What to consider before selling your condo

(Published Aug. 1, 2019)

By Sheetal Balani

Last year, as I was preparing to list a River North condo, I discovered a problem. 

The condo was facing major litigation and the homeowners association (HOA) was bleeding cash fighting the lawsuit. Its reserves were dwindling, so to bring in some revenue, the HOA levied a $1 million special assessment—essentially a one-time fee to condo owners and potentially any new buyers to bring in revenue—and overnight, every lender I contacted backed out of financing the purchase.

Since the HOA was in poor shape, only cash buyers could purchase in the building, drastically limiting the pool of buyers. 

This was bad news for the sellers and unfortunately, this situation is not uncommon. The fact is, selling a condo isn’t as simple as selling a house. Condominiums have their own advantages and challenges and sellers should know a few things before they explore the market. 

First, your condo is only as good as your HOA. HOAs charge each unit owner a monthly assessment as part of the association. This  fee covers maintenance of the building’s exterior and any common areas, as well as a master insurance policy for the building, door staff, building engineers, maintenance and a property manager. The fee also possibly pays for some utilities such as water, gas, internet and cable. Each HOA is also responsible for maintaining a cash account, called reserves, to cover future operating expenses, as well as special projects such as tuckpointing or a new roof.

Why does this matter? If your condo association does not have sufficient money in reserve and a major capital expenditure arises, this could mean residents must pay a special assessment—extra fees to cover the cost of repairs that exceed the current budget. 

If there is a special assessment due when you are selling your condo, the buyer may expect you to pay for it, or they may decide to simply move onto a different building. It’s important to be aware of the financial health of your HOA before you decide to list your home.  

More than likely the buyer will need to get financing. The buyer’s lender will do their due diligence and examine your HOA documents and the association’s financial records, any pending or current litigation and the percentage of owner-occupants versus renter-occupants. All of these factors are critical for a successful loan. If the lender determines the reserves are insufficient, uncovers pending litigation or discovers the ratio of renters versus owners is unfavorable, that could mean the buyer’s loan is declined.

These are just a handful of issues the seller has to consider before getting the property on the market. However, if the seller works with an experienced real estate advisor, all of those challenges can be overcome with experience and skill.

Getting to the ‘finish line’ — decorating and upgrade tips

(Published July 31, 2019)

By Urban Real Estate

Deciding how to invest in a condo remodel is always a balance between the improvements made for your own enjoyment and those made with the expectation that they will positively increase the value of a home.

High-end finishes and appliances are a great way to start, however, not everyone will pay for your gold toilet or you pink granite. Others may see your finishes as a detriment, costing you more at the closing table.

So what’s the right solution? Michael Emery, senior partner and broker at Urban Real Estate, recommends having a plan, and sticking to it.

“If you are trying to make your house your home, be bold and invest smartly in finishes, flooring, molding and appliances. That will add value, but also make you feel like your home is your palace. Any time you have a thoughtful color scheme, top-notch touches and a home that looks stellar, you will do well,” he said.

The New Eastside brokerage recently signed a contract for a new listing at 400 E. Randolph Unit 2119 that is certain to break records.

“This particular listing is done right and is a true palace in the sky,” Emery said. “There is not a single detail left untouched in this two bedroom, two bathroom, 1,250 square foot residence. Everything from its oversized entrance, to the crystal wall sconces, paired with its ceiling moldings and perimeter lighting, this home is show-stopping in every way, a true hidden gem in the heart of our neighborhood.” 

The home also boasts hues in gold leaf and crepe antique, an open plan kitchen with thick marble, an elegant breakfast bar, a handmade mosaic glass wall in the master bath and a redesigned layout with hidden features for unusual—yet clever—storage areas.

“This home is the perfect example of class, finishes and appliances which all will help bring in top dollar for this home,” Emery said. 

The listing price is $715,000. For more information on this incredible residence, contact Michael Emery at (312) 528-9288 or email Michael@urbanre.com, or visit UrbanRealEstate.com for 400 E. Randolph, Unit 2119. 

Some friendly (and not so friendly) reminders for watching the Air and Water Show

(Published July 31, 2019)

By Jon Cohn

One of the Midwest’s great summer events descends upon the city as the Chicago Air and Water Show rears it’s noisy, but exciting, head on Aug. 17 and 18. 

Huge crowds are expected and the Chicago beachfront will be packed, which could present some interesting challenges. So, as a long-time veteran of the spectator wars at the Air and Water Show, we present some crucial “don’t forgets.”

  • Don’t forget to get there early. More than two million people attended last year, so there will be battles for prime viewing locations. For an up close and personal experience, North Avenue Beach is perfect, but prepare to be squished in among a throng of fellow viewers.

Great viewing locations exist along Oak Street, Ohio Street and Fullerton Avenue beaches. My secret spot is the long line of elevated steps between Ohio and Oak streets, offering a great view and it’s a little less crowded.

  • Don’t forget sunscreen. If it’s a hot day and you forgot your SPF 30 you will cook like a Fourth of July hot dog on a grill. A hat with a flap is also recommended.
  • Don’t forget to bring fluids (preferably water). Bring snacks, too, if you don’t want to wait in long lines for food.
  • Speaking of long lines, don’t forget to go to the bathroom before you head out. Washrooms are available along the route, but you might as well bring a book as the wait can be excruciating.

Don’t forget to bring a camera and binoculars. The up-close looks can be spectacular.

Don’t forget to keep an eye on your dog. The loud noises can freak out even the calmest of pets.

Don’t forget Friday is practice day. Many a downtowner has panicked thinking air raids or worse when the planes do their runs.

Don’t forget to duck when the Blue Angels or The Thunderbirds head your way in a screeching, loud, downward spiral. It’s a natural reaction, we all do it.

Finally, don’t forget to enjoy the show.

New Eastside cancer survivor runs to raise funds

(Published July 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

New Eastside resident Alan Goldman remembers what it was like when he got the news he had prostate cancer 12 years ago. It was during a routine physical.

“My first thought was, this is the first time I was exposed to something so severe, that could affect my entire life,” he said. “I wanted to fight it aggressively, and I wanted it out of my body ASAP. I wanted it done swifty and I wanted a finality so I wouldn’t have to fight this my entire life.”

The prostate is a small gland useful for reproduction found only in men. It is also a common source of cancer—after skin cancer it is the second-most common form of cancer in men. 

Goldman made it through OK. He said his brother in law had prostate cancer, so he had a support network in his family and these days, he is fit and healthy. 

“The surgery was very successful,” he said. “I’m very healthy. I’m one of the lucky ones I guess.”

But he is not done fighting—if not for himself, then for other men across the nation. 

For the past three years, Goldman has been raising money and running in SEA Blue Chicago Prostate Cancer Walk and Run. This year’s run is Sept. 15 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Lincoln Park. 

The walk and run is Chicago’s oldest prostate cancer fundraiser and it raises money for Us TOO International, a nonprofit that supports men who are dealing with prostate cancer and their families.

“I wanted to get involved in something that’s had a big impact on my life,” he said. 

Goldman did more than get involved. He is now on the board of Us TOO, and he is co-chair of the SEA Blue walk and run. Goldman’s charity work helps hundreds, if not thousands of people. 

“The money goes to support groups around the United States and we have over 200 support groups,” he said. 

Goldman explained that prostate cancer is a disease that afflicts men, but it affects the family—even after the patient beats the disease. One of the side effects of removing the prostate, for example, is erectile dysfunction and that alone can cause trauma. 

“That could be devastating to a person’s psyche,” he said. 

Goldman also suggested men over 50 get a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test every year. This blood test can screen for prostate cancer and it can save lives. 

“Most men don’t go in for an annual PSA test,” Goldman said. “Men think they’re fine if they feel fine. But you could have a cancer growing in your prostate and you can feel fine.”

To sign up for the charity walk and run, visit ustoo.rallybound.org. 

Signature Room launches signature beer

(Published July 31, 2019)

The Signature Room, the restaurant located on the 95th floor of the former John Hancock Center, announced in July the launch of its first exclusive beer label, Top View Brew. The beer is a result of a partnership with suburban brewery Crystal Lake Brewing, currently offered exclusively at The Signature Room.

“We have been fans of Crystal Lake Brewing for quite some time—and their Beach Blonde has been a top seller for years—so partnering with them on a custom beer was a no-brainer,” said The Signature Room’s VP of Sales and Marketing, Tricia Bryant. “We hope Top View Brew will be a beverage that guests want to enjoy not just during the summer, but all year-round.

Top View Brew is a golden wheat ale with smooth malt sweetness, low bitterness and a bright lemon aroma at 4.5 percent alcohol by volume. The brew pairs well with salads, along with light fish and chicken dishes and can handle spicy foods and cut through heavier dishes.

Shedd welcomes new whale

(Published July 31, 2019)

The Shedd Aquarium announced Mauyak (MY-yak), a 38-year-old beluga whale, gave birth to a healthy calf on July 3. The entire birth, from the emergence of the baby’s flukes to complete delivery, took 33 minutes. Both mother and calf are progressing well and will remain under 24-hour observation by Shedd’s animal care team for several months. 

Shortly after the birth, the calf swam to the surface and took its first breath, assisted and supported by an attentive Mauyak. The two then began to swim together and bond as Mauyak guided the new arrival around its home. The sex of the calf has yet to be determined. Animal care staff members estimate the calf to be approximately five feet long and weigh about 150 pounds.

Primark fashion opens first Midwest store in Chicago 

Primark is planning to bring its “Amazing Fashion at Amazing Prices” to the Midwest for the first time. 

International retailer Primark in July announced it will open its first store in the Midwest in Chicago. Primark has signed a lease with The Georgetown Company for 35 N. State St., the largest lease on State Street since 2014. 

The company has not announced an opening date yet. The location is a former GAP store. 

Primark will take over the entire 45,000-square-foot building and trade from 36,200 square feet of retail space over three levels. Before an opening date is announced the iconic property is undergoing a complete renovation tailored to fit Primark’s specific needs, including modernization of the exterior and complete interior remodeling. 

Located at the intersection of State and Washington Streets, the location is home to an eclectic mix of restaurants, entertainment options, cultural institutions and world- famous landmarks. The neighborhood has long been known as one of the top shopping destinations in the United States.

“Primark has been searching for a Midwest location as part of the company’s continued expansion into the United States,” said Tom Meager, Property Director for Primark. “We are fortunate to have found and secured such an impressive location in the heart of the vibrant Chicago market.”

“We recognized an amazing opportunity with the State Street corridor as one of the most sought after retail destinations in the country,” said Adam Flatto from Georgetown. “As one of the fastest growing retailers in the United States, Primark is a perfect fit for the building and will be a welcome addition to a popular list of neighboring businesses in the Loop.” 

Founded in 1969, Primark is a leading fashion retailer headquartered in Ireland. Primark offers a diverse range of the latest trends in women’s, men’s and children’s wear, homeware, accessories and beauty products.

Chicago police report string of thefts in Michigan Ave. stores

According to a warning police issued in July, several groups of young people are targeting Michigan Ave. retail stores for thefts. 

The thefts began in early June, spanned through early July, and were committed in stores in the 400 block of Michigan Ave. According to a news release, in each incident, multiple offenders entered retail stores, loaded merchandise into bags, and exited the store. The offenders fled on foot. In all eight incidents, the thieves worked in the afternoon or evening and the thefts occurred on weekends and on weekdays. 

The police have made no arrests, though the suspects include one-to-six African American adults, ages 18-25 and one-to-three African American women, ages unknown.  

Chicago police urge store owners to keep records of property serial numbers and call police immediately if they are victims of theft and to give officers good descriptions of the thieves. 

Woman sexually assaulted following theft on Randolph Street

A woman had her phone snatched and was then sexually assaulted on Randolph St. between 3 and 3:40 a.m. on July 9.

According to Chicago police, a 27-year-old female was waiting at a Red Line platform at State and Lake when an unknown black male took her phone and started running. 

She chased him down the street and eventually to the 100 block of East Randolph at which point the offender ran into an underground parking garage stairwell. The victim followed and the offender sexually assaulted the victim in the stairwell, and then fled on foot.

No one is in custody, though police describe the suspect as black man, 25-35 years old, wearing long black dreads and, at the time, a red or black hat, a black t-shirt, black pants, black shoes and a dark, multi colored backpack.The victim was transported to Northwestern in stable condition. 

Police are investigating the incident and meanwhile urge residents to remain aware of their surroundings and if confronted by an assailant to remain calm and never pursue a fleeing assailant. 

Carr Workplaces raising funds for education

Carr Workplaces, 200 E Randolph St. 5100, a New Eastside short-term shared workspace, is raising money to help disadvantaged students. 

According to a news release, Oliver Carr Jr., founder of Carr Workplaces, has long sought to address poverty through education. In 2012, Carr created Rising Stars, a private foundation that raises money for schools who provide superior education to children with difficult backgrounds. 

The company’s annual backpack drive raises funds for Rising Stars and all donations are donated to schools to help cover the cost of tuition for a child of limited means.

Through August, anyone can donate to risingstars.org to help pay for someone’s education. 

Three people assaulted on Washington St. 

According to the Chicago Police Department, two people were stabbed and another person was hit July 6 at 11:25 in the 100 block of E. Washington St. 

According to a police report, one black man and one black woman approached three victims, talked with them and then stabbed two and hit the other person. The offenders then ran off. 

The police are seeking the public’s help in identifying the attackers. The male is about 6-foot or 6-foot-one-inch tall and has dreads while the female wears her hair in a braid. 

If anyone is a victim, police recommend calling 911 immediately and if anyone has information about this incident they should call the bureau of detectives at 312-747-8380.

Cirrus releases new interior renderings, expects to break ground in Sept. 

In late July, Cirrus developers began to stage the construction site for the proposed 47-story condo unit. This included installing barricades and fencing, though the groundbreaking is not scheduled until September. 

At present, pedestrian traffic will be diverted, though the project will not yet impact vehicular traffic. 

Even so, LendLease, one of the developers, released some new interior renderings showcasing the views from several of the planned 363 units. 

The units will range from 650 to 3,000 square feet and will be priced anywhere from $400,000 to $4 million and will include one-to-four bedroom plans and two townhome residences at ground level and 15 penthouse units on the top floors. 

Pre-sale for the 211 N. Harbor Drive units started in April, and according to LendLease, sales have been healthy. The Cirrus development will later be joined by two other units. All three buildings are designed by New Eastside’s bKL Architecture.

City council passes stricter drag racing, drifting penalties 

In the last week of July, the Chicago City Council passed Alderman Brendan Reilly’s drag racing and drifting ordinance, which will increase the fines for drag racing and drifting to at least $5,000 to no more than $10,000 per offense.

The ordinance also establishes a $500 fine for operating a motor vehicle with an altered muffler within the City of Chicago. 

Reilly has been working with the Chicago Police Department and the Chicago Department of Transportation to combat the issue of dangerous drag racing and drifting on Lower Wacker Drive.

According to a press release, Reilly believes that his new ordinance will help deter drivers from partaking in this illegal behavior, and will assist the Chicago Police Department in combating this issue. 

The ordinance will take effect on Sept. 28.

Grant Park Music Festival to close with Mahler’s ‘Resurrection Symphony’

The 85th season of the Grant Park Music Festival, led by conductor Carlos Kalmar with chorus director Christopher Bell, concludes in Aug. 17 at Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion. The season closes with Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, featuring the award-winning Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus with guest soloists.

Until then, all concerts take place on Wednesday and Friday evenings at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. Concerts on Aug. 2 and 3 move indoors to the Harris Theater during Lollapolooza. The complete Grant Park Music Festival schedule is available at gpmf.org.

Kalmar conducts the final weeks of the festival beginning with Mozart’s Prague Symphony (Aug. 2-3) featuring violin soloist Vadim Gluzman in a performance of Bernstein’s Serenade.

The Grant Park Orchestra returns to the Pritzker Pavilion with The Mambo Kings, known for their explosive blend of Afro-Cuban rhythms and jazz improvisation, for Hot Latin Nights (Aug. 7). The week concludes with the rarely performed A Mass of Life (Aug. 9-10) by Frederick Delius featuring soprano Melody Moore, mezzo-soprano Ewa Plonka, tenor Andrew Staples, and bass-baritone Nathan Berg.  

The final week at the Grant Park Music Festival includes Rimsky-Korsakov’s famed Flight of the Bumblebee, Aug. 14, from his opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan, Amy Beach’s Variations on a Balkan Theme, and Morton Gould’s Cowboy Rhapsody.

Patrons can order one night member passes for reserved seats, starting at $26, by calling 312.742.7647 or going online gpmf.org. and select a seat down front in the member section of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Membership support helps to keep the Festival free for all. For every Grant Park Music Festival concert, there are seats that are free and open to the public in Millennium Park’s Seating Bowl and on the Great Lawn, available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Navigating drone laws may be tricky for operators in Chicago

(Published July 31, 2019)

By Elisa Shoenberger, Staff writer

It may be tempting to fly a drone downtown whether to get a bird’s eye view on the Lollapalooza crowds or to get a unique shot of the skyline, it may be impossible to do so legally. 

Chicago’s laws allow drone operators to fly their craft with a permit, but according to afficionados, getting a permit is near impossible thanks to confusing, byzantine rules. 

“All drones are restricted unless given a permit for flying,” said Anthony Guglielmi, Chief Communications Officer of Chicago Police Department. 

In addition to a permit, operators have to get permission from the property owner and in the case of Grant Park, that would be the Chicago Parks District. Without that permission and without a permit, operators face citations. 

Jeffrey Antonelli is a drone enthusiast and also a lawyer, and he believes the city’s laws wouldn’t stand up in court. Antonelli points out that since the Federal Aviation Administration regulates air space and not the city, Chicago’s air regulations would probably be thrown out if someone challenged them in court. Nevertheless, Antonelli said he doesn’t fly drones in the city.

Alan Perlman, CEO of UAV Coach, a drone training company, said the FAA classified Grant Park airspace as Class G, meaning it is uncontrolled airspace, so recreational drone pilots should be able to fly there under federal law. 

Even so, getting a permit is hard. 

Antonelli said some people have tried getting a permit from the park district and while he’s heard some success stories, he’s been unable to get one. 

“The city doesn’t have a uniform answer,” Antonelli said. 

A spokesperson for the parks district could not explain how to get a permit. 

The FAA mandates that people cannot fly drones over people or cars for safety concerns and pilots must be able to see their drone at all times and they cannot fly higher than 400 feet.

Perlman said people should first learn how to use their drone. 

“You are bringing a flying lawnmower into the air. It’s really important to have intimate understanding of how the aircraft works.” 

New Eastside Doorperson of the Month: Wade King at Aqua

(Published July 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Wade King is approaching his 10th year as doorperson at the Aqua. It’s his first job as a doorperson and he said he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

“They treat me right and they pay me good,” he said with a laugh.

King said a friend referred him to the position, and he hasn’t looked back.

“The variety of people has always been a draw,” he said. “You meet all different type of people from all walks of life and from everywhere and different ages. This building is a melting pot.”

Besides the residents of the 900-unit building, King said he’ll have to help lost Radisson guests who mistakenly wander into the residents’ entrance and even the odd sight-seer who, armed with an architecture map, wander into the Jeanne Gang-designed building seeking information.

“It’s one of the more popular buildings because of the design. People go on an architecture tour and have questions and you have to answer their questions,” he said. “We have to field all types of questions. We pretty much have to know it all. We’re like a human kiosk.”

However, King is quick to point out The Aqua staffs two people at the door, and he said he would not be able to deliver the same kind of service without a partner.

Sean Hayes, the resident who nominated King, said the doorperson should train doorpeople all over the city—and then the nation.

“Wade King and (prior doorperson of the month) Josh Harris should start their own consulting company as expert door staff training and management consultants to be hired by property management companies, like Magellan, throughout Chicago and then later expand nationally,” Hayes wrote in an email.

But for King, Chicago is home.

“It’s the best city in the world. I’ll visit anywhere, but this is home,” he said. “It’s got everything. It’s got a lakefront, you got buildings, you got suburbs, good food, good music and we’ve got all the seasons.”

When he’s not working, King spends his free time drawing and bowling. King said he grew up bowling with his parents, and he’s still in a league with his mom. King said his personal best is bowling a 275, but don’t ask him how he did it.

“I wish I knew because I would have gotten the 300 if I knew what it was,” King said. “It was one of those days that everything you throw comes up and it’s like, alright. But I’m still trying to get that 300, and when I get to 300 I’ll probably quit. Mission accomplished.”

To nominate your favorite doorperson, email info@neweastsidecommunity.com with the door person’s name and why you think they should be the doorperson of the month. Each winner will receive a $25 gift card to Mariano’s.

Energetic ‘Music Man’ opens at Goodman

(Published July 10, 2019)

By Bob Oswald

The Goodman Theatre is closing out the 2018-2019 season with an energetic presentation of “The Music Man.” 

Meredith Wilson’s story about con man Harold Hill who plans to swindle the town of River City, Iowa with the promise of a band opened to an enthusiastic crowd Monday night and kept a rousing pace throughout.

Hill, played by Goodman alum Geoff Packard, gets things moving as he arrives in town and convinces citizens to support the band. Packard and Monica West, who plays the town’s librarian Marian Paroo, work beautifully together and don’t miss a note while keeping up with the dazzling and intense dance moves worked out by choreographer Denis Jones.

The production is directed by Mary Zimmerman, who has directed an impressive 16 productions during her 25 years at the Goodman Theatre.
Following the opening, the Goodman Theatre announced it has added a second and final extension week to “The Music Man.” Due to an “overwhelming demand for tickets,” the show will run through Aug. 18. in the 856-seat Albert Theatre. Tickets, from $25 to $142, are available at GoodmanTheatre.org/MusicMan, at 312-443-3800 or at the box office, 170 North Dearborn.

7 face charges after Cloud Gate, cancer memorial targeted with graffiti

(Published July 3, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Days after Chicago police arrested seven people for spraying graffiti on the Maggie Daley Park Cancer Survivor’s Wall and Millennium Park’s Cloud Gate, AKA The Bean, the graffiti is gone.

By Wednesday morning, throngs of tourists were again snapping selfies at the Bean, the iconic Chicago landmark, even as the police say they are still investigating the incident and all seven suspects remain without charge.

The police would not release the names or ages of the suspects, although a police spokesperson reported that the suspects include four adult males, two adult females and one male juvenile.

The spokesperson said CPD will release more information once the seven people have been charged.

Among some symbols, the tags included the words “35th Street Crew,” though the police spokesperson would not offer an explanation for that.

More generally, in June police Sergeant Anthony Dombrowski told New Eastside residents at the monthly CAPS meeting that graffiti is an ongoing issue in the neighborhood. He said some gang-related graffiti had been spotted by a New Eastside resident who reported it and it was cleaned up.

“If you do see graffiti,” Dombrowski said, “If you can take a picture of it and send it to the alderman’s office and send it to our office and we’ll get rid of it.”

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