The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Chicago's signature building to change names?

The Tribune reported late yesterday that the John Hancock Center is for sale:

Chicago-based developer Hearn Co. plans to put the North Michigan Avenue tower's office space and parking garage up for sale, possibly by late summer, company President and CEO Stephen Hearn said.

Hearn said he believes the real estate is worth more than $330 million, or more than double what his firm paid in 2013.

Hearn has been in talks with companies interested in putting their name on the skyscraper since the structure's namesake no longer pays for that right. "We've had interest in it, but have not made a deal yet," Hearn said.

That process could be resumed by a new owner.

Hearn declined to say how much he believes naming rights are worth, but people familiar with the property estimate it could generate $1 million to $2 million annually.

When it opened in 1969, it was the second-tallest building in the world. Today it has the best view of any building in Chicago.

Shrinking journalism in Chicago

I'm sad that an urban area with 8 million people can no longer support two regional, daily newspapers. This makes me very uncomfortable:

Tronc, the parent company of the Tribune, has entered into a nonbinding letter of intent to acquire Wrapports Holdings, which owns the Sun-Times as well other assets such as the Chicago Reader alternative weekly, the Aggrego digital content business and the syndicated column The Straight Dope.

The announcement follows months of discussions between Wrapports and Tronc and after both organizations worked closely with the Department of Justice's antitrust division.

The tentative deal means Chicago would remain one of the last two-newspaper cities in the country, though those papers would operate under a single corporate owner. Terms of the potential deal were not disclosed.

We still have DNA Info (for now), and competing national newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post have reporters here. (So does the Economist, for that matter.) But one corporation owning all the print newspapers in an area the size of Chicago? Scary.

We were #1

Forty four years ago today, workers in Chicago completed the Sears Tower:

The original plan was to build two separate buildings. That was changed to a single structure, 1,454 feet high. As board chairman Gordon Metcalf explained, “Being the largest retailer in the world, we thought we should have the largest headquarters in the world.”

Construction began in 1970. The foundations were dug, and the steel frame began to rise slowly over Wacker Drive. On the way up, the Sears Tower passed the former record holder, the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York.

The Sears Tower kept is title until 1996. Today all the sky-piercing structures are going up in Asia.

Meanwhile, in 1992, Sears again moved its headquarters, this time to Hoffman Estates. The tall building on Wacker Drive is now known as the Willis Tower.

And in the meantime, Eddie Lampert has poisoned the company to death.

Organizing stuff is hard

This weekend, a "luxury" festival on a remote island in the Bahamas failed to live up to expectations, in the same way bricks fail to hover:

The organizers of the Fyre Festival promised “two transformative weekends” on a “remote and private” island in the Bahamas that was “once owned by Pablo Escobar.” Kendall Jenner promoted it on Instagram. Ja Rule was one of the organizers. Festival-goers paid thousands of dollars for what they believed was going to be a luxury experience. Anyone who could afford the ticket would arrive in paradise on a private jet with their friends, for a taste of the lifestyle that only seems to exist on the Instagram feeds of models.

None of that happened.

The first wave of paying guests arrived on Thursday, only to find themselves staring at a chaotic festival site that appeared to be weeks away from being able to host anyone. Blink-182, one of the bands headlining the festival, had canceled at the last minute. The tents that were set up for guests to sleep in looked like “FEMA tents,” one person said. Not exactly the luxury accommodations they’d paid for. Meanwhile some tents were still in their boxes.

The disorder at Fyre Festival appears to have caught a lot of the attendees off guard. But there were signs that all was not what it seemed. In early April, the Wall Street Journal reported that festival organizers had missed a series of deadlines, including those for paying artists.

Whew, the next time I have the opportunity to pay $250,000 for a trip to a desert island, I'll jump on it.

The festival organizers have posted an explanation.

Things I'll be reading this afternoon

Some articles:

And now, Parker needs a walk.

It's a tremendous brand, fantastic. Everybody loves it.

Property values in Chicago's Trump Tower have declined as other similar properties have gotten pricier. Go figure:

"I've never seen such a glut" of condos for sale, said real estate agent Carla Walker of KoenigRubloff Berkshire Hathaway. "When people live where they've paid $1.5 million and up, they don't want to see people hanging out and demonstrating. And there's still a stigma there for some people."

The number for sale "is amazing," said Gail Lissner, vice president of Appraisal Research Counselors. "I've never seen that number for sale since they opened, and there have been very few transactions."

Only four units sold this year, and there was a decline in the number sold last year compared with the previous year, she said. There are about 52 residential units for sale now. With the addition of the hotel condos also on the market in the building, the number of units for sale jumps to about 70.

Based on the residential units alone, the number of available condos in Trump Tower is almost three times higher than other large condo buildings downtown, according to Lissner's data. No comparison is perfect, because the very high-end Elysian and Waldorf buildings are small with little turnover in units. But Lissner said that while Trump Tower has 52 of its 486 units on the market, the John Hancock building has 26 out of 703 for sale; Water Tower Place has 9 out of 260 for sale; Aqua has 12 out of 262 for sale; 340 on the Park has 11 out of 343; 600 N. Lake Shore Drive has 20 out of 395; and The Heritage has 5 out of 358.

Apparently the massive "TRUMP" logo on the southeast wall of the building is not what people in heavily-urban, heavily-Democratic Chicago want to pay extra for.

You know your industry is in trouble when...

The United Airlines debacle at O'Hare last week underscored how much people really hate airlines:

The severity of the situation really dawned on me last Thursday as I sat in an interview with a local Fox reporter. We started talking about the Chicago Aviation Police, and that’s when it hit me. Over the last few years, police violence has been a hot-button issue. It has spawned the Black Lives Matter movement, and it has polarized people around the country. And here was a textbook example of what people have been rallying against… a defenseless, older minority was dragged off an airplane by the police, and he was severely injured (though not killed, fortunately) in the process. You would have thought this would have ignited another round of vitriol aimed at the police, but no. Everyone blamed United. The Chicago Aviation Police even suspended officers over this, but nobody seems to care. It’s all about United, and that really says a great deal about just how much people hate airlines.

And unfortunately, there is no quick fix:

Can they do that? Well they’re trying. Flush with reasonable profits instead of the razor-thin margins (often negative) they’ve lived off of for years, airlines in the US are investing in their products. It’s now fairly normal to get free video content and free snacks when those were far from the norm just a couple years ago. And this stability also makes it a better work environment for employees. That should result in better service.

But while airlines have started to improve, they’ve also introduced product changes people instantly dislike, including Basic Economy and the decision to add more seats to airplanes. There may be rational justification for these moves, but they don’t play well publicly. Two steps forward, one step back. Or maybe it’s one step forward and two steps back. Either way, any improvement is met by the public with skepticism as people wait for the next axe to fall.

I wonder if people faced similar problems booking passage on sailing ships 200 years ago?

Historic parking lot to be redevloped

The Archdiocese of Chicago is in negotiations to sell a parking lot at the southwest corner of Chicago and State to a real-estate developer:

A venture led by Jim Letchinger, president of JDL Development, has emerged as the winning bidder for the property at the southwest corner of State Street and Chicago Avenue, currently a parking lot for Holy Name Cathedral, according to people familiar with the property. He's agreed to pay more than $110 million for the property but is still negotiating a purchase contract with the Archdiocese.

But the parking lot has an interesting history. Ninety years ago, there was a flower shop there owned by Dean O'Banion, the gangster who controlled Chicago's north side. And on 10 November 1924, he was gunned down by the Jenna mob on orders from Al Capone's boss, Johnny Torrio, right on that spot.

It's unclear when the shops were torn down.

Job-hopping is the only way up: survey

Crain's reports this morning the results of a survey that shows most people in Chicago believe the only way up is out:

The scenario might sound familiar. You've been at a company five or so years; you work hard and reach your goals. Sometimes your boss lets you slide out early on a Friday to catch a Cubs game, and you're fully vested in benefits and options. Not a bad gig—plenty of people have it worse.

But there's a flip side: no clear path to getting ahead. When you've lobbied for promotions, your boss demurs. Your salary has inched up, but not enough to sweeten your lifestyle, and your responsibilities—well, they've stagnated, too.

A decade ago, you might have waited patiently for a promotion. But today, according to a new survey by Crain's and executive women's group Chicago Network, you're likely searching for an exit. Out of 650-plus Chicago-area men and women we surveyed in January, 62 percent—nearly 2 out of 3—said changing companies was necessary for advancement in the local job market. “Being loyal to a company (does) not pay,” wrote one anonymous survey taker.

I won't go into my own history, to protect the guilty, but I can say this lines up with many of my friends' experiences.