Saturday, November 12, 2011

2011 State of The South Loop Recap

The Daystar Center at 1550 S. State St. was the setting for today’s State of the South Loop meeting. The third annual event included presentations from both the 2nd and 3rd Ward Aldermen, as well as other community and business representatives, all addressing issues concerning the South Loop neighborhood. The meeting was moderate by Greater South Loop Association president, Gail Rutkowski.

Crowd gathers for State of the South Loop

The State of the 3rd Ward
Third Ward Alderman Pat Dowell was the first to speak. Dowell emphasized her commitment to “increase commerce and support businesses” in her ward, which comprises sections of the South Loop. She noted new businesses like the just recently opened The Burger Point, Flavor 180, and Overflow Coffee Bar, which is located inside the Daystar Center. One of the new businesses moving to the 3rd Ward is Mariano’s Fresh Market going into the lot on Clark St. between 16th and 17th streets. The store estimated to be around 60,000 square feet would create 300 new jobs, according to Dowell. News of the jobs brought spontaneous applause from the audience. Minor zoning changes are in the works to make things happen. Other 3rd Ward projects include improvements to Coliseum Park, where Dowell wants to “reenergize the dog park committee.” Dowell, along with Alderman Bob Fioretti, have been “working closely” with the CTA in regard to the proposed Green Line stop at 22nd St. Dowell noted that the neighborhood would prefer a stop at 18th St., but said that there will be more meetings before the matter is settled. Dowell said that the refuse rebate has been reduced from $75 to $25 per unit. Dowell said this will have significant impact on condo and town home associations and that she is working to raise the rebate. She hasn’t ruled out getting the per unit rebate back to $75. Dowell told us she is “on the fence” in regard to food trucks, a phenomenon that is booming in Chicago. She was concerned about food safety and whether the city has the resources to monitor food trucks. Dowell admitted that she isn’t completely fluent on the subject. Food trucks go through many of the same permitting and fees that restaurants go through. Food truck are required to cook out of commercial kitchens and no food that hasn’t been prepackaged is allowed to be sold.

Hyatt Hotel Expansion at McCormick Place
Michael L. Hagen, a principal of tvsdesign explained the new 13-story hotel tower planned for the Hyatt at McCormick Place. The building will be LEED certified and contain a green roof. The addition would add approximately 400 new rooms to add to the 800 currently housed in the existing 33-story tower. Construction is expected to be completed in mid-2013.

New Student Life Center at East-West University
Lori Grove, Grants Specialist at East-West University described plans for a new Student Life Center building at 825 S. Wabash Ave. The University established in 1980 has two other campus buildings in the South Loop. The new building will be LEED certified and include a green roof. Completion of The Student Life Center is scheduled for fall 2013.

The State of the 2nd Ward
Next up was 2nd Ward Alderman Fioretti who said he focuses on four areas—jobs, infrastructure, education, and efficiency. In a free-flowing presentation, Fioretti mentioned that there are over 5000 students in the South Loop with all the schools and colleges in our area. He also noted the new businesses coming to the South Loop like Costco at 1440 S. Ashland Ave. (announced at last year’s meeting), the Rush Hospital expansion, and a day patient medical center planned for Wabash and 23rd. Also noted was the development of Motor Row into an entertainment district. Cheap Trick, the 70s-80s rock band, recently announced that they are opening a venue there. Cheap Trick Chicago will include a museum, radio station, restaurant, and performance space. The facility would be housed in the former Buick dealership at 2245 S. Michigan Ave. Fioretti also talked about the need for contract reform. He noted that if the new Old St. Mary’s school were a CPS project, it would have cost a lot more than the privately funded private school. He questioned why this would be the case, emphasizing his point for reform.

Branding the South Loop
Theresa Luster from Columbia College gave a short presentation on “branding” the South Loop. Describing the neighborhood as unique in its location, convenience, and population diversity. Luster put forth an outline of how this branding might progress. Fioretti said the branding project was paid for with “menu money.” The South Loop branding is done in cooperation with the GSLA and the 2nd Ward Alderman’s office.

Others on the agenda included Bob O’Neill from the Grant Park Conservancy who gave an update on plans to redo Daley Bicentennial Plaza and Sgt. Kathy Cunningham from District 1 police station who reported that violent crime is down, but that robberies are up, and 5th District Rep Ken Donkin gave us an update from Springfield.

The meeting adjourned with a reminder that the GSLA holiday party will be December 8, 2011 at Tribute Chicago, 800 S. Michigan Ave. More details will be forthcoming.

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