Sunday, January 31, 2010

Video and pics: Helicopter Lift at Water Tower Place

Several streets in the Gold Coast were shut down this morning so that new HVAC units could be lifted to the roof of Water Tower Place (845 North Michigan Avenue).

The sky crane picked up the HVAC units one at a time from the ball field at nearby Lake Shore Park, ferried them down Chicago Avenue, and then up to the top of the skyscraper.  Getting them over that lip is quite a feat, as it is 1,059 feet high.

The original lift was scheduled for January 23, 2010 but had to be postponed a week because of bad weather.

Helicopter lifts are much like baseball games -- simultaneously boring and fascinating.  I made a video of a portion of the lift to give you an idea what it looks like. I didn't bother shooting the transport of all six giant silver boxes.

More pictures follow the video.  Click on them to enlarge.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Slice of Life: The Definition of Lonely

Every time you brush your teeth, clean your pits, flush the toilet, give the dog a drink, or otherwise use water in Chicago, you have some of the loneliest people on earth to thank.

While most Chicagoans know that their supply of fresh water comes from a network of cribs located miles off shore, like the one pictured above, or Four Mile Crib, they don't realize that there are people there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  People who monitor, maintain, and otherwise ensure that you have water.  It's my understanding that they stay on the crib in shifts of a week or longer, and eagerly anticipate the arrival of the next supply ship.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Status Update: Loyola Television Studio

The Fall, 2009 timeframe came and went, but Loyola University's streetfront studio inside The Clare at Water Tower (55 East Pearson) looks like it's finally ready to go.

We first told you about the $400,000 project back in November as part of an article about Chicago's Seven Storefront Studios.

The Loyola setup seems like a nice little studio.  The cameras are a bit small, so I don't think they're professional grade.  More like "prosumer."  And the orange-and-gray color scheme reminds me of the studios of KHOU television in Houston where I worked back in the 1990's.  And the monitor wall is, of course, just for show for visitors and people walking by.  They're too far away to be used as preview or program monitors for the people on the set.

There also appears to be a little area off to the side to do radio interviews and chat shows.  It would be nice if Loyola would start its own radio station.  So many of the city's college radio stations are so low power that they're worthless where I live.  In fact, the only one I can receive reliably is WDCB out of Glen Ellyn.

If there are any forward-thinking people at Loyola reading this, here's a tip for you -- Start your college station on an HD subchannel of full-power FM station.  That way you get full market coverage without the expense and responsibilities of launching a full radio station, and the host station can write off the expense of carrying your signal as a charitable donation.  Just a thought.

Update: January 29, 2010:

Just got a Twitter message from one of our readers letting me know that Loyola already has a radio station.  WLUW is on 88.7, and comes in pretty good here on top of the John Hancock Center.  Here's a helpful diagram to see if you can get WLUW where you are:

Still, it would be nice to hear Loyola student radio on a full-power station.  Something like this:

Even though WLUW is only 100 watts, it still has a much better signal than the scatter-and-splatter 200-watt directional mess that was my college radio station:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Status Update: Leonidas is Still Coming

It was back in November that we first mentioned the new Leonidas store coming to the former Bank of America location at 59 East Chicago Avenue.  Since then, little has changed with the storefront.  In spite of the "coming soon" promise, it didn't manage to open in time for the Christmas shopping season.  But there are signs that things are still progressing.

Recently a permit was posted showing the Leonidas is still moving forward with the project.  It was issued January 7, 2010.  Also, there is a promotional placard for a Red House, a company that specializes in renovations.

Presumably, Red House is doing the interior design.  But we'd be more impressed if it let us see the work being done inside, or at least posted renderings of what the finished product should look like.  The Leonidas project isn't even mentioned on the company's web site.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Status Update: The Sullivan Center

Last Wednesday (January 20, 2010) I was standing at a Loop bus stop waiting for any CTA vehicle beginning with a "1" to come by and take me home when a thought struck me.  "Aren't I supposed to be under a scaffold right now?"

I turned around and discovered that the scaffolding surrounding the State Street facade of the Sullivan Center (33 South State Street) was gone.  Years after Carson Pirie Scott abandoned the heart and soul of its home town, the building that made it famous is emerging from its construction cocoon.

If you haven't been by in a while, you should make a trip.  The exterior is magnificent.  Hopefully something good happens to the interior, too.  There have been a few small shops that opened on the Wabash Street side, but the bulk of the retail space remains unclaimed.  A hoped-for grocery store fell through, and the latest out of Crain's Chicago Business is that Target might be interested in opening there -- probably the final nail in the coffin of the flagship Sears store across the way.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Would The Last Boutique on Oak Street Please Turn Off The Lights?

Another Oak Street boutique is taking advantage of the crummy economy to re-tool.

The Yves Saint Laurent store at 51 East Oak Street closed last Friday (January 23, 2010).  Word is that the interior is being completely renovated.  The new design is based on plans from Paris and is intended to upgrade the Chicago location to flagship status.

When will that be?  At this time it's anyone's guess.  Estimates are running two to three months.

Also closed to renovation is the Kate Spade store across the street at 56 East Oak.  It is expected to reopen by the end of the month.

For those of you keeping score at home, the following spaces are closed on Oak Street:

  • 25 East Oak Street (Formerly Barneys, soon to be Hermes)
  • 51 East Oak Street (YSL, reopening in a few months)
  • 56 East Oak Street (Kate Space, reopening sooner)
  • 58 East Oak Street (The dead Esquire Theater)
  • 68 East Oak Street (Formerly Citibank)
  • 72 East Oak Street (Formerly G'Bani)
  • 112 East Oak Street (Soon to be Marilyn Miglin)
A block over, 52 East Walton Street is now empty.  It was Sur La Table, and there was word that some kind of bakery or cupcake shop or something was looking at the space, but the signs on the windows state the space is still available, so it doesn't look like that's going to happen.
The good news is that 102 East Oak Street is no longer shuttered.  It's now the home of Colletti.  It used to be Atlas Galleries.

How can shops like YSL and Spade afford to shutter their doors when consumer spending is down?  The logic is that it's better to close when spending is down than when spending is high.

Anyone who follows the retail press knows that high-end shoppers are mostly sticking to New York, London, Dubai (yes, still Dubai), and the major Asian markets these days.

We keep hearing from people who work in Chicago's retail sector that the few tourists who choose to make Chicago their destination continue to balk at the city's high sales tax.  By one estimate, half of the high-end north side shoppers who inquire about the sales tax end up walking out without buying anything.

It's not that they can't afford 10.25%, it's just that no one likes getting gouged.  And those who can afford it wonder why they should pay an extra 10.25% at Chicago boutiques when they can get the same item in other cities for less.

And the math doesn't just work for the well-to-do.  I know ordinary people in Chicago who fly to Minneapolis to do their back-to-school shopping at the Mall of America.  With zero sales tax on clothing, and a much lower sales tax than Chicago on everything else, they end up saving enough money to more than pay for the plane ticket.

Gotta get me some kids.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Slice of Life: Slice of Chicago

Two photographs of Chicago taken from the same location in Lincoln Park two months apart.  The frame on the right shows where we are.  The frame on the left shows what we have to look forward to.

Of course, if I was smart I would have arranged them in chronological order, but I'm not.

Midwest High Speed Rail: Part 4: What it Means to Chicago

This is the final part of a four-part series of articles about the plans for high speed rail in the Midwest. 

Chicago is at the epicenter of this rail revolution.  It is the body of the spider whose legs stretch across the corn, hay, and soybean fields of the region.  But it is not the only hub in the network.

Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Cincinnati are also seen as minor hubs in this project.  Each is expected to handle thousands of passengers a day pretty early on, and many more once the endeavor is completed.

It is predicted that if the midwest high speed rail network becomes a reality, there will be ten daily trains from Chicago to Detroit.  Right now, Amtrak offers just three.

The same story is true between Chicago and Cleveland -- 10 trains a day are predicted each way.  Again, there are only three plying the route right now.

And as more passengers use the service, the tickets become cheaper.  Right now that trip from Chicago to Detroit runs $70.  The Cleveland run can be as high as $61.  But with trains in common use, the anticipated price of a ticket is $18 to $50, depending on the time of day.

But more than money, there is a reality about transportation in Chicago -- there will never be another highway built in the city.  You can build ring roads and bypasses to your hearts content in the collar counties.  But unless you're prepared to move a few skyscrapers or kick tens of thousands of people out of their homes, you simply cannot build another freeway in the city.  The rail lines are already here -- they just need to be upgraded to handle increased flow.  Something that can't be done with existing highways.

Even if you were to double-stack the highways like I-35 in Austin, Texas you couldn't get I-290 through the Post Office.  And one rail line can handle the same number of people as ten lanes of new highway.

The result of a real regional passenger rail network like the one proposed is that you end up with a miniature Midway airport right in the heart of downtown Chicago.  But without the jet noise or the congestion.

The City of Chicago wants the new high speed rail station to run beneath Canal Street, connecting with the CTA, Metra, and water taxi lines.  There are even visions of having baggage check-in at the high speed rail station so people coming in from laces like Joliet, Normal, Lafayette, and the Quad Cities can transfer directly to Chicago's airports.

A conservative estimate of the impact the midwest high speed rail program would have is 15,260 construction jobs and 57,000 permanent jobs.  And if there's one thing the midwest needs right now, it's new jobs.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Slice of Life: Snacks on Wheels

You may or may not remember a series of television commercials that ran a couple of months ago for Little Debbie snack cakes.  They showed a small fleet of three tiny cars decorated like cupcakes driving across America spreading happiness and joy the way only baked goods can.

If you kept your eyes open, you might have actually seen those cars in Chicago.  I managed to catch two of them in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.  There weren't any cupcake personnel stationed by the cars which were stashed away on a quiet side street.  Perhaps they'd piled into the third car and gone for some coffee.


Midwest High Speed Rail: Part 3: How Fast is Fast?

This is part three of a four-part series of articles about the plans for high speed rail in the Midwest. 

In some countries high speed trains shuttle thousands of people each day between cities at 200 MPH or more.  High speed rail is coming to the Midwest (see parts one and two of this series).  But when it pulls into the station here, the maximum speed will be a comparatively paltry 110 MPH.

To be brutally honest, it's because Midwesterners, for the most part, aren't ready for 200 MPH trains yet.  Sure, there are any number of futurists and hard core city dwellers and Tokyo fanbois who think that in a place of such wide open spaces there is no reason to compromise.  But they are vastly outnumbered by those who see trains as a waste of time and money.  Who think getting around in a shared space is stupid.  And who will give up sitting in freeway gridlock only when you pry the Christmas tree air freshener out of their cold, dead hands.

Geographically speaking, the Midwest and Texas are the locations in America best suited for the fastest trains.  But there isn't the political leadership or the public support to make it happen.  And without those, the money hose trickles, rather than flows.

In order to reach the kind of speeds achieved in places like Korea and Belgium the rail lines have to be electrified.  Installing an overhead electrical system along the thousands of miles of track envisioned in the Midwestern high speed rail plan is massively expensive.  So instead, the high speed trains that will plow through the plains will run on plain old diesel.  The idea is for America to learn how to walk before we run.

Also, keep in mind that the 110 MPH figure is a maximum speed, not an average speed.  You won't get from Cincinnati to Cleveland in an hour and a half.

But for anyone who's traveled by rail knows, door-to-door rail is faster than air travel at midwest distances.  And high-speed rail is expected to beat cars in the same measurement.

That's an important factor when it comes to travel and speed.  While it would be great to have trains going 300 MPH, 110 MPH is enough to beat cars on most trips in the midwest.  And once trains become better than cars for traveling between cities, it doesn't matter how much you beat them by -- people will start using the train.  So there's no need to invest all the extra money into pushing the trains up to 200 or 300 MPH.  110 is the sweet spot; the compromise between speed and cost.

So, if rail travel is so great, how come it hasn't worked before?  Well, a big part of that has to do with how rail travel is regulated.

For the most part, passenger rail and freight trains share the same tracks.  Lots of people have experienced what happens when a lumbering freight train clogs up the works.  I, personally, spent an hour sitting on a siding in New Westminster, British Columbia waiting for a Canadian National freight train to clear a track so the Amtrak Cascades train I was on could get into Pacific Station in Vancouver.  I know lots of people who have been stuck behind freight trains while trying to get into Saint Louis, before the new passenger station was built.

Under federal law, freight trains are supposed to get out of the way of passenger trains.  In practice, they don't.  The freight train companies see their cargo as the priority and don't care if they inconvenience a few hundred people on a passenger train.  The problem is there has been no way to enforce the right-of-way law until now.

A new law has been passed which actually fines the freight companies if they block passenger trains.  Since it was enacted, the on-time performance of passenger trains has increased nationwide.  With additional passing sidings and better signaling systems, passenger travel is already getting faster and easier in America.

Some cities are already getting ready for the passenger train revolution.  As mentioned above, Saint Louis built a new intermodal station that links Amtrak trains with city buses, city light rail, and inter-city bus service.  I've used it, and it works really well.

In 2005 Milwaukee built a new Amtrak station at its airport.  In 2007 it built a new one downtown.  As much as the naysayers like to say nay, the rail revolution is becoming a reality.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Slice of Life: Windows Strikes Again

What's interesting isn't the fact that I keep seeing signs around the world that have crashed because of Microsoft Windows.  What's interesting to me is how many signs around the world run on Windows.  This sign was spotted in the Loop.

What's In A Name Part Two: Chicago's Heritage (Updated)

Last spring we wrote about how Bank of America can't decide what to call its pile at 135 South LaSalle Street.  Some signs read "Bank of America Center" while others read "Bank of America Building."  Now there seems to be more confusion on the other side of the Loop.

The building where Mayor Daley famously was going to buy a home until someone pointed out that it would make him a north sider opened as the Heritage at Millennium Park (130 North Garland Court).  But recently, signs have gone up around and underneath the building referring to it as the "Heritage Center."  A check of the condominium board's web site still shows "The Heritage at Millennium Park" in the graphic, though the page text reads simply "The Heritage."

I shot the condo board an e-mail asking for clarification.  If anyone has any information about this, post it in the comments section of this page, or to discuss it further do so in our forum.


I got a response from the people at the Heritage.  So here's the skinny:

The Heritage at Millennium Park is the correct name for the building.

The Heritage Center is the name of the collection of shops and restaurants at the base.

Why they need a separate name is beyond me.  It's not like there's enough stores there to reach the critical mass of a mall.  A more descriptive name would be "The Shops In The Section Of Pedway That Doesn't Smell Like Urine."  Or "The Shops In The Part Of The Pedway Where You're Not Afraid Anymore."

However, neither of those suggestions fit easily on a sign.

Midwest High Speed Rail: Part 2: Who Gets It First?

This is part two of a four-part series of articles about the plans for high speed rail in the Midwest. 

One of the miracles that came out of recent meetings between midwestern governors was an agreement about who gets rail first.

Not surprisingly, Chicago is one of the places that will see fast trains first.  But interestingly, Chicago is actually the hub of what is essentially a massive hub-and-spoke rail system, supplemented by a few minor hubs in places like Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Cincinnati.

In phase one of the plan, the following high speed rail routes will be established:

  • Chicago - Fort Wayne - Toledo - Cleveland
  • Chicago - Normal - Springfield - Saint Louis
  • Chicago - Milwaukee- Madison - LaCrosse - Saint Paul
  • Chicago - Lafayette - Indianapolis - Cincinnati
  • Chicago - Kalamazoo - Detroit

These will be supplemented by regional high speed rail rotes:

  • Cincinnati - Columbus - Cleveland
  • Milwaukee - Green Bay

In phase two of the plan, secondary routes are opened up:

  • Chicago - Quad Cities - Iowa City - Des Moines - Kansas City
  • Saint Paul - Duluth

And then later, the tertiary routes come online:

  • Chicago - Joliet - Champaign - Carbondale
  • Chicago - Quincy
  • Chicago - Kansas City
  • Detroit - Port Huron
  • Saint Louis - Jefferson City - Kansas City

All of this seems rather ambitious, and a lot of people, myself included, would be happy to see just the first part completed.  But linking the bigger cities isn't possible without also promising to expand to the smaller cities.  That's how politics works.  And having dozens of smaller cities, states, and regional organizations backing the Midwest rail plan makes it more likely to win federal funding.  And there are even visions of expanding the network all the way to the Dakotas.

Of course, the big question is will it work?  Shaking the magic 8-ball yields a blue triangle reading "All signs point to 'yes.'"  It is estimated that increasing the frequency of the trains and moving the speed up from the current 70 MPH maximum to 110 MPH will increase ridership anywhere from double to quadruple its current levels.

Another sign of this comes from France, one of the pioneering high speed rail countries.  SNCF, the company that runs the trains in France has indicated it is willing to run the Midwest high speed rail system.  It believes that it an make a profit on the routes.

Of course, there are a couple of catches.  First, it wants the federal and state governments to build the network; it doesn't want to shoulder any of that burden or debt.  And second, SNCF wants the trains to go 200 MPH, not just 110.

With trains in the Northeast already going 100MPH and trains in Europe and Asia passing 200, why is the Midwest setting its goal at 110?  That is answered in the next part of this series: How Fast is Fast?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Slice of Life: Living Off The Land

A group of people sift through the leaves underneath a tree in a Chicago public park.  There are probably lots of things you can eat in the city's parks.  In New York, the city actually had tours that show you all the edible things in Central Park.  I don't know if there's a similar tour available in Chicago.

I also don't know what kind of nuts or fruits or berries they were gathering.  They didn't speak any English.  Here's a picture of the tree's fruit.  If you know what it is, post it in the comments section of this page, or in our Chicago discussion forum.

Slice of Life: The Boiling Seas

When you were a kid did you have that fantasy about a vein of volcanic magma opening up underneath Lake Michigan and the water boils and makes the world's largest pot of spaghetti?  Yeah, me too.

Here we see the comparatively waters of Lake Michigan boiling into the frigid air on a winter's morn with Navy Pier (600 East Grand Avenue) silhouetted in the foreground.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Another (temporary) Closure On Oak Street

The Kate Spade boutique (56 East Oak Street) is the latest shop on Oak Street to close it's doors. Fortunately, this one is temporary. The store will reopen at the end of the month after an interior renovation.

Shopgirls were seen packing up the inventory tonight, leaving the mannequins you see here rather naked on a frosty winter's night.

Still, walking down Oak Street at night, especially in front of the old Esquire Theater, is kind of creepy. With all of the shuttered storefronts if you didn't know that you were on one of the city's snootiest shopping blocks you might feel unsafe.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Midwest High Speed Rail: Part 1: Overview

This is part one of a four-part series of articles about the plans for high speed rail in the Midwest. 

Recently a meeting was held to explain the status and possibilities of high speed rail in the Midwest.

I've been on high-speed trains from Korea to Japan to Belgium to Italy, and even the Eurostar underneath the Channel Tunnel.  I like rail transport in general, and high speed rail specifically.  But I've never had much hope for it in the United States.

That may be because I've been exposed to so many doubters and naysayers that I've actually started to believe that it's not possible.  At the meeting in the Loop it was made abundantly clear -- High speed rail is coming to the United States.  It's just a matter of which states will get it.

According to Kevin Brubaker, deputy director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, $1.3 billion in federal stimulus funds have already been set aside for Amtrak to make upgrades.  Another eight billion dollars is being made available for the states to implement high speed rail.  And the House of Representatives is considering adding another $50 billion in high speed rail funding over the course of five years.

But it's that eight billion dollar figure that's the key.  The various states are competing for slices of that pie.  Already $50 billion in proposals have been made by the states, and there are a lot of people who think that the Midwestern states have a good chance of getting some of it.

That's because the governors of the Midwestern states have actually managed to come together and decide how to spend it.  Which cities get rail first, second, and third.  Also on board are various mayors of cities large and small, their chambers of commerce, universities, and whatever other clout the flyover states can muster to turn high speed rail into a reality.

Although there are a number of other networks that will share the funding pool, the main competition comes from cities on the west coast.  Rail service is already pretty frequent there compared to most of the rest of the country, and based on my observations riding it, there is plenty of demand.

In the Midwest, people are still very much tied to their cars.  That makes sense since the distances between most of the cities are too small for efficient door-to-door plane travel, but far enough that regular trains don't get it done.  But there are signs that is changing.

Just as Chicagoland is dense enough to support both CTA and Metra service between cities, other smaller towns are realizing that they can shrink the gaps between them and the big city by enhancing train service.

For example, in 2006 the state of Illinois coughed up the dough for Amtrak to double its passenger rail service in the state.The result wasn't merely a doubling of the number of passengers.  It surpassed that.  And today the trains are fuller than before the 2006 funding.

Anyone who's lived in a small Midwestern town (I did five years in three different small towns) knows that they've been struggling for decades.  Adding enhanced rail service between themselves and Chicago is a way to improve their towns and open their local businesses up to new opportunities.  They'd rather be Lake Forest than Oshkosh.  "Bedroom community" is no longer a dirty word.

So, where does it all start?  That question is answered in part two of this series: Who Gets It First?

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Bricks of Brickhouse

The Jack Brickhouse monument at Pioneer Court in front of 401 North Michigan Avenue was removed, but the bricks that surrounded it remained.

The monument was taken away November 5, 2009 for restoration, and returned a little more than a month later.  Restoring the nine-year-old monument cost $12,000 according to a ChicagoBreakingNewsCenterDontCallUsTheTribune article.

Slice of Life: Icy Anticipation

The skating rink at Midway Plaisance Park awaits the first skaters of the season.  This picture was taken about an hour before it opened for the season, which was long before snow fell on Chicago.  On the left is a young priest discussing skating techniques with a city worker.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Goodbye Arby's. Hello, Arby's.

A couple of weeks ago I headed down to Clark Street with a fist full of newspaper coupons, ready to do something gluttonous at Arby's.  Instead, I found this:

The sign says the Arby's in the parking garage next to the Chicago Title Tower (161 North Clark Street) is closed.  In fact, the entire mini-food court with the Sbarro and everything is gone.  A note on the door says the proprietors lost their lease.  It must have been a surprise since the Christmas decorations were left behind when this picture was taken on December 23rd.

The sign also notes that there's another Arby's across the street at the Thompson Center (100 West Randolph Street).  But somehow I was so disappointed, I ended up at Wendy's instead.

Slice of Life: Frozen Fox

A news crew from Fox Business Channel does live shots for a story about shopping on Michigan Avenue in this horribly white balanced photo.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

TweetEcho: January 4-10, 2010

For those of you who don't subscribe to our Twitter feed, here are the items we tweeted in the last week or so:

  1. Today is your last chance to fight the winter blues for free
  2. Hate to spread rumors, but unconfirmed word from two places is that the Marc Jacobs at Elysian Hotel could open the last week of February.
  3. More details about the new Roosevelt University skyscraper in the Loop:
  4. Pictures from around the Loop, the Near North Side, and the Gold Coast of today's Chicago snowstorm:
  5. Crate & Barrel to close Lincoln Ave. CB2 store - Chicago Real Estate Daily
  6. Interesting article about planned theater expansions in Chicago in 2010:
  7. The Avenue Hotel in Streeterville is now the Avenue Crowne Plaza Chicago: Press release: Building info:
  8. Nordstrom Rack will fill the long-vacant former CompostUSA space on Chicago Avenue at Rush Street:
  9. Could this be Chicago's nerdiest Starbucks?
  10. Burj Dubai gets renamed Burj Khalifa Bin Zayed and has an official height of 2,717 feet:
  11. A new book gives an insider's view about what it's like to live in and run Chicago's John Hancock Center:

One of Chicago's Best Public Restrooms Just Got Better

Many people who live or work in the city have a mental map of where the nearest, best public restroom is.  While I'm not usually much on giving away my secret places of refuge, in these times when the temperatures plummet and our bladders feel smaller (it's not just me is it?), it seems only fair to share this amazing discovery:

They've started stocking breath mints, hand lotion, and mouthwash in the Millennium Station men's room!

Secluded beneath Michigan Avenue and connected to the relatively warm and dry pedway, with easy access to the Red Line and at least three underground coffee shops, the Millennium Station men's room is one of the cleanest, safest, and best maintained public restrooms in the Loop.  Now you know.

But on a recent trip to pick up dinner (the underground pizza joint across the way does a pretty good New York-style pie), I noticed new accouterments.  There's a bottle of hand lotion, a tray with individually wrapped breath mints, and tiny disposable cups for use with the mouthwash pump next to them.

Next thing you know, we'll have complementary combs and a guy to dry our hands for us!

Sometimes I get excited by the little things in life.

Slice of Life: Filming A Lincoln in Lincoln Park

The Lincoln getting all the attention in Lincoln Park this day isn't the locally-famous Standing Lincoln monument.  It's a 1968 Lincoln Continental being shot by a film crew for an upcoming movie.

I wasn't able to find out exactly which movie this was being filmed for, but the production crew for Little Fockers was in town at the time.  Also, I know nothing about cars, so "1968 Lincoln Continental" was the analysis of the photo provided by one of our readers.  If you disagree with his assessment, take it up in four forum.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New Book About Historic Chicago Architect Irving K. Pond

I got an e-mail flyer today from the good people down at the Glessner House Museum (1800 South Prairie Avenue) in the Prairie Avenue District.  They're having a presentation February 24, 2010 at 7:00pm about a new book about Irving K. Pond, a prominent architect during the one of Chicago's architectural heydays -- the late 1800's.

Here's the info they sent over:

The Autobiography of Irving K. Pond provides an important addition to our understanding of the field of architecture in Chicago during its zenith in the late 19th century, by exploring an important but often overlooked figure. Irving K. Pond was a distinguished architect, gifted storyteller, and national president of the American Institute of Architects. His richly anecdotal autobiography, published in 2009 for the first time, gives us an irreverent account of Chicago architecture and its architects at the turn of the last century. It should be read alongside the autobiographies of Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, to remind us that seminal developments in architecture, like those of the Italian Renaissance, emerge from a collaborative environment, and are not the product of an individual genius working alone. 
The program is presented by architect David Swan, who, along with Terry Tatum (Supervising Historian and Director of Research for the Landmarks Division, City of Chicago) edited the text of the autobiography and gathered the several hundred photos and line drawings that accompany it. 
Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing.
Admission is $10 per person, $8 for members of the Museum. Please call 312.326.1480 to make reservations or for further information.

If you have an upcoming event, be sure to let me know and I'll pass it along to the thousands (yes, hard to believe -- thousands) of people who read this blog.  Just e-mail it to

Slice of Life: Fields of White

The Chicago skyline peeks over the trees and snowy fields of Lincoln Park on a gloomy winter's afternoon.

Status Update: The Gage Group


The Gage Group (18 South Michigan Avenue) is a set of three office buildings designed by Holabird & Roche and Louis Sullivan in 1900 in the heart of Michigan Avenue's architectural cliff wall.  It has been most notable lately because of The Gage restaurant, which is good enough for portly pork and poultry poet Phil Vettel and therefore good enough for you.

The owners recently undertook the renovation of the space next door, and have done an impressive job restoring it to what looks like an authentic 1900's look.  Hopefully it doesn't remain vacant very long.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Slice of Life: A Little Something to Thaw Your Nards

I'm actually writing this on a warm day in the middle of August, but I'm scheduling it to auto-publish in the middle of January.  The reason is to remind everyone why we live in Chicago.  Why we endure the wind, the cold, and the occasional snow.  Just click on the picture and drink it in.

Status Update: University of Chicago New Hospital Pavilion Project

A crane towers over Hyde Park as it assembles the University of Chicago's New Hospital Pavilion Project. Hopefully that's a temporary name.  The 10+1-story project designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects & Cannon Design should be done in 2012, and will add 1.2 million square feet of space to the medical campus.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Status Update: New DuSable Museum

Work continues on the expansion of the DuSable Museum in Hyde Park.  The Roundhouse Project, as it is called, is being built in an 1800's horse stable designed by Daniel Burnham.