Could La Salle Street Hold 2,000 Units Of Housing?
Proposals have been submitted to the city for creating new housing within seven buildings around La Salle Street in the Loop. “In all, the proposals for the seven sites called for more than 2,000 housing units,” reports the Sun-Times. “The document, called ‘La Salle Street Reimagined,’ asked developers to commit to making at least thirty-percent of new housing in the district affordable under terms of a city ordinance. The La Salle corridor has gotten attention because of increased vacancies in older buildings whose floor layouts and lack of natural light don’t appeal to today’s companies.”
YIMBY Chicago maps the buildings and what’s proposed. “Requirements for all of the proposals… contain a purchase and sale agreement for their individual properties and at least thirty percent of the units proposed to be affordable… Over $1.2 billion in projects are being proposed.”
Nearly A Billion Square Feet In Search Of Tenants Nationwide
“There’s 998 million square feet of office real estate sitting empty,” about thirteen-percent of the market, reports Emma Goldberg at the New York Times. “That’s thousands of old cubicles, conference rooms, pantries and cafeterias sitting in ghostly quiet… that could be turned into two-bedroom apartments, big-box retailers, boutique hotels, community college classrooms or even studios for artists… Researchers estimate that office value will plunge thirty-nine percent from prepandemic levels… City and business leaders from New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Seattle [have begun] meetings, convened by the Brookings Institution, where they will exchange ideas on re-envisioning the future of their downtown business districts.”
Investors Hasten Gentrification Around Obama Complex
“South Shore has experienced the largest share of homes for sale bought by investors than any other neighborhood in the city, raising concerns over housing affordability,” reports the Illinois Answers Project and Block Club Chicago. “Corporate investors are buying larger market shares of homes, and that trend has only grown during the global pandemic. That trend is more pronounced in low-income and predominantly Black neighborhoods… Investors are converging heavily in the neighborhoods surrounding the incoming Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park as they snatch up nearly a third of homes for sale in just the third quarter of 2022.”
Thick Mall Pops Up In Chicago
Jovana Savic “started Thick Mall, a ‘size L and up’ pop-up market, in October 2021,” reports Megan Kirby at the New York Times. “The third iteration of Thick Mall [was in December] at Sleeping Village… Nineteen Chicagoland clothing and accessory vendors set up booths while bartenders mixed cocktails and a D.J. pumped tunes. The party atmosphere provided more than a plus-size shopping opportunity; it offered a safe space to mingle, trade compliments and exist in a room of similar bodies.”
Legal Dispute Keeps Glasner Studio Hidden
Lawsuits are keeping the public from “an Old Town condominium known as the Glasner Studio, once a party house for industrialist Rudolph Glasner,” reports the Sun-Times. “From 1928 to 1932, [the building at 1734 North Wells] was a colony where artists would stay in exchange for working to rehab the building.” The dispute among three condo owners began with frequent tours of the space. “With both claims pending in court, lovers of design, art and history remain unable to see the Glasner Studio.”
New Property Taxes Accompany Gentrification In Working Class Areas
“In this latest round of assessments,” reports Block Club, “homeowners in rapidly gentrifying working-class neighborhoods such as Pilsen, Avondale and Rogers Park were hit the hardest.” These “hot neighborhoods…saw large increases in part because those communities have become more desirable places to live, which has in turn jacked up land value, Cook County Assessor’s Office spokesman Scott Smith said. ‘Assessments aren’t a cause of gentrification, but they definitely measure gentrification.'”
Colorado River Drying Up; Arizona Gives Water Away
“Diminished by climate change and overuse, the Colorado River can no longer provide the water states try to take from it,” reports ProPublica of the source of water for much of the agriculture across the West, including Arizona and California. “Here’s the terrible truth: There is no such thing as a return to normal on the Colorado River, or to anything that resembles the volumes of water its users are accustomed to taking from it. With each degree Celsius of warming to come, modelers estimate that the river’s flow will decrease further, by an additional nine percent. At current rates of global warming, the basin is likely to sustain at least an additional eighteen-percent drop in its water supplies over the next several decades, if not far more. Pain… is inevitable.” Writes Natalie Koch at the New York Times: “Arizona’s water is running worryingly low. Amid the worst drought in more than a millennium, which has left communities across the state with barren wells, the state is depleting what remains of its precious groundwater. Much of it goes to private companies nearly free, including Saudi Arabia’s largest dairy company.”
DINING & DRINKING
Evanston Loses Smylie Brothers
The eight-year-old Smylie Brothers Brewpub on Oak Street in Evanston closed without notice just before New Year’s Eve, reports Evanston Now. The collapse of lunch traffic may have been a major factor. “In September, Smylie Brothers also closed its Lakeview brewery and restaurant, after only a year in operation.”
Can Unions Get Companies Like Coffee Concerns To The Bargaining Table?
The Trib and the Sun-Times start 2023 by asking that question. “Two years ago, Starbucks, Colectivo and Intelligentsia weren’t unionized. But filings for new unions have swelled over the last couple of years as workers reevaluated their relationship with work during the pandemic while a tight labor market gave them more leverage in the workplace,” reports Talia Soglin at the Tribune. “But it’s not just Starbucks: In Chicago, museum workers at the Art Institute, faculty and staff members at its affiliated school and employees at the Newberry Library have all unionized this year. So have workers at Howard Brown Health, budtenders at Zen Leaf cannabis dispensaries and booksellers at Half Price Books in Niles. Baristas at four La Colombe Coffee Roaster locations filed for union elections in December. Thousands of graduate students at Northwestern and the University of Chicago filed petitions within two weeks of each other in November.” And now? “Just over a third of all new unions secure a contract within a year, but another third still don’t have a contract after three years, according to research by Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. ‘The NLRB can force an election under our labor law, but the NLRB can’t force a contract.'”
An example from the Seattle Times: “Starbucks illegally refused to bargain with Washington and Oregon stores, the NLRB says.” But, headlining a report from In These Times: “One Year In, Starbucks Workers Aren’t Backing Down.” Still, writes David Roeder at the Sun-Times: “Voting for a union is one thing; achieving a contract is quite another if the employer is in no hurry to begin bargaining… For now, the company probably thinks it can wait out a young workforce it believes will find another career.” But “more workers are sticking around in the service economy… It’s not an uplifting message for the rank and file, but it’s practical. Those fired-up Starbucks employees need to hang tough to avoid a venti-sized serving of discouragement.”
“Honeybees are suffering,” an expert tells the Philadelphia Inquirer (via the Trib). “Honeybees have been in decline for decades, causing headaches and higher costs for farmers who depend on the insects to pollinate their apples, almonds and 130 other fruit, nut and vegetable crops. The issue made headlines in 2006 with the emergence of a mysterious new phenomenon called colony collapse disorder, but the broader downturn in bee health was underway well before that, and it continues to this day.”
“Gender Queer: A Memoir”: America’s Most-Banned Book
Three years after its publication, Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” “notable for its startling honesty and explicit drawings, became the most banned book in America, a target of school boards, conservative candidates, preachers and parental groups, who condemned it as pornography aimed at impressionable children. Supported by librarians and vilified by Moms for Liberty, Kobabe was tugged from the writing life into the nation’s cultural wars,” reports Jeffrey Fleishman for Column One at the Los Angeles Times.
“’I feel a responsibility not to be quiet about censorship,’ said Kobabe, who has written opinion pieces and spoken out against the banning… by at least forty-nine school districts in Florida, Texas, Michigan, Utah and other states. ‘We’re at this moment where I think there are more than ever trans and nonbinary actors, authors, artists, politicians but there’s also more than ever legislation trying to limit the access to healthcare for trans students, access to sports teams or school clubs. Access to books. There’s this dichotomy of a renaissance of art and a backlash of legislation. I feel at the crossroads of hope and despair.'”
Chicago Reporter Names Hugo Balta Executive Editor
Hugo Balta has taken the role of executive editor at The Chicago Reporter, after more than a year as associate editor. Balta is an award-winning journalist and newsroom leader with multiple platform and market experience in English and Spanish language media and is an adjunct professor at Columbia College Chicago, teaching broadcast journalism classes. Balta will report to Nicole Trottie, publisher, “and drive the organization’s purpose to root out social and racial inequalities toward a more just society,” reports The Chicago Reporter.
Former Earth, Wind & Fire Drummer Fred White Was Sixty-Seven
“Fred White, who was born in Chicago in 1955, was also well-known for his collaborations with other legendary artists, including Diana Ross,” reports NBC 5. Rolling Stone describes White as a “drumming prodigy.” Reports NPR: “White went on to play the drums for the funk-soul-disco-R&B-fusion band in its heyday through the mid-1980s, including on all six albums in [their] run of consecutive top ten records on the Billboard pop chart. His tight and energetic beats made up the backbone of hits like ‘Shining Star,’ ‘Let’s Groove’ and… the enduring mega-hit ‘September,’ which hit number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 when it was released and has nearly 1.2 billion streams on Spotify.”
Sleeping Village Turns Five
Sleeping Village, the former post office-turned-music venue and fifty-six-rotating-tap bar, is celebrating its fifth year in Avondale. “The brainchild of music lovers, beer fanatics and the creative team behind legendary Logan Square craft cocktail haven The Whistler, Sleeping Village partners Billy Helmkamp, Rob Brenner and Eric Henry have made a name for the space as a go-to not only for Chicago’s music, arts and culture communities, but as a dynamic beer destination offering rare, unique, and sought-after beers from around the globe, plus ciders, natural wines and nonalcoholic options.” A jam-packed celebration begins this month, including shows, special events, live performances and local cider collaborations. The team is also bringing in rare and sought-after beers, ciders and nonalcoholic beverages. There are also events to raise money for Chicago’s independent music venues. The lineup of shows January 26-28 includes indie rock Squirrel Flower, industrial genre-bending Sextile, with host Club Drippy, and British electronic duo, Plaid. More details, including fundraisers and merchandise, here.
A History Of Ticketmaster
“Ticketmaster’s dark history,” reports the American Prospect in an extensive report, includes “a forty-year saga of kickbacks, threats, political maneuvering and the humiliation of Pearl Jam. The strange and awesome power of Ticketmaster, a company built around the novelty of a printer that could instantaneously produce a cardboard entry pass into thousands of concerts from the convenience of the nearest Sam Goody, grew as every other part of the business seemed to shrivel. Ticketmaster’s parent company is projected to gross $16 billion in 2022, more than the entire U.S. record industry grossed in 2021. Despite sponsoring almost no live events in the year following the outbreak of the pandemic, its stock price went up… Pop artists, according to Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino, now derive about ninety-five percent of their income from concert tours. In the process, the company replaced the old multimillion-dollar record contract with the ‘360-degree deal,’ wherein artists cede Live Nation the rights to not just their concert tours, but virtually everything fans might buy, from T-shirts to bootleg recordings to credit cards. This radically altered industry power dynamics, even for the rare star [like Taylor Swift] capable of moving millions of albums… Swift herself weighed in on Instagram, expressing that it was ‘excruciating for me to just watch mistakes happen with no recourse.’ It was a startling admission from a star who has confronted monopolists from Spotify to Apple to the private equity firm Carlyle Group and won, and a testament to the powerlessness musicians feel going up against the seemingly untouchable giant. But this time could be different…” Adds online advocate Anil Dash, “This is a great story, and well-reported.” But “it’s important to note that Prince pioneered his own entire online system for fan access to concerts, both with cheaper tickets and zealous attempts to stymie scalpers. It’s vital that we recognize Black artists’ work.”
Chicago Theater Powerhouse Frank Galati Was Seventy-Nine
Chris Jones at the Tribune on the life and legacy of a Chicago man of theater: “Frank Galati, a pivotal figure over five decades in Chicago theater, a Tony Award-winning Broadway director, a beloved longtime teacher at Northwestern University, an ensemble member at both the Steppenwolf and Goodman Theatres and a pioneer in the adaptation of novels and other narrative sources into exciting drama,” has passed. “Taken as a whole, the Galati oeuvre had two main strands. One was an emotional, optimistic, sweeping, desperately inclusive romanticism. The other was a quirky, contrarian obsession with form.” Steppenwolf’s statement from co-artistic directors Glenn Davis and Audrey Francis: “Frank had a profound impact on Steppenwolf, and all of us, over the years. For some, he was a teacher, mentor, director, adaptor, writer, fellow actor, and visionary. Regardless of the relationship, Frank always made others feel cared for, valued, and inspired in his ever-generous, joyful and compassionate presence.” Here’s two minutes from the opening scene of “Ragtime.”
Cabinet Of Curiosity Debuts With “The Icicle Picnic”
Cabinet of Curiosity, a Chicago-based theater and events company, has announced its first annual pageant, “The Icicle Picnic.” The inaugural family-friendly production, “Journey for the Sun,” features live music, beat-boxing, giant puppets, ridiculous devices and transforming sets to tell the story of two brothers who embark on a mythological journey to save the earth from an exploding sun. Artistic director Frank Maugeri returns to a theatrical form he crafted during his twenty-five-year tenure at the Redmoon Theater. The production kicks off Cabinet of Curiosity’s innovative model, where professional actors and artists will provide mentorship to emerging artists. “Journey for the Sun” is written by veteran Chicago playwright and adapter Seth Bockley and collectively directed by Frank Maugeri, Sadie Rose Glaspey, Michelle Billingsley, Alexandra Plattos Sulack and Yuri Lane. “The Icicle Picnic: Journey for the Sun” has nine performances at the Chopin Theatre, January 11-15. More here.
Raue Center For The Arts Names Erick Buckley Associate Director Of Education
Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake has named Erick Buckley as associate director of education. He has been a professor at NYU, NYFA, and The Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute and was recently director of education and outreach at the Appalachian Center for the Arts. Buckley was the first actor to perform both the roles of Marius and Jean Valjean in the Broadway production of “Les Misérables,” and appeared in the original Broadway production of “The Addams Family,” where he performed the role of Uncle Fester. More on the Raue Center for the Arts here.
ARTS & CULTURE & ETC.
Walnut Room Extends Christmas Season With Mariah Carey-Themed Drag Brunch
“New holiday traditions go beyond Christmas,” reports Louisa Chu at the Trib, including a Mariah Carey “All I Want for Christmas Is You” drag brunch at the Walnut Room on January 7.
End Of University Of California Strike Encourages Academic Unions Nationwide
“The University of California strike is over, culminating last month in significant improvements in wages and working conditions after 48,000 teaching assistants, tutors, researchers and postdoctoral scholars walked off their jobs in the nation’s largest labor action of academic workers,” reports the Los Angeles Times in a lengthy report on insurgent labor activism in American academia. “The effects of the historic strike still reverberate across the nation, helping energize an unprecedented surge of union activism among academic workers that could reshape the teaching and research enterprise of American higher education. In 2022 alone, graduate students representing 30,000 peers at nearly a dozen institutions filed documents with the National Labor Relations Board for a union election. They include USC, Northwestern, Yale, Johns Hopkins, the University of Chicago, Boston University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.”
Thinkpieces Normalizing Mockery Of Masks?
A Chicago photo illustrates a New York Times thinkpiece that suggests those who wear masks for health reasons ought to consider themselves odd: “It is hard to avoid the feeling of being judged as histrionic, some say, even when evidence suggests they are right to be cautious. And many say they face pressure, internal and external, to adjust to changing social norms around a virus that others are treating as a thing of the past.” (Polls were conducted.) “Many declined to speak on the record, for fear of reprisal or ridicule from employers or social groups. Others say the shift in attitudes has sometimes made them question themselves.” Novelist Celeste Ng: “What I’m getting from these ‘just stop masking!’ pieces is that deep down, some people feel so guilty about not masking that they’d like everyone to stop… so they can stop feeing guilty.” Cultural historian Mark Harris remarks, “‘The Last Holdouts’? What a bizarre headline. In NYC, I mask on the subway, in theaters, in crowds, in stores—and I see a ton of other people doing the same thing. Why should anybody be made to feel unreasonable or strange for protecting themselves or others?”
The sarcastic New Yorker headline: “The Case For Wearing Masks Forever.” Among critiques of that piece, San Francisco State assistant professor Martha Lincoln, “It’s unfortunate to see some of the most respected venues in journalism taking this turn—exceptionalizing individuals and groups who advocate for greater public health protections and portraying them as deviant, immature, countercultural, Marxists, etc.” Longtime pundit Duncan Black: “All the discourse promoted by our leading media outlets about mask wearing lunatics fails to understand that many people regularly see elderly people who do, akshually, keep dying of COVID in not-small numbers. 250,000 covid deaths in 2022! … I’m fairly sloppy with mask wearing—I wear them sometimes, when it’s convenient, when I remember—when inside and otherwise live my life ‘normally’ – but I don’t pitch an editor on a ‘mask wearing freaks’ feature weekly.”
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