Bringing in the spring market with growth in Chicago

by Urban Real Estate

The Chicago-area housing market is showing strength, as sales and median  prices increased for a second consecutive month after a slow 2019.

 In the city, 1,427 homes sold in January, according to data released by real  estate trade association, Illinois Realtors. That was an increase of 5.9 percent from January 2019 and followed December’s 10.5 percent year-over-year increase. Chicago is a consistent market in which the city is often monitored for its units and volume in communities as diverse as the residents who call them home.

“In evaluating where the market is headed, seeing real estate pick up after a slower fall and early winter is a welcome sign of stability,” said Matt Farrell, managing partner at Urban Real Estate. “We see cautiously optimistic buyers looking for just the right home, and making offers on compellingly priced houses.”

This especially matters as full-service real estate brokerages continue to  expand their own value proposition, in- creasing services and marketing efforts,  and raising the bar in the industry.

“We are proud to every day be able to do our part to move the market and  serve buyers, sellers, renters and investors from many corners of the world,”  Farrell said. “But we also know that staying ahead means fastening your seatbelt and trying new and different ways to bring quality service to our  clients—an endeavor we are embarking on this spring with excitement  and pride.

“The Chicago market continues to perform like few others for its diversity, access to education, history, culture, medicine, and real estate,” said the founder of the New Eastside’s number one real estate office. “We continue to raise the bar, guiding our clients through the single largest transaction of their lifetime, one we will continue to help them navigate in any market.”

Urban Real Estate has served the community for more than 15 years and Farrell said his gratitude for being in New Eastside is unparalleled.

“I am proud to call New Eastside  home to my family, as well as to our brokerage. It has been paramount to our  success, and we believe our growth will continue in large part because of the neighbors who support us and the work we do. It doesn’t get any better than this fantastic neighborhood in a city as grand as Chicago.”  

One Earth Film Festival connects people to the planet

by Elisa Shoenberger

The One Earth Film Festival hopes to change hearts and minds about the environment, sustainability, and climate change through the power of film. The festival will be presenting 48 films throughout Chicago from March 6-15.

“I think film presents us with stories,” said festival president Ana Garcia Doyle. “These are mostly documentaries. They put people into a place where they can connect with someone’s story or a story of a group of people.” 

But the festival screenings include more than just the movies. Each show has action partners related to the documentary. Action partners include the Nature Conservancy and the Natural Resources Defence Council who provide additional information and help people who want to get more involved, said Cassandra West, publicist for the festival. 

“We want them to take something from the film and inspire them to look around their community to see how they can make the environment they live in more sustainable,” West said.

Each year’s festival presents a broad spectrum of films covering areas of conservation, climate change and sustainable agriculture. Several films highlight issues in Chicago and Illinois. “It personalizes the issues in a way that few other things can,” Doyle said.

Director Ines Sommer will be showing her film “Seasons of Change on Henry’s Farm” at Patagonia, 48 E. Walton, from 5:30-9 p.m. on March 12. The film is about Illinois organic farmer Henry and Brockman who takes a fallow year. His former apprentices take over the farm but end up facing unexpected consequences—notably flooding.

“I think as the climate is changing, our food production will absolutely be impacted, farmers are already struggling now. Ultimately it will impact what we see on food shelves,” Sommers said.

Many films take the story of climate change and conservation and add the human element to them. “When people find out we are doing environmental work, they think we are talking about lightbulbs, not driving… we are, but it’s so much deeper than that. I do hope people will think it’s a human issue,” Doyle said.

The festival started when a group of people met after an event with community organization Green Community Connections in 2012, West said. Now in its ninth year, the festival has expanded from Oak Park to Chicago and other suburbs. There’s also a youth filmmaking contest with entries from all over the US.

For more information, visit oneearthfilmfest.org

A novel approach: Local writer Richard Rose works in new genre

by Doug Rapp

Local writer Richard Rose thought his screenplay, “Comic Crusaders,” would never get off the ground. It had been optioned twice by movie producers but never made.

Then Savant Books reached out, looking for works to publish as screenplay novels, which Rose describes as a bridge between novel and screenplay. He offered up “Comic Crusaders” which was released last November.

Rose described the plot in two sentences, likening his summary to the logline for a movie in TV Guide: “A teenage cartoonist uses a magic pen to bring a superhero to life to help him find his father who has mysteriously disappeared. In so doing, he unwittingly unleashes a grotesque supervillain and his dark legions challenging him to find a way to save his father while preventing the dark legions from taking over the world.”

To read a screenplay novel, “the reader has to use his or her imagination,” the semi-retired financial advisor said. “The action and the dialogue move the story forward at a much faster pace.” 

Whereas a novel or story might describe a scene in several paragraphs, Rose said he opens a scene in “Comic Crusaders” in an adolescent’s bedroom with a simple, “A teenage junkyard.”

The longtime Streeterville resident had been thinking of ways to reach today’s readers after observing people in bookstores.

“Kids don’t read like we did,” Rose said. “They’re very impatient. They’re looking at video games and movies.”

Rose, who has also published several novels and short stories, thinks screenplay novels like “Comic Crusaders” are one way to reach them. 

Richard Rose

“It’s a revolutionary way to beget a new genre and attract a much younger audience,” he said. 

The roots of “Comic Crusaders” go back to Rose’s childhood in Kokomo, Ind. He and his brother Charlie would create comic strips with superheroes and villains parodying well-known citizens of his north-central Indiana hometown. Over time, Rose said, it morphed into the story it is today.

“It’s lighthearted and a fun read,” he said, contrasting it with contemporary superhero stories that he characterized as violent and lacking humor.

Rose said he is working on “Redemption,” a sequel to his novel “The Lazarus Conspiracies,” about a maverick Chicago cop who uncovers a deadly conspiracy.

“Comic Crusaders” is available at Amazon.com


Get your brackets ready for March Madness

by Jon Cohn

It’s all about the brackets in March. 

Bracketology, to be precise. No, it’s not about shopping  hints from the fix-it folks at your local hardware store. And these brackets will definitely not  be sold on the Home Shop- ping Network. 

The brackets that come to the  forefront this month are all basketball induced. College basketball to be precise.

 For the uninitiated, brackets refer to a 68 team tournament, involving the top college basketball teams. Now  famously known as March Madness, it has become all the craze the past couple decades.

The cool thing about the tournament is that it brings in even the non-sports fans. Chicago residents who may  never glance at a college basketball score during the regular season, and who may think the “three second rule” has  to do with picking up food that you dropped on the floor, suddenly become fans. 

Office pools, family and friends lotteries, posted brackets everywhere. Just the general buzz of conversation can  bring the most remote of fans into the frenzy.

Often we have a favorite team. Maybe it’s the college we  attended. Maybe it’s a local school (not much here in Chica- go with only Loyola University a contender to make the “big  dance”), or maybe it’s a team you just happened to pick out of the selection hat and if the piece of paper said “Duke”— lucky you. My pick is often a school that ends in “Technical Institute,” which usually means my players will graduate with great jobs but my team loses in the first round.

All the fun begins with Selection Sunday on March 15. Once it begins, the games come at you in waves. It is a three-week whirlwind that culminates on Monday April 6 with the National Championship.

Finally, one of the 68 competing teams will be crowned as Champion.

And then March Madness quietly recedes.

John Cohn is a New Eastside resident.  

Cover image courtesy of PNG Tree.

Volumes Bookstore begins new chapter in Gold Coast

by Doug Rapp

A popular Wicker Park bookstore has opened a second location at 900 North Michigan Shops in the Gold Coast. Rebecca George, who co-owns Volume Books with her sister Kimberly, said they were approached by the six-level shopping destination after they had a successful pop-up store at Water Tower Place during the 2018 holidays.

“They recognized that most of their clientele were more local and how they can serve the needs of that local community in a more effective way…I think our missions align a little bit,” George said

A former educator, George said the response to Volumes’ new downtown location, which opened in late September, has been positive.

“Everyone’s very thankful that there’s a bookstore nearby,” she said. “We already have a number of regulars we see on a weekly basis.”

Similar to their original location, the new Volumes will feature supplemental programming. George said they’re hosting weekly story time and may branch out beyond their fifth-floor location to do events in the Aster Hall space on the fifth and sixth floors. She added that they’re starting a happy hour book club next month and another afternoon book club catering to retirees living nearby.

George said they will host author events as well, including mystery/thriller writers in late March. John F. Hogan, who wrote a history of the Chicago Water Tower, spoke in December but bad weather hampered attendance, so they may reschedule that, George said.

“We’ve got lots of plans in the works,” she said, noting that 900 N. Michigan wants more programming for community building. “We’re just now getting into the programming aspect and what we hope to build over there.”

George said it is challenging to open a bookstore these days downtown.

“It’s like any bookstore—it’s a tough margin business, it’s a small margin business,” she said.

George said joining the established 900 North Michigan Shops makes it easier.

“No bookstore in today’s world could open ground level downtown,” she said. “It’s impossible. The cost is too insane anywhere in downtown Chicago…The trouble with being downtown right there is that in a vertical world, everyone’s really contained especially in the cold months.”

George said they’re hoping to reach out to businesses and hotels in the area to raise awareness and are considering a delivery service for customers with limited mobility. Despite the challenges of opening a new location, George said she’s pleased with what she, her sister and their employees have established.

“I really enjoy that community,” she said. “I’ve gotten to know a lot of really interesting people. I’m excited for what we can get done there in the world of books.”

Pinched on the River opens wine bar with dollar deal

by Doug Rapp

A local eatery is offering mid-week wine deals.

On Wednesdays, Pinched on the River, 443 E. Illinois St., is offering first glasses of wine for $1.

From 6 to 8 p.m. on hump days, customers can try a glass of red, white, rose or sparkling wine for a buck. The choices will be rotating varieties selected by staff, general manager Nasi Dimashi said. 

The wines will be offered upstairs at Pinched, where their coffee shop is located, but are also available downstairs at the main bar in the restaurant. 

Dimashi said the restaurant, which serves fast-casual eclectic Mediterranean food, started the deal in late January.

“People want to grab a quick drink,” Dimashi said. “We thought, why don’t we offer wine since we have so many delicious ones?” Customers aren’t obligated to eat but can grab a drink for a nice “mid-week break.”

“We want to bring some unique wines you don’t find daily yet they are delicious,” he said, noting that many came from countries not known for wine, such as Bulgaria and Slovenia.

Dimashi said his favorite is the Pullus pinot grigio from Slovenia, which is dry but looks like a rose since it’s fermented with the grape skins to give it a rosy shade.

“It’s a very interesting wine,” he said. 

The initial dollar wine night exceeded their expectations, Dimashi said. They thought a few people might stop by, but “the entire place filled up…which was a good problem to have,” he said.

The response from the neighborhood has been great, he said. “Overall the neighborhood has been very supportive. We’ve seen an increase in walk-in traffic.”

In addition to wine, Pinched offers cider and beer, both traditional and craft, including local breweries such as 312 and Two Brothers, which makes a special hazy IPA called Son of a Pinched exclusively for the restaurant. 

Happy hour at the main bar is 3 to 6 p.m. on weekdays. 

Pinched on the River, named because of the “pinch” of many flavors, Dimashi said, is the business’ second location. The original is in Lombard and owner Ranka Njegovan chose Streeterville when looking for restaurant space in the city.

“We wanted to be somewhere neighborhoody,” Dimashi said. “It’s a friendly environment, a family environment, and touristy with Navy Pier nearby…I love the neighborhood.”

Doorperson of the Month: Zack Gardner, Park Millennium

by Mat Cohen

Despite his Texas roots, Zack Gardner has been able to work through the shock of the Chicago winter to become New Eastside News Doorperson of the Month.

Gardner has been working at Park Millennium for nearly six years, but he still misses the Texas heat.

“I still haven’t gotten acclimated with the weather,” he said. “I’ve never spent so much money on a jacket.”

Gardner was born in Little Rock, Ark., raised in Texas and went to school in Dallas. After graduating, he moved to Chicago in 2013 with his twin brother, who works at the Signature Room. The cold weather was not ideal, but having a warm heart and interacting with residents has helped.

“I love to talk to people,” he said. “I’m a people person, I love to interact with kids, I like learning new things about people and just having a conversation.

“I guess you could call me a social butterfly.”

Gardner enjoys playing and coaching basketball when he’s not working. He has a Chihuahua-Terrier mix who occasionally accompanies him at the building.

“There’s definitely strong relationships with the residents, as well as kids and animals,” he said. “I probably know more animals’ and kids’ names, versus their parents’ names.”

Zack’s cousin referred him to the building, and he views the residents as family.

“We’re pretty much living in someone’s home, to be honest. That’s why I don’t really look at it as a job,” he said. “When I’m training people I tell them, ‘It’s a job for you, but not for them. You’re pretty much in somebody’s basement and if you stay long enough you’ll turn into family.’”

Zack said the only bad part of his job is when residents move away.

“I enjoy working with the people here,” he said. “This is a very nice, diverse environment, and everyone’s in good spirits, so that helps the job a lot.

“I wouldn’t trade it for the world, it’s nice to establish those relationships.”

Police asked to patrol sidewalks at CAPS meeting

by Mat Cohen

At the Feb. 6 New Eastside  CAPS meeting, community members and police discussed competition for sidewalk space by pedestrians, scooters and Segways. 

“I don’t want anyone to get hurt by these yo-yo’s,” one male resident said, noting that many violators know they are in the wrong, but do it anyway. 

CAPS Sgt. Anthony Dombrowski said any change in  patrols by the police department will have to be dealt with  on an individual basis. “It’s one of many different people competing for space,” Dombrowski said.

 A woman brought up an incident regarding her friend pulling  out of a garage onto North Garland Court when a man pushed  over a trashcan and dented the  car. She said there was a police car on the street but they didn’t do anything about it.

 Dombrowski said to email him to put in a formal complaint against the officers who were allegedly present and who did not take action.

There was general concern among residents regarding the increase of marijuana in the city. A woman asked, “How do you test someone if they’re high if you  can’t smell it?” 

Officers said there’s no chemical test, but it’s a similar situation  to a DUI test to see if the person is able to follow instructions clearly, as well as other indicators to see if they are intoxicated.

 Dombrowski said that “violent  crime is the focus” of the Chicago Police Department. He said  violent crime doesn’t occur much in the 1st District, but in the areas where it does, there’s a lack of  trust and cooperation with police.

He said a lot of robberies and arrests happen at, or close to, the CTA.

“The mayor is very concerned with what’s going on at the CTA and there’s going to be some changes.” Dombrowski did not  elaborate on what those changes might be.

 The next CAPS meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. March 5 at 400 E. Randolph St.

Image courtesy of PNG Tree. 

Stay ‘inn’ luxury this February with local hotels

by Stephanie Racine

Don’t have time to get away this winter? Take a staycation at one of Chicago’s best hotels. 

The Ivy Hotel, 233 E. Ontario in Streeterville, offers an at-home getaway for Chicagoans. The hotel has spacious and apartment-size rooms, with rainfall showers and deep-soaking tubs. The hotel is offering a special staycation deal for Illinois residents. With a state ID, rooms are 10% off for one night, plus a dessert of choice from the hotel’s restaurants. Options include Divine Lounge’s Carrot Cake or Cookie Sundae. With the discount, a studio queen starts at $98. For information, visit ivyhotelchicago.com.

The Park Hyatt has sumptuous food and spa experiences in February for downtowners looking for an escape. The Chef’s Counter Tasting Menu at The Park Hyatt restaurant NoMI is an exclusive and decadent experience. With just four seats at the counter, the chefs prepare an eight-course meal right in front of you. Menus change every 4-6 weeks and focus on one food group. The current focus is alliums—think garlic, shallots, onions and leeks. The offer is available for $145 per person on the reservation website Tock.

The Park Hyatt’s spa has a “tasting menu” of their own. Pick three spa treatments, each lasting 45 minutes, for a well-rounded relaxation experience. Options include facials, massages and body treatments. Pricing starts at $410 and treatments can be booked by calling the spa at (312) 239-4200.

Hotel Julian is offering romantic “Cultured and Cuffed” packages, during “cuffing season,” a slang term used for the colder months when love tends to bloom. Each package is based on a famous Chicago couple. The Barack and Michelle Obama package includes tickets to the Art Institute and an in-room champagne toast. Hotel Julian suggests their Smart TVs, using personal streaming accounts, to view “Southside with You,” the biographical film based on the couple’s early years. 

The Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone package is based on the Hollywood comedic pair, who met at a writing class in Chicago in 1998. The deal includes Second City tickets and pre-comedy show cocktails at Hotel Julian’s restaurant, ALK. To book one of the packages, email info@hoteljulianchicago.com

The Loews Chicago Hotel staycation offer is for the whole family. The hotel encourages visitors to “get snowed ‘inn’” with them. The package includes valet parking, 20% off restaurant and room service and two free cocktails. For the kids, enjoy one free movie rental (up to $19.99), hot cocoa, a decorate-your-own cookie set created by Loews’ pastry chef and a kid’s pop up tent and “campfire.” Book between Feb. 7-12 and the package will include two free tickets per family for the Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier. Visit loewshotels.com/chicago-downtown. 

No winter break for the marine unit in Chicago

by Doug Rapp

In the summertime, you see police boats and helicopters cruising the shoreline. But during the winter, although the lakefront is desolate—save for a few hardy joggers—it doesn’t mean the marine unit isn’t working.

“During the winter, we still see a fair amount of activity on the lake as the marine unit is still responsible for various Homeland Security checks, lakefront and river patrols and emergency rescues of individuals that may fall in or be discovered in the lake,” said Anthony Guglielmi, chief communications officer with the Chicago Police Department.

“It’s also when the officers within the unit complete much of their mandated departmental training,” he said.

Sgt. Eddie Beltran, training and dive coordinator for the marine unit, said winter can be just as busy as summer. 

People end up in the water “all the time,” he said. “It doesn’t change because of the weather.”

Beltran cited a recent incident when a park district salt truck slid into the lake near Oak Street beach. The two employees escaped the truck before it submerged, according to ABC7 Chicago, and the marine unit helped recover the vehicle.

Beltran said the group also does ice training in the winter to simulate rescues when the lake and river are frozen. 

“It’s different with the ice.” he said. “We always tell people there’s no such thing as safe ice. People walk out on the ice and it’s possible they could fall through and get themselves in trouble.”

A 12-year veteran of the marine unit, Beltran said all officers are certified divers and their equipment is able to handle the brutal Chicago winters. They wear “drysuits,” which are completely waterproof, along with full face masks. 

“It protects us from contaminants but also protects us from exposure,” Beltran said. “It’s pretty good in the winter…we’re completely encapsulated.” 

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