Saturday, January 14, 2006

THE FIRST CITY CAN NOW BE FOUND AT: www.firstcity.typepad.com. Eventually, this should work also: www.thefirstcity.net.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

An Update

I'm currently working on a new design for the site. In the meantime, here's a link to a BBC report on community policing in Chicago, most of which takes place in Uptown.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Broadway Building getting TIF money for rehab


This is like three months after the fact, but still:


The city will subsidize a developer's $4 million renovation of the Uptown Broadway Building, on the northeast corner of Leland Avenue and Broadway.

The 3-story Uptown Broadway Building, 4703-17 N. Broadway, is part of the Uptown Square Historic District. The Community Development Commission earlier this month approved $1.1 million in TIF (tax increment financing) subsidy for the restoration.
The 1926 building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is an exceptional example of terra cotta design, a Chicago Department of Planning and Development project manager told the commission.

Thaddeus Wong, who co-founded the Chicago-based @Properties real estate firm, bought the building in 2004 through his Theus Property Holdings LLC. "We paid $1.4 million for the building and bought it from a private owner," Wong said in an interview earlier this month.

Wong said he bought the building because of its architectural grandeur. "It is beautiful and has an amazing street presence. As Uptown is being revitalized, it seemed a shame that no one was focusing on this building. With its revitalization it will give a more defined and prominent streetscape along Broadway," Wong said, adding that he also liked the building's history. "It is rumored that a speakeasy was operated from it, that is was owned by Al Capone. Old photos show that there was a lot of hustle and bustle around the building."

"This has been a challenging building in the Uptown/Broadway entertainment district," Ald. Mary Anne Smith (47th) told community development commissioners. "We have had high hopes for this building and couldn't figure out what to do with it." Some local residents call the building the Al Capone building, she said, because of a tunnel that links the building with others.

"The numbers never work for this kind of building, so the developer has really taken something on here," Smith told commissioners. "We consider ourselves very, very lucky that he fell in love with [the building]."

The TIF subsidy will offset Wong's high cost of buying the building and of sensitively restoring its historic detail, a Planning Department staffer told commissioners.

"We are recasting urns that are at the top of the building and we will replace all of the original windows, some of which were removed and replaced with glass block. We will gut the entire interior [adding new HVAC and electrical systems] and restore the entire exterior," Wong said.

Chicago-based Space Architects and Planners is designing the rehab. The building has 18,950 square feet of space. The rehabbed, 6,900-square-foot basement (with an added sprinkler system) and two first-floor spaces of 2,450 and 1,000 square feet will likely be occupied by restaurants or other entertainment users, Planning Department staff told commissioners. Office tenants will occupy the second and third floors.

"We have had interest from a number of local residents who want to lease office space on the second and third floors, and retailers who are interested in occupying space on the first floor. A number of theater groups, and lounge and club owners are interested in occupying the basement space," Wong said. He has hired Chicago-based Baum Realty to handle leasing.

The developer expects to manage the building the restoration. "We will be finished in spring 2006," Wong said.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The White Flag

I don't want this blog to die. It's just that I'm in school now, and whenever I actually direct time toward anything not heavily hopped or consumption, I feel like I should be studying. Which is to say that I just surf the internet and consume.

Either way, I can't keep up with the blog. It'll return, though, in a similar although expanded form, eventually. Probably when I allow myself to write about trivial crap like how I wish people would be nicer.

In the meantime, thanks for actually reading. Expect maybe monthly updates.

How frustrating.

John.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

September's the new summer. Here are the highs and lows from the past week. No rain, either.

87 67
86 68
87 65
85 61
82 63
80 61
73 58


This is how it was last year. Summer didn't start until mid- to late June and didn't get hot until September. The seasons are shifting.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Lawrence and Hermitage


I hate this building. There's nothing nice to say about it. It's awful.
The most extensive surveillence camera system in the world? Right here in Chicago? That's unsettling.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

The Trib editorializes about Wilson Yard. Also, has anyone heard that part of this plan involves removing street parking on Broadway?

"You can always tell a neighborhood is changing by the squabbling.

The wealthy worry about too many poor people. The poor fear they're being pushed out by the wealthy. Tattoo parlor owners complain their traditional clientele of bikers might be driven away by a new Starbucks or gourmet sandwich shop. Incoming yuppies might go for tasteful and strategically placed tattoos, but that's not enough to keep a serious parlor in business.

Meanwhile, the elderly in the neighborhood survive on limited incomes and cheap rents, in apartments chock-full of tchotchkes and memories. They worry, too, about condo conversions with words like "gardens," "mews," or "square" attached to their names--and prices to match.

Nowadays the squabbling is loudest in Uptown, where a triangular 5-acre piece of land--mostly empty, weedy and next to the CTA el tracks--is about to be transformed into Wilson Yard. It will include a Target store, a supermarket, a multiplex movie house, 70 units of housing for the elderly and two levels of parking.

Everyone around should be happy with this infusion of $100 million to $120 million into a neighborhood that can use a commercial anchor.

Except for one catch: Wilson Yard will include 70 units of affordable housing for moderate-income renters. That last twist has set off alarms among many nearby property owners--many of them relatively recent arrivals to the area--fearful that Wilson Yard may signal Uptown's relapse into an urban reservation of homeless people, drug addicts and families on welfare.

Protesters need to maintain some perspective. "Moderate income" is not synonymous with undesirable. The recent rush of retail, condos, Starbucks, cafes, mews and gardens ensures the new Uptown won't relapse into the old version. Most of all, they ought to appreciate the mix of people, stores, sights and sounds that make big cities what they are.

The housing portion of the project will be financed through a complex combination of tax credits, tax-increment financing and state grants. Rents in the affordable-housing building will run from $450 to $850 a month, and tenants will be required to earn three times the amount of the rent. Requirements for seniors will be more lenient, depending on their earnings. This is not a homeless shelter, a high-rise halfway house, or Cabini-Green II.

The complex also will include storefronts for not-for-profits and a small-business incubator. In accordance with Mayor Richard Daley's push for environmentalism, half the roof will be "green"--covered with sod.

Opponents say that instead of limited-income folks, they'd like to have the building reserved for artists. Such a restriction seems to have a classist or even racist ring. At any rate, subsidized residential buildings shouldn't be restricted to certain occupations, whether they're artists or dentists.

There's a community meeting set for Wednesday at Truman College. No doubt there will be plenty of screaming and waving of petitions. If only the opponents of Wilson Yard come ready to listen, they might warm to a worthwhile project."

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