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dvidler Jul 12, 2006 7:12 PM

It depends on what other cities are doing to promote business development within their city core. If other big cities are using certain types of financing to entice businesses etc to relocate or stay then Chicago has to play ball to keep in the game.

Chicago3rd Jul 12, 2006 7:25 PM

I disagree. The core in Chicago is big enough and has TIFFs. Get the private sector too addicted to TIFFs then there will be NO incentive for them to continually reinvest into their properties. The land lords made money....pocketed it.....and the building got run down. Office tenants are moving into the newer buildings. The exact reason some of us see continued growth of Class A buildings. There is a market for them. Just think if all the landlords along LaSalle would have invested in their own property then there might not be such a thirst for class A buildings.

Would rather have a TIFF on to build a west El Loop down Clinton between Lake and Harris. Reward the land owners who invested in their properties and created the new west side.

And in no way should we subsidize bad business decisions.

VivaLFuego Jul 13, 2006 2:29 AM

I support the TIF only if it is used for public infrastructure improvements (Monroe st. rapid transit! West Loop Subway! :) ), but NOT to private interests or developers.

The notion in the sun-times article that business groups should oversee the dispersement of public money is ludicrous.

LA21st Jul 13, 2006 2:42 AM

I agree, the Clinton St subway is a must. However, I talked to a friend in CDOT about this, and he said it is many years away. :(
Keep your eye on Carroll Ave though.:tup:

the urban politician Jul 13, 2006 2:42 AM

Historic preservation
I have long noticed that there are some nice looking historic buildings near the Jefferson Place/Jefferson Tower buildings recently constructed in the west loop. Please view these links:

This one to the left:

The two buildings to the right:

And here below, right across, a very nice building with one of those water towers on the roof:

The Jefferson buildings themselves are crap, but this intersection has potential to be kind of interesting--older historic buildings mixed in with the modernism of the new CTA headquarters, plus some highrise condos and retail, all along the L tracks.

But it all gets ruined if too many of these historic buildings are lost. Does anybody know if there are efforts underway to protect these structures?

Loopy Jul 13, 2006 2:17 PM

VivaLfuego, LA21st,

Have either of you guys heard any recent buzz that you can share about the Taylor Street Extension viaduct and bridge?

LA21st Jul 13, 2006 10:36 PM

I will check CDOT's construction spreadsheet for start and finish dates.

Chicago2020 Jul 14, 2006 3:10 AM

United HQ heading for Chicago
Officials expected to announce move to 77 W. Wacker this weekend

(Crain’s) — Chicago has emerged as the all-but-certain location for United Airlines’ new headquarters, sources close to the matter reported late Thursday, with the carrier likely to move 350 top staffers to a high-rise at 77 W. Wacker Dr. overlooking the Chicago River.

Sources said that an announcement that “Chicago’s hometown carrier” is staying home may come by the end of the weekend. The announcement would follow what are described as serious talks during the week between United and the owners of the 77 W. Wacker, where R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. formerly was based.

United, which currently is based in suburban Elk Grove Township, has 16,000 employees in the Chicago area, more than in any other metropolitan region. But the firm has made clear its decision would be based on its own financial situation, and the city and state reportedly have responded with an incentive package worth more than $20 million to United, which emerged from bankruptcy earlier this year.

The proposed perks include tax increment financing, job training credits and possible relief from city and state jet fuel taxes that would also be extended to other airlines that purchase significant amounts of fuel in Illinois.

Related Article Topics | Related Industry News
Also on the table: whether United still has exclusive rights to its gates at O’Hare after defaulting on bonds used to finance the facility while it was operating under Chapter 11 protection. The airline is still litigating that matter with the city in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

San Francisco and Denver were also vying for United’s headquarters.

“We still continue to discuss our options with officials in Chicago, Denver and San Francisco,” a United spokeswoman, who declined to provide details on the talks, said earlier Thursday. Chicago and Illinois officials also have declined to discuss the items under negotiation.

While Denver economic development officials were prepared to make a rich offer to United, they were never asked to do so, says Tom Clark, executive vice-president for the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. “We have not heard anything from United,” he says. “We don’t expect to hear anything from United.”

United officials are focusing on 77 W. Wacker Dr. after visiting several downtown office towers. Among the skyscrapers they also considered:

190 S. LaSalle, which formerly housed Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw LLP
115 S. LaSalle St., the Harris Bank complex
200 W. Madison St., space formerly occupied by Hyatt Corp.

nomarandlee Jul 14, 2006 4:45 AM

Awesome!!! I sure as hell hope that Daley has the elite number crunches when figuring out all these corporate incentive stuff. It will be nice getting another high profile major into downtown though.

the urban politician Jul 14, 2006 6:12 PM


Originally Posted by the urban politician
I have long noticed that there are some nice looking historic buildings near the Jefferson Place/Jefferson Tower buildings recently constructed in the west loop. Please view these links:

This one to the left:

The two buildings to the right:

And here below, right across, a very nice building with one of those water towers on the roof:

The Jefferson buildings themselves are crap, but this intersection has potential to be kind of interesting--older historic buildings mixed in with the modernism of the new CTA headquarters, plus some highrise condos and retail, all along the L tracks.

But it all gets ruined if too many of these historic buildings are lost. Does anybody know if there are efforts underway to protect these structures?

^ I'm going to quote my previous post because it was basically ignored, and I DEMAND A RESPONSE :whip:

trvlr70 Jul 14, 2006 6:16 PM


Originally Posted by the urban politician
^ I'm going to quote my previous post because it was basically ignored, and I DEMAND A RESPONSE :whip:

No idea. Sorry.

Chi_Coruscant Jul 18, 2006 11:11 AM

Once-lavish Esquire theater may be nearing end of run

July 18, 2006

BY DAVID ROEDER Business Reporter

Chicago's Esquire theater, 58 E. Oak, a once lavish movie house that dates from the 1930s, could be near the end of its run.

The Esquire's owner wants to tear it down and replace it with small buildings for retail tenants.

Ald. Burton Natarus, whose 42nd Ward includes the Esquire, said he's been shown plans that call for buildings no taller than four stories. He said he supports the project because the new construction would attract quality stores into buildings similar to those that exist on Oak Street.

"Certainly, we have to look at our options for the property,'' said the owner, Mark Hunt of M Development LLC. "But nothing is definitive and there are no timetables for starting construction.''

Can't compete with megaplex

Hunt declined further comment. A source familiar with the project said that under one scenario, the theater would be closed in about 18 months.

The source said the new construction would total more than 100,000 square feet and that Hunt is aggressively marketing the space to stores that want an Oak Street address. The street has carved an identity near Michigan Avenue as a locale for luxury and specialty retailers who can pay top-dollar rents, sometimes hitting $300 a square foot for street frontage.

Rents decline above the first floor, and it's possible Hunt's project could include a restaurant, medical offices or other uses on the upper levels.

Showing movies, in the meantime, has been a tough business for the Esquire. The property has deteriorated under a succession of management firms. The current one is the AMC chain, which has a financial incentive to direct the most popular films to bigger and newer theaters downtown that it also controls.

"Movies are just a killer at the Esquire," the source said. "It's impossible to compete with the River East,'' a 21-screen AMC megaplex at Illinois and Columbus.

The Esquire began as a single, 1,400-seat auditorium and was converted to a six-screen theater in 1988. The City Council in 1994 rejected landmark status for the theater, saying that the earlier renovation destroyed much of its architectural heritage.

Natarus said Hunt would not need a zoning change for his project, but would need to bring it before the Chicago Plan Commission under terms of the city's Lakefront Protection Ordinance.

brian_b Jul 18, 2006 12:47 PM


Originally Posted by the urban politician
I have long noticed that there are some nice looking historic buildings near the Jefferson Place/Jefferson Tower buildings recently constructed in the west loop. Please view these links:

This one to the left:

The two buildings to the right:

And here below, right across, a very nice building with one of those water towers on the roof:

The Jefferson buildings themselves are crap, but this intersection has potential to be kind of interesting--older historic buildings mixed in with the modernism of the new CTA headquarters, plus some highrise condos and retail, all along the L tracks.

But it all gets ruined if too many of these historic buildings are lost. Does anybody know if there are efforts underway to protect these structures?


Originally Posted by the urban politician
^ I'm going to quote my previous post because it was basically ignored, and I DEMAND A RESPONSE :whip:

Well alright then! I have no idea if any of these buildings have an active preservation effort or not.

I can say that all 4 are occupied, but of the 4 I would be most worried about #1. It is not in very good condition and the sidewalk in front of it is garbage, though every few months someone comes by and replaces the boards that cover up the dangerous holes in the sidewalk. I'm guessing there's a plan in the works...

#4 is in excellent condition, and must have been restored within the last 5-10 years. Whoever did it spent a lot of money on it too. From the outside it really looks great.

#2 and #3. The Jefferson Tower designers took great pain to make their parking garage entrance blend in well with these two buildings. It stands to reason that they thought those buildings would be there for a long time to come.

EDIT - More on #1. This building has a full size lot that stretches all the way to Des Plaines, where this is an entrance to their private parking lot. Cars are double parked during the weekdays, so I would guess the building is fairly busy. On the Des Plaines side there is a newish painted iron fence around the lot. A few months ago, a car jumped the curb and took out a section of the fence. It still hasn't been replaced. Just some yellow caution tape strung between the empty fenceposts. The owner of this lot is definitely not eager to keep it looking nice.

the urban politician Jul 18, 2006 1:53 PM

^ Very informative, thanks.

That's too bad about building number 1, since it's actually kind of nice.

Chicago2020 Jul 28, 2006 4:16 AM

Are there any renderings for that new pedestrian bridge at the Art Institute??

Loopy Jul 28, 2006 11:39 PM


Originally Posted by Chicago2020
Are there any renderings for that new pedestrian bridge at the Art Institute??

This is the best one that I can find:

jpIllInoIs Aug 14, 2006 2:42 PM

Chicago Tribune theatre critic Chris Jones wrote a great article on Chicago Theatre scene. It seems the Loop Theatre district has finally earned an open run, big production. Clearly this is a powerful sign that the 20 year long investment in Loop infrastructure is paying off.

How 'Wicked' run has broken Chicago's curse

By Chris Jones
Tribune theater critic
Published August 13, 2006

The announcement came in Los Angeles, but it actually was a vote of confidence in Chicago. And it means that the Chicago production of "Wicked" -- the show that has revolutionized the perceptions of Broadway in the Loop -- is staying put at the Oriental Theatre. For many more months. Maybe for several more years.

On July 17, the producers of "Wicked" announced that a new production of their hit musical would open next spring at the Pantages Theatre in L.A. That was unsurprising -- "Wicked" has grossed more than $350 million to date in New York, Chicago and on tour, and a new company designed specifically for the nation's second-largest city was an obvious step to take. But there was a big surprise that day for many people who follow the vicissitudes of Broadway shows.

Los Angeles wasn't getting the Chicago production. Even though that had been the plan all along.

In New York, the thinking about Chicago has changed. Drastically.

"Finally the curse has been lifted," says Roche Schulfer, the executive director of the Goodman Theatre. "Now producers look at Chicago, and they see a huge city, and they see money. Really, this is a very big moment in the history of the Chicago theater."

In a study released last month and based on an extensive survey of theater-goers, the League of American Theatres and Producers found that "theater-motivated individuals" in large cities such as Chicago spend an average of about $92 per person on dining, hotels, parking, shopping and the like on the nights they are going to a Broadway-style show. Using those figures, that would mean an additional year of "Wicked" is worth more than $86 million to the North Loop businesses that surround the theater

When the Chicago company of "Wicked" was first announced in the Tribune on March 22, 2005, it was billed as an indefinite run. But in the touring Broadway business -- where costs and risks are high and theaters can get locked up months or even years in advance -- producers always need a more specific plan, even if they don't always care to reveal it.

In the case of "Wicked," producer David Stone actually was anticipating a Chicago run at the Oriental Theatre of 12-18 months -- and that was in his best-case scenario. That meant the show would be able to move to L.A. in early 2007, opening up another huge market and saving the multimillion dollar costs of developing a whole other company from scratch.

"Eighteen months was our original goal in Chicago," Stone admits, "and our initial plans then involved taking the show to L.A. But the show is doing so well in Chicago, we realized it would be stupid to leave."

So what's the secret plan now?

"We don't have a specific goal anymore," insists Stone, who produces "Wicked" in partnership with Marc Platt, Universal Pictures, The Araca Group and Jon B. Platt. "Our thinking now about Chicago is all about how you stay somewhere permanently. And that requires a whole other way of talking to your potential audience."

Permanence and theater aren't easy bedfellows, of course. But there has been speculation in New York -- where the sold-out show carries a box-office advance of some $32 million -- that "Wicked" could easily run another 10 years. In Chicago, where the advance is still a healthy $13 million despite much shorter booking periods, the run could easily last another two or three years -- if not more. Ever since the show began its Chicago run, it has sold almost all the available tickets at the Oriental Theatre at full price. The weekly gross this summer has been about $1.2 million, week in and week out."Wicked" puts a new block of tickets on sale to the public Sunday, covering performances through February. Sales are expected to be brisk.

Clearly, this is good news for city boosters. Broadway in Chicago estimates that one-quarter of the tickets to the show now are sold to patrons outside the Chicago area.

Leads to hotel stay

"Because we draw so heavily on the Midwest region, we always need a compelling reason for someone to come to Chicago again," says Dorothy Coyle, Chicago's Director of Tourism. "This show gets people to make plans. And since it's an evening event, that naturally leads to a hotel stay. Which brings the city revenue from the hotel tax."

You could also argue that the new commitment by "Wicked" provides substantial vindication for Mayor Richard M. Daley's promotion of the incremental use of public funds to create the Loop theater district -- which initially was criticized for inactivity. "The show is now the anchor tenant," says Schulfer. "And that makes a very big difference to the whole thing."

In many ways, "Wicked" is the culmination of a renaissance that began with the hit Chicago tryout of "The Producers" in 2000 and has continued, with some notable stutters, ever since. Given the plans already in place for the next several years, it's hard to imagine another time in the near future when Loop theaters are sitting empty for significant periods of time.
The initial idea to create a sit-down "Wicked" company for Chicago -- a concept that has proved very profitable for many people -- belonged to James M. Nederlander, the patriarch of the theater-owning family that owns many Broadway theaters, along with half of the Broadway in Chicago presenting and real-estate partnership. Live Nation (formerly Clear Channel Entertainment) is Nederlander's partner in Chicago.

"I've always said Chicago was a run town," Nederlander said from his New York office. "I remember when the Shuberts had seven theaters there. Then they gave up on the place. I always though that was a mistake."

It was Nederlander who persuaded Stone to create the Chicago company and let it stay. "That show is a big hit," Nedlander says, "Why not?"

History contained several reasons why not.

Not for decades

Exactly why Chicago -- despite its size -- had decades of trouble establishing itself as a place that would support long-running Broadway shows is a matter of speculation. Oft-cited reasons include everything from simple neglect by New York producers to the large number of competing non-profit theaters to anti-Chicago naysayers in New York. Some cite the many years lacking a cohesive local management of the Broadway-style theaters in the Loop, and others suggest that the exacting standards of former Tribune critic Claudia Cassidy had a chilling effect on shows at a crucial time when the commercial theater was shrinking and changing.

Whatever the history and the reasons, "Wicked" (which, interestingly enough, got mixed reviews in Chicago) clearly has swept them all away for the foreseeable future.

The success of "Wicked" (which is a national rather than a Chicago phenomenon) cannot be easily duplicated, of course. But "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," another Broadway show with a dedicated Chicago company, has already recouped its initial (and modest) $1 million costs and now looks set to play the Drury Lane Water Tower Theatre through the end of 2007, if not beyond. "Spelling Bee" also is produced by Stone, but other producers now seem ready to come to Chicago to test the Nederlander theory.

In the spring, Scott Sanders' production of "The Color Purple" will begin a Chicago run at the Cadillac Palace with Oprah Winfrey's name above the title. If sales are relatively modest, it will decamp for another city after a few months. If tickets sell at "Wicked" levels (which could happen), Sanders says he will create another company and leave "The Color Purple" in Chicago, alongside its "Wicked" twin.

VivaLFuego Aug 18, 2006 7:16 PM

Bravo to Daley... just answer me a few questions about TIFs

spyguy Aug 18, 2006 7:25 PM

Glad to see he's not holding back. That's the mayor we all love :D

Chi_Coruscant Aug 20, 2006 12:22 PM

Loop lights up with a retail wick
Rebounding from decades of decline, the Loop has dusted itself off and is undergoing a renaissance as a magnet for tourists, shoppers and other spenders--and taxpayers--drawn to stores, theaters, rest

By Sandra Jones
Tribune staff reporter
Published August 20, 2006

At 7 p.m. on a recent weekday the crowd was so thick outside the Oriental Theater in the Loop for the show "Wicked" that passersby had to walk single file near the edge of the sidewalk just to get by.

Around the corner, diners waited outside for 30 minutes for tables at Petterino's, a steakhouse in a corner building that stood vacant only six years ago.

And two blocks away, dozens of shoppers leafed through handbags and sundresses at Nordstrom Rack and H&M on State Street, where stores are now lit up long after office workers have gone home.

Not long ago the Loop was a ghost town after 6 p.m. on a weeknight. Restaurateurs and bar owners wouldn't go near it, following instead the trail of night-lifers to trendy neighborhoods to the north and west.

Not anymore.

Real estate experts confirm what has become increasingly apparent: There is a bona fide retail renaissance taking shape in the Loop, one of Chicago's oldest and best-known destinations but one that was long ago left behind as other areas, especially north of the Chicago River, flourished with restaurants and shopping.

Thanks in large part to a $60-million investment to revive the theater district and $475 million spent to build Millennium Park, a record number of retailers and restaurants are moving into the Loop looking to benefit from the influx of tourists, residents and students who hang out downtown long after offices have closed.

"It's definitely paid off," said Allen Joffe, principal broker at Chicago-based Baum Realty Group Inc., a real estate firm tracking the Loop's retail revival.

The Loop retail market posted a banner year in 2005, with 89 new leases signed, topping the previous record in 2004 of 60, according to an annual study from Baum Realty. That's almost triple the 34 leases signed in 2003, Joffe said.

What's more, the gross average asking rent rose 10.3 percent, to $58.52 per square foot a year in 2005, from $53.04 in 2004. The 2005 rate was the highest since the firm began tracking rents eight years ago.

Not surprisingly, almost half of the new leases signed in 2005 were for food service, with 20 fast-food outlets, 13 coffee shops and seven full-service restaurants. But in a sign of the longstanding belief that the revival is here to stay, another 27 deals were for specialty stores, including six for apparel.

More tax money

The renewal is likely to result in an influx of new tax revenue from one of the biggest money pits in the city. Several mayoral administrations have spent tens of millions of dollars trying to lure retailers back downtown with little or no success.

Attracting more restaurants and national retailers to the Loop not only boosts the city's image but also helps pay for city services at a time when operating budget shortfalls are a common occurrence. Chicago restaurant sales in particular represent more than 20 percent of the sales tax revenue the city collects each year, making restaurants the fastest-growing retail category in the city, said John C. Melaniphy, founder and president of Melaniphy & Associates Inc., a Chicago-based retail consulting firm.

The streets that experienced the most activity were Michigan Avenue, State Street, Madison Street and Randolph Street, Baum said.

Retailers had avoided the Loop for decades, particularly State Street, the city's first major shopping district. The street lost cachet to North Michigan Avenue in the 1970s and then chased away traffic when it was closed to autos from 1979 to 1996 in an ill-conceived attempt to create a pedestrian-friendly outdoor shopping mall. As recently as 2004, retail vacancies for specialty stores on State Street surpassed 20 percent, according to Northern Realty Group Ltd. That figure dropped to 4.6 percent last fall.

Claudia Martin, who moved to an office building turned condo in the heart of the Loop five years ago, has watched the transformation from her living room.

"We used to joke you could lie down in the street on a Saturday afternoon and no one would run over you," said Martin.

Now, fast-food lunch spots are staying open later and on the weekends. Tanning salons and dry cleaners are hanging up shingles. And fashionable restaurants and shops are starting to move in.

Among the new tenants in 2005: Morton's The Steakhouse, Kamehachi, Hannah's Bretzel, Cereality, Ace Hardware, Barnes & Noble, Claire's Accessories and Ann Taylor Loft.

The neighborhood even got its first trendy boutique, an accessories and handbag shop called Nakamol on South Michigan Avenue that would fit just as well in Bucktown or Lincoln Park.

The pace remains strong for 2006. Restaurants including California Pizza Kitchen, McCormick & Schmick's and Elephant & Castle are adding to the nightlife. And apparel retailers such as Annie Sez, Urban Outfitters and Chernin's shoe store are filling in State Street.

Kevin and Alan Shikami, the brothers who run the chic Kevin restaurant in River North, plan to open a second restaurant later this year, this one in the Loop.

The Asian restaurant, to be called Shikago, will serve lunch and dinner and host wine tastings.

Alan Shikami said he hopes the upscale outpost will help change the way people look at the Loop. "I've always thought the Loop was a peculiar and unfortunately underutilized area," Shikami said via e-mail. "I always wondered why it could not resemble Manhattan. Why did the Loop have to be so focused on business and devoid of other life?"

Much of the Loop's rebirth can be traced to Millennium Park's opening two years ago. Held up as a model use of urban public space, the free concerts, stunning architecture and gardens attract an estimated 3 million visitors a year. named Millennium Park the most requested travel destination this summer, according to a study of the top 50 summer travel destinations, released in June.

"The transformation is phenomenal," said Chris Holtebeck, a tourist from Appleton, Wis., who has watched Chicago change. "There's just so much to see. And I feel safe."

Some parents feel the same way. It's not unusual to find Kregg Kaducha pushing a stroller around the Loop after 8 p.m., something he wouldn't have considered before the redevelopment took place. His sons, ages 2 and 5, run up and down the terraced stairs at the newly opened Wabash Plaza along the Chicago river and gaze at skyscrapers.

"It's cheap entertainment," said Kaducha. "I hope the development continues. It encourages more people to come around here."

$100 per square foot

As part of the upturn, real estate agents say they are seeing landlords for the first time asking for retail rents of $100 per square foot, a price typically reserved for outposts in River North.

Rents in some spots south of the river have doubled since Millennium Park opened, said David Stone, founder of Chicago-based Stone Real Estate Corp. and a veteran broker for downtown retail real estate.

"It's in quite high demand," said Stone.

That's not to say there aren't still dead zones. The Loop office market, for example, is a mixed bag. While the West Loop is one of the hot spots for new office space, there are some office buildings in the Central Loop that have as much as 40 percent to 60 percent of their space available.

And State Street still has a gaping hole across from Marshall Field's, where the long-troubled Block 37 project is moving ahead in fits and starts. Developer Mills Corp., plagued by financial setbacks, reduced the retail space, yet to be constructed, at 108 N. State St. to 265,000 square feet from more than 400,000 square feet originally projected.

The Loop retail market's overall retail vacancy rate rose 1.12 percentage points in 2005 to 17.8 percent, according to Baum. The higher vacancy rate reflects in large part new projects that have yet to be leased, such as the Heritage at Millennium Park and the MetraMarket food court and retail center in the West Loop near the train tracks, Joffe said.

The Baum report covers the roughly 106-square-block Loop retail market bounded by Wacker Drive, Michigan Avenue, Van Buren Street and the Kennedy Expressway.

As an indication of how ready the Loop is to show off its new after-work persona, the Chicago Loop Alliance, an organization of Loop businesses, is working with the city to host the first dusk-to-dawn party on May 7 modeled after the popular "White Night" festivals in Paris and Rome. Stores, restaurants, museums and the park will stay open into the wee hours of the morning.

"There's been such tremendous growth here," said Ty Tabing, executive director of the alliance and former assistant commissioner at the city's planning department. "The objective is to highlight the Loop as much more than a place to go to work every day."

The alliance is preparing its own study, due out by Labor Day, to measure the economic growth of the Loop in the wake of Millennium Park. The Loop's residential population soared 50 percent from 2000 to 2006 to more than 13,000 people, according to Tabing. And residents have plenty of money to spend. The average household income is about $120,000.

"I really think the Loop has an incredible potential to be a true Chicago-style neighborhood," said Doug Zell, founder and CEO of Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea Inc. Zell opened his second coffeehouse in the Loop on Randolph Street across from Millennium Park in April. "You've got people living there. You've got people working there. It's just getting started."

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