Snow Days – Winter Parking Ban

El Trains (Elevated Trains) which are running overhead and underground as a Subway in certain parts of the City.

El Trains (Elevated Trains) which are running overhead and underground as a Subway in certain parts of the City.

Hopefully, everyone had a great New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day celebration and are excited about 2014!

In the Chicago area, we have had the biggest accumulation of snow for the season so far putting down at least 8 inches of snow on the ground and we are expected to have snow all day today. This is a great time to remind folks and new comers to the Chicago land area of the Winter Parking Ban that’s in effect when 2 or more inches of snow is on the ground.

This parking ban is around most neighborhoods within the City of Chicago limits to allow the city crews access to major streets and to be able to clear the snow from the streets in a timely manner.

Violation of this could result in a parking violation to be issued (at least a $60-100 ticket) and possibly the towing or your vehicle and storage an impound lot which could result in a couple of hundreds out of your pocket.Video Jan 02, 8 36 01 AM

We recommend that you find a paid parking lot to park your vehicle in the City in order to avoid these fines and fees and consider taking public transit which might also save you some aggravation on the roads.

Visibility, January 2, 2014

Visibility, January 2, 2014

Normal Snow Day Visibility

Normal Snow Day Visibility

Chicago Offers Tree Recycling

The official City Christmas Tree at Daley Plaza with Chriskindle Market

The official City Christmas Tree at Daley Plaza with Chriskindle Market

So now that the Christmas Holiday has passed, what do you do with that fresh tree that you bought just to celebrate the Season? How about recycling it at one of the City Park District locations for FREE?? Okay, you may have already paid for it in the property taxes or city sales tax throughout the year.

Trees can be dropped off for recycling at the following locations between January 4-18th

Bessemer Park, 8930 S. Muskegon Ave.
Clark Park, 3400 N. Rockwell St.
Forestry Site, 900 E. 103rd St.
Garfield Park, 100 N. Central Park Ave.
Grant Park, 900 S. Columbus Dr.
Humboldt Park Boathouse, 1369 N. Sacramento Ave.
Jackson Park, 6300 S. Cornell Ave.
Kennedy Park, 2427 W. 113th St.
Kelvyn Park, 4438 W. Wrightwood Ave.
Lake Meadows Park, 3117 S. Rhodes Ave.
Lincoln Park, Cannon Dr. at Fullerton Ave. (Parking lot east of Cannon Dr.)
Margate Park, 4921 N. Marine Dr.
Marquette Park, 6700 S. Kedzie Ave.
McKinley Park, 2210 W. Pershing Rd.
Mt. Greenwood Park, 3721 W. 111th St.
North Park Village, 5801 N. Pulaski Rd.
Norwood Park, 5801 N. Natoma Ave.
Portage Park, 4100 N. Long Ave.
Riis Park, 6201 W. Wrightwood Ave.
Rowan Park, 11546 S. Avenue L
Sheridan Park, 910 S. Aberdeen St.
Warren Park, 6601 N. Western Ave.
Wentworth Park, 5701 S. Narragansett Ave.

You just need to remove the decorations in order for them to accept your recycled tree.

The holiday tree on the plaza shared by The Tribune Company and NBC Tower

The holiday tree on the plaza shared by The Tribune Company and NBC Tower

Public Transit For Visitors

El Trains (Elevated Trains) which are running overhead and underground as a Subway in certain parts of the City.

El Trains (Elevated Trains) which are running overhead and underground as a Subway in certain parts of the City.

Chicago is a major city with a great transportation infrastructure. Most of the folks who relocate to Chicago in living in some of the more popular downtown neighborhoods like the West Loop, South Loop, River East, River North, LakeView or Lincoln Park usually abandon their cars after the first year because there is ample and affordable public transportation across the City. Even folks who live in other neighborhood will opt for the public transit system and let their car (if they own one) sit on the street or garage.

Unlike many other urban cities, the public transit system in Chicago is only $2.25 per ride regardless of distance. There are a lot of FREE transfer stations across the city to move between EL Train lines (Elevated Trains / Subway) or sometimes between a bus and a rail line. If a transfer fee is charged, it’s typically 25 cents for the transfer (up to two transfers within a two hour period).

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Visitors to Chicago can also opt for the 1 day, 3 day or 7 day unlimited rides visitor’s passes that you can purchase at kiosks located at Chicago O’Hare and Midway International Airports, or at the visitor’s centers at the Chicago Cultural Center or Water Tower locations. Reduced fares are offered to students and qualified persons. Local Chicago’s who rely solely on the public transit system also receive discounts for unlimited rides at only $100 per month.

The Public Transit System is called the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) and PACE for the suburban public systems which all operate on the same fare system and utilize the same fare cards. Commuter Trains are part of the METRA system and they operate on different fees and fare card system, but we’ll talk more about METRA and other affordable transportation options in another blog post.

The public transit system is a great way to move around town whether you are a local, transplant or a visitor to Chicago. Their schedules are available via phone, text message, Google Maps or one of the applications on your smartphone that support transit directions.

WEBSITES:
Chicago Transit Authority (CTA Buses and EL Trains) www.TransitChicago.com
PACE (Suburban Buses) www.PaceBus.com
METRA (Commuter Trains) www.MetraRail.com

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It’s a Season of Giving!

This is often the time of the year where folks think more about giving then receiving. Amongst the hustle and bustle of the holiday shopping, it’s good to keep in mind those who have less than you do.

It’s also fun to buy toys and other gifts for local area school kids who may not be fortunate enough to get some of the fun stuff they want for the holidays.

C&C Realty Group, Inc www.LoftsNHomes.com Holiday Toy Drive

C&C Realty Group, Inc www.LoftsNHomes.com Holiday Toy Drive


C&C Realty Group, Inc www.LoftsNHomes.com Holiday Toy Drive

C&C Realty Group, Inc www.LoftsNHomes.com Holiday Toy Drive

C&C Realty Group, Inc www.LoftsNHomes.com Holiday Toy Drive

C&C Realty Group, Inc www.LoftsNHomes.com Holiday Toy Drive

Helping Santa out this holiday season

Helping Santa out this holiday season

What is your way to give a little of yourself this holiday season? I would love to know!

Chicago Is Great for Tech Giants and Tech Start Ups

Willis Tower in the downtown financial district

Willis Tower in the downtown financial district

Chicago is often referred to as the capital of the Midwest. Many people from other Midwestern cities and neighboring states choose to have a residence or business presence here. Some of the giants in the area now including United Airlines, Google, Motorola, Groupon all have major technology headquarters around Chicago.

Google just signed a lease in the a building in the West Loop Fulton Market District where an El station was just opened within the past two years. New restaurants and galleries are opening next to what used to be a cold storage building and it’s convenient to existing West Loop Restaurant Row along Randolph Street. They are in the process of designing their new space and expected to occupy the new space in 2015.

United Airlines has a technology and operations center located in the Willis Tower (formerly Sear’s Tower) which also houses several small technology start up firms.

The Merchandise Mart

The Merchandise Mart

Groupon starting their business model here in Chicago and have made River West their headquarters in a technology building that was formerly the Montgomery Wards Catalog Distribution Building. This building was converted into mixed use space with high end technology amenities and condos.

Several technology start up firms share space in 1871 which is a technology incubator space housed in the Merchandise Mart Building. This historic building was once owned by the Kennedy Family and was exhibit space and show rooms for various house and decorating shows.

Cold storage building in West Loop's Fulton Market District being converted to Class A Office Space in which Google will be a primary tenant

Cold storage building in West Loop’s Fulton Market District being converted to Class A Office Space in which Google will be a primary tenant

There are many more example to be found all over town, but with two major international airports which provides flights to every state in the nation within 2-4 hours, the ample and convenient public transportation options and plenty of housing stock and fun neighborhoods to choose from, Chicago is a great place to live, work and setup your technology business.

Getting some culture around town for FREE!

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Not everything you do in the big city is expensive.  The locals have their own ways to get around and find things to do that are low cost and some really neat things to do for free.  One such place is the Cultural Center which has a visitor”s center that will provide you free access to attractions around down, get a visitor’s transit pass to save some money.  At the Cultural Center, there is also an art gallery on the first floor that has rotating exhibits from local artists.  The architecture in the cultural center itself is also amazing and you can just soak up the history while taking a coffee or snack break in the common area offering free WiFi Internet access.  the various ball rooms also plays host to various city functions and public meetings.
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The Chicago  Cultural Center was originally constructed in 1897 as the Central Library of Chicago.  As the city’s population increased over the last century, the central library was relocated to Van Buren.  The country’s top architects and craftsmen used the most sumptuous materials, such as rare imported marbles, polished brass, fine hardwoods, and mosaics of Favrile glass, mother-of-pearl and colored stone, to create an architectural showplace. Located on the south side of the building, the world’s largest stained glass Tiffany dome ― 38 feet in diameter with some 30,000 pieces of glass ― was restored to its original splendor in 2008. On the north side of the building is a 40-foot-diameter dome with some 50,000 pieces of glass in an intricate Renaissance pattern, designed by Healy & Millet.

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Driving Directions


From The North:

If traveling from the North on the Kennedy Expressway or Edens Expressway (Interstate 90/94), exit at Monroe Street and drive East to Michigan Avenue.

If driving on the Outer Drive (North Lake Shore Drive/Highway 41), exit at Randolph Street and drive West to Michigan Avenue.

From The South:

If traveling from the South on the Dan Ryan Expressway (Interstates 90/94), exit at Congress Parkway and drive East to Michigan Avenue and then North to Washington Street. If driving on Lake Shore Drive (Highway 41), exit at Randolph Street and drive West to Michigan Avenue.

From The East:
If traveling from the East on the Indiana Toll Road (Interstate 90), take the Chicago Skyway to the Stony Island exit, follow Highway 41 (Lake Shore Drive) to downtown Chicago, exit at Randolph Street and drive West to Michigan Avenue.

If coming in from the East on Interstate 90/94, continue on the Dan Ryan Expressway, exit at Congress Parkway, drive East to Michigan Avenue and then North to Washington Street.

From The West:
If traveling from the West on the Eisenhower Expressway (Interstate 290), which becomes Congress Parkway, drive East to Michigan Avenue, and then turn North (left) to Washington Street.

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 Parking

Convenient parking is located in the Millennium Park Garage, Grant Park North, Grant Park South and East Monroe Garages. For more information or directions for any of these parking garages, visit www.millenniumgarages.com or call 312.616.0600.

 Public Transportation

Both Chicago Transit Authority buses and trains, and Metra’s commuter rail lines stop conveniently near the Cultural Center. For detailed travel information visit www.transitchicago.com or call the Travel Information Center at 1-888-YOUR-CTA or 1-888-CTA-TTY1 (TTY).

 

Holiday Spirit in Chicago

One of the neat things about living in a large urban city like Chicago is that the city and businesses helps put people in the holiday spirit with holiday decorations. While the trees may be missing it’s foliage in the colder winter months, they are often draped with holiday lights. Many businesses will also put up their own version of the Christmas tree adorned with different lights. The city has its own official Christmas tree that is usually chosen from a suburban family, chopped and trucked in for installation at Daley Plaza where the Picasso Statue resides and the Christkindle Market happens during the holiday.

Street Scape along the Magnificent Mile (Michigan Avenue) with the infamous Water Tower in the background.

Street Scape along the Magnificent Mile (Michigan Avenue) with the infamous Water Tower in the background.


Christmas tree at the Cultural Center which is used for city offices, art gallery and visitor's center.

Christmas tree at the Cultural Center which is used for city offices, art gallery and visitor’s center.

Holiday tree outside of the legondary Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team

Holiday tree outside of the legondary Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team

Colorful trees at the base of the Skydesk for Willis Tower.  Chicagoans still call it the Sear's Tower.

Colorful trees at the base of the Skydesk for Willis Tower. Chicagoans still call it the Sear’s Tower.

The official City Christmas Tree at Daley Plaza with Chriskindle Market

The official City Christmas Tree at Daley Plaza with Chriskindle Market

Trumpets and Holiday Story Windows outsides of Macy's on State.  Chicagoans still call it Marshall Fields

Trumpets and Holiday Story Windows outsides of Macy’s on State. Chicagoans still call it Marshall Fields

Trees at the ice skating rink at Millenium Park.

Trees at the ice skating rink at Millenium Park.

The holiday tree on the plaza shared by The Tribune Company and NBC Tower

The holiday tree on the plaza shared by The Tribune Company and NBC Tower

Saving for a down payment to buy

There are some great deals out in the market for first time loft/home buyers or event folks who would like to upgrade their residence and/or get into a better neighborhood. But on thing gets in the way for the first time home buyer(s) — that is having enough saved for a down payment.

A savings and down payment is important because most residential lenders are looking for “Stated Loans” where you provide your income supporting documentation, the W2 or pay stubs from work (typically past two months worth) or your 1099’s and past tax filings (typically past two years). The underwriters want to make sure that you can 1) Afford the loan and have enough cushion to avoid default and/or foreclosure and; 2) Make sure that that the income stated on your income is accurate and that it meets their debt-to-income ration qualifications.

Here are some simple ways that will help you save:
1) Take Public transit – it’s fairly east to do in most Chicago neighborhoods and you can be on the monthly flat fee plan. Some employers can also pay for this through payroll deduction so you get to pay for it with pre-tax dollars. Some employers also subsidize it. Not owing a car can save you about $6,000 per year if you figure $500 per month for car payments, insurance and parking for the average car owner.
2) Reduce eating out and buying coffee from Starbucks or Dunkin Doughnuts. On average most folks spent $5-15 per day just on the coffee purchases and for eating lunch out (another $10-15 per day average). That’s at least $100 a week if you pack your own lunch or at least $50 a week if you eat out only half the week.
3) Reduce your alcohol intake – It’s good for your health and vital organs long term, but it also saves you a lot of money. If you go out with clients or other co-workers frequently, you can also just reduce the amount of drinking (at least the ones you pay for on your own). An average night out for me is at least $25 one a week which would provide a $1,300 savings a year. And not drinking as much also avoids those late night post drinking food cravings so that’s additional $$ that you are saving. You can also choose to reduce the amount going out you do to every two weeks or once a month if you are really on the savings track — think of all the new furniture you can afford with the savings.
4) Have a change cup or bucket – I use only dollar bills when I use cash for purchases and put the change in my cups and take them into the bank every month or two. This has allowed me to put at least $100-200 in savings per month and you’d be surprise with how quickly they add up.

These few savings will yield a $12,500 savings for down payment just within a one year (12 month period). This is equivalent to a 10% down payment on a house purchased at $125,000 range. Of a 3% down payment on a loft/home that’s around $415,000. Yes, there are still 3% and 5% down payment loans out there for first time home buyer(s) and if you have a FICO credit score of 700 or above.

Let me know your comments and thoughts or other examples that you have to save money on a regular baiss.

Christkindl Market in Chicago Loop Downtown

December 12, 2013

One of the most cool things around the holidays in Chicago is the Christkindl Market downtown.  It’s located at the Daley Plaza in front of the court house where during the summer months, they have various cultural festivals and fresh farmer’s market weekly.

Christkindl Market is a Santa’s Village of sorts replicating the Christkindl Markets in Germany, but on a small scale and more local to Chicago.  It was started by the Germany immigrants into the City and has been a yearly tradition for me to stop there. I used to visit more often when my office was located in the central loop across for it’s location so it was easy to go across the street for lunch to get a quick German bratwurst or schnitzel fix, to grab some hot apple cider or to meet friends for a beer, pretzels an/or potato pancakes after work.

chriskindl_market

Besides the food and drinks, it’s a nice place to shop for lots of holiday gifts from vendors and artisans and there are ample selection of Christmas Ornaments or Germany Chocolates to give out for business associates and clients during the holidays.

If you have little ones (or for the kid in you), You can visit Santa’s House and get a phone with Santa.
 

GETTING THERE:
There are many options to get to Daley Plaza where the Chriskindl Market is located: You can take public transit and there is an El Station underneath Daley Plaza for both the Blue and Red Lines. The #20 Madison Bus goes right by Daley Plaza and it’s only a short 2 block walk from Michigan Avenue. A taxi is always nearby and there are plenty of parking lots in the surrounding blocks, but be prepared to pay hefty during peak hours for the parking downtown. There are a few metered spots in the blocks around the area if you are willing to wait and not planning on staying for more than an hours or two, otherwise, the paid parking is usually a better option both financially and for flexibility on time.

Hours:
It’s open daily from November 26th through December 23rd! I hope you will make it a yearly tradition like I have in Chicago.

Website: http://www.christkindlmarket.com/en/

OTHER NEARBY WINTER ATTRACTIONS — There are some other Winter Attraction Nearby if you are making a day of it:
1) Outdoor ice skating in Millennium Park at Michigan and Washington Streets.
2) Visit Cloud Gate at Millennium Park.
3) Shopping along Michigan Avenue’s Mag Mile.
4) View the annual holiday Window Displays at Macy’s — it’s only a block away on State Street and there is usually a cute story to be told.
5) Take in a Theater or show in the Theater District close by

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com/video.

It’s a snow day! Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Photo Dec 11, 8 33 24 AM

Was tired last night and went to bed early.  Woke up at 4:30 AM and could not fall back to sleep.   So by 5:30 AM I was on the road dusting the light snow off the car to make my way into the office.  One thing about getting on the road early is that there are less vehicles on the road and it’s a quick 35 minute commute into the office.  A second big advantage is that in the West Loop of Chicago, where the office for C&C Realty Group, Inc. www.LoftsNHomes.com  is located, there is plenty or parking when I get here before 7 AM and I don’t have have to pay for parking.

I like the snow days for many reasons:  1)  It’s nice to have the season changes throughout the year so it does not get too boring.  2)  The temperatures during the winter are actually warmer on snow days because the water droplets tend to freeze when it’s too cold in the atmosphere so there is nothing coming down.  3)  It’s kinda fun to play in the snow during the winter time and make snow angels and such (just stay away from the colored snow, especially the yellow piles).  4)  I get to switch up my wardrobe during the winter months and wear some of the coats and jackets that I love.   5)  I prefer snow over rain because I don’t get too wet and it’s easy to dust off if I get some on me.

The negatives on snow days?

1)  People do not know how to drive on the road!  There are always accidents on snow days and sometimes 4-5 on each leg of the commute from people that drive too fast or don’t know how to control their vehicles on the road properly.  There are special techniques to driving during the winter which I might blog about some other time.

2)  There can be layers of ice on the road or worst, on the windshield of the car so you have to scrape that off and defrost it before you can get on the road — this adds some extra time to getting ready each day.

3)  People tend to cancel appointments and showings and I have to re-adjust my schedule.

On Heavy snow days here in Chicagoland, people tend to stay home which is good for reducing traffic and congestion on the roads and transit systems.  Many of the companies around Chicago area allow their employees to work from home and provide remote access for the winter time snow days and on days of extreme weather.

 

Overall, I don’t mind the snow days and prefer some chill in the air to keep me awake throughout the day and I’ve had 15 years to adjust to the winters here in Chicago and have been able to buy nice coats and winter clothing for when I’m outside.

 

View of parking lot from my office window.

View of parking lot from my office window.