Friday, March 22, 2019

Blair Kamin Gives New Essex on the Park a Solid "Meh" and Shrug of the Shoulders

Per usual, Blair Kamin, Chicago Tribune Architect Columnist, hits it on the head:
The spectacular, cliff-like wall of skyscrapers across Michigan Avenue from Grant Park conjures many metaphors: It’s the face Chicago presents to the world, the front porch that overlooks the city’s front yard, a group portrait that achieves extraordinary coherence despite an aesthetic array that ranges from Romanesque Revival to Second Empire to Art Deco.
In a preemptive strike that anticipated how Millennium Park would supercharge growth, possibly leading developers to tear down buildings in the wall, Chicago in 2002 granted landmark status to a mile-long stretch of the cliff between Randolph Street on the north and 11th Street on the south. But as new towers muscle into Grant Park’s southern edge, development pressure continues to weigh on the historic district.

Is this evolution for the better? I’d say no based on the new Essex on the Park, a solid but unremarkable 56-story apartment tower at 812 S. Michigan. Though it’s sensitively designed at street level, the tower’s skyline presence is a tall order of metal-and-glass “meh.” That’s not good enough, given its prominent site and the fact that, at a height of 620 feet, it is for the moment the district’s tallest building.
Yes we're excited about an upscale building and amenities coming to the Sloop, we agree the architecture leaves something to be desired.

The column goes on to say that the building could serve as a stepping stone to better high-rises to its south like 1000M (if it gets built) and NEMA, but that shouldn't be how we view the architectural creds for this building.

Is it better than the parking lot that it replaces - obviously!  Is it worthy of it's high-profile location in Chicago's grand skyline - doubtful.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Grant Park Bistro at Hotel Essex Set to Open in April


Exciting news on the impending opening of a new dinning option (via Eater):
The owners of Bistronomic (the French bistro in Gold Coast) and Troquet (the restaurant inside the Hotel Felix in River North) are opening a restaurant on the ground floor of the remodeled Hotel Essex (née Essex Inn). Grant Park Bistro is another French restaurant from LM Restaurant Group and it’ll serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s a return to the hotel for LM as the company operated Brasserie by LM from 2012 to 2016 inside the same South Loop building.

The official opening date is April 2 at the corner of 8th Street and Michigan Avenue. It’ll debut with breakfast, according to a spokesperson, before expanding to lunch on April 8 and dinner on April 15.
We were big fans of Brasserie by LM and are excited to see this new concept from them.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Alderman Dowell Says One Central is Too Much


Last week developers unveiled an ambitious plan to build over the train tracks just west of Lake Shore Drive and Soldier Field.  Just a week after the neighborhood meeting, Alderman Dowell has unsurprisingly come back that changes are needed (via Chicago Tribune):
The multibillion-dollar plan led by Wisconsin-based developer Bob Dunn created a buzz of excitement, but also raised concerns after neighbors saw conceptual renderings of a row of dramatic towers just west of Lake Shore Drive, between McCormick Place and the Field Museum.
Dunn has only offered broad strokes so no one knows how tall the skyscrapers would be nor the total amount of space that would be built. Nevertheless, 3rd Ward Ald. Pat Dowell, who hosted last week’s community meeting for the One Central project, is already saying it’s too much. She seeks reductions in building height and density on the 34-acre site that would use air rights over Metra train tracks.

While revisions to a vague conceptual presentation was unavoidable and 100% necessary, the one piece that stuck out in the article we read on the Tribune has us scratching our heads:
Yet the plan faces many of the same hurdles the other megadevelopments have encountered — including neighbors’ objections to having their view of Lake Michigan blocked.
The article provides this additional perspective on the views:
Neighbors who attended the presentation had mixed reactions.
“I was really blown away by what I saw,” said Tina Feldstein, president of the Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance neighborhood group. “The idea that there could be a transportation hub of that caliber, right here on the lakefront, is not only a boom for this area but also for the city.”

Feldstein described the plan to connect many of Chicago’s top tourist attractions along the lake to public transportation as “50 years overdue.” She also said she was encouraged by the developer’s willingness to try to create a new high school on the site.

But Feldstein acknowledged One Central’s potential to obscure or fully block lake views in many nearby towers is a big drawback.

“I feel their pain that their views are going to be obstructed, even though they knew one day it would come,” Feldstein said. “There were a large number of people at the meeting who were hurting.”
While we understand the pity for the people with views, it's a reality of city living.  Views aren't a right and aren't guaranteed - despite what your real estate agent says.

We'll see how this goes.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Water Taxi Service Up and Floating for 2019 Season


While many assume the green Chicago river is in honor of St. Patrick's day, it's actually done to signal "go" for the Chicago Water Taxi service - which also started this past weekend (via NBC):
Chicago’s iconic water taxis will be back in service beginning this weekend, the Wendella company announced this week.

Beginning on Saturday, March 16, the taxis will run seven days a week through the month of December. The taxis will make stops at five different Chicago locations, including Ogilvie/Union in the West Loop, Michigan Avenue, River North, the Riverwalk, and Chinatown.
While most of the stops are not in our neighborhood, there is one in Chinatown for those of you who live towards the south end of the Sloop.

Finally - obviously we're kidding about the river being green.  That has nothing to do with the water taxi's and was likely a coincidence this year :)

Monday, March 18, 2019

Spring Brings New Opportunities Here at Sloopin

Hello Sloopsters!

Spring is in the air (sort of).  It's a time of new beginnings, blossoming flowers and hopefully us being able to step outside without giant coats on.

For Sloopin, we're using the season as inspiration to re-evaluate some opportunities, make some changes and explore an evolution in our site.

With that said, we're posting an open invitation to our readers to provide suggestions, ideas and/or think about helping us out. 

We're also exploring partnership opportunities.  If you're a local real estate agent/business or a local business that's heavily invested in the area please send us a note if you're interested in discussing some potential partnership ideas (sloopin@gmail.com).

Thanks for all the support and looking forward to hearing from you.

The Sloopin Crew 

Friday, March 15, 2019

Verizon Turning on 5G Network in the Sloop on April 11th

5G is supposed to revolutionize our life, so if you're a technophile in the Sloop you may want to know this (via USA Today):
Verizon is finally ready to start turning on its mobile 5G network, and tapping into it won't cost a lot more than current 4G LTE.
The nation's largest carrier announced that it will be turning on its mobile 5G network in Chicago and Minneapolis on April 11, with owners of its first 5G-capable phone, the Moto Z3, being able to tap into the network through a separate $50 accessory.

Labeling their network "5G ultra wideband," the new service will cost $10 more per month than the company's existing 4G LTE service for unlimited data.
So what's the tie to the Sloop?  Well it's one of the neighborhoods who will have access to the new network upon roll-out:
According to the Verizon's website for the 5G moto mod, Chicago service will initially be "concentrated in The Loop, specifically areas of the West Loop and the South Loop, around landmarks such as Union Station, Willis Tower, The Art Institute of Chicago, Millennium Park and The Chicago Theatre."
Coverage in the area will also extend to the Verizon store on "The Magnificent Mile, and throughout The Gold Coast, Old Town and River North."

Thursday, March 14, 2019

New Transit Center & Huge High-Rises Proposed for Air Rights Over Train Tracks West of Soldier Field

Wowsa!  (via Chicago Tribune):
Chicago’s skyline could extend all the way south to McCormick Place, under a multibillion-dollar development plan unveiled Wednesday that would create a row of gleaming skyscrapers atop a massive new transit center.

The preliminary plan, led by Wisconsin-based developer Bob Dunn, envisions millions of square feet of high-rises constructed on a platform covering Metra tracks above the level of Lake Shore Drive. The site runs just west of Lake Shore Drive between the Field Museum and McCormick.

The centerpiece of the development would be a transit center southwest of Soldier Field, across Lake Shore Drive. It would link Metra, CTA and Amtrak trains, as well as a wheeled tram route, topped by a few floors of restaurant, retail and entertainment space.

Skyscrapers would be built around and atop the transit center.
The amazing thing about this proposal is how it's ambition sits within a crowded field of multi-billion dollar developments:
Chicago is already a decade into a development boom, with several planned megadevelopments along the Chicago River, such as Sterling Bay’s Lincoln Yards and Related Midwest’s The 78, much closer to the starting line. It’s unclear how many multibillion-dollar projects the commercial real estate market can support, or whether the economy will hold up long enough for at least some of them to be completed in the current cycle.

Adding to the complexity is the pending exit of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and uncertainty about the next mayor’s interest in such large-scale development.
In our estimation, it's hard to see how this becomes a reality for all the reasons stated in the blurb above.  It just doesn't feel like Chicago - let alone the Sloop - has enough demand for something like this.

That being said, the one thing this proposal has that none of the others do is an amazing piece of land (or should we say air).  To build this close to Soldier Field and museum campus would provide unrivaled "neighborhood amenities".

Many of us already love the Sloop because of our proximity to these cultural treasures, imagine if there was more development even closer.

Probably the most interesting component of the whole plan is the transit center.  This would like be a critical component for the development to move forward.  To have this much development would require easier access for the broader swatch of the city.  That's why it makes sense that every train line in the metropolitan area of Chicago is mentioned as being incorporated to the plan.

So...what do you think?  What percent chance do you give this one to be built?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

New Italian Restaurant - Giglio's - Coming to 825 S. State

A reader writes:
Looks like we having a new restaurant coming to sloop. I hope it does better than the last one.


As a reminder this restaurant space was originally Jimmy Green's.  That bar/restaurant had a 7-year run.

Quickly after that, Pazzo's opened in 2017, but abruptly closed down in late 2018.

Here's to hoping Giglio's has a bit of a better run.

(Hat tip: MC!)

Monday, March 11, 2019

Bald Eagle Seen Soaring Through the Sloop

Well this is pretty cool (via Sun Times):
David Lakauskas was taking a break in his South Loop office when he saw an unusually large bird flying by his window.

“In the corner of my eye I noticed something was not right,” he said. When he realized it was a “special bird,” he grabbed his camera.

Lakauskas was able to capture video of a bald eagle flying around his office building, at 329 West 18th Street, with about 10 seagulls following it.

So why were the seagulls following?  Two theories:
“Anytime there’s a big raptor around, other birds take notice. Most birds are fairly territorial so if an eagle comes by, gulls are going to mob it, harass it and try and get it to leave because if an eagle is there they’re all of a sudden at the bottom of the food chain,” he said.
Another possibility is that gulls were following the eagle to try and get a free meal.

“Gulls tend to be crafty when it comes to feeding,” he said. “If an eagle’s nearby … gulls will let a more competent raptor do the work of catching the fish or catching the duck and then once the prey has been captured, gulls will mob the raptor.”

If you're a fan of this here blog, you probably know we have a thing for birds in this neighborhood.  We even have a Peregrine Falcon named after it!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Eater Chicago Checks-in at Three South Loop Jewish Delis

The Sloop is blessed with three distinctly different places that serve variations of "Jewish Deli".  Yeah, let that sink it for a sec.

The good peeps at Eater Chicago take a look at the Jewish Deli scene and check in at our spots:
Half Sour (755 S. Clark)While it doesn’t offer staples such as blintzes and kasha varnishkes, it’s impossible to deny Half Sour’s strong Jewish deli influence. Since its opening in 2018, the Printer’s Row spot smokes its own pastrami, ferments its own pickles, and makes fresh bagels every morning. In addition to latkes with apple sauce, corned beef sandwiches, and bowls of matzo ball soup; Half Sour brought deli-inspired dishes into 2019 with hip menu items like pastrami chili, smoked salmon dip with everything spice crackers, and even Sephardi-style fried artichokes.
Eleven City Diner (1112 S. Wabash)The Eleven City Diner’s remaining Chicago location, after closing its Lincoln Park restaurant, is thriving. The massive South Loop space serves breakfast all day, plus tons of Jewish standards like turkey pastrami, corned beef, knishes, and so much lox. In addition, the menu has trendy “health” options like Impossible burgers, a quinoa scramble bowl, many ice cream and soda fountain treats, Mexican-inspired chilaquiles, various burgers, and a whole section of loaded mac and cheese. Eleven City also opened a Los Angeles location in 2019.
Manny's (1141 S. Jefferson)Manny’s is the last Jewish deli seemingly everyone in Chicago knows. The cafeteria has a 75-year history with the city, from its humble beginning opened by Russian immigrants on Van Buren and Halsted to its landmark status as a generations-owned establishment on South Jefferson. The menu is traditional Jewish fare and the portions are massive. It’s one of the few places left in the city eaters can still order matzo brie, kishke, and kasha and noodles, all in one sitting. For ex-Chicagoans missing a taste of home, Manny’s can now be delivered nationwide via Tastes of Chicago.

A Deeper Look at the Massive Delays of the Jane Bryne Interchange Construction Project


Damn this project (via ChicagoTribune):
If all had gone as planned, the remake of the Jane Byrne Interchange could have been done by now.

Instead, drivers continue to face snarled traffic, closed lanes and bountiful construction signs at the juncture of the Eisenhower, Kennedy and Dan Ryan expressways west of the Loop, the effects of a construction project that will take at least another 3½ years and will cost at least $170 million more than expected.

It wasn’t just one problem that caused this to happen, the Tribune found, but a series of issues that contributed to unforeseen delays, conflicts over who was to blame and a price tag that is now $713 million, a third higher than the original estimate of $535.5 million.

While drivers are bearing the brunt of it, the problems have extended to the nearby University of Illinois at Chicago campus where a building had sunk and shifted, state records show.
The biggest pain for the Sloop is that 2 of the biggest east/west arteries for the neighborhood have been closed for awhile.  Damn. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Lobo Rey is Now The Lobo Canteen in Move to Focus More on Their Bar


Looks like Lobo Rey is evolving (via Eater):
Changes come to the Scout owners’ South Loop Mexican spot
The owners of popular South Loop sports bar the Scout recently closed their neighboring Mexican restaurant Lobo Rey temporarily for cosmetic and menu changes and reopened it as more of a bar. Its Facebook page is now named the Lobo Canteen and new menu items include an avocado daiquiri, Mexican pizzas, and Tex-Mex chicken wings. Stay tuned to see if the changes lead to more success.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Progress at FBRK - Communal Working/Social Space at 2222 S. Michigan

We were recently down in the Motor Row entertainment district and snapped a pic of the beautiful, but old Hudson Motor Building at 2222 S. Michigan:


As you'll see in the windows, space is available for lease.  All the way on the right, you will also see the branding for FBRK.  If you're wondering what that is, here a blurb from our post back in May 2018:
The vision for the 92-year-old facility, which would be known as FBRK (prounounced "fabric"), has shades of co-working like WeWork and membership clubs like Soho House. The anchor of the five-story project would be 40,000 square feet of office space for members, including private offices, open workspace and conference rooms.
Another 100,000 square feet would feature a gym, barbershop, restaurants and a pool designed to allow members to "live together and work together and socialize and get their work done in one space," Idonije said. "The notion is ultimately that well-rounded people build well-rounded, balanced companies."
If this materializes how it's envisioned, it could be a huge win for the area.  Here is a rendering of what they're hoping for:

Friday, March 1, 2019

New 24-Story Rental Building on Wabash Adds to Density of Motor Row Entertainment Area


More action on the development front near Cermak (via Curbed):
The South Loop apartment boom is adding another project to the mix as developer Draper and Kramer officially breaks ground on a 24-story rental building at northeast corner of Wabash Avenue and Cermak Road.

Known by its address of 2111 S. Wabash, the 275-unit development includes ground floor retail and 88-car parking podium topped by a glassy tower with an angular “sawtooth” facade. The design creates great views in all directions as well as a “prismatic effect in which the light will constantly change the appearance of the building depending on the time of day,” said architect John Lahey of firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz in a statement.

Announced back in 2015, Draper and Kramer’s plan for 2111 S. Wabash originally included a mix of roughly 250 apartments and 144 hotel rooms. The project later dropped the hotel component and increased the number of residential units to 275 when it earned city approval the following year.
Judging by the picture above, it looks like the development might come all the way to Cermak (the construction fencing extends to Cermak).

However, the rendering below makes it seem like it isn't.  Anyone have some perspective here?