Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Vacation Notice

A velo-meditation pic to help you achieve the proper pycho-physiological balance for proper Thanksgiving gustation.

Kamin Gives Points for Latest U of C Improvements

posted by chicago pop

University of Chicago Main Quadrangle Viewed from 55th and Kenwood (Rockefeller Chapel Visible on Horizon, Left)

Despite the latest fulminations of Hyde Park's Garden Underground towards the Dark Kingdom of Mordor known by the rest of us as the University of Chicago, the U of C has actually been scoring some points with the City's architecture critic for its recent campus makeover and its still-unfolding South Campus developments.

Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin likes the scope of the South Campus plan, and its most recent achievement, a fascinating and "city-friendly" residential dormitory.

It's a happy iteration of a style that fits nicely in Chicago, one that a few of us have dubbed "re-mo" (re-Modern) -- a kindler, gentler Bauhaus.

[Source: Chicago Tribune "Cityscapes" blog: http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com/theskyline/page/2/]

This fall, [the University] opened a city-friendly, 9-story dormitory, clad in the familiar material of Indiana limestone, south of the Midway. On Tuesday, the university announced that it would break ground next spring on a handsomely-austere, 11-story arts center, also south of the grassy expanse. And much more is planned, including the installation next spring of 40-foot-tall light pylons (below) that will seek to make the vast Midway more inviting to pedestrians, particularly at night.

While the new designs are not without anti-urban details, such as the prison-like bars to keep intruders out of the dormitory's courtyards, the surge of construction as a whole is praiseworthy.

Forty-foot tall light pylons? Awesome! The new art center is slated to open in 2012 despite the recession and cuts made to other projects. Following on the success of the Hyde Park Jazz Festival and other developments, the art center may help to make Hyde Park a much stronger location on the Chicago art map.

All in all, not bad, I have to say.

New Apartment Gallery Pops Up: The Op Shop

posted by chicago pop

An unlikely corner of Hyde Park will become the site of the neighborhood's latest "apartment gallery," a local example of a long-standing tradition in the Chicago art world of showing art in unconventional spaces.

The phenom has been buzzed upon recently in the local media, but as you can see by checking out the helpful Chicago Art Map, outside of the formal spaces of Little Black Pearl and Hyde Park Art Center, the trend of informal gallery spaces has yet to really hit Hyde Park.

That will change on November 25, when former gallery owners Laura Schaeffer and Andrew Nord open the doors of Op Shop, 1613 E. 55th Street, to the world.

The Op Shop venture, to occupy a vacant space owned by MAC Properties, follows from an apartment gallery hosted in Schaeffer and Nord's private residence. It's not really clear where this kind of venture fits in the world of conventional commercial galleries, being part living room, social center, marketplace, and art cooperative. That's what makes it interesting.

Here's what Op Shop says about itself:

We are inviting artists to bring their art, ideas, thoughts, and concerns to this space in Hyde Park in novel ways. We are open to all media. We hope to create a kind of total installation that is dynamic and constantly developing over the allotted time. The Op Shop is also set up to be a site of exchange, a place where participants are encouraged to identify their own resources and needs and come together to barter or sell objects, artworks, services, or particular skills. Artists' work and social exchange go hand-in-hand in this particular scenario.

This opportunity shop located at 1613 E. 55th Street is a short term, spontaneous pilot project for what we hope will become a series of exhibitions taking place in spaces in transition throughout Hyde Park and the south side of Chicago. By using vacant spaces with the cooperation of the owners for exhibitions, we can economize on overhead and also bring attention to unused urban space.

Especially interesting is the use of a rotating series of vacant spaces, something which turns a problem (vacant storefronts) into an asset (cultural vibrancy). Who knows? if the apartment gallery fashion gains enough momentum, and enough of them come through Hyde Park, it could infuse the neighborhood with a kaleidoscopic stream of color and inspiration.

Dates: 11/27 Fri - 12/31 Thu
Visitor hours: 11 a.m. - 7 p.m., Thu-Sun
Evenings, coinciding with events.

Opening reception: 11/27 Fri, from 6-10 p.m.
Silent Auction: 12/5 Sat from 6-10 p.m.
Closing party: 12/31 Thu from 6-10 p.m.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hairston's $28K of slush money spent for ... what?

posted by chicago pop

[Source: Chicago Tribune, "Friends and family fund for aldermen," Thursday, November 19, 2009]

When you live in Chicago, you get used to bodies popping up in rivers.

So to speak.

You also get used to Aldermen reassuring us that, whatever the offense, "everyone is doing it." As convicted felon (and former 20th Ward Alderman) Arenda Troutman put it, Most aldermen ... are hos."

So when the Chicago Tribune reports on a $1.3 million slush fund that not even the Daley-appointed, hiring compliance lap-dog knew about, it's not really that shocking. Alderman George Cardenas (12th) thinks it's perfectly A-OK to have his dad on the payroll because, after all, "He does a lot of things -- a lot of the things in the community that people have no idea about."

The existence of the slush fund, then -- which apparently is used as a way to allow aldermen to hire independent contractors without having to follow mandated hiring rules or pay city pensions -- is not surprising, nor is the fact that Alderman Leslie Hairston drew down a $28K check from the fund.

What is surprising is that the $28K went to political consultant Delmarie Cobb, and was paid from the fund between January 2008 and July 2009 "to prepare newsletters, news releases and publicize ward meetings for the 5th Ward alderman," during exactly the time that Alderman Hairston had a big crisis on her hands: Doctors Hospital.

(Cobb's next gig, it appears, was working to rehabilitate Senator Roland "Tombstone" Burris' political reputation.)

Now, we happen to have one of Cobb's old news releases publicizing a ward meeting for the 5th Ward alderman, and it pertained to Doctors Hospital. And I remember thinking at the time: The Adlerman is going to get some professional help this time. She wants to keep control of the meetings, avoid another Point fiasco. She wants to stay on the ball.

Back in July 2008, as the Doctors Hospital redevelopment plan was heating up, Delmarie Cobb's PR firm The Publicity Works [no website] sent this email around:

Fifth Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston has scheduled a public meeting on the status of the former Doctor’s Hospital for 6:00 p.m. Tuesday, August 5, in the auditorium of Bret Harte Elementary School, 1556 E. 56th St. The University of Chicago purchased the structure, located on Stony Island Avenue between 57th and 59th Streets, and is working with White Lodging, which proposes developing hotel accommodations at the site.

“It’s been a year since the developer unveiled their original concept to the public,” Hairston said. “The community expressed serious concerns about reservation, how the project visually ‘fits’ in the environment, labor practices, and overall degree of dialogue with local stakeholders.”

Hairston said she the university and White Lodging kept the lines of communication open. “I am pleased to say they listened and even reviewed an alternative design submitted by preservation advocates. We are now at a place where we can talk about how they took our issues into consideration, or why they believe something might not be feasible. It’s an on-going negotiation, and I encourage anyone interested to attend, ask questions and give honest feedback about what they hear.”

Very well.

But we all know what happened. Hairston pulled off a meeting that was relatively orderly, a year after one that was not. But in terms of PR campaigns against the dry vote, or even just advice on how to manage the Doctors Hospital controversy, there appears to have been virtually nothing. At least, not as far as we can tell.

Except, it will be recalled, Hairston's letter to the Hyde Park Herald, published by the hapless newspaper AFTER the election, but also written only 11 days before the election, encouraging voters to oppose the dry vote. And this, after a full summer and fall of controversy on the issue -- when residents of the 39th precinct were receiving mailings from unions and receiving door-to-door visits from petitioners.

Whatever that $28K was spent for, it doesn't seem to have had much effect either advocating for or even informing the voting public of Alderman Hairston's position on the Doctors Hospital issue. It would be fair to say that, if any of that money went towards publicizing Hairston's position, or anything to do with Doctors Hospital, it went down a hole.

With that in mind, we wish Senator Burris the best of luck.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Z&H to Take Over U.M. Space

Posted by Elizabeth Fama

The merely-sufficient Christopher-Eccleston Doctor regenerates into the irresistible David-Tennant Doctor, much to everyone's delight.

It's true. The owners of the Zaleski and Horvath Market Cafe have signed a lease today to take over the space currently occupied by University Market. Hans Morsbach will close the current market during the University's winter break, and move his deli operation to the Medici Bakery.

Tim Schau and Sam Darrigrand, the principal shopkeeps at Z&H, along with their respective partners (marital and business) plan to remodel the space and open the new store -- also called Z&H -- before the end of the school year.

One planned change is a rolling glass shutter where the current storefront window is, so that customers can approach an espresso bar from both the inside and the outside of the store. There will be indoor seating. After some study, Tim Schau said, the current layout of U.M. doesn't appear to maximize the shelf space given the floor space, and a careful re-consideration of dry goods, refrigerated goods, and deli space will allow for better flow plus some tables and chairs. Schau and Darrigrand will work with Hyde Park Produce to improve the fruits and vegetables section.

The market will offer the eclectic and adventurous sandwiches, soups, and salads that devotees have come to love at Z&H, along with a diverse cheese selection, homemade ice cream, imported Italian goods, and more -- all within an easy walk to and from campus.

Don't forget to follow the Z&H blog, where news of the remodeling efforts (and the usual City of Chicago birthing pains for small businesses), will be updated by the horse's mouth.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Herald's Chicken: Seriously, the Herald is Funny

Posted by Richard Gill

The Herald can’t help itself. There’s this compulsion to preach. Witness the Herald's “editorial” for November 4. It’s a sermon/lecture on self-improvement, aimed (where else) at the University of Chicago. The Herald looks kind of funny, up there on its high horse.

There isn't room here to dissect the entire “editorial,” and it wouldn't be much fun after the first few hours. So, let’s just go to a few choice morsels.

The editorial makes note of “lots of folks bustling to and from institutional buildings [along the Midway],” and then asks, “Where will these people recreate?” The implication is, of course, that the “Community Garden” is the “where.” Well, almost none of “these people” have chosen the garden as a recreational option. People have countless recreational opportunities. We’d all be in one heck of a pickle if that garden counted substantially toward area opportunities for “fun.”

The Herald goes on to say, “The garden connects the university to the community…..” No it doesn't. The garden connects a relative handful of people to the garden, which just happens to be on university property.

Finally, the Herald accuses the university of “imperious, malevolent behavior.” I’ll agree the university has not always shown great judgment, but c'mon, Herald editors, even you don’t believe “imperious and malevolent.” If the U of C is guarded in its approach to “the community,” it is justified, given the purposeful work of certain neighbors to thwart U of C efforts that would benefit the community at large.

Unlike the “editorial,” I won’t go on and on. Suffice it to say the Herald is great comedy, especially when it gets so serious. I guess that makes the Herald a recreational opportunity in competition with the garden.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

How to be Sicilian 101

Posted by Elizabeth Fama

In a recent article in the Maroon, Hans Morsbach cites the raised rent at his University Market location as the reason the market is closing. The implication -- voiced outright only by UM cashier, Alma Silva, but present in the undercurrent of the interviews in the Maroon -- is that the University is deliberately forcing him out, to make way for a new tenant.

Let's suppose that it's true. Suppose that it finally dawned on the administrators at the University that Mr. Morsbach frequently bites the hand that feeds him. Suppose they noticed, as I did, that he stood in front of Bret Harte on Election Day, 2008 with an enormous tray of free cinnamon rolls for his neighbors, campaigning for a dry 39th precinct, in order to squash the University's plan to build a hotel on the abandoned Doctors Hospital site, and likely costing the University tens of millions of dollars, not to mention depriving the neighborhood of jobs, a decent hotel, and a couple of new restaurants? Suppose the University noticed his literal painting of himself as a martyr against the oppressive establishment, hanging in his restaurant on 57th Street -- a restaurant that arguably thrives because of University students, staff, and catering jobs? Suppose the administrators actually got fed up? (It took them long enough!)

Well, as a Sicilian by heritage and temperament, I'm here to say they did a lousy job in the vendetta department, because somehow Mr. Morsbach wins privately while he publicly "loses."

Am I the only person who noticed that he gets to move the profitable part of his operation at the UM (the deli sandwiches) to his bakery, while cutting loose the unprofitable grocery section, and saving a whole lotta rent in the process? Am I the only one who wonders what business model the next tenant of the UM space is left with, now that Mr. Morsbach has skimmed off the cream of the potential business, and the rent is apparently too high for the location? And Mr. Morsbach gets to do all this while complaining about the University, one of his favorite diversions.

Here's what Michael Corleone would have done after the dry vote debacle, if he had been the University: he would have put a drug-rehab or halfway house in the Doctors Hospital location. He would have said, "Look, you got what you wanted -- we preserved the bland architecture and we're helping the community, all without increasing congestion or taking up public parking spaces on the street."

That, or a severed horse's head on the Market floor the next morning.