Tuesday, February 20, 2024

'Fat Miilk' Now Open At 5018 N. Broadway

"Fat Miilk," a Vietnamese coffee company recently had their soft opening on Saturday, February 17 and judging by the line of coffee lovers, it was a success!

Coffee lovers waiting outside of Fat Miilk for their soft opening

If you've never had Vietnamese iced coffee, it is bolder and "slaps" you, as Fat Miilk's tagline mentions. 

Fat Miilk offers a wide variety of whole beans and lots of other things you might need to brew a perfect cup of Vietnamese-style coffee at home. We here at UU HQ are coffee fans and are excited to try for ourselves.

The location at 5018 N. Broadway remains under renovation but things are close. The location, last home to T'oui, is a perfect spot to watch the hustle and bustle of Broadway and Argyle, and we expect it will become a hangout for the immediate neighbors in the beautiful Flats complex to the north.

Monday, February 19, 2024

While We Are On The Subject of Cornerstone & The ZBA...

Since Cornerstone elected to place their operations under the microscope, tipsters have flooded the inbox with information about CCO and JPUSA. We are going to share a few with our readers.

One interesting tip takes us back to 2003, in the pre-UU days. 

When Cornerstone got a special use permit that year, the community asked for certain mandatory requirements as part of the special use. If they didn't follow them, the special use would automatically be canceled. 

However, consistent with how things happened under Helen Shiller, there was no process to monitor the requirements, and as our tipster wrote, CCO just ignored them.

One requirement, interestingly, was no men's shelter on the 4600 block of Clifton, exactly what CCO is attempting to do now.

Here's what ZBA spelled out back in 2003.

The same tipster shares a recent photo taken in front of St. Thomas (4827 N. Kenmore) where a sign from Cornerstone shows that while they are providing a service to our less fortunate neighbors, they are CLEARLY not following the special use permit on Clifton

How can they do this? They can do it because they never faced oversight after they were granted their special use permit in 2003, and there were and are no repercussions for ignoring the special use restrictions.

"Men and Women Accepted."

Interesting to note that another requirement of the special use permit is NO ONE USING DRUGS is allowed stay in the shelter. 

We remembered that was previously an issue in "Blood Alley," and firing up the UU wayback-machine took us to this story from 2009 when a Cornerstone "security" guard was arrested for selling heroin to those living in the shelter.

So, as we await the next move from CCO / JPUSA and their supporters Angela Clay and Helen Shiller, we thought it might be nice to remind the community that there is no system in place to assure CCO's adherence to the requirements spelled out in a special use, and CCO just ignores the requirements once they are in place. And we can't expect, given our many years of Helen Shiller watching (and her associates too!), that the current Aldermanic office will do anything if CCO violates the terms of future agreements. 

If you think ZBA should follow up with Cornerstone on why they can violate the existing zoning variance at 4615 N. Clifton, email them at ZBA@cityofchicago.org.

Maybe the Inspector General can focus on this issue too?

More to come.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Cornerstone Shelter Proposal Fails To Pass Zoning Board of Appeals

1140 W. Wilson (Google)

In a plot twist that none of us expected, the Cornerstone Shelter proposal for 1140 W. Wilson failed to gain majority support from the Zoning Board of Appeals yesterday. The final vote was 2-2. Since the vote split, the proposal did not pass. To pass, a measure must receive 3 affirmative votes.

We've never seen this happen in our time watching ZBA, especially when an Alderperson puts their support behind something so adamantly. Longtime Helen Shiller partner Sam Toia was one of the "yes" votes.

Is this dead in the water? Will they change plans and resubmit again? Maybe they find a location in a neighboring ward with no shelters? Matt?

For now, our Wilson Avenue businesses and current residents of the building are safe.

Edit - sent by a reader, here's a great building CCO could buy in the 47th Ward and get twice the value!


Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Everything Old is New Again

Helen and Angela 

With Shiller-mentum in the air, let's jump in the UU time machine and revisit what we said just over a year ago in surveying the Aldermanic race:

For her part, Ms. Clay has little track record and has bound herself closely to former Alderman Helen Shiller, who was on hand when Ms. Clay announced her candidacy. Ald. Shiller is effectively looking for someone to pass the baton. In our view, a vote for Ms. Clay is effectively a vote for Helen Shiller and her favorite organizations to regain power in the 46th Ward

We have witnessed a neighborhood that has made tremendous strides in public safety and livability over the past 12 years under Alderman Cappleman. If you asked us what we expected to see in 2011 when he was sworn in for the first time, we were most hopeful for a change from a status quo that was willing to accept regular gang shootings and street crime as part of the "fabric" of the neighborhood. That change has happened, in large part, due to the work of police, the Alderman and his office, neighborhood groups, and Uptown's citizens, who have worked together to make Uptown a safe, clean and desirable location. 

We started this blog in 2007 because we were sick of the way Uptown was in the thrall of special interests who had no interest in the neighborhood ever improving. The status quo (and worse) were acceptable, as was the loss of life and subhuman living conditions that accompanied it. We don't want to return to the way things were under Helen Shiller, which is what a vote for Ms. Clay (or Ms. Lalonde) would bring. 

So here we are, a year later, and the prediction has come true. Call us NostradamUUs!

As the above photo (taken recently by a friend) illustrates, Helen Shiller is right behind Angela Clay, "counseling" Ms. Clay (who she has been grooming for years) and acting as shadow alderman. And in a brazen move straight out of her Wilson Yard and kitchen renovation playbook, she's trying to kill Uptown's decade-long renaissance by sticking a curfew free men's homeless shelter directly in the middle of the Wilson Avenue business district

Oh, and she's using $4.5 million dollars in local taxpayer TIF funds, killing two businesses, and bolstering old supporters at JPUSA at the same time. A Shiller-Clay win-win-win-win!

From what we see and hear at the UU mothership, this is a VERY unpopular move, yet Alderwoman Clay seems unwilling to hear or consider the voices of the block clubs that surround the proposed shelter. 

What can you do to share your opinion if you weren't able to make it to the ONE meeting that was held to discuss this? Email the Zoning Board of Appeals at ZBA@cityofchicago.org and be sure to mention the zoning change at 1140 W. Wilson. You can also sign a petition that is circulating here.

Don't just take it from us. Here's reader Ken's comment yesterday. Everything old is new again!

This sounds like Helen Schiller's way of doing things in 46th ward for over 20 years. I put up with it for 10 years (2005-2015) and that was enough. Everything happens magically under the table and decisions are discussed and made in secret, all the time. It's exhausting, but nothing ever changes.

As we have said repeatedly, elections have consequences. Hopefully the voter turn-out will be much higher in 2027 and this political move is remembered when Uptowners go to the voting booth. We won't forget!!! 

Oh, and Alderwoman Clay? We know you're a reader. We still have questions you haven't answered. Pink ribbons come to mind

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Still Making Up Your Mind, Ald. Clay? Seems Like The Fix Is Already In

Angela Clay has been adamantly assuring residents of the 46th Ward that she's still carefully considering whether or not the FLATS Bachelor Hotel at Wilson and Clifton should be turned into a men's housing shelter (the fourth homeless shelter in a one-block area). 

She said she will announce her decision, after carefully considering the viewpoints of stakeholders and residents, by the February 13th sales deadline set by FLATS, the current owner of the property. 

But it seems the published Zoning Board of Appeals agenda for Friday, February 16th, tells a different story.

The agenda for the meeting (see above) has the City Council voting on the issue just a few days later ... and we all know nothing hits the City Council floor without first going through, and gaining the support of, aldermen in committees.

So, was there even a question of an open mind, or was this rubber-stamped as soon as her aldermanic eyes saw it? She is the prodigy of Helen "Concentrated Poverty" Shiller, after all.

There are plenty of reasons to find a different location for the "proposed" shelter:

  • The middle of a burgeoning business district, where existing locally owned businesses will most definitely be affected. We have it on very good authority that the coming of the shelter will mean the departure of 2 Bears Tavern and Downstate Donuts, at the very least. 
  • Concentrated poverty is a real thing, and it's a bad thing for everyone. Can anyone come up with any other city in the entire country that has four homeless shelters in a one-block area?
  • The other businesses in the area have opposed it in the middle of the commercial district.
  • Not a single one of the surrounding block clubs supports this proposal, and have been vocal in letting the alderman know this.
As we predicted, this seems to show that in the first major decision of her term, Ald. Clay is a carbon copy of her mentor and supporter, Ald. Shiller. In other words, give lip service to being open to what the residents want, and go ahead and ignore it.

We sincerely hope that Alderman Clay is true to her promises to listen to and heed the community's opinion. Packing a meeting with clearly imported supporters, including JPUSA residents, to create the illusion this is popular, and then ignoring the input of residents and businesses most affected by the change does not give us confidence. 

Our bet is she will announce her decision as part of a Friday evening newsletter dump, a trick learned from her mentor, our old friend former Ald. Helen Shiller, to garner the least amount of attention. 

We're certainly not holding our breath as we await the "decision." This one seems as organic as that one.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Wishes "Grant"ed As Chicago Announces Cash Awards For Historical Preservation, Community Development, And Renewable Energy

61 organizations and businesses across the city got a piece of the pie last Tuesday, as the city announced grant recipients which will receive funds from various programs of the Chicago Recovery Plan. (Grant awards are distributed incrementally as individual project phases are completed.) 

We're delighted that some of them are located in Uptown and our adjacent communities.

Climate Infrastructure Fund

To help buildings transition to renewable energy, 22 grants totaling $3.7 million were announced, going to small businesses and nonprofits. The Climate Infrastructure Fund was created to support energy-efficiency projects, electric vehicle infrastructure, and green infrastructure. 

In a statement, Chief Sustainability Officer Angela Tovar said, "Nearly 70 percent of Chicago’s greenhouse gas emissions are from buildings. The Climate Infrastructure Fund provides essential funding for small businesses and nonprofit organizations to adopt clean energy strategies."

  • Ravenswood Fellowship United Methodist Church (4511 N Hermitage) is anticipated to receive $199,597. According to a statement from the City, a planned solar array will generate 29,100 kWh and completely cover the facility’s annual electricity needs, along with the installation of high efficiency lighting.
  • The Ecumenical Institute (located in the ICA Greenrise building at 4750 N Sheridan) is anticipated to receive $199,400. We don't know its plans for the grant, but ICA has been the leader in local energy efficiency and sustainable practices, converting the vintage Kemper Insurance Building into a climate-friendly structure. We're sure they'll make good use of the grant.
Community Development Grants
  • Access Contemporary Music, a nonprofit whose goal is to make classical and contemporary music visible, is anticipated to receive $250,000. What intrigues us is that, while it is located in Ravenswood, the grant is listed for 4116 N Clark -- the site of a 7-Eleven that closed back in 2018, and has stood vacant ever since. We like seeing our long-empty buildings filled!
  • Swedish American Museum Association of Chicago (5211 N Clark) is anticipated to receive $250,000.
Adopt-A-Landmark Grants

13 historic buildings around the city will split $8 million in grants from the DPD's Historic Preservation Division. We are thrilled a bit of that is going to two of our community's crown jewels, which act as bookends for the Uptown Entertainment District:
  • Double Door (1050 W Wilson). $125,000 for the window and masonry component of a $9.9 million conversion of a 1909 theater as a performance venue.
  • Aragon Ballroom (1106 W Lawrence). $250,000 for the masonry component of a $1.9 million restoration of a 98-year-old ballroom.
Our Take

So, with all this money going to worthy causes, we feel happy but a bit confused.

We see small grants given to organizations and businesses, all sharing a pot split into pieces. At the same time, a religious organization with a history of sexual abuse is on the brink of a no-questions-asked, lump-sum $9 million dollar gift of public money to operate a shelter that the surrounding community is adamantly opposed to. More on that soon, but it seems really curious.....

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Valentine's Day Massacre 10 Rap Battle Returns at the Uptown Taproom

Get your tickets now!

On Saturday, March 9th, NoCoastRaps is back with the tenth edition of its premier event series, Valentine's Day Massacre 10, featuring a cappella rap battles at Uptown Taproom in Chicago.

The headlining rap battle will feature Carter Deems from VH1's Wild n Out series.

Tickets are $15 and are available here.

You can read more about it at the Facebook page here.

The Uptown Taproom is located at 1265 West Wilson.

Friday, January 19, 2024

936-940 West Leland, Dormant Lots For Years, Now Has a Proposal

We've been watching the empty lots at 936-940 West Leland (just east of Sheridan) for many years now, hoping for a residential building to replace a weed- and garbage-strewn eyesore.

A developer bought the three adjoining city lots in late 2017 for $850,000. After a few false starts behind the scenes, the owner has finally put forth a proposal to redevelop the land into market-rate housing.

The lots are currently zoned RT-4, which allows a 38-foot maximum height. The developer has applied for a zoning change to B2-3 to allow the construction of a five-story, 30-unit residential building comprised of 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom apartments. 

With the zoning change, affordable units would be required and the developer is proposing three on-site to satisfy the statute's requirements. A roof deck is included in the proposal.

Alderwoman Clay's zoning and development page reports proposed rental prices would range from $1,750 to $4,000. The proposal calls for six parking spaces and 35 bicycle spots.

Here at UU HQ, we think it's a pretty good-looking building, and most importantly it fills in a couple of long-dormant lots. We hope Alderwoman Clay grants the zoning change. If the change is not granted, the developer could build "by right" and would not be required to provide affordable units. With the zoning change requested, Ald. Clay can request the developer change things like the color of facade in addition to being required to provide the very important affordable on-site units.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Uptown Church Raises Issues With Proposed Shelter Opening In Its Building

photo courtesy Uptown Church Facebook page

We've been hearing a lot of questions lately asking what's up with the CCO proposal to open its fourth homeless shelter at Clifton and Wilson.

Ald. Clay has said she's still in the information-gathering stage about whether or not to approve the necessary special use permit, and will announce her decision before the February 13th purchase deadline. The seller is Cedar St./FLATS.

Uptown Church, an existing tenant of the building (other retail tenants include 2 Bears Tavern and  Downstate Donuts), has put out a carefully reasoned statement asking for clarification about several aspects of the plan.

While repeatedly stressing that the church is in favor of providing housing for vulnerable individuals, Uptown Church brings to light several issues with the plan as proposed that would make it very difficult for it to continue to operate. It expresses particular concerns that the alterations to its leased space might even put Uptown Church in violation of its own special use permit:

  • ADA Accessibility. "We would need concrete guarantees and detailed plans that ensure our ADA accessibility is never compromised ... To remove ADA accessibility from Uptown Church could make it illegal for us to use our leased space as a church."
  • Special Use Permit. "We have concerns that our special use permit might come into question. To put this concern to rest, we would need absolute assurance from the city of Chicago and the Zoning Board of Appeals (in writing) that any/all of the construction or proposed and actual changes to the building will not violate or compromise our current special use permit in any way."
  • Shelter Elevator Would Take Space Away From Church Sanctuary. "Locating the elevator in our sanctuary compromises the layout and use of the space far too negatively for us. Based upon the layout of the room, the size of the space, and the proposed location of the elevator, the end result is too intrusive and alters the overall use and functionality of the auditorium to far too great an extent."
  • Elevator Would Reduce Capacity Of Church. "We have concerns it is going to noticeably reduce our square footage, thereby considerably affecting the number of people that can gather for worship in our space. ... The proposed plan takes away too much vital and central square footage from our sanctuary."
  • Additional Noise Issues. "We have concerns as we anticipate the amount of increased sound and noise disruption that will result from an elevator operating directly in our leased space or right next to it. To put this concern to rest, we would need to see detailed plans/solutions that can guarantee a level of sound mitigation that would allow our church to continue to engage in sacred, spiritual practices without increasing the level of noise and sound disruptions we are already accommodating in a mixed-use building."

*   *   *   *   *

If you'd like to give feedback to Ald. Clay, you still can. In her newsletter, she says:
"Thank you to all who attended the community meeting about Cornerstone’s proposal for a non-congregate men’s shelter at 1140 W. Wilson. A recording of the meeting can be viewed here. As our office is still in the decision-making process for this proposal we have updated the FAQ to reflect additional questions that were raised by attendees. The FAQ can be viewed here.

If you have additional questions about the proposal, please reach out to our office at 773-848-4646 or info@46thward.com. If you were not able to fill out the survey or join the community meeting, and you would like to share your comments or position on the proposal, please reach out to our office. 

Alderwoman Clay will make a decision based on the community feedback we received via the survey, the community meeting held on 1/8, and other outreach including meetings with local businesses, block clubs, and stakeholders groups."

Friday, January 12, 2024

Double Door's $7.5M Building Permit Finally Issued

Barker Nestor

After sharing on their Facebook page last month that "it happens when it happens" regarding the city issuing their building permit, the Double Door's wish has finally been granted!

Double Door just received their building permit for a $7,500,000 renovation to the former Wilson Avenue Theater building at 1050 W. Wilson. You might recall we broke this story back in December 2018 so this has been a long time coming! We are so thankful the owners hung in there to navigate all of the twists and turns in dealing with the city's Landmark Department and now most recently, the department of buildings.

For more details on what to expect with exterior changes, check out this Urbanize Chicago post.


Monday, January 8, 2024

Yet Another Fire In The Tents Under The Viaducts

We've said it many times before: Unless someone from the city steps up to enforce the law prohibiting fires and incendiary devices in the tents under the viaducts, there is going to be a tragedy involving loss of life that no one wants to see happen.

And yet ... we see wannabe do-gooders providing flame heaters to those living there in highly flammable tents. We see open-flame cooking going on in the viaducts on a weekly basis.

We're not alone. So does the city. Make no mistake, the people who can stop this see what's going on and have chosen to turn a blind eye.

No one wants to be the bad guy who "persecutes" the unhoused population living there.

BUT ONCE AGAIN, there was a fire there. This time, it was under the Wilson viaduct, on the south side. Tents and belongings are charred and strewn all over the sidewalk and bike paths. At least this time it looks like just a couple tents full of people's belongings were incinerated.

With the arrival of cold weather and more tents crowded next to each other under the viaducts, the risk of a fire rapidly spreading from one tent to another becomes more likely. And so does the risk of loss of life.

We've posted many times about the risks that are present when fires are allowed in a place full of flammable tents filled with vulnerable people. But somehow, no one who could stop it has done so.

Alderwomen Clay and Manaa-Hoppenworth, how many lives lost will it take for you to urge the city to enforce the laws in your wards?

Ignoring the situation is not compassionate. It is setting the scene for a tragedy.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

"It's A Major Award!" - Uptown United Receives Grant To Host a Weekly Indoor Market On Wilson Avenue

Uptown United has been selected as one of 15 recipients of grants from the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) as part of the Small Business Storefront Activation Program.

According to a statement put out by the city:

"The selected organizations, known as “grantees,” will work with small business owners and landlords to provide rapid relief to small businesses by activating vacant storefronts into burgeoning business spaces. The grantees will work to transform commercial corridors citywide, from the renowned Michigan Avenue to corridors in Pilsen, Humboldt Park, Uptown, and Chatham.  Full program details can be found by visiting Chicago.gov/BACPRecoveryPlan."

Sarah Wilson, the executive director of Uptown United, says:
"The 2023 Storefront Activation Program will enable Uptown United to lease a long-vacant storefront on Wilson Avenue and host a weekly indoor market in 2024. Many vendors will come from the Chicago Market’s Uptown Farmers Market during the winter months and makers and additional vendors in the summer and fall months. 

"The 2023 Storefront Activation Program will allow us to educate and incubate local food producers and new ideas. Cross-promotion with the Uptown Farmers Market will encourage foot traffic along the Wilson Avenue Commercial corridor, supporting both the pop-up vendors and existing bars, restaurants, and other businesses."

Congratulations, and well done, Uptown United!

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Taco Bell Cantina Hits The Spot?!

We have no official confirmation. BUT -- 

Word on the street is that the renovations currently happening inside 4437 North Broadway mean that Uptown is getting a Taco Bell Cantina. Yo quiero Taco Bell!

What's the difference between the "cantina" concept and regular Taco Bell? According to Taco Bell's website:

"This isn't just any Taco Bell. Introducing our Taco Bell Cantina restaurants, equipped with a fancy new look, open kitchen, custom menu and specialty alcoholic beverages like beer, wine, sangria and liquor versions of our classic Freezes."

We can confirm that the building at 4437 North Broadway -- most recently the site of Decibel, The Spot, and Frankie J's -- was sold this past summer to the same investment group that will be opening a Taco Bell Cantina at 5245 North Clark. It owns dozens of other franchises, and several stand-alone restaurants as well. We've been waiting for confirmation of the plans, and with demo ongoing, it looks like this is a done deal.

We'll post more as we learn more.