Saturday, October 31, 2009

GUEST BLOGGER CONTEST!

posted by Elizabeth Fama


Hey U of C students! Here's a contest to distract you from those boring midterms!

We've heard grumblings among students that Hyde Park Progress is too soft on Mac Properties and Antheus Capital, and that we praise them too much for their investment in the neighborhood and their ambitious rehab projects.

Well, here's your chance to vent. Here's your chance to counteract our glowing reports. Here's your chance to tell us about the seamy side of the student rental market.

Write a short blog post documenting what you perceive to be systematic (not just anecdotal) problems with the rental units or the management of Mac Properties.

Rules:
1) Send your entry to Chicago Pop's gmail account (chicago.pop)
2) Entries are due by 11:59 PM, 11/10/09
3) 800 words or less
4) Minimum of one photo, maximum of three
5) At least try to be civil (that is, not like our posts)
6) If you're funny, you'll probably win...
7) ...but the content's gotta be there, too

The winner receives the fame and glory of a guest feature on Hyde Park Progress, plus a dinner for two at The Sit Down*!

Fine Print
Judging will be done by the entirely volunteer but highly professional staff of Hyde Park Progress. Posts remain the intellectual property of the author. By entering you agree to have your entry posted on the Internet for all eternity. The winning post can be published under a pseudonym, but your entry must prove to us you're a real person. Mac owners, executives, staff, and their families, are not eligible to participate.
*Meal value limited to $40, including beverages and tax. Winner agrees to pay the difference if the bill is higher.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Inside the Del Prado: A Photo Essay


posted by chicago pop




The old Shoreland Hotel has gotten all the attention lately, but the real jewel in the crown of Hyde Park's old hotels is, without question, the Del Prado. I'd go so far as to say it's the jewel in the crown of MAC's rental apartment portfolio, including their properties in Kansas City.

Located with views onto what is arguably some of Hyde Park's finest green space, Harold Washington Park, with commanding views to the north and west, the building's original exterior and interior decorations are better preserved and of finer quality than the Shoreland, at least in the latter's current condition.


This sunlit, mezzanine ballroom might become Hyde Park's next full-service family restaurant, with tables looking over the park. Done right, the Del Prado stands a chance of transplanting a little bit of the Drake Hotel's 20's ambiance back to the South Side.


Restoration work has already been done on portions of the Del Prado's entryway, including this grand staircase and the interior lobby.


In the penthouse are the ruins of the world-famous, speakeasy-style Chinese restaurant remembered by many, the "House of Eng." And, continuing the Drake-Del Prado connection, it's worth noting that House of Eng was originally located in the Drake until it relocated to the Del Prado in the 1960s.



What once was...


Red lacquer, orientalist fantasy



Looking to the Hyde Park Bank Building from inside House of Eng


Looking east onto Lake Michigan from the roof of the Del Prado Hotel



Exterior ornamentation





MAC rental property kitty-corner from the Del Prado, poised to be fully on the market sometime in 2010, making the corner of 53rd and Hyde Park Boulevard one to watch

Thursday, October 22, 2009

57th Drive Underpass Mini-Murals

posted by Elizabeth Fama

There are new mini-murals going up at the pedestrian underpass at 57th and Lake Shore Drive. On the day I took these photos (10/20/09), the tile-setter was beginning the process of grouting them, so these images depict the work ungrouted. (The grout the artist chose is a nice dark-gray.)


The artist is a Hyde Park resident, Mirtes Zwierzynski, working in collaboration with local schools. The project is funded by the Harper Court Arts Council and Chicago's non-profit After School Matters (an organization you may have heard of because of their Gallery37 summer program).

The theme of the mosaics is supposed to be Midwestern flora and fauna, but the kids seem to have interpreted the theme pretty liberally, which is fine with me given how cute this little guy is (above).

In general, they are sweet examples of what a collector might call "naive folk art," and they brighten and add interest to the space. I like the spare use of the mirrored tiles, which I think are somewhat overdone in the 47th Street underpass (although I know that's a matter of taste).

This underpass is better protected from the elements than any of the Metra viaducts that are currently getting mural makeovers by the Chicago Public Art Group. So, barring graffiti artists and taggers, they should have a long life with little maintenance.



Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More Bike Racks, Please

posted by Elizabeth Fama

SW corner of 57th and Blackstone

Hyde Park is so wonderfully bikeable, but for some reason there's a paucity of places to lock up your bike. Landlords ought to provide a secure rack outside, or an easy-access bike room inside. Businesses ought to have 'em out front. The City and University should diligently remove dead bikes to make room for the living...

Rusted Hulk, 3/1/09.
57th and Lake Park.
The wheels are missing now.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Jack and the Beanstalk


posted by chicago pop




Forwarded by an Honest and Honorable reader:


From: Jack Spicer
Date: Mon, Oct 12, 2009 at 8:56 PM
Subject: community garden demolition
To:


Dear 61st Street Community Gardeners and Friends --

Most of you now know that the University of Chicago intends to demolish the community garden at 61st Street and Dorchester Avenue shortly after Halloween. Many of you have responded to the news. You have expressed sadness at the potential loss and frustration and disappointment with the University. A number of you also asked questions that I will try to answer.

But first, Jamie Kalven has interviewed many gardeners in their plots at the garden. The video of the interviews, The Garden Conversations, is now being published, a few conversations per day, at www.invisibleinstitute.com. If you would like to be interviewed or have thoughts you want to share with Jamie, please contact him at com>. Please pass this site to as many people as you can. The "conversations" tell the real story about the value of the garden.

And second, in today's Tribune Dawn Trice talks with gardener Deb Hammond about how the community garden has affected her life. Here is a link to the story:
www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/chi-trice-12-oct12,0,557747.column


And now the questions:

Is it really "essential" to use the garden for construction staging?

No, I doubt it's essential. Maybe "convenient" and it would probably save a little money, but the CTS building, a block away, could certainly be built without demolishing the garden. Contractors build skyscrapers in the Loop without even blocking the public sidewalk. Any independent professional construction manager could verify that the garden site is not essential to constructing the CTS building. We would encourage the University to submit the issue to an independent professional.


Is the Chicago Theological Seminary causing the demolition of the garden?

No, they made a verbal agreement with the UofC that no harm would come to the garden as a result of their new building being built. They were looking forward to having the garden as a neighbor for their sustainable building. The University unilaterally withdrew from that agreement. We've spoken to the new CTS dean, Alice Hunt, and found her to be honest and honorable. I think CTS has done what it can do to protect the garden from the UofC's construction project. I plan to attend the CTS groundbreaking on Thursday as a friend and (current) neighbor.


Isn't it UofC's private property, and can't they do anything they want?

The garden site certainly is their property and they have generously let us use it for the past ten years. We had hoped the contribution the garden has made to the community would be apparent, and the University would act as a good neighbor and allow the garden to live on. Good neighbors and good will are valuable things, not to be wasted. But we had also hoped they would see the garden as serving their own best interests by enriching the neighborhood where their students, staff and faculty want to live.


What's the real reason the UofC is demolishing the garden?

I don't know. I doubt it's a practical decision based solely on construction convenience. The social fallout -- unhappy gardeners, neighbors, students, and faculty; skepticism about the UofC's commitment to sustainability and to living convivially with its Woodlawn neighbors; bad press; etc. -- far outweighs the temporary convenience. It's more likely that it's a policy decision from the Office of Civic Engagement and from the President. But I don't know what their real reason is or what message they intend to send. It remains a mystery.


Thanks,
-- Jack Spicer


Please check the garden website, www.61streetgarden.com for updates. You can make comments or ask questions there at "info."

I hope you enjoy "The Garden Conversations" at: www.invisibleinstitute.com.

I'm told there is a Facebook group at: "bulldozers versus 61st Street Community Garden"

Some Cat and Dog Progress


posted by chicago pop


Two events concerning our dog and cat neighbors that you might want to know about.

The newly formed Hyde Park Bark Alliance will be hosting a Halloween pet costume ball in Harold Washington Park. The Alliance is organizing in view of eventually establishing a City-sanctioned dog run in the northeastern area of the park. Show up with your pet, and, if interested, let them know of your support.



Meanwhile, the world of Hyde Park cat lovers is working hard to deal with the South Side's feral cat problem. They're holding a workshop at Backstory Cafe this Friday and would like you to come.


Here's what Hyde Park Cats tells us about their event and themselves:

The event is one of many taking place across the country in honor of National Feral Cat Day, October 16. National Feral Cat Day was launched in 2001 by Alley Cat Allies, the national advocate for stray and feral (wild) cats. Alley Cat Allies is the foremost authority on a program called Trap-Neuter-Return, a humane method of care that improves the lives of outdoor cats.

With Trap-Neuter-Return, outdoor cats are humanely trapped and brought to a veterinarian to be evaluated, spayed or neutered, and vaccinated. Cats that have undergone the procedure are eartipped -- while under anesthesia a small portion of the left ear is painlessly removed for identification. Trap-Neuter-Return ends the cycle of breeding, makes cats better neighbors, and improves their lives.

WHO: Hyde Park Cats
WHAT: Helping Community Cats Workshop
WHEN: October 16, 2009, 6:30 pm
WHERE: Backstory Café (61st St. and Blackstone Ave.)
CONTACT: Anna Schmidt (annagrau@sas.upenn.edu or hydeparkcats@gmail.com)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hyde Park Gets Some Love


posted by chicago pop

This has to be photoshopped, right?

[Source: Chris Sweda, photo in "Hyde away", Chicago Tribune, Friday October 9, 2009]


Post-Olympic bid, post-Obama Nobel Peace Prize, things are getting back to normal in Hyde Park, with a new theater season at the Court, impressive new shows at the Hyde Park Art Center and the Smart Museum, to say nothing of the spectacular success of the 3rd Annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival.

The Tribune, in its wisdom, decided to send a reporter other than Ron Grossman to bring Chicagoans up to speed not on where Hyde Park was, but where it's going. The old attitude cries in its beer at Jimmy's over all the old joints on 55th, and writes comments to the above article like these:

Hyde Park may ... be noted for what it has lost like the Harding Medieval museum, the studios on Stony Island where writers like Nelson Algren, Saul Bellows [sic], used to hang out, the retail shops and apartments along 55th street which gave way to university development. But it is still a nice place to live.
The new attitude knows this old story, but doesn't repeat it as an eternal prelude. It can, symbolically, find the hipsters -- every neighborhood needs a few of them -- that reporter Lauren Viera caught at a Fixed Friday event over at Tati Cycles at 53rd and Ellis.

Here's the view from behind the fixie handlebars:

If Chicago is two years behind the coasts, then Hyde Park is two years behind Chicago -- and so it would make sense that we are beginning to see a nascent fashion + fixie trend in the hood. It seems to be taking on a unique, UofCesque flavor however: Have you seen the Rush Hour with Proust quotes on the top tube? Or the Rivendell Atlantis with Nitto bullhorns shellaced grey and a White Industries ENO? Or the young grad student with the Anais Nin tattoo and shock of neon pink accents to match her anodized Sugino 75s? I wouldn't have imagined this a couple of years ago.

If it pauses to get a single shot espresso at Istria norte on Cornell and 50th, it absorbs talk of Bruno Latour, Carl Schmitt, and art in Shanghai.

Hyde Park: it's not just the Museum of Science and Industry anymore.

Of course we've all known this, even before the Hyde Park Jazz Festival came on line, or the HPAC started ramping up the cool shows. There have been hidden treasures like the Oriental Institute and the Renaissance Society, the footpaths and ponds at the south end of Olmsted's Washington Park, and the morning mists on the great meadow to the north.

Soon we'll be able to add a restored and revived Shoreland and Del Prado to that list, combining the best of what was with what is yet to come.

There's no mistaking that the cultural momentum in Hyde Park has picked up over the last little while. Props to the Trib for noticing.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Report from the Shoreland Meeting, September 30, 2009

posted by Richard Gill


The Shoreland Hotel, built 1926

About a hundred people attended a September 30 public meeting in the Crystal Ballroom of the old Shoreland Hotel, 5454 South Shore Drive, at which developer Antheus Capital presented its proposal to resurrect the empty structure as a luxury rental apartment building. The firm’s principal, Eli Ungar made the presentation and answered questions. Comments and questions from the floor comprised most of the one-hour forty-minute meeting. Overwhelmingly, the discussion dealt with worries about parking, voiced primarily by a relative handful of residents of 5490 South Shore Drive, located immediately south of the Shoreland. Neighbors’ worries about parking and traffic tend to dominate Hyde Park meetings about development proposals.

Fifth Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston was in attendance, as her concurrence with the proposal is required before it can be brought to the City Council for approval. She said that she wanted to hear what people had to say, before she would say yea or nay.

Shoreland Hotel Driveway

When the historic hotel went into decline, the University of Chicago bought it for use as a student dormitory. The dorm was closed this year, with the opening of a new dorm on south campus. Knowing the Shoreland dormitory would be phased out, the University sold the building in 2004 to the Kenard development firm, which later sold it to developer Bob Horner. Both firms had plans for a condominium development. When those plans fell apart, Antheus acquired the property. Antheus will need to obtain City approval for a change in Planned Development (PD) No. 1062 that was approved for the prior condominium proposals.

Under Antheus’ plan, the 450,000 sq. ft. building would have 325 to 350 apartments (primarily one bedroom and two bedroom; with roughly 30 studios; and 30 three-bedrooms). The lobby area and function rooms would be retained, and a restaurant included. Antheus estimated that 450 to 500 people would reside in the building, compared with more than 700 students in the former dormitory.

Rockefeller Chapel and University of Chicago
as Seen From Roof of the Shoreland Hotel

Meeting attendees were generally favorable toward the building plan, which would include a lot of restoration work. That informal consensus left a vacuum of sorts for 5490’s complaints and worries about parking to take up most of the time and dominate the meeting. The people of 5490 said the development would worsen a tight parking situation in the area.

I state here that I like the proposed project and I believe that, at least in this neighborhood, anti-project parking arguments are mostly used in narrow self-interest, despite claims that they are for the general good.

The 5490 building, with about 20 units, has no on-site parking. The building does have a large area in back that could accommodate perhaps 20 cars. This was noted from the floor, and by Eli Ungar. In addition, Ungar repeated what he has said at every similar meeting – that a specific building project cannot solve the neighborhood’s “parking problem” and that adjacent property owners shouldn’t expect someone else’s project to solve their problems. Alderman Hairston has generally agreed with that position, adding that the parking issue should be addressed community wide, not project-by-project. That’s old news, and the tone of the audience seemed to be that they were weary of people trying to stop beneficial projects by using parking as a wedge.

Decorative Corbels on Shoreland Facade

In refutation of 5490’s prediction that parking gridlock would be caused by the Shoreland development, there were two general arguments: (1) by Antheus citing their recent experience, and (2) by people in the audience who essentially said this project is what the neighborhood needs, and parking is not the pivotal issue.

Antheus and its property management company MAC Properties have experience with rehabbed rental buildings in Hyde Park, such as Windermere House and Algonquin Apartments. They said that about one-third of renters use parking facilities on the properties, and that both properties have unused parking spaces in their lots. Ungar said they expect the Shoreland to follow this pattern. He also said that Antheus has more than 100 vacant parking spaces in its “portfolio.”

Ungar said it’s feasible to get 100 “legal” parking spaces into the building without encroaching upon the residential space. A “legal” parking place is one that meets the City code’s criteria for self-parking, in terms of square area, access and maneuvering room. The City figures a building’s “parking ratio” in terms of “legal” spaces. That in itself would meet anticipated demand for about one-third of the Shoreland apartments. However, a valet operation with staff-operated lifts and stackers would enable the garage to handle about 220 cars. In its PD application, Antheus is seeking a variance that will permit this arrangement, which will be important for accommodating function and restaurant parking, as well as residents’ needs. The condominium proposals had included parking on a one-to-one ratio (which 5490 liked), but it required a multi-story garage that would have consumed residential and public space. Antheus says the rental proposal is not economically viable if that residential space is taken up by parking.

Entrance Hall, Shoreland Hotel

Speakers from 5490 took the position that plentiful parking is necessary for property values and quality of life. Others took the opposite position, stating that walkability, density, ability to live without a car, are what make for a desirable neighborhood, and they said that many vibrant places thrive with an extremely tight parking environment, maybe because of it. Hyde Park’s good public transportation was noted. Strong statements were made about the benefits of this project (which has funding commitments despite the present economy). One speaker went so far as to say that if you see a neighborhood with plenty of parking for everyone, you wouldn’t want to live there. An owner of Open Produce on 55th Street said storefront businesses need foot traffic more than they need customer parking.

My overall take of the meeting is that most people want the Alderman to approve the proposal and move it forward. I believe she received that message. She would also like to hear individually from people.

Ungar closed by asking anybody with an alternate proposal for the Shoreland to come forward with it. Further, he said that he understands that the parking issue will continue to be prominent, and that Antheus would be pleased to commit financial support to city public parking projects in the neighborhood.

I hope very much that this project is approved in its present form. The alternative is probably a vast derelict building. Hyde Park is already saddled with two large vacant buildings—Doctors Hospital and St. Stephen’s Church. Narrowly focused opponents stopped redevelopment of these two sites. Both buildings are hulking corpses. Hyde Park cannot have another.