Wednesday, November 14, 2018

So We Didn't Get Amazon's HQ2...

While the build-up to an announcement was softened last week as news leaked out that Amazon was in "late negotiations" with Long Island City in New York and Arlington in Northern Virginia, the final decision still stings.

Chicago always seemed like a long shot if the national media was to believed.  Yes, we had almost all the boxes checked for what Amazon was looking for, but at the end, the decision to land in the New York and Washington DC metros didn't feel like a shock. 

There is a lot to read on the topic.  In Chicago, the Tribune writes about "what's next" for Chicago and its tech scene.  It strikes a positive tone, but the reality is our fine city lags behind many others on this front.  Mayor Emanuel was coy in his answers on the topic claiming NDA confidentiality (which we can respect).

Interestingly, much of the press coverage has been negative - granted that's what tends to drive clicks.  Popular tech site The Verge has a headline that reads "Amazon's HQ2 Stunt Could Come Back to Haunt it" and Quartz writes "Amazon Had a Chance to Redefine It's Corporate Culture...and Blew it".

For us in the Sloop, the big question is what will happen with Related Midwest's massive 78 development?  We know it's going in front of the Chicago Plan Commission later this month, but will the pace of this development slow and change?  The simple answer is probably yes.  Will recently defeated Governor Rauner's Discovery Partners Institute technology project - that was slated for this area - fizzle out?  Who knows. 

Time will tell.  But in the meantime, another game changing development opportunity has been missed. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

New Digs for Field's T. Rex Sue Opening on December 21st


via Chicago Tribune:
Sue the T. rex now has a date for its housewarming party.

The Field Museum’s prime T. rex skeleton, visible only through a small viewing window for much of the last year, will be on view in its new, fully decorated second-floor home beginning Dec. 21, the museum announced Monday.

The new, 5,100-square-foot display, in a former movie theater space amid the “Evolving Planet” exhibition, will surround Sue with interactives and other touches meant to put the animal in context for museum-goers.

The largest, most intact T. rex ever found was moved out of its longtime home in Stanley Field Hall as part of a 125th anniversary remaking of the central hall.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Chase Branch at Dearborn and Harrison Officially Closed

A reader writes:
If only "Printer's Row" restaurant could return (the other half of its site now occupied by Potbelly)!

We posted about this back in August, but it appears this branch is officially closed.  Here is to hoping something more exciting moves in...

(Hat tip:  AB!)

Friday, November 9, 2018

Kome Japanesse Eatery Closes at 1303 S. Michigan

Looks like we got confirmation on a post we did back in October:

Kome opened in November of 2017.  Before that Ameritalia had a short stint between 2014 and 2017.  And before that a neighborhood favorite - Panozzo's held down the fort at this location for a relatively long time.

Will be curious to see what's next...

(Hat tip: JH!)

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Amazon's HQ2 Search Nearing Decision and Reportedly Could Split Between Two Cities

It appears the Amazon HQ2 sweepstakes is getting closer to a resolution as a bevy of stories have leaked out from prominent newspapers including Washington Post, New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

The biggest news appears to be that Amazon has changed their thinking and is planning on splitting HQ2 between two sites.  The two metro areas most widely cited in "advanced negotiations" are Washington DC and New York City.  Additionally Dallas was mentioned as another location being seriously considered.

While some of the articles concede there could be other locations in discussion, the lack of a Chicago mention makes it seem like our city is likely out of the running.  Local media and government officials caution against that thinking (via Crain's Chicago):
The Wall Street Journal responded with a story yesterday saying Dallas and New York are still talking with Amazon, too. Chicago isn't currently negotiating, sources tell the Journal, although the paper notes that doesn't necessarily count the city out.
Asked to comment on the weekend’s reports, City Hall spokesman Adam Collins said, "As fun as it is to speculate on rumors, we're not playing that parlor game.”
While we understand the statement, it doesn't bode well in our opinion.

The most interesting blurb we read was some commentary on Amazon's decision to split up the "HQ2" between two cities (via Wall Street Journal): 
But the plan to halve one of the biggest proposed economic developments in years could also be viewed as a letdown for the 20 locales that Amazon chose as finalists earlier this year. When Amazon initially announced plans for HQ2 more than a year ago, it promised to bring as many as 50,000 employees and more than $5 billion in investments to the new location over nearly 20 years.
Amazon expects to view all three of its main U.S. offices as headquarters with similar executive and back-office functions, the person familiar with the effort said. But the split means the company is essentially creating two offices smaller than its Seattle headquarters, which holds 45,000 workers.

Jeff Finkle, president of the International Economic Development Council, a group that represents economic-development officials across the country, said it is going to be harder now for any one community to claim to have won an Amazon headquarters.

“Many of these communities were hoping to brand themselves as the co-headquarters with Seattle,” he said. “I think it becomes just a regional office or a back office or a major office but not a co-headquarters.”
Despite this thinking, all 20 finalists would presumably still welcome half of the HQ2 prize - however some of the prestige might have been lost.

While our confidence in Chicago winning has waned, we will stay tuned to see how this story progresses.

(Hat tip: PB!)

Monday, November 5, 2018

State Releases New School Rating System Which Contradicts CPS Rating System

About 7 in 10 Illinois schools are rated “commendable” on the state’s overhauled school report cards, but the simplified, positive labels belie a more nuanced story of school quality here.
The school rating system is new to the state report cards, which were made public Tuesday, and is meant to describe how well each school educates all types of students. Schools fall into one of four tiers based on last year’s test data: “exemplary,” “commendable,” “underperforming” or “lowest performing.”

The label system relies heavily on another new feature of the report cards: measuring students’ year-over-year improvement on standardized tests instead of simply their passing rates.

Of course, we needed to see how some of our schools are doing so went straight to the search.  The new state report cards didn't look pretty for our local neighborhood school:

The Tribune article goes onto note that the methodology for the state at times is at odds with CPS rating methodology:
The state ratings are separate from the district’s School Quality Rating Policy, a CPS in-house performance category system widely referred to as SQRP. District officials stressed that the CPS system is based on other metrics and relies on different standardized tests than the state’s.
Each rating system assigns what looks like contradictory ratings to many city schools, which may send mixed messages to parents.

While only a dozen CPS schools carry the state’s top exemplary rating, the district’s rating system gives its top mark to 185 schools.

At least 86 schools that earned CPS’ best two ratings were designated underperforming or lowest performing by the state. One school that earned CPS’ top rating, Moos Elementary, was among the lowest performing 5 percent statewide, according to the Illinois State Board of Education measure.

Meanwhile, a couple of Chicago schools that the state viewed as commendable were the worst-rated by CPS standards.
That contradiction appears to be the case for South Loop elementary as it's rated "Level 1" - which means it's a the higher end of the CPS rating spectrum.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Related's "The 78" Project Goes to the Chicago Plan Commission Later this Month

Curbed Chicago writes:
After approving the first phase of the 30-acre River District development in October, the Chicago Plan Commission is preparing to vote on an even larger riverfront proposal—the 62-acre, Near South Side campus known as The 78. The mixed-use project is the largest to appear on the commission’s preliminary November agenda.

Developed by Related Midwest with architectural master planning by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, The 78 calls for nothing short of an entirely new neighborhood between the South Loop and Chinatown. It is one of several locations Chicago has shopped to Amazon for its HQ2 second headquarters. The Seattle-based tech giant is expected to announce the winning city by the end of the year.

Though the final design of The 78 will ultimately depend on an end users like Amazon or some other major corporate tenant, the development team is ready to get the zoning process rolling. Phase one of the megaproject focuses primarily on building new roads and relocating the Metra tracks that currently obstruct the eastern side of the site.
Good to see some movement here, but the big elephant in the room is Amazon and whether that long shot comes to the Sloop.