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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Pullman to get first new residential building in nearly 50 years

Posted By on 07.10.18 at 06:00 AM

A rendering of Pullman Artspace Lofts - ARTSPACE
  • Artspace
  • A rendering of Pullman Artspace Lofts

The historic Pullman neighborhood is getting 38 units of affordable housing inside a new $18 million artists' enclave—some 124 years after Pullman railroad car workers went on strike over the company's refusal to lower their rents after cutting their pay.

The Pullman Artspace Lofts, a new apartment building to be built between two long-abandoned Pullman workers' housing units, sits on three-quarters of an acre on Langley Avenue, just south of 111th Street. The three-story, 32,000-square-foot complex sits on land that's been vacant for 88 years. The construction itself marks the first new residential development built in Pullman in nearly half a century. It's unique because it will house 2,000 square feet of community space intended to be used as an art gallery, meeting place, classrooms, and community room. It's expected to open in early fall 2019.

The Artspace Lofts is a home-grown project in a neighborhood that has more than its share of artists, including painters, musicians, filmmakers, sculptors, and ceramicists, said architect Ann Alspaugh, a board member and past president of Pullman Arts, a neighborhood nonprofit whose volunteers have worked on the development for the past eight years.

"It's [the result of] a lot of hard work by a lot of people," she said, noting that the project required meeting and even exceeding local and state landmark and historic district requirements, obtaining unconventional funding, and conducting detailed feasibility studies.

Alspaugh volunteers as a community member; the project architect is the Chicago firm of Stantec (formerly VOA). Alspaugh said she's satisfied that the lofts fit in with the surrounding historic architecture. The developers modified the plans after residents expressed concerns and after reviews by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

"The first thing we want to do is to start an annual art fair," said Alspaugh, who moved to the Pullman neighborhood in July 2010 with her husband, musician Q Kiser, from Rogers Park. The couple bought a three-bedroom house with a front and back yard, a basement, and a garage for what a condo in Rogers Park would have cost. "It also gives me a door into living amid historic architecture and helping restore historic architecture," she said.

Construction of Artspace Lofts is expected to start in September, with tenant applications expected to start being processed next summer. The rents are set so that they're affordable to families at or below 30, 50, and 60 percent of the area median income, which is $38,370 in Pullman, compared with the citywide median of $53,006. That means a studio apartment would rent for $360 a month for a single person who lives at or below 30 percent of the Pullman average, while a two-bedroom unit would rent for $910 a month for a family at 60 percent of the median income.

The complex will house three studio apartments along with 16 one-bedroom and 19 two-bedroom units, and the development will have 25 bicycle spaces and a parking lot for 17 cars. (Street parking is expected to accommodate another 20 cars.)  The developers and a board made up of neighborhood artists will review potential tenants' applications with an eye toward accepting people involved in creative or artistic work who want to be a part of a community devoted to that.

"It's not about the quality or kind of [art] work a person is doing; it's about seeing a demonstrated commitment to a creative pursuit and wanting to be a part of a community that supports" that goal, says Andrew Michaelson, director of property development for Artspace, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that develops affordable places where artists can live and work.

Pullman Arts, the neighborhood nonprofit, will curate and operate the gallery space for artists' showings, performances, and meetups. The Lofts' hallways and corridors are also intended to be space where residents can create murals and other works, Michaelson said.

The construction is expected to employ 120 people, and the developers have hired a consultant to ensure that women, local businesses, and people of color are hired to help with the work, said Ciere Boatright, director of real estate development and inclusion at the Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, part of the development team for the Lofts project.

The project was not without some opposition. Some residents have objected to the design plans in a neighborhood with strict landmark guidelines but officials said the project is moving forward.

The lofts are expected to generate $13 million in low-income tax credits and another $1.2 million in historic tax credits. Alderman Anthony Beale (Ninth Ward) says they're part of a "renaissance" in the Pullman neighborhood that's seen $300 million in investments and the creation of 1,300 jobs in the past decade. The neighborhood still suffers from the blight of foreclosures—many elderly residents lost their homes during the housing crisis—but more properties are being rehabbed, and some houses are selling for more than $280,000. "The opportunities are growing every day," he says. "I just need more restaurants and hotel chains."

While Pullman's population declined by almost 16 percent between two five-year periods (from 2006-2010 to 2011-2015), the number of people living in poverty also dropped by nearly 16 percent; six-figure households grew by 58 percent, and the number of college graduates jumped by nearly 10 percent, according to the Metropolitan Planning Council's analysis of the latest U.S. Census data.

The most dramatic increases in college graduates and six-figure households took place in an area bordered by the Bishop Ford Freeway to the east, 103rd Street to the north, Cottage Grove Avenue to the west, and 111th Street to the south. The area includes the 180-acre Pullman Park, a $125 million mixed-use site that has created 800 new jobs.

Pullman Park includes a 150,000-square-foot Walmart, a Method soap factory, a new Whole Foods distribution center, a second greenhouse for hydroponic greens grower Gotham Greens, and a Potbelly Sandwich Shop that anchors the Gateway Retail Center. That's in addition to the historic Landmark Inn and Greenstone Church, both renovated, and the iconic Clock Tower and Administration Building, which has been renovated into the visitor center for the Pullman National Monument, which was established by President Barack Obama in 2015.

"Everyone is getting lifted up by the positive things that are coming," Alspaugh said.

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Friday, June 22, 2018

All Hyde Park wants to know: Where’s Bobo?

Posted By on 06.22.18 at 06:00 AM

Karen Bradley has put up more than 250 signs since Bobo's disappearance. - LAUREN SALAS
  • Lauren Salas
  • Karen Bradley has put up more than 250 signs since Bobo's disappearance.

Hyde Park resident Karen Bradley has been asking for her neighbors' help in finding her beloved mourning dove Bobo, who escaped from a window in her home last month.

Bobo's plight gained the attention of the Hyde Park community when hand-drawn signs started popping up all over the neighborhood. Bradley has put up more than 250 of them, sometimes posting them for six hours a day. She doesn't intend to stop until he returns.

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Thursday, June 7, 2018

New documentary Public Park illuminates Chicago's role in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria

Posted By on 06.07.18 at 03:42 PM

Still from of the staging of emergency supplies in Humboldt Park during the 2017 Hurricane Maria relief effort for Puerto Rican evacuees. - JON STATROM- STUDIOTHREAD
  • Jon Statrom- Studiothread
  • Still from of the staging of emergency supplies in Humboldt Park during the 2017 Hurricane Maria relief effort for Puerto Rican evacuees.

When Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico last fall, many of its residents sought temporary and permanent housing opportunities in Chicago. In November 2017, city employees and volunteers assisted evacuees at the Humboldt Park Field House with medical attention, winter supplies, and housing information.

The experience of the evacuees at the Field House was captured in Public Park, the first installment in a documentary series currently in development by Fieldwork Collaborative Projects, a non-profit organization dedicated to exploring the role of public spaces, such as parks and field houses, in the city of Chicago. There will be a public screening at the Museum of Contemporary Art on Friday, June 8.

While Public Park focuses on Humboldt Park, and the events at the Field House, the larger documentary, Park District, will serve as a research tool for collecting and understanding the Chicago Park District's network of cultural real estate.

Ionit Behar, director of curatorial affairs at Fieldwork Collaborative Projects, an interdisciplinary group that explores the potential in underutilized spaces, says the group came across what was happening at the Field House and the services that evacuees were being offered there while they were working on a project to revitalize Humboldt Park's Jensen Formal Garden. "We noticed that the Field House was being used as an emergency site after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico," she says. "So the Field House basically became another kind of space, adapting itself for what was needed. We knew that was a very important thing that was happening, especially for our work in thinking about these public spaces, like the Field Houses, and how they're such a rich resource for the residents here. So we made a documentary, not really knowing what was going to come out of it."

The result was a story about the role of public spaces in the aftermath of a devastating event.

The MCA event will be the first time Public Park will be screened for the public. The screening will be followed by a conversation with members of the Humboldt Park community including activist Eduardo Arocho and Cristina Pacione-Zayas, co-chair of The Puerto Rican Agenda of Chicago, a group that raised funds for Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. It will also include Richard Santiago, an artist who came to Humboldt Park as a hurricane evacuee. Since his arrival, Santiago's family has been able to join him and he has become an artist in residence at the Puerto Rican Cultural Center.

Soon after Santiago's arrival, Arocho approached him about doing an exhibition at the Humboldt Park Boathouse Gallery, his first instinct was to say no: "I lost my studio, I lost my home, I lost materials. I didn't have anything here. I can't just make up a show in a few months."

But things became more emotional for Santiago when news broke that the Puerto Rican government had cremated 911 anonymous Puerto Ricans following Hurricane Maria."They didn't want to admit that those people were victims of the hurricane." he says. "There's a whole process that has been happening about the government denying the amount of deaths. Even the president of the United States is going to Puerto Rico and diminishing the impact." All of this made him change his mind about doing the exhibition.

Santiago's exhibition, "The Frailty of Strength & vice versa," was made up of 911 monotypes, a unique image printed from a polished plate. "The uniqueness of each Monotype intends to reference the human Fingerprint and the fact that its impression afford an infallible means of personal identification," Santiago wrote in his artist's statement.

The exhibition was on display from May 4- 25 and will soon travel to New York, Orlando, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. His story is featured in the documentary.

Although Public Park tells a positive story about Chicago's role in the aftermath of Maria, Behar and Fieldwork Collaborative Projects acknowledge the persistent need for support and awareness of the current situation in Puerto Rico. "The people that arrived here were the lucky ones. We're very conscious of that," Behar says. "There are still a lot of problems. There is no electricity in a lot of places in Puerto Rico."

The continued devastation that Hurricane Maria brings to Puerto Rico in its aftermath came to light last week when a new study suggested that the resulting death toll could actually exceed 4,000, a gross increase from the originally reported 64.

Even though many of the services offered to evacuees are no longer there, the Humboldt Park Field House still operates as an important public space in Maria's aftermath. "If you go the Field House and stay there for a few minutes, you'll likely meet other evacuees," Behar says. "It's their community center. They feel it is their second home."

Public Park. Screening Fri 6/8, 6 PM, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago, 312-280-2660,, free.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A look back at a punk club doorman and his buffet of food offerings

Posted By on 05.23.18 at 06:00 AM

Exit at its current location on North Avenue - STRAIGHTEDGE217 VIA FLICKR
  • Straightedge217 via Flickr
  • Exit at its current location on North Avenue

Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

Remember clubbing? Before there were cell phones? When you could go out for the night and no one would bother you and you could utterly humiliate yourself on the dance floor or show your boobs to a bouncer and no one would ever know because people didn't carry cameras with them every damned place they went? OK, maybe you don't. Or if you do, you're at that point where you're just happy you managed to drag your creaking old bones through the week as far as Wednesday.

But here, behold this blast from the past—1988, to be precise—a profile of Steve Silver, the weekend doorman at the punk club Exit, then located on Wells Street just north of North. (It's entirely possible that the people who hung out at Exit in those days are still there. The world has changed a lot since 1988.) The piece is called "At the Entrance of the Exit" and it has the completely endearing subhed "Everybody knows Steve. Hey, Steve, have a burrito."

The writer, Greg Beaubien, didn't do the Serious Profile thing of plumbing the depths of Steve Silver's soul. We learn nothing about his hopes or dreams or tortured childhood or even what he does when he's not manning the front door of Exit. Instead Beaubien spends a summer night watching him ply his trade.

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Monday, May 21, 2018

Chicago's next great park? Hardly

Posted By on 05.21.18 at 06:00 AM

A view from Rezkoville - RYAN SMITH
  • Ryan Smith
  • A view from Rezkoville

On a warm afternoon in May, a pair of geese and their gaggle of goslings waddle single file over broken pavement and shaggy patches of weeds on their journey to the edge of the Chicago River. Elsewhere, red-winged blackbirds chirp their nasally songs while yellow butterflies flutter over wildflowers peeking through piles of rubble.

Welcome to the gnarled, grassy glen bounded by the river, Roosevelt Road, 16th, and Clark Streets—land informally known as Rezkoville, after Tony Rezko, the erstwhile developer and political fund-raiser. As has been the case for decades, the land's identity—and future—remains in limbo. Since it stopped serving as a train yard in 1969, it's been vacant but has lived on in the shadow of the city as a kind of forbidden wilderness, accidental nature preserve, homeless encampment, and—until recently—a barren ruin.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

More rockin’ scenes from the Taste, the oldest black-owned club in the city

Posted By on 05.08.18 at 06:00 AM

Last week, contributor Dave Hoekstra wrote about the Taste Entertainment Center, which has been a required stop for 
many African-Americans since it opened in 1980. 

Photographer Tonika Johnson spent a recent Friday night at the club, but we weren't able to use all of her images in the story that hit news stands last week. 

So here are some more scenes from her visit, which took place on a "Freeyomind Friday" at the club.

Customers lip-synced to songs, danced, and performed onstage—and all the while other patrons showered them with money. Others were out for a birthday celebration.

Take a look:

  • Tonika Johnson
  • Tonika Johnson
  • Tonika Johnson
  • Tonika Johnson
  • Tonika Johnson
  • Tonika Johnson
  • Tonika Johnson
  • Tonika Johnson
  • Tonika Johnson
  • Tonika Johnson

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Monday, March 19, 2018

How the city cleared out the north side to make room for Sandburg Village and white prosperity

Posted By on 03.19.18 at 06:30 AM

Carl Sandburg Village in 1978 - SUN-TIMES PRINT COLLECTION
  • Sun-Times print collection
  • Carl Sandburg Village in 1978

Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

Today Carl Sandburg Village is a collection of ugly midcentury condo buildings that separate the Gold Coast from Old Town. There's nothing especially remarkable about them; if you happen to be walking along that stretch of Clark and LaSalle, there are plenty of other things you would probably want to look at first.

But Sandburg Village has a fascinating history, retold by Denise DeClue in almost novelistic detail in her 1978 story "The Siege of Sandburg Village." The development began as an urban renewal project to rescue the north side from "blight," aka what city officials considered too many nonwhite people living in one area.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Show your support for International Women's Day by dining out in Edgewater

Posted By on 03.07.18 at 02:42 PM

Mango Pickle is one of the businesses participating in the Edgewater International Women's Day Dinner Crawl. - JAMIE RAMSAY
  • Jamie Ramsay
  • Mango Pickle is one of the businesses participating in the Edgewater International Women's Day Dinner Crawl.

On March 8, the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce will host its second annual International Women's Day Dinner Crawl featuring women-owned restaurants and business in the community.

"International Women's Day is celebrated in a lot of different ways in different communities," says Katrina Balog, executive director of the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce. "We have a lot of ethnic restaurants and a lot of women-owned restaurants, so we saw an opportunity to highlight all of the women that are doing great things in Edgewater."

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Obama: No community benefits agreement, and let's move on

Posted By on 02.28.18 at 11:36 AM

The Obama Center, as projected at McCormick Place - DEANNA ISAACS
  • Deanna Isaacs
  • The Obama Center, as projected at McCormick Place

Former president Barack Obama, in a surprise appearance before a large audience last night at an Obama Foundation public meeting at McCormick Place, made two points clear:

There will be no community benefits agreement for the construction of the Obama Presidential Center.

And progress on the center needs to move past the debate stage. 

Obama reiterated his loyalty to the city's south side and his goal for the center to be an active hub there, a place where the next generation of leaders will be recruited and mentored. He said the center will attract more than 700,000 annual visitors, and will bring $3 billion in economic activity to the Chicago area.

But in regard to the binding community benefits agreement that a coalition of groups has been asking for, Obama had this to say: "I respect the intent, but we're not coming in here as a for-profit organization. I'm raising a bunch of money. I'm not getting a salary from the foundation. Michelle and my motivations are entirely to see the community benefit.

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Why do we have parks? The answer may surprise you.

Posted By on 02.28.18 at 09:00 AM

The Sherman Park lagoon and field house - RICH CHAPMAN
  • Rich Chapman
  • The Sherman Park lagoon and field house

Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

The great thaw happened earlier this week. Perhaps you took advantage of the spring-like temperatures and spent some time in your neighborhood park getting some exercise or maybe just sitting around and inhaling the fresh air. Perhaps it occurred to you to wonder why your neighborhood has a park in the first place (and why so many neighborhoods are named after parks). In a long feature in 1990 called "Why We Have Parks," Harold Henderson, a writer who was interested in both the environment and in Chicago history, explained.

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Not One Batu Berger Park Cultural Center
July 04
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