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Summary of 3/15 GSLA Community Updates Meeting

We had a great crowd for GSLA’s most recent Community Updates meeting on March 15th, but we also know not everyone could make it that day. Here are a few notes from the featured presenters.

Ping Tom Memorial Park and Fieldhouse:

The fieldhouse offers a wide list of activities including classes, a pool, a fitness center, a gym and community rooms, which includes a Skyline Patio Deck.  For more information, visit: or call 312-225-3121, or check out our first installment of sOUTh and ABOUT.

Aaron Joseph, Deputy Sustainability Officer, Office of the Mayor, City of Chicago:

Aaron is a South Loop resident, and was invited to give an overview of recent successes and current priorities of Chicago’s various sustainability initiatives. The vision for the City is to be a more competitive city nationwide. This includes improving our energy efficiency, our waste/recycling handling and our transportation. Email for more information on recycling, the retrofit program, an energy audit, or sustainability in general.

Recent programs include:

  • Retrofit Chicago— The goal is a 5% reduction in energy use city-wide. It started with municipal projects and includes a voluntary program for commercial buildings, with a City match. There is also a residential aspect. Some of the means are to reduce solar costs, make the application process (permitting) easier and faster.
  • TOD ordinance— Encouraging more flexibility and higher density in development near transit. The ordinance for this was approved in October, 2013.
  • Chicago is the first city to have a “LEED-like” program for public ways. Encourages use of more recycled materials and better storm water management. See more on the CDOT web site.

More info at:


Vice District Brewing Company

VDBC has leased space at 1454 S. Michigan in the landmark building there. It will be a tap room to taste beer produced on the premises. They will have a 7 barrel system in an open floor plan. It’s a 2200 square foot space, and they will have an occupancy of 99 people. They intend to have a communal feel, with long tables, high top tables and lower tables. They anticipate a glass front which will open on to street level in nice weather. They will not make food, but will sell packaged food and allow patrons to bring in their own food or have food delivered. They will also sell locally produced and craft spirits.

Their anticipated hours will be Monday (closed except for private events); T-Th 4 pm to 11:30 pm; F 4 pm to 1 am; Sat noon to 1 am; Sun 11 am to 1 am (during games, probably a later start on non game days). They submitted plans in early March and hope to start their building within 6 weeks. They would like to open mid June, but certainly by July 4th weekend.

The name is a nod to the history of the neighborhood, as is the use of a landmark space.

They are applying for both a tavern license (to sell beer for consumption on site) and a package license (to sell beer to go). At Alderman Dowell’s request, they agreed to limit the package sales to their own beer.

In response to a concern expressed on a local blog, they indicated that there is no communal entrance between their space and Sod Room upstairs. The owners of the Sod Room are very supportive of their use and see no issues of concern. There are only a few hours a week with overlapping hours.

Meeting attendees were asked for the feedback on the VDBC proposal. Notable comments included:

  • I love everything.
  • I think it’s a lovely idea.
  • Welcoming to all. Not a young-person-only place or a sports-only place.
  • Would like to see active partnership with neighboring businesses and the local tourism industry.

Windy City Real Estate

WCRE is looking to rehab the buildings located at 21st and State and 21st and Wabash (currently the Blue Star Automotive space) into mostly 3 bedroom apartments of approximately 900 square feet. There will be a total of 25 apartments, 3 in the Wabash building and 22 in the State building. The buildings will not be connected (they are across an alley with an overhead El from each other) but will share the parking lot. There will be one substandard building demolished, the other two buildings will be rehabilitated.  There will be 19 parking spaces for the development. They anticipate 6 to 8 spaces will be assigned to tenants, the remainder will be for sharing amongst the retail spaces. This allocation is based on their information from other developments they have done.  The parking will be entered from the alley, so no new curb cuts.  Their rental price points for the 3 bedroom units will be approximately $2200, which is comparable to 2 bedroom units elsewhere. They will have retain space on the first floors of approximately 20,000 square feet. They anticipate the Wabash building will be a single retail space, sized for restaurant and anticipate the State Street building could be multiple retail outlets.

Meeting attendees were asked for the feedback on the WCRE  proposal. The comments received at the meeting, and subsequently online, were generally supportive of the project. Neighborhood residents who provided feedback noted their appreciation that WCRE is aiming to preserve and reuse an existing building, and to provide affordable residential options in the South Loop

There were concerns expressed that not enough parking was being provided. WCRE responded that they find most tenants do not have cars and this parking ratio is consistent with their other buildings. All of the spaces are available to be assigned to tenants, and those not assigned with a lease are retail.

There was also support expressed at the meeting for keeping some of the aesthetic and historic characteristics of the current building, in particular the Blue Star sign.  A subsequent blog post by someone present, but not expressing an opinion at the meeting, indicated further support for keeping more of the façade of the building to preserve the building’s history.

2000wabasharender 2001_s_state FILTERED unit 2 render

Alderman Pat Dowell, 3rd Ward

Alderman Dowell presented a range of 3rd Ward updates and suggested that GSLA have McCormick Place officials return for an upcoming Community Updates meeting to bring everyone up to speed with their expansion plans.  She also let us know that the 18th Street CTA connector is being painted in April, so 18th Street will be closed sporadically. The March 3rd Ward newsletter is very comprehensive.

Snap Fitness

Snap Fitness is a new business member of GSLA. Located at 1212 S. Michigan, Snap Fitness is a new gym open 24 hours a day. Membership is $39.95 a month or $59.95 for family plans. They have classes on video, so you can pick whatever you want to do anytime. or 312- 533-4646.


All told, a great meeting. GSLA’s next Community Updates meeting is scheduled for May 17, from 9am to 10:30am, at the Daystar Center.

Posted in News.

Community Alert – Burglaries in the area

Download and share a flyer in your building or business

CAPS Alert 040414

Posted in News.

What’s Your Home’s Walk Score®? And what does that mean?

Doctors, urban planners and realtors agree that the more walkable your neighborhood is the better off you are. Doctors believe you are healthier. Urban planners believe your neighborhood is more desirable. Realtors believe your home is worth more.

So, how do you determine how walkable your neighborhood is? One way is to go to  Here’s their philosophy: “We believe that walkable neighborhoods with access to public transit, better commutes, and proximity to the people and places you love are the key to a happier, healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.” Their analysis is based on a host of factors, including transit, restaurants, shopping, parks or green space and other amenities.

For fun, I ran my address (1631 S. Michigan) and some addresses of my friends in the South Loop. Here’s what I discovered:

I live in a Walker’s Paradise, with a score of 98. Addresses around me ranged from Very Walkable (the lowest I could find was a 75) to Walker’s Paradise (100).

What that means is:

Walk Score®


90–100 Walker’s Paradise
Daily errands do not require a car.
70–89 Very Walkable
Most errands can be accomplished on foot.
50–69 Somewhat Walkable
Some errands can be accomplished on foot.
25–49 Car-Dependent
Most errands require a car.
0–24 Car-Dependent
Almost all errands require a car.

Here are the addresses I checked and their scores:

Walker’s Paradise:

1631 S. Michigan and 1327 S. Wabash–98

1528 S. Wabash and 910 S. Michigan–94

1919 S. Michigan — 86

1620 S. Prairie — 95

1515 S. State and 1143 S. Plymouth — 97

800 S. Clark and 2 E. State — 100

Very Walkable:

1700 S. Clark — 88

2046 S. Michigan — 82

1900 S. Clark — 80

212 E. Cullerton – 83

2345 S. Michigan and 600 W. 18th  – 75

If I’m doing my ‘regular’ errands, my plan is often to ride a bus or the el from work in the loop to Roosevelt (in our too brief summer, I often walk all the way home, or catch a Divvy bike), then stop along the way home for drug store stuff at Well Future Pharmacy, groceries at Trader Joe’s, Jewell or Mariano’s, and dinner along the way home—dozens of choices between Roosevelt and 16th. If it’s a weekend, I walk over to Overflow Coffee to get my caffeine addiction whetted and on to Mariano’s for the weekend shop. I drop off/pick up dry cleaning along the way and stop at Nail Social for my mani/pedi and eyebrow threading on the way home. When I am watching my brother’s dog I can take him to the outdoor cafes at WeatherMark Tavern or Square One or for our morning coffee at Overflow. When my cousin from Wisconsin was in last weekend, we had lunch at WeatherMark, caught the 12 bus up to the Whole Foods/DSW/World Market mall and strolled back through Roosevelt Collection, ending with dinner at City Tavern. I was laughing with a friend who lives in Evanston last week that I hadn’t had my car out of the garage in over 2 months, but I confess to taking it yesterday to the recycling bins on Clark and 17th and Home Depot/Petsmart (that darn cat eats a lot more food than I want to carry home).

And we’re not even getting into the quick access to the lake front—from Soldier Field, the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium, to Burnham Harbor, Northerly Island and the 12th street beach —all a short walk over the 11th or 18th street ped bridges.

One of GSLA’s goals is to make each block of our neighborhood more walkable. That’s why we encourage developers to build buildings with pedestrian friendly street levels, landscaping and no unnecessary curb cuts or obstacles. It’s one of the motivating factors behind our newly developed Sidewalk Steward program, in which we will reward the businesses and residents in the neighborhood who maintain their public ways well and beautify our streets.

Posted in News.

sOUTh and ABOUT: Current offerings at Ping Tom Memorial Park Fieldhouse

Located at 1700 S. Wentworth Avenue (otherwise known as the north side of 18th Street where it crosses the Chicago River), the Ping Tom Memorial Park Fieldhouse is just a short walk, jog, bike ride or  drive for everyone in the South Loop, as well as many of our neighbors in Bridgeport, Bronzeville, Chinatown and Pilsen.

Here are some current (as of March 25, 2014) offerings at Ping Tom Memorial Park Fieldhouse that will get you, your friends or your family moving and having fun. All information that follows comes directly from the Chicago Park District:


Ping Tom Memorial Park Fieldhouse opened Oct. 14th, 2013, at the time the newest in the Chicago Park District, Central Region.


Pool:     25 yd/8 lane/Handicap/ zero depth pool offering Learn to Swim classes for all ages (Tiny Tots 1.5-3, 3-5, Youth 6-13, Adults & Seniors) Lap Swim, and Senior Exercise class.  Open, Family and Adult swim are all free. Lap membership is $25 per month of $40 for 3 months.

Fitness Center:    Open during all business hours Mon-Fri 9 am-9 pm; Saturday 9-5 pm and Sunday 9-2 pm. Membership $22 per month, $60 for 3 months, $225 for a year. Register anytime!

Gymnasium:   Programs can be found online…we offer basketball, soccer, softball, badminton and table tennis league.  Open gym times vary. Family Open, Adult Basketball, Badminton and Ping Pong.  See online schedule for more information.

Community Rooms: Available for rental based on availability. Used for meetings, parties, etc. Skyline Patio Deck open during May-September.


CURRENT: Winter session is coming to a close. Registration started March 1st for spring session. Spring classes start April 1st to June 8th.  The registration for Summer Programs begin online April 8 and in person April 12. They run from June 23-August 15th.  Day Camp available for youth and teens 6-15 yrs old.

Only a few classes remain open (Soccer, Softball, Track & Field ages 8-13)

Other open classes: Senior aquatics exercise M, W, F 9-10 am; Adult Learn to swim M or F 10-11am; Youth Learn to swim Tuesday and Wednesday 4-5 pm.

Limited space is available for Adult Cardio Dance and Yoga Tuesdays and Thursday 10 and 11 am.

 Spring Break Camp: Ages 6-12 yrs.; April 14-18; $100 for the week. Bring Lunch & Snack. Sports rotation (swimming, volleyball, basketball, badminton, soccer, softball, inflatables) and more.

Hours of Operation: (Same for Fitness Center and Pool)

Sunday 9-2 pm

Monday – Friday 9-9 pm

Saturday 9-5 pm



Ping Tom Memorial Park



Posted in News.

Home, South Loop, Home: Meet Josh Ellis

Josh Ellis, a GSLA Board member since October, 2013, shares some thoughts on why he joined the Board, and more broadly speaking, why he engages in community life in the South Loop:

Short version of the story: Last Tuesday my wife and I bought our first home, right here in the South Loop. That’s exciting. What’s also exciting is the prospect of working with GSLA, all of our members, and the broader neighborhood, to make the South Loop a truly great neighborhood. I’m in for the long haul, and over the next few years there are going to be some big changes in the neighborhood, which is great. But rather than watch from the sidelines and simply receive/observe whatever changes the combined forces of market dynamics and city politics result in, I joined the GSLA Board so that I could help steer that change, yes, but also so that we might grow our organization’s capacity to help the community steer that change. That’s exciting too.

Long version of the story: For years I lived in Hyde Park, which is a tough neighborhood to be a new guy in. I was a graduate student at U. of Chicago, and so long as I was in school, there was a sense of community. After I graduated I continued living there, and as my connection to campus life dissipated, I began to realize how difficult it was going to be for me to really get involved. I didn’t have enough standing, I hadn’t lived there long enough, I was 30 years younger than other people at community meetings, I didn’t have kids… the list went on and on. At the same time I was working evenings in Pilsen, at a school called Poder (by day I work for the Metropolitan Planning Council), and while I like Pilsen, it was too far from the lake for me to seriously consider living there. I would ride my bike home, along 18th Street and then down the lakefront, and when I would get to the intersection of 18th and Michigan, waiting for the light to change, I would think to myself, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I just lived here?” It was closer to both of my jobs, had easy access to the lakefront, and when you’ve been working for 12 hours, a cold beer at Kroll’s is really appealing.

So I moved into 1801 S. Michigan. I have moved once since, got married at Chicago Women’s Park and Gardens, have fully embraced how easy Divvy makes my commute (yes, even during this brutal winter), and last week my wife and I bought a place at 13th and Wabash. And I joined the GSLA Board.

I’ve already alluded to the three things I love most about the South Loop.

First, access. I work in the Loop and my wife works in the suburbs. She has much easier access to the expressways than folks in many other parts of the city do, and when the schedule works, can get to Union Station pretty easily too. My commute is the stuff of humblebrag. From locking my door, checking out a Divvy, riding 1.5 miles, checking it back in, and going upstairs to the office… 15 minutes. There aren’t too many neighborhoods in Chicago that allow for that. The South Loop does.

DSCF3786Second, the lake. The lakefront path is obviously great for cycling, running and strolling, and if I had a boat it would be good for that too. The spring/summer/fall benefits of the lakefront don’t require much exposition. But this winter the lakefront has been awesome – seriously. I can walk out the door, cross over to the lake at 18th Street, and be snowshoeing or sledding in minutes. Minutes. It’s simply not a big deal to get out there and make the Chicago winter a fun, active, awesome thing. There aren’t too many neighborhoods in Chicago that allow for that. The South Loop does.

Third, the neighborhood is still figuring itself out. There are certainly some folks in the South Loop that have been here for a while, and places like Printer’s Row and the Prairie Avenue District have a pretty established identity. For a lot of the rest of us, the South Loop is new territory. In my mind, that’s great. Because we haven’t figured out who we are, it also means we haven’t figured out who we aren’t, and that means everybody belongs. I hope it stays that way, even while the neighborhood develops a greater sense of identity. Ideally (at least to me) that identity is inclusive, active, friendly, worldly, helpful, and focused on the future. You want jazz? We got it. You want craft beer? We will soon have it. You want to be in a running club? Done. You want to be left alone? Nobody is going to be in your face about it. You want to be engaged in the community? There are outlets for you, GSLA being one of them. We all get to be a part of defining the South Loop, and in a way that speaks to all of us. There aren’t too many neighborhoods in Chicago that allow for that. The South Loop does.

So I am excited, and I am making this my home,  and working with the GSLA and all of you, we’re going to make this place an even Greater South Loop.

Posted in GSLA Board.