but maybe we were wrong?  Maybe the micro-apartments and pizza joint are actually coming.  Anyone have any scoop?

With this building potentially coming and work on the mega-mansion/retail on the ground floor development across the street - the Printers Row drag is getting some more action.  This is one of our favorite spots in the whole neighborhood and while already developed has potential to get even better.  We will see.

(Hat tip:  SB!)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Native American Hall Revamp Coming to Field Museum

An interesting read if you're curious how Museums evolve their exhibits to better reflect groups they highlight in their halls (via Chicago Tribune):
Field Museum will transform its aged Native North American Hall in the next three years, working to develop the new exhibits with Native Americans as “community partners,” the museum announced Monday.
It is a “much, much needed renovation,” Field president and CEO Richard Lariviere said. “This project intends to correct the way the museum tells the Native American history by doing so through the lens and voices of Native Americans.”

The hall will remain open throughout the three-year overhaul, with fall of 2021 as the targeted completion date, but some of the artifacts in the Chicago natural history museum’s rich collection have already begun to be taken down.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Sun Times: Could new CPS ratings halt South Loop H.S., save National Teachers Academy?

Some new news on the South Loops public schooling options (via SunTimes):
New Chicago Public Schools ratings released Friday are threatening to derail a controversial plan to open a high school at the South Loop site of a top-performing elementary that would be shuttered under the plan.

CPS officials have assured parents for years that they wouldn’t close a school unless its students were guaranteed a place in a higher-performing school. National Teachers Academy parents were told the same when they were assigned to South Loop Elementary as NTA closes to make way for a new high school in the booming South Loop. 
But the updated ratings unveiled Friday show that South Loop Elementary has fallen a level according to the School Quality Ratings Policy — from the top rating, Level 1+, to Level 1, while NTA remained at Level 1+.

NTA’s parents, who’ve waged a fierce battle against the closing at public hearings and through a lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court, hope the news saves their school from a closing one grade at a time as the proposed new high school welcomes its freshman class in September.

Despite this plans appear to be moving forward:
District spokesman Michael Passman said officials have no plans to change course.

“South Loop is a proven school that remains in good academic standing, and school leadership are working to ensure the school returns to the Level 1+ status it has earned in every previous school year,” he said in an email. “The decision to transition NTA to a high school was made in February following extensive community engagement and in compliance with all legal requirements. As the transition moves forward, we will continue to meet all legal requirements and work closely with the NTA and South Loop communities to promote a successful transition that benefits all students.
We will see what - if anything - happens here.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Robber in Clown Mask Hits Dunkin Donuts at 16th and Michigan

My nightmare comes to the Sloop IRL (via Chicago Tribune):
Someone wearing a clown mask and wielding a gun robbed a South Loop Dunkin’ Donuts early Thursday, an employee told Chicago police.
In addition to the mask, the robber wore a green coat and green pants to the business in the 1500 block of South Michigan Avenue, but was not further described, police said.

Walking through the front doors just before 1:50 a.m. while an employee was alone in the store, the suspect held a handgun, announced a robbery and demanded the employee open a drawer to the cash register, police said.

The suspect grabbed the whole drawer, with an undisclosed amount of money inside, and ran out the back door, police said.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

African Restaurant Coming to 2101 S. State Next To Reggie's Rock Club?

From Eater Chicago:
The owner of the shuttered Bolat African Cuisine in Lakeview and Iyanze in Uptown have plans to open a restaurant in the South Loop, according to city permits. Emmanuel Abidemi, owner of the two restaurants, is named on permits for a building at 2101 S. State Street. Chicago Cityscape first noticed the permits.
The new restaurant is near Reggie’s Rock Club. The space has been on the market for a few years. Bolat closed in 2016 and the block has since been demolished as developers continue to redefine the area surrounding Wrigley Field with new restaurants, shops, and hotels.

Reggie's Rock Club is one of the most interesting restaurant/bars/record store/music venue the Sloop has, so it would be nice to see some additional solid restaurant options around it.

Stay tuned for more info.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Tea Pot Brew Bakery Officially Opens at 1802 S. Wabash

In case you missed it last week, it looks like Tea Pot Brew Bakery has officially opened (according to a post by Alderman Pat Dowell on Facebook):
At the grand opening of the Tea Pot Brew Bakery at 1802 South Wabash. The line is out the door!! People (lots of young people) enjoying delicious ice cream, hot teas and coffees, cookies, cakes and pies. Owners Veranda and Yomi are Chicagoans bringing new energy to the South Loop.

Judging from the pics it looks like pastries, gelato, coffee and tea is available.  The space looks great and we wish them the best of luck.

As a reminder, we first posted about this in June.  This little building has sat vacant for a long time so it's nice to see an interesting local business turn it into something.

Monday, October 22, 2018

CityFront Center Serves as a Cautionary Tale for The 78 Development in the Sloop

If you're into urban design and city planning, we highly suggest reading an excellent article on the Tribune about the CityFront Center.  Beyond having great graphics and pictures, it serves as a good reminder for us in the South Loop as our own developments - such as the 78 take shape:
Viewed from the air, it’s a stunning transformation — in just 30 years, a gritty swath of cleared land and surface parking lots has become a glistening new part of Chicago.
But people experience cities on the ground, not in the air. Put the 60 acres between Navy Pier and Michigan Avenue under a microscope and what you see is a cityscape of great expectations and half-kept promises.

The deal was simple: The city would let developers build tall at Cityfront Center, Chicago’s largest real estate development of the 1980s. In exchange, there would be beautiful buildings, streets, parks, plazas and a riverwalk.

Yet the architecture, with rare exceptions, is mediocre. The public spaces were supposed to be vibrant and interconnected. Instead, they are unfinished, underachieving, largely disjointed and even, in one case, off-limits to the public.

Urban planning flops like these loom large as city officials review new megaplans from developers who pretty up their visions of skyscrapers with dazzling drawings of riverwalks, bike trails and other amenities teeming with smiling, attractive people.

For the 53-acre Lincoln Yards on the North Side, developer Sterling Bay wants to construct 12 million square feet of buildings, including towers as tall as 800 feet. It’s sweetening the deal by proposing amenities like an extension of The 606 bike and pedestrian trail east of the Kennedy Expressway.

At The 78, a 62-acre project on the Near South Side that Amazon is considering as an HQ2 site, developer Related Midwest has laid out plans for 13 million square feet, including skyscrapers up to 950 feet tall. Its sweeteners include a 100-foot-wide, half-mile-long riverwalk lined by restaurants and shops.

The planner of both projects, the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, co-designed Cityfront Center’s master plan. But if Cityfront Center is any guide, some of the promised amenities will never materialize.

The broader South Loop area has had some transformational projects already such as Dearborn Park 1 & 2 and Central Station development.  While many have issues with those, they certainly were pioneers for what our neighborhood has become and will continue to evolve into.  Should be fun to see how the latest wave transforms the Sloop.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Kurah Mediterranean Celebrates their 5th Anniversary this Weekend

Congrats to one of our favorites - Kurah Mediterranean (1355 S. Michigan) - on their 5th anniversary (via their press release):
Two-time Michelin Bib Gourmand award winner ('14, '15), Kurah Mediterranean, will kick off a five year anniversary extravaganza starting at 12:00 P.M. Friday October 19 through Sunday October 21.

Live music, an extended "happy hour" on Friday. Guests can choose from starters like Falafel, bacon-wrapped dates, Hummus, Baba Ganoush, and Lagunitas, Champagne and appetizers starting at 8:00 P.M. with performances by Belly dancers, Safire.

Saturday the restaurant will host a wine tasting at 3:00 P.M. followed by an after party in Kurah's new private event space starting at 10:00 P.M 'til mid-night. Brunch specials until 3:00 P.M. Guests need to register for the wine tasting through the link at There will be dancing, a DJ, small bites, birthday desserts, beer and wine, various discounts and promotions. Five dollar charge: unlimited beer, wine, small bites, and Kurah birthday cake.

Saturday and Sunday the restaurant will offer a special "Build Your Own" pita quiche where customers check off ingredients they want, and build it up themselves. Ten bucks. Price rises when adding meats, like bacon.

And... there will be an Oud player Saturday from 6:00-9:00 P.M. A Turkish coffee grounds reader from 7:00 P.M. -9:00 P.M. Saturday.

Sunday will close out the weekend bash with Sunday brunch specials and Mimosas and Bloody Mary's until 3:00 P.M. Customers can select from Kurah's daily menu, too, over this weekend party.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Latest Drama in the River City Deconversion Saga

More info on the River City Deconversion attempts (via The Real Deal):
The River City condo association lobbed the latest legal volley in the drama-filled deconversion of the South Loop building, accusing owners of multiple units of failing to comply with the sale process.

The association filed suits against at least 19 unit owners in the building, accusing them of failing to turn over documents needed to close on the sale. The unit owners’ reluctance to comply puts the deal in jeopardy as a Nov. 28 closing date looms, according to the lawsuits.

It is the latest legal controversy surrounding a deal that at one point was poised to be the biggest deconversion in city history.

For more on the back and forth here is a post from a couple weeks back.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Eater Chicago Highlights the New VU Rooftop Bar on the 22nd Floor at 133 E. Cermak

Just yesterday we posted about a new "experiential theater" coming to the Motor Row Entertainment District.  Today, another post that illustrates the effort to make this area come to life.

A South Side rarity — a rooftop bar — debuts Monday near McCormick Place in the South Loop. VU Rooftop Bar is a sleek 13,000-square-foot space on the 22nd floor of the building at 133 E. Cermak Road. Convention goers, Bears fans coming and leaving nearby Soldier Field, and locals have a new spot for skyline views, small plates, and fancy cocktails.
The outdoor deck features TVs, fire pits, and the kind of comfy lounge seating that hearty Chicagoans will use throughout the winter. There’s a solarium with retractable glass walls for the colder days, and customers who want to belt out a tune can visit its private karaoke room. There are other rooms for private parties or meetings, too.
We've only linked to a couple of the pictures, but we highly suggest clicking here to check at the rest.  The space is beautiful.

It's great for the southern part of the neighborhood to have a spot like this, but we will be curious to see if they have consistent traffic for the large space.  Yes, it will be great for events, but will there be enough traffic to make this place viable on a regular day?  We will see.

Monday, October 15, 2018

"Experiential Theatre" Southern Gothic Coming to Motor Row Entertainment District

Looks like the Motor Row entertainment district is finally getting some entertainment (via Performink):
PerformInk has learned that Windy City Playhouse has all-but locked in a move of its hit immersive production of SOUTHERN GOTHIC to the South Loop for an open-ended run after multiple extensions on Irving Park road conclude this fall.

The theater plans to close the show as scheduled December 9 and move it to a 100-year-old exposed brick and beam warehouse building on Michigan Avenue south of Cermak (near McCormick Place). The re-opening is slated for just after the new year.

The run will be open-ended (meaning there it will continue to play as long as it is financially viable), but there’s no word yet on whether there will be any change in its scale. Currently, performances are limited to 28 audience members per night. In fact, a press representative for the theater declined to comment, likely because some of the details are still being ironed out. 

Transfers of hit productions can be quite complicated, and that’s compounded here by the task of opening a new venue. The City of Chicago’s licensing process can take time, especially if everything isn’t perfectly in order upon the first round of inspections.

At SOUTHERN GOTHIC, audience members are part of a cocktail party in 1960s Ashford, Georgia — complete with drinks and bites — where four couples come together to celebrate a 40th birthday.

(Hat Tip:   NK!)

Friday, October 12, 2018

Pondering the Future of Mattress Firm at State/Roosevelt

Shopping for a mattress always seemed like a strange experience to us.  Additionally, it often seems that mattress stores rarely have an abundance of shoppers inside.  Couple those points with the ease and emerging popularity of online mattress shopping and it's easy why Mattress Firm has filed for Bankruptcy (via Chicago Tribune):
Even Mattress Firm now acknowledges that a particular street on Chicago’s North Side has more than enough spots to buy a mattress.

The Houston-based retailer, which filed for bankruptcy protection last week, plans to close 209 stores nationwide by the end of the month, including 29 of its 211 locations in Illinois. Two of the stores on the closure list are on neighboring blocks of North Clybourn Avenue near Cortland Street, according to bankruptcy court records. The company has two other stores still in operation on Clybourn between Cortland and Wrightwood Avenue.

Eventually, Mattress Firm plans to close as many as 700 of its roughly 3,400 stores, focusing on those in areas where it has too many locations that are too close together, CEO Steve Stanger said Friday in a statement on the company website.

So why are we writing about this?  We've always been fascinated as to the location of a Mattress Firm at the corner of State and Roosevelt (see picture above).  This was a dry cleaner then converted into a Bedding Experts which was later bought out by Mattress Firm.  This location rarely seems busy and in our opinion would be much better served as a restaurant/coffee type of business (although loitering seems to be a problem here and at the Starbucks).

While this location won't be closed initially, maybe it will be in future closings as part of this bankruptcy restructuring?  One can hope...

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Bank of America ATM Retail Space Coming to 1250 South Michigan

Looks like a doomed retail space 1250 S. Michigan is getting a relatively straightforward tenant:

In case you can't read that it says:
Interior and Exterior Altercation to Existing Space For New Interior ATM Rooms Per Existing Plans.
As you may recall this retail space has had a hard time holding a consistent tenant.  La Haven coffee shop was the most recent tenant but they closed in 2016.  Before that it was Winestyles (closed in 2010), Karamela Cafe (closed in 2013), Crave Cafe and Lounge (closed in 2014).

An ATM room ain't sexy, but something tells us it will last longer than some of the others listed above.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Kome Japanese Eatery Apparently Closed

We recently were driving by the restaurant Kome Japanese Eatery (1303 S. Michigan) and noticed that all the lights were out during a prime weekend evening.  Obviously that was not a good sign.

It seems safe to say that the restaurant is closed.  A sign in the window says:
We are closed temporarily.  Sorry for the inconvenience.

We've never been to Kome, but according to Yelp people seemed to like it (4.5 stars).  As a reminder this restaurant opened about a year ago in November 2017.  

Does anyone have any knowledge if they're going to reopen?  or maybe reconcept?

Friday, October 5, 2018

Fate of Pizza Museum at Roosevelt Collection Unknown

Head on over to the Pizza Museum at Roosevelt Collection soon or you may miss it (via Eater Chicago):
The U.S. Pizza Museum was packed with guests in August in the South Loop as the Internet raged if Chicago was America’s true capital of pizza. The museum was meant to last through October with the option of extending its stay. The museum’s founder on Tuesday said the future of the museum is up in the air as they haven’t decided if the exhibition will last beyond the rest of the month.

Museum founder Kendall Bruns said the situation isn’t dire, but improved attendance would help as they’re discussing the museum’s future with the space’s management. The museum is a way to bring in people to the Roosevelt Collection, a residential development with a movie theater and retail stores. Admission to the museum, a space filled with nostalgic pizza-related items from limited-edition pizza boxes, to pizzeria menus, to toys, is free. The museum makes money from gift shop sales. However, guests need to reserve tickets prior to their visit.

August quickly sold out and that received lots of media attention. But when September rolled in, fewer people showed up. People just didn’t know that tickets were available. They think all tickets have been sold out since August.

As a reminder the Pizza Museum opened to some fanfare back in August

Thursday, October 4, 2018

River City Owners Sue to Block Potential Sale of Building

The saga continues at River City on the proposed sale of the building (via Cook County Record):
In the wake of a vote to approve a sale that would reportedly pave the way for the largest condos-to-apartments conversion in Chicago to date, a group of condominium owners in the River City complex have filed suit to block the more than $90 million sale, accusing the condo association board of working with the would-be buyers to essentially target and bribe certain unit owners to persuade them with secret “side deals” to vote to approve the sale.

The collection of condo owners, including owners on both sides of the vote to sell the South Loop condo complex to developer Marc Realty, filed their complaint in Cook County Circuit Court on Oct. 3 through attorneys with the firm of Chuhak & Tecson, of Chicago.

“By conspiring with Marc Realty to target only those owners who had already voted against the sale at the price Marc Realty wanted to offer, the (River City Condominium Association) Board helped Marc Realty pay far less than they had agreed to pay under the original (Purchase and Sale Agreement), instead electing to award the benefit to a minority of owners who could be bribed into switching their votes,” the plaintiffs said in their complaint.

If you're interested in the back and forth of this one we've posted about this story for almost the past three years dating back to January 2016...damn.

(Hat tip: PO!)

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Shooting Inside Car In Front of Congress Hotel Leaves Two Dead

Another scary scene late last night on Michigan Avenue in front of Congress Hotel (via ABC7):
Four people were shot, two fatally, after a shooting inside a car that crashed in front of the Congress Plaza Hotel in the South Loop.
Five people were inside the car as the driver was going south on Michigan Avenue at about midnight Monday morning when someone inside started shooting, police said.

The driver hit a light pole and a planter box in front of the Congress Plaza, in the 500 block of South Michigan Avenue and then flipped on its roof.

Seems like this wasn't a random incident, but still scary.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Dearborn Bike Lane Gets Upgrade with Protective Barriers

In case you haven't been to Dearborn in awhile, the popular bike lane is getting an upgrade (via Streetsblog):
One of Chicago’s first and most popular protected bike lanes is getting another upgrade.
The Chicago Department of Transportation announced yesterday that it has launched construction of concrete curb protection on the Dearborn two-way protected bike lane, along its entire length from Polk to Kinzie. The lane sees about 800 bike trips during the evening rush, according to the city.
I use this bikelane all the time and this improvement is warranted and great.  The lane is always busy during the workweek and often times motorists have abused the fact that it's relatively exposed.  Hopefully this will help.