Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Another parking lot bites the dust (we hope)

If there's one thing that doesn't belong in downtown Chicago it's surface parking lots.  They contribute virtually nothing to the economic, social, and visual vitality of the area.  And fortunately, there may be one fewer soon.

According to the Fulton River District e-mail bulletin, the parking lot at 108 North Jefferson could soon make way for a multi-use building.

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That's the lot a block behind the Citigroup Center, northwest of the ABN AMRO Technology Center.

As more and more people move into the area, we can hope that fewer and fewer surface parking lots will survive and the area can become a thriving home to thousand of new Chicagoans.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Metra Market Moving Forward

It's been decades since this was first proposed, but finally some dirt is turning with the Metra Market project.

This will take that bricked-up arcade beneath the Metra rail tracks north of the Ogilvie Transportation Center and turn it into a shopping and restaurant plaza.  Similar projects have been successful from Paris to Evanston, and with the recent spike in residential density in the West Loop it looks like this might actually happen this time.

The lead tenant is supposed to be a "French Market" (not sure if that's a brand or a description) which will be made up of a couple dozen specialty food vendors (cheeses, breads, etc...)  Boutique foods marts have increased in popularity in the last few years in the Loop are with the emergence of Fox & Obel, Pastoral, Lavazza, and others.   Hopefully they will do as well or better in the West Loop location.  However, what downtown really needs is a proper butcher shop.  Abe Froman would blanch at the current state of Chicago's retail meat scene.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Latest Esquire proposal passes latest hurdle

There may finally be some movement at the Esquire Theater on Oak Street.  It's been five years since the multiplex shut down, leaving the city's most posh shopping district with a giant vacancy.

This week city council's Plan Commission approved a plan which would replace the theater with three brownstone-scale retail buildings like the others lining Oak Street.  The facade has landmark status, so it will be fun to see how the architect manages to blend the old and the new here.

The buildings can be no taller than three stories, or 60 feet each, and no hotels are allowed.  That's a big concession to local NIMBY groups who blocked plans for a boutique hotel in this location fearing additional traffic and noise.

The current proposal still requires additional approvals before we see anything happen, but there were men in hard hats touring the inside of the building just yesterday, so things look good.

For those of you worried about what happens to your neighborhood Citibank branch, that's moving into the new Barney's New York building.  It will be on the corner of State and Oak where Papa Milano's used to be.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Why is a city on a Great Lake afraid of water?

For the last three days we've been inundated with television news coverage of the flooding happening in Chicagoland.  There have been plenty of pictures of people being evacuated from their homes because of rising flood waters.  Rescue crews have been mobilized to save these helpless victims from mother nature's fury.


What's wrong with these people that they need to be saved from six inches of water?  TV news producers, writers, editors, and reporters are trained to show us the most dramatic and important video that comes in that day.  So what do we see?  People huddled in rubber dinghies being pulled to "safety" by firefighters who are simply sloshing along in ankle-deep water.  People bemoaning their misfortune that they have all of nine inches of water in their basements.  These people need to suck it up and get on with their lives.

The storm that brought the flooding to Chicagoland was the remains of Hurricane Ike.  When Ike crossed from the Gulf of Mexico to Galveston Island it brought 21 FEET of water.   And what did the people of Galveston Island do when Coast Guard helicopters came to their rescue?

They said, "No thanks.  We're fine.  We can take care of ourselves."  With water up to the second or third-stories of some homes these people are taking care of themselves.

Meanwhile, the soft-and-doughy Chicagoans are freaking out at mere inches of water that might make the legs of their foosball tables soggy, or require wee water wings for their precious tiny dogs.

Seriously, Chicago: Grow a pair.