30-Dec-08 – An early drawing by Bertrand Goldberg’s architectural firm is getting a new audience after being rescued from an antique shop, hanging in an office, and sitting in storage.

Richard Wallach bought the 24 x 32-inch architectural drawing about ten years ago from an antique shop in Chicago. At the time, they thought it was an early rendering of Marina City.

Photo by Richard Wallach

Photo by Richard Wallach

Recent sleuthing by Wallach and Marina City Online, however, revealed this to be an early architectural drawing of Affiliated Hospitals Center, a project of Bertrand Goldberg Associates in Boston in 1971.

(Click on images to view larger versions)

“It is clearly from the office of Bertrand Goldberg Associates,” says Geoffrey Goldberg, son of the Marina City architect. He says it is part of a set of drawings by Zbigniew Andrew Cianciara, a designer at BGA and now an architect with his own firm in Highland Park, Illinois.

According to a web site that researches Polish-American history, Cianciara was born in Warsaw in 1936 and worked for Goldberg from 1967 to 1984.

Recalls Geoffrey, the drawing was an early conceptual study. He has seen two later versions, done later in 1971, showing refinements to the original design. In those later drawings, says Geoffrey, “You can see variations in the tower form, the structure, and in the contextual information.”

Affiliated Hospitals Center was Goldberg’s first major medical project. The plan was to consolidate several older hospitals at Harvard University.

“This plan was subject to a lot of politicking,” says Geoffrey, “and at the end of a long day, the project became several individual buildings – built in proximity but not one entity.”

Built between 1970 and 1984, the complex included Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and Thorn Research Building.

In his autobiography, famed surgeon Dr. Francis D. Moore said the project was referred to in its early stages as “the hospital complex” and “the complex hospital.” The first real title for the project was Affiliated Hospitals Complex, then Affiliated Hospitals Center.

According to Bertrand Goldberg Archive, the design of Affiliated Hospitals Center was altered dramatically as plans progressed. “The original plan proposed a radical form for the bed towers – three monolithic cloverleaf shaped concrete shell structures supported by delicate concrete piers. Bands of elliptical windows gave the facade a rich texture. The towers would be perched atop a massive three-story building which would link all the buildings.”

The resulting design, says the archive, was dominated by “a four-lobed, 16-story, 680-bed tower and a three-story ambulatory care building. Both buildings rise up from a two-level base structure which contained the laboratory and other support services. Each floor in the patient tower was divided into four patient ‘villages’ or clusters organized around a central core which provided support services. At the heart of each cluster was the nurse’s station.”

Wallach says the drawing is an original, done in ink on a heavy drafting stock and now under glass. It is displayed over a stairway landing at his home in Columbus, Ohio.

“There is an area on the bottom left where it appears a label was originally attached and some courier markings [are] on the back.”

Wallach says he has always been fascinated with Chicago architecture and modern design and was curious about the drawing’s true origins.

 Bertrand Goldberg Archive

  • MCO wants state agency to investigate Levin
  • Former MTCA president says Levin’s claims are a fallacy
  • Noted architecture writer suggests MTCA efforts will sabotage landmarking

27-Dec-08 – Marina City Online has requested an agency of the Illinois Supreme Court investigate former state legislator Ellis Levin for misconduct in his role as attorney for Marina Towers Condominium Association.

Steven Dahlman, editor of the web site, filed the complaint on Friday with the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission, which investigates allegations of misconduct by lawyers. In cases where misconduct is a threat to the public or the legal profession, the ARDC will prosecute the lawyer.

In his complaint, Dahlman says, “It is widely believed by Marina City residents that Mr. Levin has an unhealthy financial relationship with Marina Towers Condominium Association, generating for himself large fees for aggressively enforcing condominium rules that have no basis in law.”

The complaint alleges that Levin, who represented the 12th District in the Illinois House from 1977 to 1995, has threatened Dahlman’s Constitutional right to free speech.

“My web site is one of the most vocal critics of the MTCA board of directors, and Mr. Levin is using condo association fines and threats in an attempt to shut down or at least neutralize the site.”

The complaint describes how Levin wants Marina City Online to get permission from the condo association to use the name “Marina City” and images of the complex, both of which the condo association claims to own despite no clear legal basis for the claim.

It disputes allegations by Levin that MCO is trying to pass off the web site as officially sponsored by the condo association and therefore engaging in deceptive trade practices.

“As best as I can figure,” says Dahlman, “Levin considers the mere fact that I report Marina City news to be in conflict with his belief that the condo association can be the only source of information on this mixed-use complex, a concept that residents would find laughable, given the amateurish quality of the MTCA web site and its written communications in general.”

The complaint also summarizes incidents in early 2008 when Levin denied access to MTCA financial records to a resident, in violation of Chicago municipal code. The resident had to hire an attorney and file a complaint with the City of Chicago Department of Consumer Services, exposing the condo association to fines.

That story, reported by Marina City Online in February 2008, exposed efforts by Levin to conceal from unit owners how much he was being paid. He said at the time that legal bills are subject to attorney-client privilege and not available to owners. And, citing Black’s Law Dictionary, Levin argued that copies of his invoices to MTCA are not included in the definition of “financial books and records” of the association.

In 2007, legal expenses incurred by Marina Towers Condominium Association were 149 percent over budget, more than any other expense. Although MTCA has hired other lawyers besides Levin, he is the condo association’s general counsel.

And the complaint picked up a story first appearing in a Chicago Tribune column in December 2007 about an elderly cancer patient who was threatened with a fine by Levin for asking a custodian to get into her building’s package room after hours to retrieve a shipment of chemotherapy pills.

Former MTCA President says MTCA copyright/trademark claims are a fallacy

Meanwhile, former MTCA president Dr. Martin Flynn told Marina City Online he does not buy the argument by Levin that MTCA holds state and federal copyrights and trademarks to the name and images of Marina City. “Levin’s argument...is specious, and since all ensuing arguments flow from this flawed assumption, all arguments are subsequently moot. Levin himself seems not to know.”

While MTCA may own the name “Marina Towers Condominium Association,” Flynn says they do not control the name “Marina City.” “Moreover, unless one wants to count a group photo of the Board of Directors, there is no Association ‘building image.’”

Flynn, who was on the board from 2000 to 2002, says, “The term ‘Marina City’ is also fairly ubiquitous globally, as there are numerous developments in Marina Del Rey, California (Marina City Club, Marina City Towers, Marina City Marina), and massive developments in Wakayama, Japan (Marina City), Balchik, Bulgaria (Marina City Hotel), Indonesia (Marina City), Marathon, Florida (Marina City), and Singapore (Marina City) that all use the name.”

Flynn points out that nowhere has Marina City Online purported to speak or act officially for MTCA. “Any fantasy of such, hatched in the mind of Mr. Levin, does not therefore create a reality.”

Flynn defended an assertion in an MCO promotional flyer that it is “unquestionably the official source of information about Marina City.”

Dr. Martin Flynn

Dr. Martin Flynn

“[It] can be argued whether it is indeed the official source, but it is clear that the scope is much broader than the stories that may emanate from the activities of the over 900 owners of the MTCA. Even an uninterested website observer would grade MCO as merely a source of news relating to the neighborhood surrounding Marina City but which for obvious reasons includes the condominiums. Details of condominium unit layouts appear, but so did renovation plans of Dick’s Last Resort.”

And Flynn takes issue with Levin’s claim that a reference to former Illinois Governor George Ryan – as a former customer of the MTCA holiday party’s caterer – being intended to run down the value of Marina City condo units.

“[Levin] can no more blame [Marina City Online] for ‘negative’ reporting of the Association, than he can go after [Chicago Tribune columnist] John Kass for dropping the real estate prices of Chicago. Mentioning the name of George Ryan as a customer of the condominium association’s caterer, and having that fact somehow cause condominium prices to fall shows Levin to be seriously ill, drunk, or a combination of the two.”

Besides, says Flynn, according to governing documents, MTCA does not have an official interest in individual unit values. “The MTCA was created solely to run the affairs of the Association. Its directors are elected to act in the best interests of the Association. Their reach, legal or otherwise, does not go beyond the circumscribed duties of the Association.”

Architecture writer fears condo board may be sabotaging Marina City landmarking

Architecture writer Lynn Becker spent his Christmas Day responding to efforts by Marina City Condominium Association and its attorney, Ellis Levin, to fine Marina City Online, a web site that covers the mixed-use complex and Chicago’s North Loop.

“As we’ve written before, one of the world’s finest buildings, Bertrand Goldberg’s Marina City, is burdened with one of the worst condo boards, one that has repeatedly expressed contempt for the First Amendment, not to mention basic human intelligence, and deployed its lawyer, former progressive legislator Ellis Levin, to harass anyone who doesn’t buy into their delusions of grandeur.”

Becker suggests the fines are in retaliation for Marina City Online’s critical reporting of the condo board, “including its addiction to closed-door meetings and banning of recording of its sessions.”

Lynn Becker “Given the fact that nowhere else, other than Bertrand Goldberg archives, is there such a wealth of information on Marina City than on Marina City Online...and that we are living, not in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, where only one official version of the truth is permitted, but Barack Obama’s America, Levin’s actions are an outrage.”

Becker is concerned that while many residents are working to have Marina City designated an official Chicago landmark, the MTCA will sabotage these efforts by “raising the specter of a flood of lawsuits being filed to shake down any publication or website that publishes, without their permission or compensation, information or images of a newly landmarked complex.”

 Architecture writer Lynn Becker’s column, Is Condo Board sabotaging Marina City Landmarking?

 Letter from MCO to Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission

 More of Dr. Flynn’s comments

  • MCO editor, sponsor fined $2,000
  • More fines in 14 days if MCO does not stop reflecting negatively on MTCA

24-Dec-08 – Efforts to curb free speech at Marina City took a sharp turn on Christmas Eve, as Marina Towers Condominium Association took the first steps toward shutting down or at least neutralizing one of its most vocal critics, Marina City Online.

MTCA has accused MCO of deceptive trade practices and violating condo rules. It wants the web site to get permission from MTCA to use the name “Marina City” and any images of the mixed-use complex, both of which the condo association claims to own.

In a December 23 letter to Steven Dahlman, editor of Marina City Online, and Michael Michalak, who contributes real estate information and is the site’s only sponsor, MTCA attorney Ellis Levin took offense to recent claims by MCO that it is “the official source of information about Marina City.”

Levin argues this implies MCO is officially sponsored by MTCA. He says he intends to fine Dahlman and Michalak each $1,000, plus attorney fees, for not getting permission from the condo association to use the name “Marina City” on the web site, and photographs of the complex – many of which were taken by Dahlman, a professional photographer.

Failure to get permission within 14 days would result in an additional fine of $50 per day “until there is compliance.”

Ellis Levin

“The Board of Directors of Marina Towers Condominium Association owns and controls the use of the name ‘Marina City,’ the names of its official publication including ‘Marina City News,’ and the image of the two towers under applicable state and federal trademark law.”

(Left) MTCA attorney and former Illinois state representative Ellis Levin, seen here in an undated photo most likely from the 1980s.

MTCA still believes that it “holds a common law copyright on the use of the Association name and the building image,” a claim widely disputed by lawyers and experts on intellectual property. The argument was greeted with widespread skepticism when it was floated in 2007 and was the subject of much discussion, both at Marina City and nationwide on the Internet.

Marina City Online promotes itself as covering the entire complex of Marina City and Chicago’s North Loop. Still, Levin remains convinced Marina City Online creates the impression it is an official voice of MTCA, despite its adversarial relationship with the condo association. Out of 147 articles published in the past year, none could fairly be described as promoting MTCA. Some recent headlines in the past year include:

Party and lawsuit stories disputed

To illustrate why he believes Marina City Online is creating the impression that it is “speaking or acting officially for MTCA,” Levin refers to a November 10 article about the MTCA holiday party. The article quoted Phyllis Hartford, chairman of the MTCA Social Committee, who supplied all of the basic information, including the start and end times.

Levin calls the use of Hartford as a source “factious” and intended to “create the impress [sic] that the web site was the official site of the Condominium Association.” It’s not clear if Levin meant “factious,” to promote internal dissension, or “facetious,” meaning an inappropriate attempt at humor. He also could have meant “factitious,” lacking authenticity or genuineness.

He denies Hartford was interviewed for the story or authorized any statement. And he says a reference to former Illinois Governor George Ryan as a former customer of the party’s caterer “can only have been intended to run down the value of the units at MTCA.”

Marina City Online maintains that Ms. Hartford was interviewed in front of several people at the November 10 social event for residents at Dick’s Last Resort. She appeared to wave over Steven Dahlman, and enthusiastically volunteer information on the party – making special note of the caterer, Kasia’s Deli. Dahlman wrote down notes as he spoke with Hartford, and repeated key points for verification. Later, he looked up the web site for Kasia’s Deli and noticed they proudly list Ryan as a customer.

Levin also complained about coverage of a $40 million lawsuit that was recently filed (and since dismissed) against MTCA and two other defendants. One item has been corrected and others are being researched. Levin calls the news article a “notice on your web site [that] is intended to drive property values down.”

“If your web site intends to try to continue to create the impression it is the official web site of Marina Towers Condominium Association, you need to make sure you get your facts correct.”

Levin says Marina City Online will have 14 days to apply for permission from MTCA to use the name and image of Marina City, and 48 hours after that to make changes as required by the condo association. Among 25 rules for using the name and image, Marina City Online could not do anything to “reflect negatively on or demean the image or reputation of Marina Towers Condominium Association.”

Levin says the levying of fines and attorney fees “are not the only remedies available to the Association” and that MTCA reserves the right to pursue these unspecified remedies “to obtain compliance.”

 Letter from Ellis Levin to MCO

 Rules and regulations on use of the association name and image/graphic/bullet.gif

 Letter from MCO saying we’re the ‘official source’

 Letter to Levin from MCO attorney

Related stories:

  • Suit was holding up condo closings, says defendant
  • Judge calls complaint “improper,” gives plaintiffs 28 days to re-file

23-Dec-08 – A $40 million lawsuit against Marina Towers Condominium Association and two commercial entities at Marina City was dismissed Tuesday morning. Circuit Court Judge Lawrence O’Gara called the complaint “improper” and gave the plaintiffs 28 days to re-file, preferably with the assistance of an attorney.

Edie and Joseph Mathers, owners of four condominium units at Marina City, filed the lawsuit on their own on October 1. They were suing System Parking for $20 million, Transwestern Commercial Services for $10 million, and Marina Towers Condominium Association for $10 million. The complaint was over parking-related disputes and an incident in 2006 that resulted in Mathers being arrested.

Edie Mathers (Left) Photo of Edie Mathers from her web site, Marina City Chicago Gift Shop Gallery.

Representing System Parking, Daniel B. Meyer of O’Hagan Spencer LLC filed an “emergency motion” on December 19. When the motion was heard in court on Tuesday, Meyer told Judge O’Gara that due to the lawsuit, prospective buyers of condo units at Marina City were waiting for the litigation to be settled before closing on their purchases.

Meyer’s motion for dismissal, filed on November 14, called the complaint “substantially insufficient in law.”

Another issue was the amount of the claim, substantially more than the $30,000 limit for civil cases in the Municipal Department – a division of the Circuit Court of Cook County – where the case was transferred on November 19.

Mathers asked the judge for 28 days so she could find an attorney, and showed him two letters she said were from lawyers interested in representing her. The judge, however, recommended she find an attorney first, then re-file the complaint.

While listening to her describe how she filed the lawsuit, the judge asked Mathers if she had any legal training. She said she had no training and had not taken any classes.

Mathers expressed frustration to the judge, telling O’Gara, “We’ve been bamboozled throughout this process.”

Judge O’Gara scolded Mathers for filing a $40 million lawsuit without an attorney but wished her “good luck” before dismissing the complaint. ”You seem to have a grip on what you need to do,” he told her.

Also present were former state representative and MTCA attorney Ellis Levin, who declined to speak with Marina City Online after the hearing, and John Leonard, a real estate lawyer and husband of MTCA president Donna Leonard.

 Related story: Parking disputes lead to $40 million lawsuit by Marina City residents

CORRECTION: In the December 16 article, Parking disputes lead to $40 million lawsuit by Marina City residents, the outcome of a 2004 lawsuit filed by Mathers was incorrectly stated. According to MTCA attorney Ellis Levin, the lawsuit was dismissed on July 19, 2004.

Bertrand Goldberg Archive

(Left) Snyder House, designed by Bertrand Goldberg (1913-1997). Built in Long Island, New York, from prefabricated components as a personal residence for John Snyder, CEO of Pressed Steel Car Company.

Photo from Bertrand Goldberg Archive. Click on image to view larger version.

19-Dec-08 – About 90 people attended a lecture on Marina City architect Bertrand Goldberg Thursday afternoon at Chicago Cultural Center. The lecture sought to answer the question, “Are we ready to landmark Goldberg buildings?”

According to Joseph Rosa, the answer is “yes.” The John H. Bryan Curatorial Chair of Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago spoke of the importance of Goldberg’s work. He described the early career of the architect and how Goldberg linked the concepts he learned in Germany to the architecture of Chicago.

Goldberg was born in Chicago but studied architecture at the Staatliches Bauhaus, an art and architecture school in Berlin that was an influence on Modernist architecture. He returned to Chicago in 1934 and studied at Armour Institute (now known as Illinois Institute of Technology). After working with architect George Fred Keck, Goldberg started his own practice in 1937.

While at the Bauhaus, Goldberg worked briefly in the office of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who designed IBM Center (now 330 North Wabash), which is next door to Marina City.

“Goldberg is one of the few to come back and actually build a numerous amount of projects. He is the first American to come back from the Bauhaus and actually build. He came back to Chicago...the city he was part of and brought with him different ways of thinking which I think separates Goldberg from others who worked or studied with Mies while Mies was here in Chicago.”

Rosa called the design of Marina City a “great export of the United States...this building is infamous.”

He says Goldberg is a natural part of the architectural lineage of Chicago, building off the work of Dankmar Adler, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

“Goldberg is a natural person on that lineage to Chicago and its importance. He was firmly entrenched in the city, very much a part of the city.”

Joseph Rosa Rosa, age 47, was one of Time Out Chicago’s “20 people to watch in 2007.” He is working on expanding the Art Institute’s design collection into the new Modern Wing, which will be open to the public in 2009. In 2011, the Art Institute is planning an exhibition of architect Bertrand Goldberg’s work.

He says it’s important that efforts be made to re-think how Goldberg buildings are used, to keep them relevant. “If we do eliminate them in 20 years, there will be a...missed opportunity to do what we needed to save a career that’s very important to the city and one of our most important exports for post-war work.”

The lecture was sponsored by Landmarks Illinois, a not-for-profit organization with 2,500 members dedicated to historic preservation. Founded in 1971, its original mission was to stop demolition of significant buildings in downtown Chicago. It now has a variety of programs that continue to facilitate, educate, and promote historic preservation.

 Related story: Goldberg buildings on landmark group’s “endangered” list

 Landmarks Illinois web site

18-Dec-08 – Residents of Marina City have been made “friends with benefits” with Dick’s Last Resort. In late November, the new restaurant/bar at Marina City distributed a note and key tag offering residents a 15 percent discount off food at Dick’s.

“Hey Neighbor!” Greets the memo from Dick himself. “In case yer livin’ under a rock, just wanted to let you know my joint is finally open! Bring in this ‘Friends with Benefits’ key tag and enjoy a nice 15% discount off food at my joint ANYTIME! We can’t wait to get to know all of you better. Stay out of the cold and come on down, it’s always a party at my joint!”

It got us thinking – what other perks are available to Marina City residents? Marina City Online contacted all of the restaurants and bars at Marina City and within a few days, all had responded. They tempted us – with proof of a Marina City address, of course – with discounts off food, drink, lodging, blues and bowling.

10pin Bowling Lounge

10pin Bowling Lounge

Deal: 20% off food, 50% off bowling.

Amano Italian Trattoria BIN 36 Chicago

Amano Italian Trattoria & BIN 36 Chicago

Deal: 15% off at both restaurants (they are owned by the same people).

Disclaimer: Cannot be combined with any other discount, including BIN 36 membership. Does not go into effect until January 1.

Hotel Sax

Deal: Special holiday rate of $119 per night, now through December 30. When a resident books the special rate for themselves, family or friends, they will receive two complimentary drinks at Crimson Lounge. There might be an ongoing discount for Marina City residents.

In their words: I’ve had a great response to your discount question! Here is a link you can post that leads directly to our website’s booking page, with the special Marina City rate pre-loaded. If there are any questions regarding the rate or booking it, guests can contact our Reservations Manager extraordinaire, Mary Cotter, for assistance.

Disclaimer: Sold out for the night of December 31.

House of Blues Chicago House of Blues Chicago

Deals and disclaimers: Where do we start? How about the Back Porch Restaurant...

World Famous Gospel Brunch: Buy three tickets and get the fourth for free.

Company Store: Receive 15% off items (except for artwork, DVDs, and CDs).

House of Blues concerts: Receive periodic complimentary tickets.

Smith & Wollensky

Deal: No official discount, but plenty of perks.

In their words: We do not have any official discount program for Marina City residents. However, we have always gone out of our way to welcome our close neighbors. We have a number of regular guests who live “upstairs” and we always try to recognize them with a table right away, or a better table. Or maybe an extra dessert or an after dinner drink. For those whom we don’t know already, we are always looking to get to know them so that we CAN take care of them.

 Directory of commercial tenants at Marina City

  • $342,000 but Kimmel lawyers want it lowered to $0
  • Start of prison sentence could be delayed
  • Kimmel condo price down, then up

18-Dec-08 – Nearly a month after his sentencing, there is still no decision on how much money, if any, Gary Kimmel will have to forfeit as part of his conviction for money laundering.

The Marina City resident was sentenced on November 20 to 37 months in prison for money laundering in connection with a nationwide prostitution ring. His attorney, Joseph Lopez, believes Kimmel will be eligible for work release after serving 25 months.

Originally, Kimmel was to pay the government $405,000 as part of a plea agreement filed on May 29. Then it was decided the amount was not calculated properly and lowered to $342,000.

The defense claims Kimmel has voluntarily sold all but one of his condominium units at Marina City, and paid more than the required amount of restitution.

But a decision in a Supreme Court case, United States v. Santos, on June 2 – four days after Kimmel’s plea agreement – requires restitution in cases of money laundering be determined based on profits, not just gross receipts.

If that’s the case, it could mean that Kimmel owes the government nothing. Attorney Paul Zido said Kimmel not only did not profit, but actually lost $300,000 – and now owes various creditors $97,231.30. At sentencing, Zido told the judge, “This ‘expert’ money launderer here lost $100,000. This man was street-dumb.”

According to a motion Zido filed on December 16, all of the money Kimmel took in from the prostitution business went to repay automobile loans, buy insurance for the vehicles, cover rent on condo units used by the prostitutes, dental work performed by Kimmel, and other expenses such as airline tickets, bail, and advertising.

Although the judge in the case, Honorable Blanche M. Manning, appeared to agree at sentencing that the Supreme Court ruling was applicable, her enthusiasm has clearly waned in recent weeks, At a status hearing Thursday morning, Zido struggled to convince her of the ruling’s relevance now.

“I find the argument uncomfortable,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Ruder. She maintains $342,000 was the net proceeds and should be forfeited. Ruder argued that “profit” should have a broader definition and mean profits of the prostitution ring paid to Kimmel. “The plea agreement speaks for itself. Santos did not change the facts of this case.”

Julie Ruder Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Ruder (left) was part of the team that prosecuted Canadian media baron Conrad Black in 2007.

“Santos is applicable,” Zido told Judge Manning. “It is the current law, not the law when the plea agreement was made.”

Manning was not impressed. “I don't see that under Santos but I’ll take it under advisement.”

Kimmel could get more time before starting prison

At sentencing, Kimmel was told he must report to prison on January 16. Saying his client needs more time to get his affairs in order, Lopez says he will file a motion to get the reporting date pushed back. He tried to get an immediate decision from Manning on Thursday but she declined, saying it would be discussed at the next status hearing on January 13.

Meanwhile, the list price for the last of Kimmel’s condominium units at Marina City has fluctuated. On Thursday, the asking price for the three connected units on the 56th floor of the east residential tower was $869,500. On Friday, it was up to $871,500. “REDUCED 123K!!,” screams the MLS listing.

The units were not subject to a forfeiture order filed in U.S. District Court on September 3, as long as Kimmel paid restitution.

Related stories:

17-Dec-08 – The sale of city banners at Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse last month raised about $5,500 for charity.

Several banners that hung from city street poles – promoting sports victories, festivals, special city occasions, and museum shows – were auctioned on November 22. The City of Chicago handled the auction and asked the River North restaurant to host the event.

Cindy Gatziolis of the Mayor’s Office of Special Events says it was “a learning experience.” Normally, the auctions are held on Wednesdays and Thursdays at Richard J. Daley Center. This was the first time they tried it on a Saturday (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and at an outside location.

“We probably did it a little too early in the day,” she says. “We’re re-thinking for next year to maybe do it after work in the evening and keep the flow of the day before. I think we lost a little of our momentum.”

Gatziolis says the best performers were the Chicago Cubs and White Sox banners. “This year, with both of them winning the division, a banner was devised that shared the space. So, sometimes the Cubs were on top and sometimes the White Sox were on top. When the Cubs were on top, that went for $550 and the White Sox went for $500.”

City of Chicago “The funny thing is when you turn [the banners] around, it’s the opposite.”

Proceeds will benefit the mayor’s “Sharing It” program, the Chicago Anti-Hunger Federation, the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and will purchase holiday gifts and provide entertainment for needy children in Chicago.

Located at Kinzie and Dearborn Streets, Harry Caray’s is on the same block as Marina City.

17-Dec-08 – A lecture on Thursday over the noon hour, sponsored by a historic preservation group, will seek to answer the question, “Are we ready to landmark Goldberg buildings?”

It’s part of a monthly lecture series sponsored by Landmarks Illinois. Admission is free.

The speaker will be Joseph Rosa, John H. Bryan Curatorial Chair of Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago. According to Landmarks Illinois, Rosa will discuss “the importance of Goldberg’s cutting edge buildings and their relevance today.”

Prentice Womens Hospital “Modernist architect Bertrand Goldberg, who designed iconic buildings in Chicago and nationwide, including Chicago’s Marina City and Prentice Women’s Hospital (seen in photo at left), is yet to have one of his buildings protected by local landmark designation. As the city studies possible designation of Marina City, others remain vulnerable.”

Date: December 18, 2008

Time: 12:15 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Place: Claudia Cassidy Theater, second floor of the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 East Washington Street

Landmarks Illinois is a not-for-profit organization with 2,500 members dedicated to historic preservation. Founded in 1971, its original mission was to stop demolition of significant buildings in downtown Chicago. It now has a variety of programs that continue to facilitate, educate, and promote historic preservation.

 Landmarks Illinois web site

One nation, under Ken
Photo by Ken Derry
Photo by Ken Derry Ken Derry, a crane operator for James McHugh Construction Company, captured these images from his perch while building Trump International Hotel and Tower. The top image was taken on June 21 at 7:45 a.m. The image at left, on May 22 at 6:09 a.m.
Click on images to view larger versions. 279 other amazing images by Ken may be seen at SmugMug: jimojimo.

  • MTCA, Transwestern, System Parking being sued
  • Jury trial requested
  • MTCA says complaint “substantially insufficient in law”

16-Dec-08 – Two Marina City residents have filed a lawsuit with combined claim amounts of $40 million against Marina Towers Condominium Association, the commercial property manager, and the company that parks vehicles at Marina City.

Edie and Joseph Mathers, owners of four condominium units at Marina City, filed the lawsuit on October 1. They are suing System Parking for $20 million, Transwestern Commercial Services for $10 million, and Marina Towers Condominium Association for $10 million.

Although there appears to be 29 separate claims against the defendants, the dispute is mostly over an incident in 2006 in which Edie Mathers, also known as Angie Dickerson, claims an employee of System Parking assaulted her. It happened as she and her husband, Joseph Mathers, retrieved their vehicles on the plaza level of Marina City. However, it was Mathers who was arrested by Chicago Police, according to the civil complaint and confirmed on Monday by employees of System Parking.

Mathers says the employee, Yaw Akwaboah, struck her “across the face with a customer ticket receipt while reaching across her face while [Mathers] was speaking to the cashier.”

“At the same time,” says Mathers, “Akwaboah bumped Edie Mathers with his fat body, trying to move her out of the way while she was taking care of business as a monthly customer.”

Edie Mathers (Left) Photo of Edie Mathers from her web site, Marina City Chicago Gift Shop Gallery.

Not satisfied with System Parking’s handling of the incident, Mathers says she called Chicago Police but was told they already had a call about the incident, which was apparently System Parking calling to complain about Mathers. Mathers says she was charged with battery based on a System Parking manager telling police that Mathers struck the manager “about the torso with an open hand causing minor redness and soreness.”

In her civil complaint, Mathers refers to another incident in which she says a System Parking employee called her “a bitch” and later struck her in the back.

The complaint offers glimpses into an ongoing dispute with System Parking over a truck the Mathers used for their video production business. Mathers says she received a letter from System Parking informing her she could no longer park in their ramps at Marina City, effective November 1, 2006. Having to find another place to park, says Mathers, was not only inconvenient but “placed us in harm’s way.”

When she parked elsewhere, she says her truck was vandalized. When she tried to use short-term parking reserved for residents, police were called and her truck was towed.

Mathers is claiming false charges, false arrest, false imprisonment, abuse of process, malicious prosecution, discrimination, negligence, interference with her business, racism, breach of contract, personal injury, property damage, infliction of emotional distress, trademark infringement, violations of the Civil Rights Act, racial profiling, harassment, sexism, racism, restraint of trade, defamation, libel and slander.

The trademark infringement and restraint of trade claims are directed solely at Marina Towers Condominium Association, involving Mathers’s use of the words “Marina City Chicago,” which she has trademarked. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, on December 5, 2006, a trademark of the words “Marina City Chicago” was registered to Joseph Mathers for use with goods and services, namely clothing.

MTCA files for dismissal

On November 19, Judge William Maddux ordered the case transferred for trial to the Municipal Department, a division of the Circuit Court of Cook County that normally hears civil cases seeking $30,000 or less.

Five days earlier, however, Daniel B. Meyer and Ellis Levin, representing Marina Towers Condominium Association, filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, saying it “is substantially insufficient in law.”

The $40 million in damages, they write, exceeds the amount allowed by the Circuit Court of Cook County. Also, because many of the counts in the complaint are covered by the Illinois Human Rights Act, the motion points out they cannot be heard by any state court – and that the complaint “is neither plain nor concise.”

“While the plaintiffs do plead some ‘facts’ in the complaint, the story told by those ‘facts’ is difficult if not impossible to discern,” writes Meyer and Levin. “Further, one cannot determine which defendants are party to which counts. Moreover, there does not appear to be any relation between the ‘facts’ set forth in the False Charges and Abuse of Process counts and the remaining counts of the complaint.”

“Instead, the complaint, which contains less than six pages of substance yet contains 29 purported causes of action, is pleaded entirely in conclusions.”

Dan Meyer Dan Meyer (left) is a partner with the Chicago law firm of O’Hagan Spencer LLC.

The motion was scheduled to be presented on November 24. It’s not clear if the motion was heard or if it must wait until the case is assigned to a judge in the Municipal Department.

The Mathers are requesting a jury trial. An employee of the Municipal Department, who is familiar with the case, said it would probably be heard during the third week of January.

On April 26, 2004, Mathers sued MTCA and then-president James Curtin for what court documents say is $1 billion. According to MTCA attorney Ellis Levin, the lawsuit was dismissed on July 19, 2004.

Update: An “emergency motion” has been filed by System Parking Inc. It will be heard in court Tuesday morning. An emergency motion seeks relief from the court on an expedited basis. A staff attorney in the Cook County Clerk of Court’s office has reviewed the motion and recommended that a judge hear and decide on it. It was filed on December 19 by O’Hagan Spencer LLC. on behalf of the defendant.

 Read the original complaint

 MTCA motion to dismiss

Universal Pictures

14-Dec-08Wanted, the Universal Pictures action film with scenes shot near Marina City last year, has been released on DVD. Sales charts quoted by The Hollywood Reporter showed the DVD in the #2 spot nationwide when it debuted on December 2, and the Blu-ray disc in the #1 spot. During its first week, it was also the most-rented video.

When it was in theaters, the film earned $341.7 million worldwide over 12 weeks.

Universal Pictures

Marina City shows up in the film’s opening scene and in a chase scene shot on Wabash Avenue. For the late-night filming on Wabash, the residential towers at Marina City were lit by flood lights from the plaza at 330 North Wabash.

The film stars James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, and Angelina Jolie. It has received generally positive reviews. According to the web site Rotten Tomatoes, 73 percent of Wanted reviews have been positive. Roger Ebert gave it three out of four stars but called it “mindless, heartless, preposterous.”

 Watch a Windows Media clip from the opening scene

 Watch a clip from the scene shot on Wabash Avenue

Firefox users:
Requires Windows Media Player Firefox Plugin

New tv show drops in on Marina City
Turner Network Television

(Above) Aerial video frame from “Leverage,” a new show on Turner Network Television. Chicago is the setting for the first episode, “The Nigerian Job.”

According to the show’s web site, Timothy Hutton stars as the leader of “a team of thieves, hackers and grifters who act as modern-day Robin Hoods, taking revenge against those who use power and wealth to victimize others.”

The episode can be seen online at TNT - DramaVision.

14-Dec-08 – 72 photographs taken during the construction of Marina City in the early 1960s have been given to the project that is literally writing the book on Marina City’s history.

The photos are from Portland Cement Association, which produced the 1965 film This is Marina City.

“Portland” is a type of cement – the most common type of cement in general use. Founded in 1916, the Portland Cement Association represents cement companies in the United States and Canada. It conducts market development, engineering, research, education, and public affairs programs.

During the concrete construction of Marina City, a PCA engineer was on-site to inspect and document the process.

Portland Cement Association

(Above) South side of Marina City construction site in 1961. Seawall is still in place. Core of east residential tower has risen just a few stories. State Street at right. (Click on image to view larger version.)

(Below) Same area in 2007.

Photograph by Steven Dahlman

Captions are currently being written and the photographs should be available for viewing later this month.

 City Within A City: The Biography of Chicago’s Marina City

  • New owner would finish construction
  • Museum would remain as tenant

13-Dec-08 – The board of directors of the Museum of Broadcast Communications has voted to sell its half-finished building at State and Kinzie Streets.

The vote took place on December 10 and was announced on the museum’s web site on Friday.

“This is a very disappointing development,” said Museum founder and president Bruce DuMont. “What began as a dream for many has turned into a nightmare thanks to Governor Blagojevich.”

Construction of the museum’s new home stopped in May 2006 when $6 million in state funding, which the museum had been expecting since the year before, failed to show up. The museum then decided to occupy just the second and third floors and lease out the ground and top floors.

Bruce DuMont “The failure of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to keep his $6 million promise to the Museum – and the economic downturn that followed that broken promise has forced this decision.” According to DuMont, “Much time and money has been lost due to the failure of the state to act.”

In October, it was announced that two restaurants, Tamarind and Johnny Rockets, would move into the building when completed. Each restaurant signed a ten-year lease of the ground floor.

Tamarind, currently located at 614 South Wabash, will open a second Asian fusion restaurant in 6,000 square feet of the 62,000 square foot building. The nostalgia-theme restaurant Johnny Rockets will take up another 2,464 square feet, facing Kinzie Street.

Museum of Broadcast Communications

(Above) Rendering of The Museum of Broadcast Communications as it would appear in 2009 or 2010 at State and Kinzie Streets.

(Below) The intersection as it currently appears, with Marina City at left. (Click on image to view larger version.)

Photo by Steven Dahlman

The museum, says DuMont, would remain as a tenant. “Our location in the shadow of Marina City is wonderful – and we sincerely hope to be part of the future development of the site.”

The museum says it owes $4.5 million to Pepper Construction Group on a $14.34 million contract. Pepper has filed a foreclosure lawsuit against the project, claiming it had been paid only $2.9 million of $7.3 million owed when construction stopped in May 2006.

DuMont told Crain’s Chicago Business that, as is, the site is appraised at $11.2 million but completed and leased, it would be worth $21.8 million.

According to Pepper, once the construction project is restarted, it should take 10-12 months to complete.

The Museum of Broadcast Communications, a not-for-profit organization that calls itself “the premiere broadcast museum in America and home to the only National Radio Hall of Fame,” opened in 1987 in the South Loop. From 1992 to 2003, it was located in the Chicago Cultural Center. It is currently closed to the public pending construction of the new building.

7-Dec-08 – With less than four weeks left in the year, gloating by Marina City Online that its book project would be completed in 2008 may be premature.

A rough draft of City Within A City: The Biography of Chicago’s Marina City is being constructed in web form first. It covers the history of the famous mixed-use complex from the early 1800s, when the only structure on the site was a log cabin, to present day.

More than 56,000 words have been written, filling 58 web pages. By comparison, a typical novel contains at least 75,000 words.

785 images are currently in use. More than 80 information sources are credited. More than 2,000 newspaper articles have been studied, along with countless other sources in print and on the web. Research material in digital form consumes 4.5 GB of hard disk space.

Interviews of original residents have started, but key interviews remain with people involved with the construction of the complex. Important images still need to be tracked down, and time needs to be invested at area research libraries.

Almost exactly one year ago, Washington University in St. Louis awarded a grant to a faculty member to produce a book that examines “the history and impact of Marina City.” Igor Marjanovic, assistant professor of architecture, is co-authoring Bertrand Goldberg’s Marina City with Dr. Katerina Ruedi Ray, director of the School of Art at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

It is scheduled to be published in 2009 by Princeton Architectural Press.

Katerina Ruedi Ray, Ph.D., who lived at Marina City from 1996 to 1999, wrote a chapter about Marina City in a 2005 book about Chicago architecture that she co-edited.

 Related story: Marina City book projects abound

 Have some time to kill? City Within A City

5-Dec-08 – The Fish Hotel will be back. Over the summer, a floating fish habitat was moved to a spot across from Marina City by an organization dedicated to the Chicago River. In November, however, as winter approached, it was decided to tow the habitat to warmer water.

“During the winter the waters of the Main Stem are too cold,” says Caitlyn Bolton, Watershed Project Coordinator for Friends of the Chicago River. “The freezing water and forming ice could cause the fish hotel buoys to sink and take the structure down with it.”

The habitat was towed by boat downstream to Midwest Generation’s Fisk Station, a power plant on West Cermak Road, where it will stay until early spring. But, says Bolton, “It will then return back to its location across from Marina City in its spring flowering beauty.”

Photo by Steven Dahlman

The three-level hotel includes floating and submerged plants, brush, logs, etc., as well as cribs at various depths for fish to eat and sleep in. Nets around the hotel keep water fowl from eating the plants.

(Left) Fish Hotel as it looked in August across from Marina City.

How do you move a fish habitat? Very slowly, says Bolton. “The fish cribs that are suspended below the surface are first taken out so that they do not create extra drag or get damaged in the towing. Fish who reside at the Fish Hotel swim in and out as they please. They are welcome to follow the Fish Hotel to its winter location but it is more likely that the Fish Hotel houses other fish when it arrives. Either way though, it does provide habitat year round but the location changes.”

The Fish Hotel is a project by Friends of the Chicago River to restore the river into a more vibrant ecosystem. The habitat started out in 2005 just west of the Michigan Avenue bridge but was moved this year in anticipation of the Riverwalk expansion.

 Related story: Fish hotel opens across from Marina City

1-Dec-08 – Crunch has paid LaSalle Hotel Properties, owner of commercial property at Marina City, an undisclosed amount – possibly close to $1 million – to settle termination of its lease.

The fitness facility closed on July 31. General Manager Sean Herron said at the time they were “unable to negotiate acceptable lease agreements” at Marina City and at 820 North Orleans, two of five Crunch locations in Chicago. Crunch had been at Marina City since June 1999.

Crain’s Chicago Business has noted that a financial statement filed by LaSalle in the third quarter shows “a $900,000 gain in other income from a lease termination ‘offset by a loss of lease revenue’ from Crunch.”

CB Richard Ellis, the world’s largest commercial real estate company, has been hired to market commercial space at Marina City, including the old Crunch location.

  • Fitness center in one tower, meeting room in the other
  • Plan would include new HVAC system on 20th floors
  • $435,000 cost would be paid without special assessment, says MTCA

30-Nov-08 – Claiming support from at least 360 owners and residents, Marina Towers Condominium Association has detailed a proposed fitness center that would be built on the 20th floor of one residential tower. In the other tower would be a new MTCA meeting room.

In a November 26 letter to unit owners, MTCA president Donna Leonard says the fitness center and meeting room could be built for $435,000 “without assessment increases beyond the ordinary cost of living increases and without a special assessment.”

Which tower would house the fitness center is not specified. It would be located next to a laundry room in vacant space described as approximately the size of a studio living room. Studio living rooms at Marina City are approximately 12-feet-8-inches by 18-feet-4-inches.

The same space in the other tower would be turned into a new meeting room for MTCA, allowing the condo association to cancel its lease of the meeting room in the lobby of the commercial platform, which it leases for about $40,000 per year.

“Fitness centers are an important amenity in high-rise buildings,” writes Leonard. “With the closing of Crunch Gym at the end of July 2008, Marina City does not have a fitness center available within the complex, making Marina City a less desirable building to live in when compared to the more modern high-rise buildings in the vicinity.”

(Above) In this floor plan for proposed changes to the 20th floor, a new door would be installed off the main corridor, leading to a new fitness center to the left and smaller laundry room on the right. New HVAC equipment would be located close to the inner wall in the laundry room. Newer dryers would have to be stacked to fit into the smaller laundry room. (Click on image to view larger version.)

Replacement of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system on the 20th floor is also recommended in a feasibility study that accompanied the MTCA letter. According to residential property manager David Gantt, the HVAC system is ten years past its life expectancy. “It could malfunction at any time, leaving the 20th floor without air conditioning for several months while waiting for new equipment to arrive and the City of Chicago to issue the appropriate permits.”

New HVAC equipment would be housed in space now occupied by a restroom that, says Gantt, is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Not convinced changes are necessary is former MTCA president Dr. Martin Flynn. He notes the size of the laundry room will decrease by one-third its current size – something not mentioned in the November 26 letter to unit owners.

“It’s disingenuous to not say that we’re cramming 450 units of washing/drying into a pretty tight arrangement,” says Flynn. “Once again, the board is being sly.”

Flynn says removing the restrooms is a bad idea. “The idea that we have to comply with the ADA down there is bogus. This only has to do with gut renovations. And why would we get rid of the only bathroom on a floor that will soon house either a fitness room or a meeting room? Don’t you people pee?”

The plumbing does not need to be replaced, according to Flynn, because it was redone just ten years ago.

Dr. Martin Flynn Flynn, who was on the board from 2000 to 2002, says it would be less expensive to “buy some units on [the 21st floor] and turn them into the respective spaces.”

Gantt says the changes would cut costs and generate revenue. Replacing the HVAC system and plumbing on the 20th floor of each tower, installing energy efficient laundry equipment, and moving the meeting room to the vacant space next to one of the laundry rooms, he says, would save MTCA approximately $44,000 per year. It would also result in “potential income of approximately $4,000 per year,” although this is not explained.

“In addition, unit owners would benefit directly from a new fitness center in the Towers as this amenity would make Marina City more competitive in the real estate rental and sales markets.”

Along with the November 26 letter is another survey, asking unit owners if they are in favor of the project. “If the survey responses show sufficient interest in Management’s proposal,” says MTCA president Donna Leonard, “the MTCA Buildings & Grounds Committee and the Decorating Committee will host an open forum for all unit owners to discuss this plan in further detail.”

  • Price drops again on last of Kimmel condos

30-Nov-08 – Gary Kimmel’s attorney believes the recently-sentenced Marina City resident will be eligible for work release after serving 25 months of his 37-month sentence.

Kimmel was sentenced to prison on November 20 for money laundering in connection with a nationwide prostitution ring. He’ll have two years of supervised release after that, but the judge waived any fine. It’s not yet known where Kimmel will serve his time, but he must surrender on January 16.

The sentence is at the low end of a preliminary, non-binding guideline range of 37 to 46 months, agreed to in a plea agreement filed on May 29. According to Randall Samborn, Public Information Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, the government agreed to recommend a sentence within the range without specifying a number – leaving it up to the judge.

Later, a pre-sentence report calculated a higher guideline range of 78 to 97 months, but this was rejected by the judge, who lowered the guideline back to the original 37-46 month range.

Attorney Joseph Lopez was trying to get a sentence for his client that was below minimum guidelines, based on Kimmel’s cooperation with the investigation and other factors.

Joseph Lopez “As far as sentence imposed, I was hoping to get it lower,” says Lopez (photo at left), “but the doc’s education hurt him to an extent.”

Kimmel graduated from Northwestern University Dental School. He was a licensed dentist from 1978 until shortly after his arrest in November 2005. At sentencing, Judge Blanche M. Manning told Kimmel he “should have better common sense than to get involved with this activity.”

The amount of restitution was reduced from $405,000 to $342,000 – and could be reduced further. The judge agreed with defense that a Supreme Court ruling, five days after Kimmel’s plea agreement, requires restitution in cases of money laundering be determined based on profits, not just gross receipts. While the $342,000 represents money paid to Kimmel by the prostitution ring, both sides agree Kimmel lost money on the deal.

Arguments are expected shortly from Lopez and Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Ruder. In the meantime, Lopez says Kimmel has voluntarily sold the condominium units at Marina City that were subject to forfeiture, and paid the government $344,247 in restitution.

Kimmel condo price lowered again

The list price for the last of Kimmel’s condominium units at Marina City has been lowered again. The asking price for the three connected units on the 56th floor of the east residential tower is now $874,500.

That is $10,000 less than the asking price in early November and $20,000 less than the asking price when the units went on the market in mid-October.

The units were not subject to a forfeiture order filed in U.S. District Court on September 3, as long as Kimmel paid restitution.

(Below) Photographs by VHT Visual Marketing Services show living and dining areas with hardwood floors, one of three bedrooms, and a bathroom with whirlpool bath.
VHT Visual Marketing Services
VHT Visual Marketing Services
VHT Visual Marketing Services

Related stories:

28-Nov-08 – The condominium sales staff at Waterview Tower has been laid off “pending financing,” according to the building’s Director of Marketing and Sales.

Dorrie Freeman declined to say exactly how many sales people were laid off and had no comment on prospects for the financing being completed.

Construction of the 90-story tower, part condo and part hotel, was expected to resume in October, thanks to a loan commitment of $400 million from China Exim Bank. The bank, however, has put the loan on hold until the U.S. economy improves.

According to Appraisal Research Counselors, 156 of Waterview Tower’s 233 condo units have been sold, and it has signed contracts for 80 of the 200 combination condo/hotel units. The condos are selling for an average of $800 per square foot, making them among the most expensive for new buildings in Chicago.

There is talk that Bank of America might move to foreclose on the property. LaSalle Bank, which was acquired by Bank of America last year, loaned developers $20 million to get the project started in 2006.

Photo by Steven Dahlman

The tower, located on Wacker Drive diagonal from Marina City, is unfinished just short of the 27th floor. Construction firms have long since walked off the job, and liens for $32 million in unpaid bills have been piling up.

(Left) Waterview Tower as it appeared on Monday afternoon.

Sidewalk closed due to being vertical
Photograph by Steven Dahlman
(Above) A sign in front of the raised Wabash Avenue bridge reminds pedestrians that the sidewalk is closed. The bridge was closed last week due to installation of sheet piling by Rausch Construction Company for the River Walk beneath the bridge.

Vincent Falk at Cucalorus Film Festival

(Above) Vincent Falk, Producer/Director Jennifer Burns, and film editor Christine Gilliland at the Lumina Theater in Wilmington, North Carolina last Friday.

21-Nov-08Vincent: A Life In Color, a 95-minute documentary on Marina City resident Vincent Falk, had its world premier November 14 at the Cucalorus Film Festival. The film was screened at the Lumina Theater, a 360-seat theater in Wilmington, North Carolina.

“The premiere was pretty great,” says Burns. “The audience laughed, cheered, stood and applauded at the end. Vincent had a great time. He became the unofficial mascot of the festival.”

The 59-year-old computer programmer for Cook County is better known throughout downtown Chicago as the man who dresses in brightly colored suits and dances on bridges for the amusement of tourists. The film follows Falk through a tour boat season on the Chicago River.

 Related story: Documentary on Vincent Falk to premier next month

21-Nov-08 – Several banners that have hung from city street poles will be auctioned Saturday at Harry Caray’s. The city is handling the auction and asked the River North restaurant to host the event.

The banners promote sports victories, festivals, special city occasions, and museum shows.

Proceeds will benefit the mayor’s “Sharing It” program, the Chicago Anti-Hunger Federation, the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and will purchase holiday gifts and provide entertainment for needy children in Chicago.

The auction will be Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Harry Caray’s Restaurant at Kinzie and Dearborn Streets. Admission is free. To purchase banners, cash, check, and credit cards will be accepted.

Harry Caray’s Restaurant

Twilight laundry
Nick Suydam

(Above) A lone laundry enthusiast surveys the outside world from the east residential tower.

Chicago photographer Nick Suydam captured this image on November 9. A Photoshop effect gives it a “miniature” look. “A simple little action involving gradients and lens blur,” Nick explains. “It helps to bring out small details in big scenes, makes things look very model-like.”

(Click on image to view larger version.)

  • Two years of probation but no fine
  • Forfeiture details still undecided
  • “I made a terrible mistake,” Kimmel tells judge

20-Nov-08 – Gary Kimmel was sentenced Thursday to 37 months in prison for money laundering in connection with a nationwide prostitution ring. He’ll have two years of supervised release after that, but the judge waived any fine. It’s not known where Kimmel will serve his time, but he must surrender on January 16.

In a hearing that lasted two and a half hours, Kimmel’s defense lawyers portrayed the Marina City resident as cooperative, accepting of responsibility, and only guilty of lacking common sense. Said Paul Zido, “If there was a federal statute against being naive and street-dumb, you should convict him and he should get the maximum penalty.”

Zido pleaded for leniency for Kimmel, whose wife is living with her mother in the Philippines along with the couple’s three children. “Let him bring his family home. He deserves a chance in life. He’s had so many bad turns. You’ll never see him a courtroom again.”

The sentence is at the low end of preliminary sentencing guidelines.

“I got into this trying to help somebody,” Kimmel told Judge Blanche M. Manning. He said he didn’t realize his tenant was involved in prostitution until a girl came to his door to pay rent and Kimmel saw she had been beaten.

“I made a terrible mistake. I’m so sorry for that,” Kimmel told the judge.

“I’ve ruined my life. I’ve ruined my children’s lives. I don’t know how I’m going to put them through school and an education. I don’t know how I’m going to support my family any longer. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I’m not going to give up. I’m going to keep trying.”

Involvement part of plan to improve credit rating

Trying to boost his credit rating, Kimmel agreed to purchase automobiles on behalf of the prostitution ring. However, he was not paid back and ended up losing money and going deep in debt.

Describing his client as “financially entrenched,” Zido says Kimmel owes various creditors $97,231.30. “This ‘expert’ money launderer here lost $100,000. This man was street-dumb.”

Zido estimated the case has cost Kimmel between $600,000 and $700,000.

Judge Manning said she was convinced that Kimmel was taking responsibility for his actions, but that he “should have better common sense than to get involved with this activity.”

Still undecided is the issue of forfeiture. The defense claims Kimmel has voluntarily sold his condominium units at Marina City, and paid more than the required amount of restitution if the amount was calculated properly. Both sides will submit arguments, with the government’s due first, next month.

The judge agreed with defense that a Supreme Court ruling, five days after Kimmel’s plea agreement, requires restitution in cases of money laundering be determined based on profits, not just gross receipts. Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Ruder argued that ‘profit’ should have a broader definition and mean profits of the prostitution ring paid to Kimmel. The judge, however, agreed that at the most, this amount is probably closer to $342,000.

Manning could not specify where Kimmel serves his time but said she would make recommendations.

Lopez provided the only humorous moment during the hearing, describing a scene in the film “Scarface” and how it applied to tougher money laundering laws in the 1980s.

About a dozen friends of Kimmel’s attended the sentencing hearing, including John Leonard, husband of MTCA president Donna Leonard.

Sentencing was rescheduled three times in past week

On November 13, the judge, Blanche M. Manning, reset sentencing to December 5. The next day, she reset it to January 30. Later that same day, Manning reset sentencing a third time back to November 20, the date it had been scheduled since September.

Kimmel pleaded guilty on May 29 to money laundering in connection with a nationwide prostitution ring. The maximum sentence is 20 years but the government is asking for 78 to 97 months.

In a report filed on Monday in U.S. District Court, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald reiterated the case against Kimmel, including wiretaps of Kimmel’s phone conversations with convicted pimp Robert Lewis Young. Also known as “Diamond,” Young is now serving a 25-year prison sentence. “During these calls,” writes Fitzgerald, “it is clear that [Kimmel] knew that Young was a pimp, and that he was controlling the prostitutes working for him through violence.”

Patrick Fitzgerald

Patrick Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald says that Kimmel knew money paid to him for luxury vehicles and other items came from illegal prostitution. Kimmel was paid in cash, money order, and cashier’s check, either in person or by mail. When cash was sent to Kimmel in the mail, according to court documents, it was sometimes concealed in shoe boxes.

One prostitute that Kimmel, a former dentist, cared for in 2005 had lost several teeth in a beating by another convicted pimp in the prostitution ring. Kimmel was paid for his work in barter. According to Fitzgerald, Kimmel provided the dental work in exchange for two hours of sexual favors by a prostitute for a friend of Kimmel, an older man Kimmel identifies in the wiretaps as “Ray.”

Fitzgerald says Kimmel “very early on” knew he was laundering money for an illegal prostitution business. “Defendant’s crime was motivated purely by greed. He entered and furthered a money laundering conspiracy, knowing that doing so was promoting illegal prostitution businesses,” Fitzgerald writes. “He did all of this to improve his own credit rating, which enabled him to increase his real estate holdings and make money.”

Joseph Lopez

Joseph Lopez

Kimmel’s attorney, Joseph Lopez, was asking for a sentence below minimum guidelines. Lopez says Kimmel has accepted responsibility and has cooperated with the investigation – and that he did not initially know Diamond was a pimp. “Eventually he became aware when his neighbors confronted him that the girls were seen scantily clad in the laundry room,” Lopez writes in his objection to Fitzgerald’s report filed on Monday.

Problems started with car accident in 1985

Lopez traces Kimmel’s problems back to a near-fatal car accident in 1985. It led to the loss, he says, of a trucking business Kimmel co-owned while working as a dentist. Disabled, Kimmel lost the trucking business and dental practice and filed for bankruptcy in 1988. Says Lopez, Kimmel’s “dire credit and financial predicament...motivated him in his attempt to bolster his credit rating by dealing with [convicted pimps] Jodie Spears and Robert Young.”

Eager to reestablish his credit, Kimmel agreed to purchase luxury vehicles for Young in 2002. Kimmel would not receive a fee for doing this, and he didn’t even get fully reimbursed for the cars. When Spears and Young failed to pay Kimmel for the vehicles, says Lopez, Kimmel was stuck with payments and no vehicles. “Diamond and Spears failed to pay off the vehicles, and [Kimmel’s] credit rating went down the sewer.”

Lopez says Kimmel was not aware that he was engaged in money laundering. “This can be looked at with skepticism by us in our profession, but the defendant truly had no idea he was laundering money.” He says Kimmel “fell hook, line, and sinker” for “smooth-talking con-men.”

“In the end, [Kimmel’s] ill-advised plan to increase his credit rating backfired and his rating dropped like a lead balloon.”

Supreme Court ruling favors Kimmel

From the sale of Kimmel’s condominium units at Marina City, Lopez says Kimmel has paid the government $344,247 in restitution – slightly more than the $342,000 the government says Kimmel earned from unlawful activity. But even that is in dispute, as it represents gross receipts and not profit. In June, the Supreme Court ruled that money laundering applies only to profits of an illegal operation, not just the cash it generates.

“The defendant was not in the business of laundering money,” writes Lopez. “[He] did not charge a fee for purchasing the vehicles. In fact, he lost money in the end.”

Lopez points out this is the 59-year-old Kimmel’s first arrest. He says Kimmel has cooperated with the investigation. He has health issues related to sleep apnea, and he has young children to take care of, including one who is autistic.

Lopez says there is no need to impose a sentence that would deter others, because Kimmel’s conduct was only “borderline unlawful.” As For Kimmel himself, “the deterrent effect this arrest has had on the defendant is devastating. He now knows that his conduct was wrong.”

Praised in Vietnam, less so at Marina City

“The defendant has been the subject of ridicule and scorn by others in the dental profession and his neighbors in Marina City Towers,“ writes Lopez. “The defendant has been the subject of blogs such as Marinacityonline.com. The defendant has suffered economically and emotionally and will lose everything if he is incarcerated for a long period of time.”

Lopez says Kimmel served with distinction in the U.S. Army, Inducted in 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War, Kimmel was assigned to a mechanized infantry battalion, mobilized whenever other units were in danger of being overrun. Kimmel eventually rose to the rank of sergeant and led 25 men in almost day-to-day combat for ten months.

He received two Purple Hearts. In 1969, according to Lopez, Kimmel drove his vehicle into enemy fire, allowing him and eight other soldiers to escape. But not before a rocket propelled grenade exploded in the back of the vehicle. Another time, a North Vietnamese soldier, chased by Kimmel into an underground tunnel, tossed a grenade back at Kimmel, knocking him unconscious and inflicting severe injuries that put Kimmel in the hospital for three months.

15-Nov-08 – For the second time, Gary Kimmel’s sentencing has been rescheduled. This time, it’s the judge who needs more time. The Honorable Blanche M. Manning reset sentencing to December 5. However, that conflicts with the schedule of Kimmel’s attorney, Joseph Lopez, who has a murder trial starting that week. Lopez says he will try to get the date changed to January 9.

Sentencing had been scheduled for November 20 to give Lopez more time to prepare a motion to seek a sentence for Kimmel that is below minimum guidelines. Preliminary sentencing guidelines called for 37 to 46 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.

The Marina City resident pleaded guilty on May 29 to federal charges of money laundering related to a nationwide prostitution ring.

 Related story: Kimmel condo price lowered

15-Nov-08 – As former Chicago Alderman Edward Vrdolyak awaits sentencing, his connection to Marina City merits recollection.

Edward Vrdolyak

It was 1977. Vrdolyak was a 39-year-old 10th Ward Alderman who had earned the nickname “Fast Eddie” for his ability to get programs pushed through the Chicago city council.

(Left) Vrdolyak in the late 1970s, from Chicago Politics, Ward by Ward by David K. Fremon.

Over at Marina City, developer Charles Swibel was making mortgage payments on the complex, but progress paying it off was slow. The bank holding the mortgage, Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company, encouraged Swibel to convert the residences at Marina City from apartments to condominium units. Proceeds from the sales would allow $32 million in loans to be refinanced.

Given the task of selling 896 apartments as quickly as possible, Swibel looked for bulk purchasers – investors who weren’t necessarily going to be residents.

Here’s where the story gets a little complicated. It’s not surprising that one prospective investor he turned to was Vrdolyak, a friend of Swibel’s with whom he had worked during Swibel’s many years in the public sector.

Swibel offered Vrdolyak 50 condominium units. According to Swibel’s son, Howard, now a partner at a Chicago law firm, Vrdolyak got a bank loan and paid the list price.

“There was no discount,” said Howard Swibel in January 2008. “And he got the same kind of financing package that other people were able to get from Continental Bank.”

Not everyone was convinced. Some people were suspicious because the city council was voting on whether to allow the condo conversion at Marina City in the first place. It was alleged Vrdolyak was given “bargain basement” prices in an attempt to influence his support of the conversion.

Howard Swibel points out there was no reason for the city council not to approve the conversion. “It required city council approval because the original Marina City was a planned development, a special zoning package. It required a change in the plan that it was going to be privately-owned apartments.”

Vrdolyak bought the 50 units in 1978, rented them out, and sold most of them at auction on July 10, 1983. Market values at the time were estimated at $59,500 to $150,000 for the studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom units.

The remaining units have since been sold and Vrdolyak is not currently an owner at Marina City.

Edward Vrdolyak

Vrdolyak, now 70 years old, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit mail fraud in connection with bribes and a Gold Coast real estate deal. Sentencing is scheduled for January 9.

(Left) A more recent photograph of Vrdolyak, who is a founding partner of Vrdolyak Law Group, LLC.

 From City Within A City: The end is coming: Marina City goes condo

  • Resolution “unlawful on several grounds,” says attorney
  • “Gross dereliction of fiduciary duty,” says former MTCA president
  • Unit owners not allowed to comment before rule is put into effect
  • Board members again exposed to lawsuit and personal liability

12-Nov-08 – In defiance of state law and the First Amendment, Marina Towers Condominium Association has banned “taping, filming or recording“ of its board meetings.

The resolution was announced at the September 24 meeting and put into effect immediately. A tape recorder in use at the time was then confiscated.

Recording would only be allowed if the unit owner signed a written agreement. The recording could only be for the owner’s personal use. The recording could not be given to anyone else. And the condominium association would retain ownership of the recording.

Violation of the rule would result in a $10,000 fine – against either the unit owner recording the meeting or any “unit owner, tenant or resident” who publishes, rebroadcasts or distributes the recording.

While acknowledging the right of unit owners under the Illinois Condominium Property Act to record the open portion of a condominium board meeting, subject to reasonable rules and regulations, the resolution points to other parts of the Act that says only unit owners may attend meetings and obtain meeting minutes.

A Chicago attorney who specializes in real estate law says the resolution violates the Condominium Property Act, Illinois Constitution, and the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

According to R. Kymn Harp, an attorney with Robbins, Salomon and Patt, Ltd., “Although the MTCA board...purports to rely upon Section 18(a)(9) of the Condominium Property Act for authority to restrict the recording of the open portion of board meetings and the dissemination thereof, the...interpretation [of the section] is not based upon sound legal grounds.”

Harp says there are six criteria that must be used to make a rule enforceable. For example, the rule must be reasonably related to the purposes for which the association was formed and necessary to protect a legitimate association interest. The rule must not conflict with the Condominium Property Act. And the rule must be adopted by proper board action and made public to all owners and residents before its effective date.

R. Kymn Harp

“Additionally, Illinois case law requires that rules adopted by the board must be objective, evenhanded, nondiscriminatory, and uniformly applied,” says Harp.

(Left) R. Kymn Harp

The resolution claims it would be circulated to unit owners prior to a vote on its inclusion in MTCA rules and regulations. However, with the rule in place now, it’s been seven weeks since it was announced and unit owners still have not received a copy of the resolution.

Rule stymied by First Amendment

The First Amendment is troublesome for the MTCA ban. The Illinois Condominium Property Act says that “no rule or regulation may impair any rights guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America or Section 4 of Article I of the Illinois Constitution.”

Besides the U.S. Constitution, freedom of speech is protected by the Illinois Constitution.

Two other attorneys, who did not want to be identified, have said the resolution violates the First Amendment. The resolution has been described as “over-the-top,” adopted improperly, and unconstitutional, with the obvious purpose to suppress dissent.

The $10,000 fine, says Harp, is not reasonable or proportionate to the severity of the violation.

“The proposed rule of the MTCA board is unlawful on several grounds. It appears to serve no legitimate association interest; is not narrowly drafted; conflicts with Section 18 of the Condominium Property Act in that it violates Section 4 of Article I of the Illinois Constitution; purports to impose a fine that is not proportionate to the violation; and is not reasonably related to the purpose for which the condominium association has been formed.”

Harp also maintains that the rule appears to conflict with the responsibility of the board to act in a manner reasonably related to the exercise of its fiduciary duty – to the association as a whole and to individual members. “The rule is a clear attempt to chill the free and open discussion and criticism of board actions in violation of the free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.”

Harp says if challenged, the proposed rule would be found in court to be invalid and unenforceable.

“It may also form a basis for board member liability for seeking to deprive citizens of their constitutional right to free speech and dissent.”

Marina City Online to blame for this one

The resolution refers indirectly to Marina City Online. We have obtained recordings of MTCA meetings from unit owners, written a news article about each meeting, and then made available on our web site the original audio. MCO provided the only timely coverage of MTCA board meetings. It can take months for the MTCA’s coverage of its board meetings to appear in the MTCA newsletter. As of November 12, for example, on the MTCA web site the current newsletter is dated June 2008.

Although MTCA claims this hinders people attending board meetings from expressing their opinions, comments from audience members at condo board meetings have not been allowed for the past year.

Former MTCA board president Dr. Martin Flynn says recordings are permitted. “You do not need advance permission. I suppose they can have you sign a form that you will not disrupt the meeting or walk around, or intimidate, and that they have a record of who recorded the meeting but other than that I can’t think of any restriction that does not infringe on your right to record a meeting.”

Dr. Martin Flynn

Dr. Martin Flynn

Flynn, who was on the board from 2000 to 2002, is dubious of MTCA claims that it would own the recording. “Are they laying claim to notes that might be written? Also, state law only addresses the recording of meetings. It does not state, nor can one infer, that the board can determine what is done to the recording afterwards. Would they deny publication of a transcript? And finally, the fine itself is so large as to be egregious and again, cause pause and therefore hinder an owner from even attempting to record. It is a gross dereliction...of their fiduciary duty.”

Flynn recalls that in the 1990s, all board meetings were recorded and transcribed at a cost of $15,000 to $20,000 per year.

The Resolution...

Resolution regarding of the taping, filming or recording of meetings of the board. Whereas, section 18a9 of the Condominium Property Act provides that only unit owners shall have the right to attend meetings of the condominium board of directors and section 19 of the Condominium Property Act provides that only unit owners have a right to obtain minutes of meetings of the condominium board.

Whereas, section 18a9 of the Condominium Property Act also provides the right to tape, film or record the open portions of the condominium board meetings shall [sic] be subject to reasonable rules and regulations.

Whereas, the board wishes to ensure the persons attending the board meeting feel free to express their opinions.

Whereas in the past, unit owners have given recordings of meetings to [sic] the board of directors to a web site which has made the proceedings of the board available to non-unit owners.

Be it resolved by the board of directors of the Marina Towers Condominium Association that effective with this meeting, any unit owner who wishes to tape, film or record the open portions of a condominium board meeting shall first disclose his or her intent to record the proceedings to the chair and those present and second, sign a written agreement on a form provided by the association.

One, that the unit owner will use the tape, film or recording of the meeting only for the unit owner’s personal use.

Two, that the unit owner will not provide the tape, film or recording of the meeting or any portion thereof or any transcript of the meeting or any portion thereof made from the tape, film or recording to any other person, including any web site or other medium for publication, rebroadcast or distribution to any other person.

Three, that the ownership of the contents of the tape, film or recording shall remain with the condominium association.

Four, the agreement shall provide for liquidated damages in the amount of $10,000 for any violation of the written agreement. That any person who tapes, films or records any portion of a condominium board meeting without first signing an agreement or any unit owner, tenant, or resident who publishes, rebroadcasts or distributes to any other person the tape, film or recording of any board meeting without the express written consent of the condominium association shall result in a fine in the amount of $10,000.

Be it further resolved that the board intends to circulate the contents of this resolution to the unit owners prior to a vote on its inclusion in the Marina Towers Condominium Association rules and regulations.

10-Nov-08 – Wednesday, December 10 is the date decided upon by Marina Towers Condominium Association for this year’s holiday party. It will be held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the MTCA meeting room and adjacent lobby.

Polish cuisine will be served, along with beer and wine. Kasia’s Deli in Ukrainian Village will cater the party, according to Phyllis Hartford, chairman of the MTCA Social Committee. According its web site, customers of Kasia’s include the City of Chicago, Governor George Ryan, United Airlines, and the Polish consulate.

$4,000 was budgeted for social functions this year. The amount did not change in the proposed budget for 2009.

10-Nov-08 – 400 Marina City residents are estimated to have taken up Dick’s Last Resort on its offer of free food and drinks over two hours Monday evening.

According to Dick’s CEO Steve Schiff, the restaurant/bar was closed to the general public during the event from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Residents enjoyed hors d’oeuvres, wings, etc., and free drinks.

Photo by Steven Dahlman
(Above) Dick’s Last Resort CEO Steve Schiff (far right) and his wife, Pat, greeted Marina City residents Monday evening. (Click on image to view larger version.) Also present at the event were Mike McRae, Director of Operations for DLR, and the architect, Walter Hainsfurther, president of Kurtz Associates.

Dick’s moved to Marina City on October 30 after 20 years in the River East neighborhood. Schiff says feedback from residents has been positive. “They're happy to have us.”

Photo by Steven Dahlman
(Above) Marina City residents were treated to free food and drinks at Dick’s Last Resort Monday evening. (Click on image to view larger version.)

Based on 41 reviews of the new location on the web site “Yelp,” Dick’s has a three-out-of-five-star rating. Based on just a few reviews, Metromix Chicago gave the Dallas-based restaurant/bar 4.5 stars out of five. On the residential blog Marina Watch Dog Sound Off, approximately 30 comments about Dick’s Last Resort were posted on Sunday and Monday. On Tuesday, there were 29 comments.

 Related story: Food and drink on the house for MC residents at Dick’s next Monday

“5 ’till 7 or until the neighbors complain...oh, wait.”

–Dick’s Last Resort flyer

6-Nov-08 – Marina City residents will be treated to free food and drinks at Dick’s Last Resort next Monday. For months, company officials had been talking about doing some sort of special event for residents, but details were not known until Wednesday.

On November 10, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., the restaurant/bar that opened at Marina City on October 30 will offer free food and drinks to anyone with identification showing residency at Marina City.

Dick’s Last Resort

After 20 years in the River East neighborhood, Dick’s controversial move to Marina City sparked debate among residents and their condo board that led to a renewed effort to seek official landmark status. It also changed the south wall of the commercial platform, got 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly involved, and led to increased friction between commercial and residential property managers at the mixed-use complex.

 Related story: Dick’s Last Resort opens at Marina City

  • $884,500 for three connected units
  • Still unknown if restitution was made
  • Property tax bills past due

5-Nov-08 – The last three Marina City condominium units owned by Gary Kimmel, who will be sentenced this month for money laundering, have dropped in price. On Wednesday, the asking price for the three connected units was $884,500, exactly $10,000 less than the asking price when the units went on the market during the week of October 13.

Kimmel pleaded guilty on May 29 to federal charges related to a nationwide prostitution ring. Sentencing is scheduled for November 20.

The three units on the 56th floor of the east residential tower were not subject to a forfeiture order filed in U.S. District Court on September 3, as long as Kimmel paid $405,000 in restitution. Randall Samborn, Public Information Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, said he could not comment on whether or not this means full restitution has been satisfied.

The “coop commission” paid to the buyer’s real estate agent has been increased to five percent of the purchase price, which is considered “very high” by a Realtor MCO spoke with who specializes in residential property in downtown Chicago. Typical coop commissions, said the Realtor, are around 2.5 or 3 percent of the purchase price.

The selling agent is listed as Hugh Savage, a licensed real estate agent and former member of the Marina Towers Condominium Association board of directors. Sources who have seen the full MLS listing say the contact for showings is John Leonard, a real estate lawyer who is married to MTCA president Donna Leonard.

In 2006, to help sell six condo units, Kimmel employed Donna Leonard as his real estate agent. John Leonard was Kimmel’s attorney at the closings, according to the United States Attorney’s Office.

Documents from the Office of Cook County Treasurer show Kimmel in arrears on his property tax bills. As of October 24, payments due totaled $6,810.37. The payment that was due on March 4, 2008, according to the county, was not paid until July 23.

Related stories:

 Last of Kimmel properties go on sale

 Kimmel sentencing rescheduled

  • 14 percent early voted
  • Election judges report few problems
  • A day in the life of a ballot

Ward 42 Precinct 27
President & Vice President

Votes cast Barack Obama & Joe Biden John McCain & Sarah Palin
544 388 (71.32%) 151 (27.76%)

U.S. Senate

Votes cast Richard J. Durbin Steve Sauerberg
529 396 (74.86%) 108 (20.42%)

7th District Representative

Votes cast Danny K. Davis Steve Miller
504 334 (66.27%) 170 (33.73%)

5-Nov-08 – Voters in Chicago’s tiny 27th Precinct in the 42nd Ward, comprised mostly of Marina City, achieved an 80 percent turnout on Tuesday. Residents converged on the condo association meeting room at Marina City to cast votes in national, state, county, and city elections.

Of 694 registered voters in the precinct, all of whom live at Marina City, 453 voted on Tuesday (including “provisional” ballots for which verification of voter eligibility is still pending), 100 early-voted in October, and four voted by absentee ballot.

City-wide, turnout for the General Election was 72 percent, with 1,497,292 voters registered and 1,079,099 actually voting.

As of Wednesday evening, all but five votes for president, counted from the 27th Precinct, were for the major candidates. Bob Barr got three votes. Charles Baldwin and Ralph Nader each got one vote. Two write-in votes went to Ron Paul and Hillary Clinton got one write-in vote.

Photo by Steven Dahlman

(Above) Election judge Rebecca Smith hands a ballot to a voter at the 27th Precinct (42nd Ward) polling place on Tuesday.

Election judges described a mostly quiet and orderly day, with residents waiting patiently. There was only one serious outburst, from a resident who did not want to speak her real name to the election judges, despite city guidelines that say a voter’s name must be spoken aloud so that pollwatchers can follow along.

The day started for judges at 4:30 a.m. and ended at about 9:00 p.m. About 30 people were waiting in line when the polling place opened at 6:00 a.m. By 7:00 p.m., there was no line and only a couple of people still voting. There was a minor technical issue with the ballot scanner at the start of the day that was quickly resolved, and no issues with consolidating results at the end of the day.

The polling place was visited by local news media, plus Metro TV from Indonesia. A news crew videotaped the polling place for its ongoing coverage of Barack Obama, who they said is very popular in Indonesia.

According to Alderman Brendan Reilly’s office, the 42nd Ward ranked first in Chicago in early voting turnout, with 9,734 early votes cast. The 42nd Ward also ranked first in number of new voter registrations.

Your ballot’s journey through the streets of Chicago

Photo by Steven Dahlman

If you voted in Chicago’s 42nd Ward, this is where your ballot ended up Tuesday at about 9 p.m., in the gymnasium at Ogden Elementary School near West Walton Street and North State Street.

Late last week, in a large, blue steel cabinet, supplies from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners were delivered to the MTCA meeting room. Working on Sunday and again on Monday, five election judges and one technical administrator converted the room into a polling place. On the supply checklist, there are 67 items, including shrink-wrapped ballots, scanner and ballot box, touchscreen voting unit, voting booths, boxes, signs, forms, envelopes for the forms, and bags in which to put the envelopes.

Election judges, who receive a modest fee, apply for the position and receive three hours of training. The administrator receives considerably more training on the equipment. Voters at Marina City had one very experienced election judge, two judges with some experience, and two judges with no experience. The polling place can also include independent “pollwatchers” who are allowed to monitor the voting process.

The voting assembly line

If you were next in line, you were first greeted by a friendly Democrat judge who must ask your name even if both of you know it by heart. While that judge found your “certificate of registered voter” in a large, alphabetically-sorted book, a slightly-less-friendly Republican judge [the author of this article] quickly scanned lists of registered voters and lists of voters who had already voted.

Certificates are color-coded. Some voters, for reasons decided by the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, have to show identification. Some need to sign an affidavit. Even people who had no voter certificate, but were certain they were registered in that precinct, got to vote by first filling out a special form. Judges are trained to help people vote and find a way around any obstacle.

After you signed your certificate, the second judge initialed it and passed it to a third judge who handed the ballot to you and explained how to use it. Once you completed the ballot, a fourth judge helped feed the ballot into the scanner and gave you a receipt, while a fifth judge kept the paperwork flowing and double-checked the work of the first two judges.

After your ballot is inserted into the scanner, what happens next?

The scanner makes sure there are no fundamental problems with the ballot, like too many votes cast for any one office. You do not have to vote for all offices. If you make a mistake, you can start over.

Chicago Board of Election Commissioners Most ballots are accepted and drop through the bottom of the scanner into the large cardboard ballot box on which it sits (pictured at left). In theory, a ballot with a write-in vote will fall into a separate space – but at the end of the day, all ballots are hand-checked for write-in votes.

The ballots, along with voluminous forms and other documents, went into a large blue bag and a small black bag that were taken by taxi by two judges, one Democrat and one Republican, to Ogden Elementary School. In a world far removed from the quiet polling place, described by one judge as similar to “passing through customs in a third-world country,” blue bags were stacked and black bags were scrutinized.

In Chicago, however, the paper ballots are just a back-up. Your vote was electronically registered by the scanner and saved on a small memory pack. Shortly after the polls closed, the election judges carefully removed the pack and transmitted the results to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

 Election Results: Chicago Board of Election Commissioners

  • The arduous six-block journey of Dick’s Last Resort
  • First customers include supporters, critics, and five guys from Iowa

Photo by Steven Dahlman

(Above) In town for computer training, five men from northeast Iowa waited 45 minutes to be the first customers at Dick’s Last Resort late Thursday afternoon. Left to right are Roger “Hadji” Haugen of Fredericksburg, Iowa, Chad Ott of Readlyn, Chuck Sipple of Waverly, Erwin Mills of Waterloo, and Phil Moser of Waverly. They work for Nestlé Brands Company in Waverly, Iowa. They were in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, for testing of a new computer operating system. (Click on image to view larger version. Warning: Silly hats.)

31-Oct-08 – It could not possibly have been a more arduous journey from River East, but Dick’s Last Resort quietly opened at Marina City at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday.

“It was a soft opening. We did not publicize it,” said CEO Steve Schiff. Liquor licenses from both city and state authorities arrived in time for the Dallas-based restaurant/bar to open by the weekend. Other licenses and certificates, to serve food and have live entertainment, had already been obtained.

Dick’s applied for a liquor license last November, and had received conditional approval in January, but they had to have the actual paper license in order to open.

“We had a lot of time to get ready,” said CFO Christy Zirnheld. Storms earlier in the year in Illinois and along the Gulf Coast kept Commonwealth Edison too busy for awhile to hook up electricity in the tenant space.

But there were plenty of other obstacles

A River East neighbor since 1988, Dick’s was moving to get away from increased congestion in the area and to be closer to major hotels and convention facilities. What attracted them most to the space at Marina City were the river, view of downtown, and access to River North.

On September 19, 2007, representatives of Dick’s Last Resort gave a presentation to residents of Marina City, describing their vision for transforming the southwest corner of the commercial platform.

The last time the long-vacant space was used was for a steak house operated by Johnny Lattner, a Chicago native who won the Heisman Trophy in 1953. It was Lattner’s second restaurant. The first one burned down in 1968. The fire also destroyed his Heisman Trophy but it was replaced and went on to sit at the piano bar at the Marina City location.

The new tenant was not as lucky. Residential property manager David Gantt wrote to the commercial property owner, LaSalle Hotel Properties, on October 12, outlining concerns he had that included potential noise, security, pollution, and architectural integrity.

The biggest concern was that noise from the restaurant would escape through the overhead doors on the south wall and reverberate along the river. Gantt warned that neighborhood residents would “storm the local alderman’s office” demanding a clamp down of entertainment businesses in the neighborhood.

According to Chief Operating Officer Michael Barnello, LaSalle discussed the concerns with Dick’s CEO Steve Schiff. In his October 25 letter back to Gantt, Barnello described in detail how the concerns would be addressed. He pointed out the proposed arrangement was similar to Dick’s River East location, which had “happily coexisted with neighbors directly across their front door for years.”

Photo by Steven Dahlman

(Above) The area in the top photo as it looked three months ago.

Stop Work Order creates tension at Marina City

By February 2008, the tenant space had been cleared in preparation for construction. Unfortunately for Dick’s, a building inspector happened by as a general contractor was doing demolition work and coring through concrete to put plumbing. This resulted in a Stop Work Order that was posted on February 22.

Said Schiff later, “The architect and [general contractor] regret the issue but see it as no big deal. Once stopped, none of our contractors have been onto the site.”

Schiff says he called residential property manager Gantt to discuss “misinformation” attributed to him. Gantt had claimed at the March 20 meeting of the Marina Towers Condominium Association board of directors that construction work had been done in the tenant space even after the Stop Work Order was posted. According to Schiff, those workers were hired by the commercial property manager and had the proper permit.

There was a valve – installed on a natural gas line as part of the renovation – that was removed by Peoples Gas, saying it was “perfectly safe” but unauthorized. This alarmed Gantt enough to say at the March 20 board meeting that it was “kind of a scary situation and luckily the building did not have to be evacuated.” Schiff said the valve was installed by commercial management with, again, the proper permit.

Anticipating a possible conflict with commercial property management over Dick’s Last Resort, MTCA was working on a contingency plan to create a meeting room on the 20th floor in case Transwestern Commercial Services cancelled its lease of the meeting room on the concourse level. At the March 20 board meeting, Gantt said he would request proposals for creating the space “just in case we get into a fight with Transwestern over Dick’s Last Resort.”

And then there was the alderman. During the week of April 21, officials of Dick’s Last Resort met with Jeff Riley, Policy Director for 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly. They discussed noise concerns and that led the discussion to the overhead “garage doors” that would separate the indoor dining area from the outdoor dining area. Although Dick’s would not budge on the design, they did agree to close the doors every day at 8:00 p.m.

There was a difference of opinion on how much Dick’s was cooperating with neighborhood residents. Meeting with Marina City Online on September 22, Alderman Reilly described a frustrating lack of cooperation by Dick’s Last Resort that conflicted with accounts by executives of the Dallas-based restaurant chain.

“I have been trying to get Dick’s Last Resort to behave as a good neighbor and address some of the residential concerns with them moving into the building,” said Reilly. “As alderman, I can’t dictate who landlords lease their properties to. However, I do have a responsibility to the residents of Marina City to make sure that this new neighbor is respectful as possible.”

Dick’s CEO Steve Schiff said at the time, “We look forward to working with the residents on issues, events and being good neighbors.”

Chicago Tribune joins the fray

An article in the Chicago Tribune on April 14 claimed Reilly was planning a meeting “in coming days” between homeowners at Marina City and officials of Dick’s Last Resort, to work out a compromise. Later that week, Riley told Marina City Online that details for such a meeting had not been worked out. The meeting never happened.

According to the Chicago Tribune article, titled “Dick’s Last Resort’s interest in Marina Towers has condo owners circling the wagons,” more than 100 residents – which would represent a small fraction of the population – signed a petition objecting to the restaurant/bar moving into the complex.

Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin declared, “Residents of Marina City...are banding together to fight an architecturally-disruptive incursion from Dick’s Last Resort, the in-your-face restaurant chain.”

The feeling at Marina City, however, was that most of the objections were coming from the condo association board of directors, and not residents.

Still, the design was toned down from original specs. Finishes would conform to the complex. A brick color at the entrance was changed to stone that resembled the building color. The entrance location would remain close to where residents entered the building, but the look was softened.

On Thursday, May 15, Dick’s passed all drawing reviews, the Stop Work Order was lifted, and a construction permit was issued by the City of Chicago Department of Buildings. At the time, Dick’s was planning to be open in June.

On May 21, Dick’s Last Resort released a floor plan – designed by Kurtz Associates, an architectural firm based in Des Plaines, Illinois – that offered a clearer picture of how the restaurant would utilize the tenant space. They also had a photograph of the type of “garage doors” that would be used.

Dick’s spearheads landmarking, perhaps unintentionally

Following the failed attempt to block Dick’s from moving its restaurant and bar to Marina City, a renewed effort to seek official landmark status was led by officers of Marina Towers Condominium Association.

On June 16, Lisa DiChiera, Advocacy Director of Landmarks Illinois, said, “It’s no secret that a lot of people have become interested in [landmarking Marina City] because of Dick’s Last Resort. If this building had already been a City of Chicago landmark, then all of that exterior work would have been more closely reviewed by the city from an aesthetic standpoint.”

A milestone was reached in late July when a portion of the south wall was moved back about eight feet to create an outdoor patio. Aluminum and glass panel doors were installed on the south wall. The three eight-foot-wide retractable doors now led to an eight-foot-deep patio that would accommodate nine tables.

Company officials, who now thought they’d be opening in late August, were coming to Marina City every other week but stepped up the schedule as they got closer to opening. On a typical day, roughly 30 local construction workers were busy transforming the southwest corner of the commercial platform into the latest outpost in Dick’s Dallas-based empire.

On October 27, it was clear to everyone that Dick’s would finally – more than a year after announcing the project and after spending an estimated $2.5 million – open its Marina City location by this weekend. A sign on a door at Marina City said they would open in October 2008 and advised people to “bring money.”

The old Dick’s location in Chicago’s River East area closed for the last time on Saturday night, October 25. Tables from the old location were set up at Marina City and a small staff, including Schiff and company CFO Christy Zirnheld, were busy with final preparations.

Half-page newspaper ads, designed by Mentler Creative Marketing Services of suburban Dallas, started appearing, saying Dick’s was “moving the mayhem to Marina City.”

Photo by Steven Dahlman

It was generally agreed that it was a good turnout for the first night. General Manager Albert Shelton (left in photo above with CEO Steve Schiff) says there has been “a great response from residents” and Dick’s is still planning some sort of special event for residents in early November.

Dick’s served both supporters and critics, including residential property manager Gantt, who sat with real estate lawyer John Leonard, husband of MTCA president Donna Leonard.

And at 7:15 p.m., just as the band was starting to play, the garage doors were shut.

 Related story: Dick’s Last Resort likely to open by weekend

24-Oct-08 – The last three condominium units owned by Gary Kimmel at Marina City have gone on sale.

A listing in the Multiple Listing Service appeared last week for Unit 5619 with a list price of $994,500. This would be three units connected together – 5617, 5618, and 5619. The total area is 2,250 square feet, with three bedrooms and three bathrooms.

The Marina City resident pleaded guilty on May 29 to federal charges of money laundering related to a nationwide prostitution ring. Sentencing is scheduled for November 20.

The three units were not subject to forfeiture, as long as Kimmel paid $405,000 in restitution. It is not known if this means Kimmel has made full restitution. The United States Attorney’s Office was still trying to track this down for Marina City Online on Friday.

Nine other units were subject to forfeiture and put on the market. Six were sold in 2006, raising $315,968.

Totally renovated 3 bedroom unit with hardwood floors granite counters large kitchen Jacuzzi steam room stainless steel applainces (sic) tons of closets laundry room. 5 large balconies with a panoramic view of the city. There is not this much sq footage at this price with such views anywhere else in the area. Next door to House of Blues great restaurants gym bowling night life theatre district...

– From MLS description of Unit 5619 at Marina City

The agent is listed as Hugh Savage, a licensed real estate agent and former member of the Marina Towers Condominium Association board of directors.

 Related story: Kimmel sentencing rescheduled

24-Oct-08 – 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly has asked the Chicago Department of Planning and Development to defer consideration of a proposal that would create a “landmark district” covering dozens of buildings in Chicago’s River North.

In a letter to owners of buildings in the proposed district, Reilly says he supports the “concept” of an official historic district but he needs time to consider it more carefully.

“Given the current economic climate and the slumping retail market,” writes Reilly, “I also have concerns about the timing of this proposal.”

The district was proposed by the City Landmarks Division on September 4. Landmark designation would be assigned to a four-block area just north of Marina City. It would include much of Hubbard Street from Wabash Avenue to Franklin Street.

Reilly says he will assemble a group of experts to help him build consensus on appropriate boundaries.

Brendan Reilly
42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly
“It is my strong belief that River North is a special neighborhood in the 42nd Ward. It is important for me to consider such a proposal very carefully in a transparent manner – which will require considerable time and hard work. I plan to roll-up my sleeves and do all of my homework on this issue – to make absolutely sure we get it right.”

The plan dates back to 1989 but the city decided recently to move forward after hearing that some owners in the area were thinking about demolishing their buildings.

  • Hotel will open in 2011 but development no longer on fast track

24-Oct-08 – The owner of Hotel Sax and commercial property at Marina City has announced it will slow down “to a normal development schedule” its conversion of 330 North Wabash, formerly known as IBM Plaza, to a “super-luxury” hotel.

In March, LaSalle Hotel Properties said it would convert 12 lower floors of the building, located across State Street from Marina City, into a 335-room hotel. LaSalle paid $46 million for floors 2-13 of the 52-story building, and plans to spend an additional $100-200 million renovating.

In a news release issued on Wednesday, the company says it has “modified the fast-track schedule for the IBM Building conversion in Chicago to a normal development schedule with major construction commencing in 2010 and the super-luxury hotel opening in 2011.”

The construction slowdown is one of a few steps the publicly-owned company is taking to improve its bottom line, including reducing its quarterly dividend.

Photograph by Steven Dahlman

Hans Weger, Chief Financial Officer, said the action was taken because of “the current challenging economic environment and the view that the U.S. economy, as well as the lodging industry, will likely continue to face declining economic trends through 2009.”

(Left) 330 North Wabash (at far right in image), located across State Street from Marina City.

LaSalle Hotel Properties is a real estate investment trust headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland. Besides Hotel Sax, LaSalle owns the 751-room Westin Michigan Avenue and 29 other luxury hotels.

 Related story: Hotel Sax owner to expand across State Street

Vincent Falk Vincent P. Falk is Fashion Man. Clad in brightly colored suits; Vincent twirls on Chicago’s many bridges, performing fashion shows for passing tour boats.
As he spins his way through the city, tourists and locals alike are left to wonder just who is this strange man. Over the course of one boat season, we follow Vincent and begin to unravel the mystery that surrounds him. We discover that the man behind the fashion, having come through the travails of life, has decided to do what makes him happy. And so, he spins on.

– From the official synopsis for Vincent: A Life In Color, produced by Zweeble Films

23-Oct-08 – A 95-minute documentary on Marina City resident Vincent Falk will have its world premier next month at a film festival in North Carolina.

Vincent: A Life In Color follows Falk through a tour boat season on the Chicago River. The 59-year-old computer programmer for Cook County is better known throughout downtown Chicago as the man who dresses in brightly colored suits and dances on bridges for the amusement of tourists.

Falk has been the subject of newspaper articles by the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, and an NBC5 television news story. Born with glaucoma and blind in one eye, Falk was abandoned at an orphanage as a child. Eight years later, he was adopted and raised by Clarence and Mary Falk of Chicago.

“I’ve seen Vincent around for many years, and always wondered about him,” says Producer/Director Jennifer Burns, “and one day watching him, I thought someone should make a documentary about him.”

The film took three years to make. Burns started on Memorial Day weekend in 2005 and followed Vincent through that boat season.

“We structured the film...chronologically through the boat season but we also flashback to earlier parts of his life so we tell his full life story through the course of the boat season.”

Burns says what was most surprising about Vincent was how few people know anything about him. “And what they think they know is almost always completely wrong. One of the themes of the film is, one by one, busting apart the rumors that swirl around him.”

She and Falk will travel to the Cucalorus Film Festival in Wilmington, North Carolina, where the film will be screened on November 14 in a 360-seat theater.

After that, Burns says she will try to get the film into other festivals throughout the country while she looks for a distributor.

Jennifer Burns
Jennifer Burns
“Everyone’s goal is to achieve distribution. Have a distributor find you at a festival and love your film and buy it and show it in theaters for you. It’s a very tenuous time for independent film these days, in particular for documentaries. That possibility is still out there but it’s much harder to reach.”

Regardless of whether the film finds a distributor, Burns says she will find a screen to show it on in Chicago. “I’ll get it into one of the independent theater houses here and hopefully do a short theatrical run here. And then, of course, get it onto DVD and make those available as well.”

According to its web site, more than 100 films are screened each year at the Cucalorus Film Festival.

 Web site for Vincent: A Life In Color

Photo by Steven Dahlman

(Above) Tables from the old River East location are set up at Marina City on Monday evening. (Click on image to view larger version.)

27-Oct-08 – Dick’s Last Resort will try to open its Marina City location by this weekend, according to the company’s CEO.

Steve Schiff says they have all the required permits and licenses except for the liquor license, which they applied for last November. It could take one to ten days, he says, to obtain the actual license. Tentatively, he believes the restaurant/bar could open as early as Thursday or as late as Sunday.

Nothing special is planned for opening day. “Normally, we’d have a grand opening,” says Schiff, “but we’ve been here 20 years, all we’re doing is moving six blocks.”

The old location in Chicago’s River East area closed for the last time on Saturday night. Tables from the old location have been set up at Marina City and a small staff, including Schiff and company CFO Christy Zirnheld, is busy with final preparations.

Next Thursday, half-page newspaper ads, designed by Mentler Creative Marketing Services of suburban Dallas, that now read, “We’re moving the mayhem to Marina City” will be changed to say “moved the mayhem.”

A couple weeks after opening, Schiff says there will be some special event for Marina City residents, probably on a Sunday or Monday evening. “They can come in, try the food and kick the tires.”

Dick’s will offer a “casual lunch” by day and more of a party atmosphere at night. They still don’t know what the first live musical acts will be, but Schiff is leaning toward an eight-piece “Big Band” sound.

He says he’s satisfied with how little noise travels from the space, but he’s prepared for complaints from residents. “When we get a complaint, we’ll meet with them.”

Schiff asks that residents talk with the restaurant directly and not go to the City of Chicago.

Says Schiff, “Dick’s is for ordinary people. We’re not as crazy as we claim to be, but don’t tell anyone that.”

Photo by Steven Dahlman

(Above) Stage area. Door at left leads to residential mailboxes. (Below) View looking north from west edge of tenant space, with the bar at left. (Click on image to view larger version.)

Photo by Steven Dahlman

24-Oct-08 – The CEO of Dick’s Last Resort says they are “scrambling with the final inspections,” but there is no official date yet for the Dallas-based restaurant/bar to open at Marina City.

A sign on the door says only that the location will open in October, which will end next week. On Thursday and Friday of this week, a half-page ad for Dick’s appeared in the Chicago Tribune declaring, “We’re moving the mayhem to Marina City!”

Chicago Tribune

Steve Schiff, CEO of Dick’s Last Resort, says he has not made public a specific date “because I don’t want to jinx the deal.”

In addition to extensive remodeling of the southwest corner of the three-acre commercial platform, the company has made Marina City part of its name. According to its liquor license application, their legal name is “Dick’s Last Resort Of Marina City, Inc.”

18-Oct-08 – It is not coincidence that Marina City is the same height as the second setback on Trump International Hotel & Tower.

According to the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, “the tower relates to its neighbors” through three setbacks. The first, on the east side of the tower, is at the same height of Wrigley Building.

Trump International Hotel & Tower

The next setback, according to a September 24 news release, “is on the west side of the tower and relates to both the height of the residential tower to the north and Marina City, to the west.”

(Left) Trump International Hotel & Tower, as it will look in 2009. (Click on image to view larger version.)

The third and final setback on the east side of the tower is at the same height of 330 North Wabash, formerly known as IBM Plaza.

When the 92-story, 1,361-foot tower is completed in 2009, it will be the tallest residential building in North America. The complex includes a 225-room hotel, 472 residential units, 50,000 square feet of retail space, and 868 parking spaces. It will be the fourth tallest structure in Chicago.

SOM participated in the “topping out” of Trump International Hotel & Tower on September 24.

18-Oct-08 – The Chicago River near Marina City was a set for the NBC television series “E.R.” last week. A small crew was in town to film scenes at night near LaSalle Street.

Angela Bassett According to Rich Moskal, Director of the Chicago Film office, a portion of the filming included Angela Bassett, who plays Dr. Cate Banfield on the series. The crew shot on October 10 and 11.

Not much else is known. Says Moskal, “The producers have been pretty secretive about the plot lines of this last season.”

Meanwhile, scenes for the TV series “The Beast” are being filmed near the Loop through late November, according to Moskal.

  • Asian cuisine and Johnny Rockets on ground floor
  • Broadcast museum on second and third floors

Museum of Broadcast Communications

(Above) Rendering of The Museum of Broadcast Communications as it will appear in 2009 at State and Kinzie Streets. (Click on image to view larger version.)

18-Oct-08 – Two restaurants, one serving high-end Asian cuisine and the other serving hamburgers, will move into the building at State and Kinzie Streets that the Museum of Broadcast Communications had hoped to occupy by now. According to the museum, State & Kinzie is currently “one of the ugliest corners in downtown Chicago.”

Construction of the museum’s new home stopped in May 2006 when $6 million in state funding, which the museum had been expecting since the year before, failed to show up. The museum then decided to occupy just the second and third floors and lease out the ground and top floors. Marcus Sullivan, an agent with The Kudan Group, says they are still offering 10,000 square feet on the fourth floor, complete with a garden terrace that overlooks State Street.

Each restaurant signed a ten-year lease of the ground floor. Tamarind, currently located at 614 South Wabash, will open a second Asian fusion restaurant in 6,000 square feet of the 62,000 square foot building. The nostalgia-theme restaurant Johnny Rockets will take up another 2,464 square feet, facing Kinzie Street.

The not-for-profit organization has turned to the general public to help it raise $300,000 needed to finish the State Street side of the building, including glass entry, sidewalk and landscaping.

Bruce DuMont Museum founder and president Bruce DuMont, a former WBBM-TV documentary producer, said in a news release on Tuesday, “No one wants the corner of State and Kinzie cleaned up and the project finished more than me, and every dollar donated to the MBC State Street campaign will go to complete the beautification effort.”

The museum says it owes $4.5 million to Pepper Construction Group. According to Pepper, once the construction project is restarted, it should take 10-12 months to complete.

The Museum of Broadcast Communications, a not-for-profit organization that calls itself “the premiere broadcast museum in America and home to the only National Radio Hall of Fame,” opened in 1987 in the South Loop. From 1992 to 2003, it was located in the Chicago Cultural Center. It is currently closed to the public pending construction of the new building.

 The Museum of Broadcast Communications

 Tamarind

 Johnny Rockets

 Kudan Group, Inc.

13-Oct-08 – The chairman of the Condominium Advisory Council says voting by proxy – in which a unit owner gives up his or her vote to someone else – is “the single most abused concept” in the Illinois Condominium Property Act.

Jordan I. Shifrin says he has heard from “a number of people” regarding the issue and “maybe it is time” for proxy voting to be removed from the Act.

The council recently conducted hearings throughout the state, seeking input from condo owners, and will report back to the Illinois legislature next year.

Jordan I. Shifrin “Proxies are more often used in quantity to guarantee a candidate’s election, or re-election,” said Shifrin in an email to Marina City residents who attended the last public hearing on October 7. “It is a major corporation concept that probably does not belong in condominium law.”

State law allows a condo owner to appoint a proxy to vote when they cannot attend an association meeting. At Marina City, critics of proxy voting estimate 300 votes are controlled by two people, John Leonard – husband of MTCA president Donna Leonard – and Shari Vass, a Realtor and property manager. With an estimated 540 unit owners voting in each election, it is widely believed these two people determine the outcomes.

Although admittedly cumbersome, mail-in voting, says Shifrin, which is allowed by law even if not mentioned in an association’s bylaws, “is still the viable alternative for owners to vote who cannot attend the meeting, proper.”

 Related story: Legislative advisory council hears earfuls of condo woes

Photo by Steven Dahlman

(Above) 35,000 participants in the 2008 Bank of America Chicago Marathon run past Marina City on Sunday morning, October 12. (Click on image to view larger version.)

Evans Cheruiyot won the race in two hours, six minutes, 25 seconds. Starting at Grant Park at 8 a.m., runners from all 50 states and more than 100 countries ran 26.2 miles through 29 neighborhoods of Chicago – past dozens of historic locations, including Marina City.

Photo by Steven Dahlman

(Above) Seen from Marina City, a Chicago Fire Department boat battles a fire on the Chicago River near the State Street bridge. At about 6:15 Friday morning, about 40 wooden pilings, driven into the riverbed on the south side of the river, caught fire. The State Street bridge was closed to vehicles and the east side of the bridge was closed to pedestrians. (Click on image to view larger version.)

The pilings, a five-foot-wide band of wooden poles soaked with a tar-like substance, that protect the bridge from passing boats, were being removed to make way for the Chicago Riverwalk. It’s suspected that a spark from a blowtorch smoldered for several hours.

To get to the fire, the fire department had to use a blowtorch to cut through a metal band and concrete cap that encase the pilings. The fire was out by 10:50 a.m., according to the Chicago Tribune. There were no injuries.

 Chicago Tribune article and video

(Below) Wider view of fire at about 7:30 a.m. on Friday. Click on image to view larger version.

Photo by Steven Dahlman

10-Oct-08 – Through October 30, voters in the 42nd Ward that includes Marina City have two early voting sites from which to choose. The closest is the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners at 69 West Washington.

69 West Washington

Early voting in the 2008 General Election is offered as a convenience to voters, October 13 through October 30. You just have to be registered to vote and have a government-issued photo ID.

The downtown site is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, 9 a.m. to noon.

The other early voting site in the 42nd Ward is Access Living at 115 West Chicago Avenue.

More information:

 Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners for the City of Chicago

9-Oct-08 – An analysis of blog entries over the past six months reveals an interesting list of words most commonly used by Marina City residents. MarinaCityOnline.com developed a small program to rank each word on a web page by how often it appears.

Not counting common words like “the,” the 20 most popular words on Marina Watch Dog Sound Off from May 9 to October 9 are as follows...

board141
palin141
think140
mccain118
people117
marina114
obama111
city108
room84
building81
meeting73
blog69
landmark67
years63
landmarking54
owners53
chicago52
country52
president48
kimmel47

While residents appear focused on the upcoming election, the MTCA board of directors, and landmarking, over at Marina City Online a similar analysis of news articles suggests a comparable but less-global outlook. Our world appears comprised mainly of Marina City, MTCA. Chicago, and Dick’s Last Resort.

From January to October, the most popular words appearing in MCO news articles are...

city358
marina319
mtca156
chicago152
dicks99
property94
board90
landmark83
review83
building81
according80
residents79
kimmel73
resort72
meeting71
condominium69
hotel66
tower66
years63
illinois62

Words appearing on both lists are: board, marina, city, building, meeting, landmark, years, chicago, and kimmel.

  • Marina City residents describe problems with condo board
  • Council chairman advises residents: Get organized, get a good lawyer

7-Oct-08 – Bad developers, bad condo boards, fines, floods, fraud, mold, inadequate assessments, problems collecting assessments, misuse of assessment funds, two-year construction delays, property foreclosures, and shoddy construction. The seven members of the Condominium Advisory Council heard nearly two hours of testimony about these issues during their fifth and final public hearing October 6.

About 30 people attended the hearing on the campus of Illinois Institute of Technology, and roughly half of them spoke before the council.

Rep. Harry Osterman

Representative Harry Osterman (Democrat, 14th District) introduced legislation in late 2006 to establish the council, conduct hearings throughout the state, and report back to the legislature next year.

(Left) Rep. Osterman, whose district includes Rogers Park and Edgewater.

Besides Osterman, council members include one other state representative, two state senators, two veterans of condo boards, and one attorney who specializes in condominium, townhome and homeowner associations. Also listening in were two additional state representatives and 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell.

Jordan I. Shifrin, an attorney with Kovitz Shifrin Nesbit, who is chairman of the council, says they are not necessarily looking to overhaul the Illinois Condominium Property Act, first adopted in 1963 and revised in 1978 and 1983. “We’re trying to figure out what’s broken and what needs to be fixed.”

Sen. Mattie Hunter (Democrat, 3rd District), who says her district has the most condominiums in the state, says she gets “so many complaints” about condo issues. While there is no shortage of complaints, there are not many places to which a condo owner can complain.

“There are state statutes but nothing to enforce it,” says Shifrin. “There is only one alternative, and that’s to go hire a private attorney. There should be a place perhaps to have minor disputes resolved without having to go to court – like a state ombudsman, similar to what they created in Florida. We’ve heard about abusive problems from developers. We’ve heard about board abuses. We’ve heard about homeowner abuses of boards. And we’re going to compile all this.”

Most of the problems described at the hearing were related to developer turnover of a property to a condominium association – particularly in the South Loop. Said Bill Van Emberg of Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance, “There’s not a single building in the entire South Loop that I’m aware of that has not had some significant developer issue.”

Shifrin blames the economy. In the early part of the decade, he explains, much investment capital went into real estate. “So anybody who had a brother-in-law who had an idea could do a development, and what happened was a lot of people who were unqualified – financially and intellectually – were converting everything under the sun into condos.”

This resulted in a lot of construction that was affordable but shoddy.

The 896-unit gorilla in the room

With developer turnover of the residential towers occurring more than 30 years ago, it’s less of an issue at Marina City. But residents did attend to complain about the board of directors of Marina Towers Condominium Association.

Owner Mark Ulaszek, a former MTCA board member and treasurer who has lived at Marina City for 15 years and operates the residential blog Marina Watch Dog Sound Off, expressed frustration of owners at Marina City about what he called the MTCA board’s lack of transparency.

“I know when I was on the board, our board meetings would last two to three hours, minimum. Their board meetings last 20 minutes. They don’t take any votes. When I ask how come [a resolution] wasn’t voted in open session, the answer I get is, ‘Oh, that was done by unanimous consent.’”

Ulaszek described for the council difficulty he and others have had obtaining MTCA financial records. “I’m on the finance committee. I can’t get a current copy of balance sheets. I get a letter from our attorney that says you haven’t given a proper purpose.”

Some condo boards abuse power, mismanage money

Speaking with Marina City Online after the hearing, Shifrin says the worst problems with condo boards are when they do not provide proper financial accountability. “They’re not collecting assessments. They’re not paying what they’re supposed to pay. They use the money that they’re controlling to fund developer capital improvements. They don’t set aside enough to set up and fund reserves. Even when people put in two or three months of assessments, they use that for [operating] shortfalls. And then they walk away.” This, he says, results in increased assessments.

While he has clients that are dedicated to their property and increasing its value, Shifrin says he also sees many condo boards that abuse their position. “If the motivation...to serve on the board of directors [is] because it’s a personal power trip for you, you have a crappy job and this makes you feel important,” you may not be cut out to be on a condo board. “Do you like abusing people or are you doing it because you really give a damn about your investment?”

“Do I have boards that are despicable? Absolutely. And should all those people be tossed out on their ear? Yeah. Because everything they’re doing is either self-serving or vindictive.”

Shifrin has advice for residents of Marina City – organize and hire a good attorney.

Jordan I. Shifrin “I’m listening to these poor folks at Marina City. There’s got to be a way around it. They need to organize, get themselves a legal fund together, hire one of the elite condo attorneys who is willing to take this on with the incentive that, if we get these guys out and we get control, we’re hiring you, now let’s go after them – but so far that hasn’t happened.”

Council will now summon lawyers

The advisory council will next seek input from real estate attorneys, then compile what they’ve learned and prepare a report for the legislature.

“We don’t have any power, we’re just a recommending body,” says Shifrin. “So what we’re going to do is compile all the things we heard from everybody and shift out some of the things that are a little off-base, or crackpot, or too self-serving – [just] deal with more global issues.”

Anyone who missed the public hearings can still submit comments. Rep. Osterman may be reached by email at hjo17@aol.com. Sen. Mattie Hunter may be reached at senatorhunter03@sbcglobal.net. And Jordan Shifrin at jshifrin@ksnlaw.com.

 Related story:Are condo laws outdated? Public hearing seek opinions.

4-Oct-08 – 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly has asked the Commission on Chicago Landmarks to wait another month before deciding on a proposed “landmark district” that would cover dozens of buildings in River North. Preliminary landmark designation would be assigned to a four-block area just north of Marina City. It would include much of Hubbard Street from Wabash Avenue to Franklin Street.

In a letter to owners of buildings in the proposed district, Reilly says he still has some “unanswered questions” and will meet with the Department of Planning and Development to examine the proposal and possibly make changes.

Brendan Reilly
42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly
“I am deeply concerned about imposing undue burdens on building owners whose property may not be part of the final designation,” he says in the September 26 letter. “I recognize that this is an extremely difficult economic environment and my task is to protect my business owners. I take this aspect of my job very seriously as you are the fuel for [the] city’s economic engine.”

The commission met on October 2. The plan actually dates back to 1989 but the Commission decided recently to move forward after hearing that some owners were thinking about demolishing their buildings.

 Related story: Landmark district proposed for River North

  • 200 attended previous hearing
  • Tweaks, not overhaul, says co-author of Illinois condo laws

4-Oct-08 – Disgruntled condo owners will get to voice an opinion about state condominium laws at a public hearing on Monday. Representative Harry Osterman (Democrat, 14th District) is seeking input on issues affecting condo owners and associations, as well as opinion on pending legislation to overhaul the Illinois Condominium Property Act.

Rules for condominium ownership, governance, and developer turnover are spelled out in the act that was first adopted in 1963. Two major revisions, in 1978 and 1983. were co-written by Ellis Levin, then an Illinois legislator and now an attorney for Marina Towers Condominium Association.

High supply and low demand in the real estate market have inspired lawmakers to take another look at the condo laws. Rep. Osterman, whose district includes Rogers Park and Edgewater, introduced legislation in late 2006 to establish a “Condominium Advisory Council” to conduct public hearings throughout the state and report back to the legislature next year.

Besides Osterman, members of the advisory council include one other representative, two senators, and three people appointed by Governor Blagojevich – including Jordan I. Shifrin, an attorney specializing in condominium law, who is chairman of the council.

Rep. Harry Osterman Osterman told the Chicago Journal last month he wants to “take an overall look to see what the state legislature can do to improve” the condominium act. He says every year in Springfield, four or five individual bills are introduced that deal with small parts of the act.

“The goal is to come up with policy recommendations to make it more user-friendly and to see if there are things we can do to assist condominium associations and owners.”

More than 200 condo owners, association board members, and property managers attended a public hearing in Edgewater last month. Rep. Osterman did not respond to two requests from MCO for further comment on his legislation.

When: Monday, October 6 – 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Where: Hermann Hall Conference Center, Grand Ballroom, Illinois Institute of Technology, 3241 South Federal Street, Chicago. Google Maps

Comments may also be sent by email to Rep. Osterman at hjo17@aol.com or Sen. Maggie Hunter at senatorhunter03@sbcglobal.net.

Author of Illinois condo laws says overhaul not needed

One person who is not convinced another overhaul is necessary is the other co-author of the ’78 and ’83 amendments. Dr. Donnie Rudd says the Illinois Condominium Property Act has “withstood the test of time.”

“What the condominium property act is,” says Rudd, “is trying to react to problems that occur from year to year in condominium associations, to avoid litigation, and avoid disputes between units owners, and avoid problems between the board and unit owners and so forth. It’s a very unique instrument and in my opinion, the most advanced condominium property act in the nation.”

He says there are always going to be problems for condominium associations, particularly from appellate court decisions. “If an appellate court decides something with respect to condominium associations and it’s really going to create a problem for all associations or the majority of associations in Illinois – then should the legislature amend the act to take care of that situation? Well, absolutely, in my opinion. That’s crazy not to.”

While the Illinois Condominium Property Act should be tweaked as necessary, Rudd calls it “the most advanced and best condominium property act in the whole country.”

“If you start changing it to some type of frozen document, then you’re going to undo 30 years of historic work that is very fundamental to associations and you’re going to hurt the associations, the boards and the unit owners. Everything in that act is there for a reason.”

Dr. Donnie Rudd Rudd is currently Chief Scientist, Director of Intellectual Property, and Corporate Secretary for Regenetech Inc., a Houston, Texas company developing adult stem cell and tissue regeneration technology.

 Chicago Journal article: Illinois condo act up for reform