Friday, January 27, 2012

Empty Borders Building to House Akira Apparel

posted by chicago pop

From Crain's Chicago Business: Hyde Park's empty Borders building will soon host the flagship store of Chicago fashion boutique Akira. Asked why he chose to open a location in Hyde Park - the flagship store, no less - owner Eric Hsueh said this about the local market:

"Our core customer is in their mid-20s, recently out of school, who are working,” he said. And a good number of those customers live in Hyde Park and currently drive to the North Side to shop at other Akiras."

Now they won't have to, which is exactly what Hyde Park's retail renaissance should be about. Local business meets local market.

Akira, a rapidly expanding Chicago-based clothing boutique, will open its 19th location, I've learned, in a vacated Border's bookstore in Hyde Park this fall.

(An 18th store—and the first outside of Illinois—will open next month in Merrillville's Westfield Southlake Mall. Read more about the chain, which was started a decade ago by three University of Illinois grads, here.)

The 8,000-square-foot Hyde Park store at 1539 E. 53rd St. will become the flagship location for Akira, which also has stores in Bucktown, Lincoln Park, Andersonville, Water Tower Place, Block 37 and three suburban malls.

Hyde Park “is a good market in that it's under-served and has a captive audience,” Akira co-owner Eric Hsueh told me. 
53rd Street continues to fill in and, for the first time in as long as many of us can remember, with a clothing store. That's a significant diversification of the neighborhood's retail landscape.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hyde Park School of Dance Spring 2012 Gala

posted by chicago pop

Something to take advantage of!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Where is Bobby Rush? Absent 13.2% of the Time

posted by chicago pop

From today's Tribune:

In case you've ever wondered why it seems that Bobby Rush doesn't really do anything. His record of missed votes is topped only by a woman who was shot in the head and two others, and is in the top ten with two representatives who have been or are still on the campaign trail.

Of note: 
If all the 2008 votes and non-votes are taken out [during the period when Rush underwent surgery and treatment for cancer of the salivary gland], Rush's career percentage of missed votes drops from 13.2 to 9.6 percent, still well above the House average.
And a bit of analysis to confirm what was already known:
[M]embers who are often absent tend to come from 'safe' districts that return them to office by large majorities every two years. That describes Rush.
Sweet gig.

Z & H on Check, Please!

posted by chicago pop

Almost exactly three years after getting some love from Hungry Hound, Hyde Park - Kenwood's favorite sandwich shop and locally-sourced, organic specialty foods boutique, Zaleski & Horvath Market Café, gets some attention from Check, Please! Worth noting: of the two reviewers who recommended other eateries, neither dinged Z&H!

Hat tip to HPP reader LN

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

2nd Ward Opposition to Hotel: Déjà vu All Over Again

posted by richard gill

As reported January 4 in, the Unite Here hotel union is working to block construction of a hotel in Chicago’s West Loop area.  It’s a 615-room hotel proposed by Toyoko Inn Co. Ltd.  What a jobs generator this would be, and what a boost to the West Loop area. But Unite Here wants to block it because it says the company plans to subcontract housekeeping work to non-union employers.

Second Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti has been delaying the zoning approval process, although local residents are not opposed. Fioretti must be feeling enormous pressure from Unite Here.  In the 2nd Ward, the union is trying to pull what they pulled and got away with—in Hyde Park—not too long ago.  The union tried to disrupt a public meeting about a proposed Marriott Hotel. The developer wanted to get the hotel up and running, and employing people. Not good enough for Unite Here. They insisted on an up-front guarantee of a union shop.  The guarantee was not forthcoming, so Unite Here sought to block the whole project.

Neighborhood organizations, the unemployed, the University of Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the vast majority of area residents thought the hotel was a great idea for the site of the abandoned Doctors Hospital.  A few people who lived in the 5th Ward’s 39th Precinct, where the hotel would be built, opposed it.  One of them stood up in public and said the hotel would host alcohol-soaked events whose drunken attendees would spill into the streets.  He gave as an example…..Bar Mitzvahs.

Seeing that the neighborhood was strongly in favor of the hotel, someone in the precinct or the union found a hook: vote the precinct dry.  Only the precinct residents needed to vote on it.  A large city hotel can’t make a go of it without sale of alcoholic beverages in its bars and restaurants.  The union did much of the legwork to get the dry proposition on the 2008 ballots. They managed to do it, and it passed narrowly.  No hotel was built.  The hotel union helped kill 200 hotel jobs on Chicago’s high-unemployment South Side.

Fioretti should support the Toyoko hotel.  Let the union convince the workers to organize, once they’re working.

Read about the 2008 hotel fiasco on this blog. Start at November 23, 2008 and work back through several earlier posts.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Ray Lodato For Congress Press Release

[Ed. note: Ray Lodato lives in Hyde Park. The incumbent for the 1st Congressional District of Illinois is Bobby Rush. The other candidates can be found here.]

For Immediate Release           
January 7, 2012                                                  
Contact: Irene Sherr

South Side Political Activist Ray Lodato Announces Candidacy
For 1st Congressional District Seat

(Chicago, January 7, 2012)— Kicking off “a grass-roots campaign for 21st Century leadership that looks forward, not backward,” South Side community activist and political scientist Ray Lodato has announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the First Congressional District. 

Lodato is calling for policies that will create jobs in the district, which will have a positive impact on many of the problems that affect families in the cities and suburbs of the First District.  The District has an unemployment rate of 13.9%, which is a key factor in the high rate of home foreclosures and puts pressure on local governments to provide emergency assistance. Lodato favors policies to increase the demand for clean energy as a way to create 21st Century jobs for the First District.  A recent report by the Environmental Law and Policy Center that listed dozens of clean energy fifrms in the Chicagoland area that are poised to add jobs. “There’s no reason that the First District should have to import our green technology from California, Germany or China,” Lodato says.  “As Congressman, I’ll sponsor legislation that will call for greater use of clean energy, increasing the demand for green technology and creating jobs for our residents.”

Lodato also calls for a commitment to education excellence that will benefit all children.  “Equality of education is a necessity if we are to prepare our children for jobs in the economy of the future,” Lodato says.  “We have to find effective solutions that involve parents, teachers and communities together to meet the needs of all students.  Providing jobs for our citizens will improve educational outcomes by stabilizing families and improving the tax base for funding our schools, but we need to make sure that our schools have adequate resources to provide a well-rounded education for all children.”

Another pillar of his jobs strategy is Lodato’s call for building high-speed rail lines to link Chicago to nine other major Midwestern cities.  “We need to invest in the transportation of tomorrow, which will provide jobs today,” Lodato says. “By investing in high-speed rail, we are reclaiming Chicago’s historic position as the transportation hub of America, and creating jobs that cannot be outsourced.  Many of these lines will go through the First District and will provide jobs for our residents.”

Lodato brings nearly three decades of community activism to his run for Congress.  He is a past Chair of the Local School Council at William H. Ray Elementary School in Hyde Park, and he is a recipient of the Edwin Astrin Volunteer Award from the Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization (IVI-IPO), a leading bipartisan political reform organization in the state.  Lodato also served on the board of the IVI-IPO for over ten years, and on the board of the former Blue Gargoyle youth services organization as well.  He has campaigned for several independent, reform-oriented politicians, such as Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Illinois State House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, and Alderman Leslie Hairston (5th Ward, Chicago).  Lodato worked for nearly ten years for the City of Chicago, serving on the staffs of Preckwinkle, Hairston, and former Alderman Larry Bloom (5th Ward, Chicago). 

While earning his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago, Lodato co-founded a community organization, the Neighborhood Conservation Corps, which focused on giving individuals from public housing developments jobs and jobs skill training in order to enable them to transition to the mainstream economy and skilled labor positions.  Lodato is married and has three sons.  His campaign website is, and his Facebook page is Ray Lodato for Congress.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Michael's on 47th Hits the Mat

posted by chicago pop

 The 47th Street location is accursed. 

At least for grocery stores. According to the Chicago Tribune, Michael's Fresh Market is applying for bankruptcy.  The entire chain is going down due to difficulties obtaining financing from the grocer's creditor, Premier Bank of Wilmette. So in this case, in contrast to what transpired here before, the crisis is exogenous to Hyde Park. It appears to even be exogenous to Michael's. Rather, this one appears to be a direct local casualty of the 2008 financial crisis as it continues to unwind.

According to the lawyer for Michael's:

The financial difficulties experienced by the debtors are due in large part to the freeze on lending imposed by the lender beginning in the fall of 2010," the grocer said in a filing. "This freeze on the lender's extension on working  capital to the debtors was due not to problems with the financial performance of the debtors, but primarily was caused by the lender's own financial and regulatory problems.

So there may be a chance Michael's could convince another lender to help float the daily operations of what it claims is still a viable business. Sound familiar? 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Hyde Park Liberalism Critiques Itself

posted by chicago pop

An interesting interview in today's Salon with former Hyde Parker and editor of The Baffler, Tom Frank. His subject is a familiar one: how the American right has been more successful in mobilizing grassroots anger and energy than the American left.

But what's interesting about this piece from an HPP perspective is that you can easily read Frank's interview as one Hyde Park liberal intellectual - Thomas Frank - critiquing another - Barack Obama - about the menu of political possibilities available to the nation - possibilities that have also developed and been brought into sharp contrast within Hyde Park itself. Grassroots anger and mobilization versus the cool-headed and technocratically-inclined Becker-Posner school of law and economics embodied in Barack Obama.

That's my spin. How Frank puts it, with reference to the populist anger channeled by various Occupation Movements and the Tea Party, is this: 
The liberals had their leader in Barack Obama … they had their various people in Congress. But these people are completely unfamiliar with populist anger. It’s an alien thing to them. They don’t trust it, and they have trouble speaking to it. I like Barack Obama, but at the end of the day he’s a very professorial kind of guy...

The main thing that has to change is that Democrats and liberals have to be able to speak to the outrage, and that requires a complete change in the way they look at the world. The problem is that they’ve been going the other direction for 30 years. Ever since the right-wing backlash began, liberals have been making their own move to professionalism...

Their message was: The technocratic way is going to solve our problems. Just leave it up to the experts who are going to figure a way out.

The grassroots anger and mobilization that Frank sees as missing have long traditions in Hyde Park, certainly, but seem to have run aground for want of new ideas and successful outcomes. Their renovation has occurred outside of the traditional frameworks of Hyde Park activism. Meanwhile, the cool expertise of neo-liberal  managerialism is dominant in the University of Chicago's professional schools, and while palatable to many middle class intellectuals, are remote from the grassroots for just these reasons.

It's a dualism that you feel in the neighborhood everyday. In a sense it represents the gulf between institutions of governance and masses of citizens, in this country and globally, but with a whiff of Hyde Park terroir.