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By Robert Pratt | Broker in Chicago, IL
  • Chicago Among Top for Pedestrian Safety

    Posted Under: General Area in Chicago, Quality of Life in Chicago, In My Neighborhood in Chicago  |  May 28, 2014 11:13 AM  |  317 views  |  No comments

    Chicagoans who choose the sidewalk as their path of transportation have yet another reason to appreciate this wonderful city. A new study titled, “Dangerous by Design 2014,” was released this week, and it unveiled the Chicago area as 45th out of the 51 largest metro areas in the country to be least likely for pedestrians to get killed in a traffic accident. But a much better way of stating that is to say Chicago area streets are among the safest for pedestrians to walk. Now that’s reason to celebrate!


    The study was taken over five years (2008-2012) and calculated the number of pedestrians killed per 100,000 residents. Chicago averaged approximately 1.03 deaths, per 100,000, annually.


    The city that took last place and ranked No. 51, which is a good thing in this survey, was Minneapolis St. Paul. Others cities like New York and Los Angeles came in at numbers 13 and 11, respectively. The city that took the No. 1 spot, meaning most dangerous city for pedestrians, was the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area in Florida.


    According to the Chicago Tribune, the Florida Transportation Department attributed that problem to streets built after World War II, when planners were more focused on moving cars than moving people. So streets are wider and more swift moving, which can be challenging for pedestrians.


    While Chicagoans don’t necessarily have that problem, the city still has a ways to go in ensuring complete safety for its pedestrians. Nationally, vehicles killed more than 470,000 people on foot, for the decade ending in 2012, of which 1,100 of those were in the Chicago area.


    Seeing those kinds of numbers makes it easy to understand that additional measures still needed to be taken. So in 2012, the then-Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner included a goal for zero traffic fatalities by 2020 in his 2012 “Chicago Forward” plan, the Tribune states.


    Since then pedestrian fatalities have declined from 47 in 2012 to an estimated 29 in 2013. The plan included procedures such as 20 MPH zones in all residential neighborhoods, more mid-block crossings, more pedestrian countdown clocks at signal lights and continued red light camera speed enforcement.


    While these may seem like nuisances to drivers, they have had a very measurable impact on pedestrian safety.  So next time you are out walking the city streets, take time to appreciate the relative ease with which the well-planned city grid provides you and rest assured that your safety as a pedestrian is a top priority for this city.

  • Dibs Are Dead

    Posted Under: General Area in Chicago, Quality of Life in Chicago, In My Neighborhood in Chicago  |  March 7, 2014 1:03 PM  |  463 views  |  1 comment

    There are things that become something of a tradition here in Chicago.  Come March 17, we have a green river that no one is afraid of, we are lovers of hot dogs with no ketchup, we head to the Friendly Confines of Wrigleyville to celebrate a team that hasn’t won a World Series for 105 years, and when old mother winter just won’t die – we call dibs. 

    Dibs may not be as notorious as other traditions of Chicago but for locals it’s the norm.  Dibs is the practice of blocking freshly plowed street parking spots with an assortment of items. 

    And the residents of Chicago get an A for creativity as you’ll see a wide range of dib markers around town.  There are even dedicated Tumblr pages showcasing the Chicago neighborhood parking markers. 

    The most common marker is your typical lawn chair.  The next most common marker includes seasonal figurines.  Most Chicagoans live in small apartments with limited storage, so it only makes sense for the Santa or even Mary and Joseph to live far past December 25th and hold down your spot. 

    Then, the game of dibs really ventures into a world of outliers where the props are markedly different in value from the others of the sample.  Some of the strangest dibs outliers include bathtubs, a creepy baby basinet, or even threatening homemade signs that read something to the effect of, “I will break your windows if I see your car in this spot.” 

    So you may be questioning what the city of Chicago feels about this ‘tradition.’  The Department of Streets and Sanitation spokeswoman Molly Poppe told the Chicago Tribune that the city rarely picks up dibs markers during the winter, unless they obstruct traffic or sidewalks. 

    That is until the end of winter.  Despite the snow that continues to fall, the Department of Streets and Sanitation began to collecting any obstructions last week to prepare for the spring weather.  Let’s cross our fingers that the spring cleanup with bring us spring temps. 

  • Builders Show Confidence in 55+ Market

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Chicago, Curb Appeal in Chicago  |  January 17, 2014 8:16 AM  |  330 views  |  1 comment
    Good news for senior living: the Housing Market Index (HMI) for people 55 and older has gone up for the seventh consecutive year – from 29 to 53 in the second quarter to be exact. Last year in the first quarter that number was 27, according to the Chicago Real Estate Forum.

    The way the HMI works is that you take a number between 1 and 100 and the higher the number, the better the builder and developer confidence in the market. Anything higher than 50 shows confidence and anything lower than that shows not-so-much confidence. A score of 29 last year was felt to be a pretty good number at the time. It had gone up by just over 10 points year over year and it was the highest confidence since the HMI debuted in 2008.

    So why is the senior living market improving? The easy answer is that seniors are buying more homes and planning more developments than ever before, according to a survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

    “Builders and developers for the 55+ housing sector are feeling optimistic as they are seeing more consumers return to the marketplace,” said Robert Karen, chairman of NAHB’s 50+ Housing Council and managing member of the Symphony Development Group, in an interview with the Sun Times. “With existing home prices rising, consumers are able to sell their current homes and make the move toward either purchasing a home or renting an apartment that is designed to more specifically suit their lifestyle.”

    In other words, there is a bit of a housing boom for seniors. The actual breakdown is a little complicated. There are three categories in the HMI that get numbers, and those three numbers are averaged together. The categories are single-family homes, multi-family condos and multi-family rentals. The scores for condos are at 43, rentals are at 50, and single-family homes are at around 54 for sales.

     A quick look at 55places.com shows where seniors are living – the suburbs of Elgin and Aurora. How about Chicago? One would guess that Ravenswood, Lakeview and Lincoln Park are the popular Chicago neighborhoods for seniors considering the amount of retirement homes there.

    So the news about seniors moving into the city might be true after all – at the very least, it’s a boom time for that age group.
  • Mariano’s Acquires 11 Dominick’s Locations

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Chicago, Shopping & Local Amenities in Chicago  |  December 17, 2013 7:59 PM  |  353 views  |  1 comment

    When looking for Chicago real estate, everyone has a different wish-list.  Some want walk-in closets, some want amazing city views, some want a laundry list of amenities and then there are practical shoppers that simply want a convenient location.  The term ‘convenient location’ doesn’t just mean a location with accessible commuting routes.  Convenient locations also accommodate renters’ everyday tasks – close to the bars and restaurants of their choice, near family and friends, and the necessities such as a grocery store. 

    Practical shoppers can rejoice because after the announcement of Dominick’s locations to close, Mariano’s will acquire 11 of the locations.  Mariano’s is owned by Milwaukee-based Roundy's Inc.  The grocer opened its first store in July 2010 in Arlington Heights and hasn’t slowed since. 

    Twelve stores were quickly added after the Northwest suburb debut, five more are planned in 2014, and consequently there’ll be 29 locations in the Chicago market that will employ 10,000 people by the end of 2014.  The 11 store locations grabbed from Dominick’s include:

    • Park Ridge: 1900 S. Cumberland Ave.  

    • Western Springs: No. 14 Garden Market St.  

    • Chicago: 3145 S. Ashland Ave.  

    • Chicago: 2021 W. Chicago Ave.  

    • Northfield: 1822 Willow Road  

    • Westchester: 3020 S. Wolf Road  

    • Buffalo Grove: 450 Half Day Road  

    • Chicago: 5201 N. Sheridan Road  

    • Gurnee: 6655 Grand Ave.  

    • Aurora: 3025 E. New York St.  

    • Shorewood: 950 Brook Forest Ave.

    Mariano’s popularity has grown as the store is a combination of Whole Foods, Costco, and Jewel/Dominicks, offering customers high-quality perishables, great value, and an extraordinary experience. 

    Mr. Mariano, the chain's founder, was quoted in Crain’s with the aim to make Mariano's the "Nordstrom of the grocery world."  The reference includes the efforts of stocking the store with friendly employees, lots of organic produce, cooking demonstrations at the in-store culinary centers, smoothie and juice bars and vast assortments of prepared meals.

    Now that’s food for thought. 

  • Chicago Real Estate Investment Firm Gives Free Wireless to Underserved Neighborhoods

    Posted Under: General Area in Chicago, Quality of Life in Chicago, In My Neighborhood in Chicago  |  August 28, 2013 10:29 AM  |  916 views  |  No comments
    We’ve all heard the quotes and proverbs reflecting how nothing in this world is free.  Well Pangea Properties doesn’t agree with the age-old fable.  The company, a private real estate trust (REIT), announced it will provide free wireless to residents as a complimentary amenity.

    The Chicago-based firm best known for providing and targeting underserved, distressed residential housing across 8,000+ apartment units throughout Chicago, Indianapolis, and Baltimore, believes wireless internet to be a necessary component of their established business model.

    The REIT’s mission statement, “360 Degrees of Quality Care” further supports their business model.  Panga Properties principles itself on not only rehabbing multi-family properties but also fostering and revitalizing the Chicago neighborhoods and communities it serves.

    Al Goldstein, Pangea Properties’ CEO recently elaborated to Multihousing News (MHN), an industry publication, why the company would take such action.  “The Internet has become fundamental to areas such as higher education and career advancement, providing a resource such as free WiFi may offer a significant impact on the everyday lives of our residents.”

    Additionally, Goldstein noted the ease of adding the service to residents. Many of the Chicago homes Pangea Properties manages have surveillance cameras already installed that require internet connectivity.  So it was a simple addition to extend the service to tenants.

    Goldstein further stated to MHN, “With the added resident benefit, along with fitting our mission to give back to the communities we operate in, it was an easy decision.”

    One may think the City of Chicago WIZ (Wireless Internet Zones) initiative that provides free Wi-Fi to communal areas would cover these homes.  However, commonly the WIZ campaign is only working in hotspots such as downtown parks and beaches – not the Southside Chicago neighborhood Pangea manages. 
  • Andersonville’s Unusual Row Homes

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Chicago, Home Buying in Chicago, In My Neighborhood in Chicago  |  August 8, 2013 9:14 AM  |  813 views  |  No comments
    Lee Iacocca, famous for engineering the Ford Mustang and Pinto cars, was famously quoted, “I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way.”

    This may have been the thought process when getting together Spartan Development, Ranquist Development, and Pappageorge Haymes to develop “Backyard Andersonville” – a new construction in the Clark and Lawrence intersection of Uptown.

    Given a large plot of open land at 4832 North Clark Street, the trio collectively produced a contemporary architectural design that redefined the townhome environment in Chicago – diverting from the traditional red brick homes the area is most known for.

    With the heavy use of clean lines, distinctive Japanese-inspired exterior cladding, and a unique two story design, the prestigious developers created unique properties that stand out from the average Chicago home. 

    Although named “Backyard Andersonville,” the location is technically Ravenswood/Uptown.  The area is, however, rapidly changing and taking on many characteristics of the highly popular Andersonville neighborhood.

    In total, the new construction features twenty-three available row homes.  There are three types of flexible, open floor plans ranging in size from 1,605 to 2,280 square feet.  The 15’ – 20’ Chicago homes vary from either 2 to 3 bedrooms, 2 to 2 ½ baths, and 1 or 2 attached garage parking dependent on model.

    Additionally, some models offer media and office rooms.  Interiors match the striking exterior design - featuring modern custom Italian kitchens by Archisesto, heated concrete floors throughout, bathrooms designed with Duravit and Grohe fixtures, lofted 10 foot ceilings, and floor to ceiling windows. All the homes are set in a professionally landscaped park-like surrounding with larger than average outdoor areas.

    Prices start at $429,900 and 40% of inventory is already sold.  Iacocca and his developers expect sales to only accelerate now that construction is in process.
  • Recycling in Your Chicago Home

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Chicago, Going Green in Chicago, How To... in Chicago  |  November 22, 2011 12:38 PM  |  1,614 views  |  No comments

    National Recycling Day occurred just a while ago, marking an increasing awareness of the importance and responsibility of recycling materials rather than simply tossing everything in the trash can. More and more Americans are taking the initiative every day to ensure that valuable recyclable materials do not end up rotting in landfills. So if you are one of the many Americans who continues to hold out against recycling because you think it is too inconvenient and messy, think again.

    The truth is that becoming a regular recycler is as simple as buying another bin to place next to your trash can. The kitchen is generally the best location for a recycling bin, as it provides a convenient place in which to discard empty cartons, packages and other recyclable materials used for cooking. That way you don’t have to schlep all the way to the garage every time you wish to get rid of packaging material or a bottle.

    Placing your recycling bin directly next to your trash can encourages people in your home to sort their waste and be mindful of where everything goes. Dual trash can/recycling bin receptacles are available for purchase, though they can often be pricy. Buying another generic can to plop next to the garbage is just as effective and may be only a fraction of the price. If you do opt for separate cans, make the recycling bin slightly smaller and/or a different color than your trash can in order to avoid confusion. You might want to buy a recycling bin that bears the recycling arrow insignia to be extra obvious.

    Once full, your recycling bin(s) can be emptied into a larger one, perhaps located in the garage. Vertical recycling bins have the added advantage of not taking up too much space, so they are convenient even if you don’t have much room to spare in your garage. These recycling bins can then be deposited in a large municipal recycling container or at your local recycling center.

    If there are items you wish to recycle, but you’re not exactly sure where they are meant to go, you can log onto the website Earth911.com for more information on where to deposit the trickier recyclable materials

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