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a quick repost in the new thread-

You know where you are in Chicago
Chicago really is a wonderful town – but not for the reasons you might have expected . Oliver Cross reports on a surprising city
THE most surprising of the many surprising things about downtown Chicago is its Tardis quality.
Seeing photographs of that marvellous skyline, or approaching it from the airport, is half-thrilling and half-intimidating. The place looks too big; you fear you will find yourself in a kind of Gotham City nightmare, crushed into canyons by the giant buildings.
But when you reach the centre, you find the place is smaller-looking and kinder than you could have imagined.
I was going to say that it felt European, in the sense of having wide boulevards, pavement cafes and greenery like, say, Paris, except that Paris would have to slow down a bit and mind its manners before you could confuse it with Chicago.
The local tourist board staff, who were escorting our press party around, said with great confidence that if we got lost and asked for directions anywhere downtown, we were guaranteed to get a friendly and helpful reply.
Which was not as bold a boast as it sounds because it is very hard to get lost in Chicago. It was laid out, after the great fire of 1871, in a foolproof grid pattern and if you want to orientate yourself you can find east very easily by locating Lake Michigan, which is right beside you and probably bigger than Wales.
I tested the tourist board theory by asking a pleasant-but-harassed looking middle-aged Chicago woman caught in the middle of the rush hour where Lake Michigan was and she was kind enough to explain that I would need to walk under an underpass to reach it.
Since this was only a test, I walked off in a different direction to the one indicated but the nice woman ran up behind me and escorted me to the entrance to the underpass, asking very kindly if I thought I could manage to get to the other side by myself. The tourist board was entirely vindicated.
Lake Michigan is only a lake in the sense that that it's filled with fresh water. Since it stretches beyond the horizon and has wide, sandy beaches and the waves lap around it like they do on a quiet day in the Mediterranean, it's as if Chicago, so tremendously far from the sea, has been compensated by being given an alternative sea without jellyfish or sharks.
Chicago's lake coast is not, as you would expect, faced by concrete apartment blocks and expensive restaurants; it's separated from the city by a wide green strip of informal, democratic parkland used by cyclists, pram-pushers, walkers, basketball players and other scruffy, ordinary people. It must be the least pretentious great waterfront in the developed world.
My trip to Chicago reinforced my enjoyment of the city's watery character because it coincided with a tall-ships rally on the wide and blue Chicago River.
This, in the middle of America, was essentially a mid-western event. There were huge numbers of stalls devoted to fishing and boating, which are major preoccupations on the Great Lakes, and, bizarrely I thought because I took Chicago to be a blues and jazz zone, bearded sea-shanty singers of the type you would find at the Whitby Folk Festival.
The tall-ships festival's organiser explained to me that the event was not primarily designed to please tourists. All Chicago festivals (which happen more than daily, both downtown and in what they call the neighbourhoods) are aimed at the locals.
This, said the organiser, is because tourists, rather than having things laid on for them and therefore being expected to look pleased, prefer, in a no-pressure way, to join in amiably with what the locals would have been doing anyway.
This I did at Millennium Park, opened in 2003 and built on 24.5 acres of old railway land and parking lots. I've concluded it must be the world's finest modern urban park because if there were one finer, it would be a wonder of the world and I would probably have heard of it.
(Diversion: The park was opened and largely instigated by Mayor Richard M Daley; you see his name everywhere in Chicago – he seems to have personally opened half the city's lampposts. This can seem worryingly Kim Il Sung-like but in fact the frequently re-elected mayor's influence is entirely benevolent; for example, he banned the sale of spray paint in the city and I didn't see a trace of graffiti there. Irony note: Chicago's many inventions include zips, skyscrapers, MacDonald's and spray paint).
It's a very busy park, with a spectacular open-air auditorium and festivals and arts events going on all round. The atmosphere is one of pure bounce. It also has quiet areas, thoughtfully-planted gardens, a bicycle station (indoor parking for 300 bikes, showers, lockers, a café, guided bike tours and rental firms) and two sculptures which are so astonishingly clever that, when first sighted, you feel like giving them a round of applause.
Cloud Gate looks like a giant (66ft long, 33ft high) globule of liquid mercury hanging in the air. It's made of highly-polished, seamless stainless steel plates and reflects curved, pin-sharp images of the park and the Chicago skyline. You can go under it and round it but you can't take your eyes off it. I noticed, though, that not many people touched it – a matter, I think, of respecting its magical qualities.
The Crown Fountain features two 50ft-high glass towers with a kind of shallow paddling pool in between. A video image showing the giant face of some random and changing Chicago citizen appears on each tower.
The citizen slowly forms his or her mouth into a pout as the children in the paddling pool hustle for position and quiver with anticipation, knowing what's going to happen next. Then, pout fully formed, the citizen spits out a great stream of water over the children, who laugh, screech and scream in extravagant delight. It's really the best of America; democratic, inventive, wide-minded, efficient and fun: Crown Fountain, 20 points; Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, putting it kindly, about 2.
Actually Chicago has a way with water. In 1900 it showed its wide-minded inventiveness by building the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, which reversed the flow of the filthy, typhoid-ridden Chicago River so that instead of flowing into Lake Michigan it was flushed out by the clean lake waters and dispersed, eventually, into the Gulf of Mexico.
Which means that when you take one of the guided river cruises organized by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, you find the spectacular buildings reflected perfectly in the clear blue river and you might as well leave your camera on random auto-snap because how else are you supposed to decide among so many great views?
The guides are thoroughly enthusiastic and knowledgeable because Chicago, like the rest of the mid-west in my brief experience of it, is rightly proud of itself. For example, there is the remarkable Chicago Greeter scheme, where visitors from, say, Jewish, Polish, Irish or all sorts of other backgrounds can link up with a matching local volunteer and be shown the relevant city sights for free.
Although I think the civic, democratic and watery aspects of Chicago are its great, distinctive strengths, it does have world-class shopping, I'm told, and we did stay in what (our taxi driver said with awe) was the best hotel in Chicago – the Peninsula.
This is an interesting globalization spin-off - a Chinese-owned and largely Chinese-staffed hotel outshining its rivals at the heart of American capitalism.
Stay there if you can afford it, which, although I don't like to make assumptions, you probably can't, otherwise eat in one of its five restaurants and bars, or even all five of them in one evening.
The hotel offers a kind of guided grazing event, where you eat successive courses in each restaurant and end up, thoroughly exhausted, with an 'I deserve a medal' drink in the cocktail bar.
Incidentally, the evening included one of those chicken tikka masarla, cultural melting-pot moments when, in a Chinese hotel, I ate a braised buffalo steak from the great prairies (it was wonderfully chewy and deep-flavoured and took one of my crowns out, not that I'm complaining).
But for the best of Chicago, take a lift to the cocktail bar on the 94th floor of the John Hancock building and sip a dry martini while watching the sun set behind Lake Michigan, remembering that this is all in theory because, in my brief visit, I didn't have time to do it.
But Chicago is the sort of place you don't want to exhaust. I'll do it next time..
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6,905 Posts
Chicago Is Now the Leading Destination for AAA Five Diamond Dining
Monday October 30, 7:00 am ET
AAA Chicago Announces 2007 Five Diamond Establishments

AURORA, Ill., Oct. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Chicago added two to its list of AAA Five Diamond rated restaurants bringing the total to seven -- the most of any city in the nation. Chicago is also home to three AAA Five Diamond rated hotels. These restaurants and hotels join an exclusive list of just 56 and 93 respectively nationwide that hold the hospitality industry's highest rating: the AAA Five Diamond Award.

Making their debut on the 2007 Five Diamond restaurant list, Alinea in Lincoln Park is becoming known around the country for its innovative tasting menu and Avenues, located in the Peninsula Chicago, is well known for its exquisite menu.

"AAA is thrilled to add these two impeccable restaurants to the Five Diamond rated properties," said Brad Roeber, Regional President, AAA Illinois/Indiana. "All recipients undergo rigorous review and meet the highest standards in quality and service to earn AAA's exclusive, top Diamond rating."

Chicago's 2007 Five Diamond rated restaurants: Alinea (1 year), Arun's (5 years), Avenues (in The Peninsula) (1 year), Charlie Trotters (13 years), Everest (11 years), Seasons Restaurant (in the Four Seasons Hotel) (7 years), Tru (7 years).

Chicago's 2007 Five Diamond rated hotels: The Four Seasons (17 years), The Peninsula (5 years), and The Ritz-Carlton (A Four Seasons Hotel) (2 years).

These establishments will be honored at a luncheon in the spring to celebrate their 2007 Five Diamond rating.

The prestigious AAA Five Diamond rating helps establish Chicago as a premier tourist destination as just 0.25 percent of establishments evaluated this year by AAA attained the Five Diamond designation. To become AAA Diamond rated, hotels and restaurants undergo a thorough inspection by one of AAA's 65 full-time, highly trained professional evaluators. Five Diamond establishments complete a more extensive review that includes a series of inspections and final committee review.

AAA first started listing accommodation information in its travel publications in the early 1900s. In 1937, the first field inspectors were hired to inspect hotels, motels and restaurants. In 1963, AAA began to rate all accommodations as good, very good, excellent or outstanding. The Diamond rating process, introduced in 1977 for hotels and 1989 for restaurants, continues to be recognized as one of the most trusted rating process for North American travelers.

879 Posts

2 low-rises at Michigan, Wacker Place on the block

By Alby Gallun
Nov. 01, 2006

The owner of two nondescript low-rise buildings at Michigan Avenue and Wacker Place is selling the properties as a prime site for a new hotel or residential high-rise.
An investor group including Chicago developers Charlie and Harry Huzenis has hired the Chicago office of Holliday Fenoglio Fowler L.P. to sell the properties, which currently house a Walgreen's drugstore, Subway restaurant and Radio Shack store.

Sitting just north of the Hard Rock Hotel, the properties are expected to fetch a total of $30 million or more because of their development potential, said Matthew Lawton, a senior managing director at Holliday Fenoglio Fowler.

Under current zoning, a developer could tear down the existing buildings and build a roughly 21-story tower of about 300,000 square feet, Mr. Lawton said. About a year is left on the Walgreen's lease and other leases are expiring as well, including those covering three floors of office space in the buildings.

"The leases are lining up, so it's the right time to redevelop it," said Harry Huzenis, executive vice-president of Jameson Realty Group.

The Huzenis brothers' partners in the investment include Bernard Leviton, James Haft, Michael Supera and Michael Lerner. The group has owned the buildings for about eight years.

A developer could build condominiums, apartments or a hotel on the site, with retail space on the ground floor. Though the downtown condo market has softened, limiting the appeal of condos, the hotel and rental markets are booming, and development is picking up in both sectors.

"We've been getting approached by a number of people unsolicited to do hotel deals," Mr. Huzenis said. "We caucused the partnership and said, 'Let's see if we can get an interesting price.'"

Baker & McKenzie begins looking at possible move

By Eddie Baeb
Nov. 01, 2006

Baker & McKenzie LLP is beginning to explore a possible move from its longtime East Loop headquarters and may wind up in a new high-rise building like other major law firms that have seized on the downtown building boom in recent years.
The firm, which has been based in the Prudential Plaza tower at 130 E. Randolph St. since 1977, last week issued a call for proposals from real estate brokers "as part of a planning process in determining what our options are upon expiration of our lease," says a spokesman. Baker's lease for about 188,000 square feet expires in 2012.

Several high-profile law firms have moved into new buildings in recent years. Such moves make sense because of the efficiencies and prestige of a new building and also because of the difficulty of finding around 200,000 square feet of contiguous space in an existing building, says John T. Murphy, president of the Midwest region for MB Real Estate Services LLC.

Mr. Murphy, who declines to say whether his firm is submitting a proposal, said he thinks Baker will either go into a new building or stay at Prudential Plaza.

"You've got plenty of new construction that might be coming online around 2010-11, so they could find a fit," Mr. Murphy says. "But they're in a very special space with phenomenal, unobstructed views of the park."

He also notes that 200,000 square feet is on the small side to anchor a new skyscraper, meaning a developer would have to find another large tenant to obtain financing for a new building.

The two-tower Prudential Plaza complex, which overlooks Millennium Park, was sold earlier this year for $470 million to BentleyForbes Holdings LLC, a Los Angeles-based private real estate investment firm, which bought it from San Francisco-based Shorenstein Properties LLC.

Baker is the second-largest tenant in the 2.1 million-square-foot complex, behind Peoples Energy Corp., which has a lease for about 230,000 square feet in the same building that expires in 2014.

"We will do everything in our power to keep (Baker), and have every expectation they will stay in Pru Plaza for a long time to come," says BentleyForbes CEO David Cobb. "If major tenants are looking for new construction space, they'd better be prepared for major increases of rental rates."

While Baker is among the largest U.S. law firms by annual revenue, exceeding $1.5 billion for the first time in its past fiscal year, only about 225 of the firm's 3,400 lawyers are based in Chicago.

Sidley Austin LLP, the largest local firm, with more than 500 Chicago lawyers, moved into a new building at 1 S. Dearborn St. last year. Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw LLP moved into a new building at 71 S. Wacker Drive the previous year, while Jenner & Block LLP has agreed to be a co-anchor tenant in a new building going up at 353 N. Clark St. that is to open in 2009.

819 Posts
Baker & McKenzie

Isn't Baker and McKenzie the law firm that formed the basis for the story in the movie Philadelphia with Denzel Washington? I thought Chicago was their home base. If that is so, why is the Chicago office relatively small?

819 Posts
Does anyone else think Kamen's vitriol about Trump's marks him as a bit unhinged? He's a good thinker when it comes to aesthetics and architecture, but he reveals his loony lefty self when he talks about a lot of other things. He called Trump's sign a blight on the landscape. Oh how dare they advertise on Michigan! WTF? Every storefront on Michigan serves as a gigantic advertisement for what's inside. Kamen's anger about the Trump sign is bizarre.

6,905 Posts
I don't have anything against the sign, I just don't like it's location right next to the beautiful Wrigley Building.

1,188 Posts,CST-FIN-retail03.article

Sales lag at Macy's
Federated denies shopper anger involved in slowdown at new stores

November 3, 2006
BY SANDRA GUY Business Reporter

The grinch stole holiday buildup from Federated Department Stores' efforts to win over shoppers to Macy's in Chicago and nationwide.

Federated representatives insist that shoppers' anger at Marshall Field's and other regional stores' changeover to Macy's has nothing to do with disappointing sales reported Thursday. The weakness was concentrated in Field's and other department stores formerly owned by May Department Stores, including L.S. Ayres, Famous and Barr, Hecht's, Meier & Frank, Robinsons-May and Strawbridge's.

Federated bought Marshall Field's and the other former May Department Stores for $11.9 billion in August 2005.

Those stores continue to lag in sales, according to Federated, which declines to be more specific or to disclose figures by chain.

In contrast, the original Macy's and Bloomingdale's department store chains showed strong sales results in October from a year ago, with same-store sales jumping 7.7 percent, Federated announced on Thursday. The increase was higher than analysts' forecast for a 6.1 percent gain.

Marshall Field's loyalists have made plans to protest outside Macy's flagship store at 111 N. State St. every Saturday throughout the holidays.

Macy's spokeswoman Jennifer McNamara said Thursday that customers are pleased with the improvements Federated has made to former Marshall Field's and other stores.

She noted that the National Retail Federation on Thursday named Macy's for the first time among the top 10 retailers in the nation for customer service. Macy's brick-and-mortar stores ranked No. 10.

Macy's expects more than 4 million people will view the State Street store's holiday windows theme of Mary Poppins, McNamara said.

Federated's total revenue declined 7.9 percent, to $1.86 billion for the four weeks that ended Oct. 28, because Federated closed 79 stores that were too close together and would have impeded competition after it acquired the May department stores.

Third-quarter sales grew 6 percent to $5.89 billion.

Federated CEO Terry Lundgren remained optimistic about the holidays, saying same-store sales should increase 3 percent to 5 percent in November and during the entire holiday season. But analyst Carol Levenson of Gimme Credit research firm told investors that Federated might find it more difficult than executives expect to issue new bonds in order to back up a tender offer for up to $750 million because of billionaire corporate raider Carl Icahn's increased stake in the company.

Other department stores continued to see strong sales, outperforming discount stores in a reverse of a long-held trend. The stars included J.C. Penney and Nordstrom. Discounters Target and Kohl's same-store sales fell short of analysts' expectations.

Analysts believe shoppers motivated by lower gasoline prices and cold weather will boost retailers' sales by 5 percent nationwide this holiday, slightly below last year's 6.1 percent increase.

5,837 Posts
Ya man I hope it's snowing too. I plan on doing major x-mas shopping when I am there but I'll be staying up in evanston. My agenda is as follows... december 17th I'll be up there for a wedding rehearsal and god knows what else comes along that day. The next day my cousin gets married. Then the last day I want to jam pack shopping and a quick stop around the loop after mag mile. Would love to get a drink or 2 or 3 or 4 hollurrrrr back earllly.

See ya when the snow starts!

242 Posts
Isn't Baker and McKenzie the law firm that formed the basis for the story in the movie Philadelphia with Denzel Washington? I thought Chicago was their home base. If that is so, why is the Chicago office relatively small?
The law firm in 'Philadelphia' was fictional. If the firm in the movie was supposed to be based on a real firm, that's completely news to me, and I'm an attorney.

Baker & McKenzie was the first US firm to truly go global. They have, by far, the largest number of offices around the world of any firm: over 60 in 38 different countries. This is in an industry where having 10 offices in the US would be considered a very large firm.

Baker is headquartered in Chicago, but because of their global reach, they just spread their attorneys around more than most other firms. Thus, their Chicago office is barely in the top 10 in size in this city. Also, I think their office needs in Chicago are smaller than the headquarters for more US-oriented firms because when so many of your attorneys work overseas, there's more of a need to decentralize administrative functions that might otherwise be handled centrally, e.g. benefits, IT, etc.

879 Posts
Onterie Center looking to fill up on apartment rentals

November 22, 2006

BY DAVID ROEDER Sun-Times Columnist
A little more than a year after buying Onterie Center, a two-building complex at 446 E. Ontario, for $132 million, Metropolitan Properties of America is changing its character. The Boston-based owner is giving up trying to lease the building's office space and wants to make it all apartments, according to zoning documents filed with the city. Onterie Center now has 594 apartments and about 180,000 square feet for offices, said attorney Richard Klawiter, who represents the owner as an attorney with DLA Piper. The office space covers all of the 11-story building and lower floors of the 60-story building.

Klawiter said less than half of that is leased, and existing tenants have said they don't want to renew. Streeterville isn't pumping as an office market right now, so the owner figures apartments are a better gambit. Klawiter said a two-phased conversion is expected that will add 77 apartments to the buildings.

Under long-standing agreements with the federal government, Onterie Center contains 115 units of subsidized housing, said Jesse Dodson, a DLA Piper associate. That arrangement is unaffected by the expansion, and all the new apartments will be rented for market rates, he said.

Onterie Center was completed in 1986. The design by Skidmore Owings and Merrill LLP is notable for its crisscrossing concrete panels that serve as braces, much like the "Xs" in the John Hancock Center.

MILLENNIUM PARK TOWER: The northeast corner of Michigan and Randolph is one of the most-seen corners of Chicago by virtue of its proximity to Millennium Park. The would-be developers of that site, BJB Partners LLC, expect to submit plans to the city in December for a 40-story building, said principal Sean Barry.

If the city likes the design, then BJB will make the rounds with community groups before heading back to the Chicago Plan Commission for approval. Barry said the skinny building, with about 80 rental units, will include a restaurant and retail shops at the ground floor. La Strada restaurant is now on the site. Solomon Cordwell Buenz is designing the building, and Barry promises a look that will justify its prominence along Michigan Avenue.

CLUBBING THE CLUB: Members of the Chicago Athletic Association, 12 S. Michigan, endorsed a proposal Monday night to sell its property to Snider-Cannata Interests LP for $28.6 million. Snider-Cannata would rehab club buildings, including its lodging at 71 E. Madison, into a boutique hotel and also improve the athletic and dining facilities. Club members would have access rights, but whether the cash-pressed organization will continue as an independent group is unknown.

There are plenty of raw feelings over the sale and how directors handled the process. Certain members who do not own an equity stake in the club already have sued. The carping prompted club President Eileen Donnersberger to issue written reprimands, one of which threatened lawsuits to defend her reputation. Another defended the board against criticism and said, "It seems that not only has the CAA suffered a financial and economic deterioration over the years, but, in many respects, a moral one as well." Ouch!. . .

--------------------------------------------------------------------- Commercial Real Estate News and Property Resource
Last updated: November 22, 2006 12:27am
Hotels Seek Two-Building Complex on Mag Mile
By Robert Carr
CHICAGO-Two Michigan Avenue office/retail properties are going up for sale for roughly $30 million for potential hotel use. The buildings, at 300 and 310 N. Michigan, have active retail on the first floors, but the upper office floors are mostly vacant, says Jameson Realty Group Executive Vice President Harry Huzenis. He’s one of the partners in the ownership of the building.
He says that with the extreme resurgence of the avenue due to park redevelopment and a retail boom on Chicago’s prized top retail and residential strip, also known as the Magnificent Mile, the more-than-100-year-old buildings are more valuable torn down. “This is one of the few parcels left on Michigan that hasn’t been redeveloped or protected by a landmark designation,” Huzenis tells “Whoever buys the property will want to tear down the buildings.” Currently, a Walgreens, Radio Shack and other small retail tenants occupy the properties.

Huzenis says the ownership has received a great number of unsolicited offers, mostly from hotels, but that apartment builders are also showing interest. Ownership will put the buildings on the market in December and will examine offers in January, Huzenis says.

The Chicago hotel market has been an explosion of activity this year, and is expected to have one of its best years in 2007. Local hotel experts say the demand can be attributed to the city’s growing economy and a slowdown in new construction, though the high-rise Mandarin and Shangri-La hotel projects are near the Michigan Avenue properties.

Sales of Chicago hotels have also skyrocketed in 2006, including DiamondRock Hospitality Co. paying $117 million for the Conrad Chicago, $295 million for the Chicago Marriott Downtown and LaSalle Hotel Properties acquiring the Westin Michigan Avenue for $214.7 million.
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