Shops and Lofts at 47: Transforming Bronzeville or an Unlikely Solution?

This commercial and residential construction project in the Bronzeville neighborhood will be the Shops and Lofts at 47. Construction is expected to be completed in 2014. It will feature a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market and mixed-income housing units. (Photo/Ali Trumbull)

This commercial and residential construction project in the Bronzeville neighborhood will be the Shops and Lofts at 47. Construction is expected to be completed in 2014. It will feature a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market and mixed-income housing units. (Photo/Ali Trumbull)

By Ali Trumbull and Sadé Carpenter

After seven years of changes and setbacks, The Shops and Lofts at 47 at the corner of 47th Street and Cottage Grove in the Bronzeville neighborhood have broken ground.

The project should be finished sometime in 2014 with a 41,000 square-foot Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, 14,000 square-foot of local retail space and 96 rental apartments.

An effort to improve and transform the Bronzeville neighborhood, the rental apartments will be mixed-use with 28 units receiving both Chicago Housing Authority and Low Income Housing Tax Credit subsidies, 44 units receiving low-income tax credit subsidies, and 24 units will be market price.

“From a community perspective the deeper question is, was there or is there a community benefit from the agreement that in fact empowers the lower income community from a bottom-up perspective, “ Harold Lucas, the President and CEO of Black Metropolis Convention & Tourism Council said. “I assure you that was not there.”

Lucas is also the Director of the Bronzeville Visitor Information Center. He’s thankful that something is happening to improve the Bronzeville neighborhood’s housing and retail options, but does not think this project is empowering lower and middle class.

“For the city of Chicago to put an anchor project on Cottage Grove that doesn’t tell us how it fits more broadly with the other things that are happening west of there, it is to me like putting a Trojan horse into a community and taking that community over,” Lucas said.

Continue reading


Storify social media coverage of Chicago Red Line closure

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has ended Red Line South Bound trains traveling from Cermak-Chinatown to 95th/Dan Ryan until October 2013 for track renovations. Travel time for commuters will increase significantly with the alternative transportation methods set up by the CTA. But the CTA says that the Red Line South Reconstruction Project will “benefit Red Line riders for decades to come–through faster travel times, increased reliability, and spruced-up stations with a variety of improvements.”

Chicagoans react to the Red Line renovations:

[View the story “Red Line South Bound closure underway for the next five months” on Storify]

Renaissance Row: Businesses of East 75th Street refuse to close during Red Line renovations

Stephanie Hart, owner of Brown Sugar Bakery, shares her concern about the Red Line renovations and how it could impact her business. Hart is a fan of the Rolling Stones and decided on “Brown Sugar,” a song by the band, as the name of her bakery. (Photo/Ali Trumbull)

Stephanie Hart, owner of Brown Sugar Bakery, shares her concern about the Red Line renovations and how it could impact her business. Hart is a fan of the Rolling Stones and decided on “Brown Sugar,” a song by the band, as the name of her bakery. (Photo/Ali Trumbull)

When the Dan Ryan branch of the Red Line closes for renovations on May 19, the owners of businesses near East 75th Street say they are going to spend the next five months struggling.

One of the city’s most important transportation lines, the Red Line will be shut down southbound from the Cermak-Chinatown stop to the end of the line at 95th/Dan Ryan.

East 75th Street, located in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood, is a few blocks away from the 79th Street stop. Business owners and their employees not only have to change their daily routines, but also hope their businesses continue to thrive.

While Stephanie Hart owns a neighborhood bakery, she says her customers come from all over the city.

“The concern with us is that people find new places to shop when it’s not convenient,” said Hart, owner of Brown Sugar Bakery at 328 E. 75th Street. “These people aren’t from the block. No one walked here today. I can almost guarantee you that no one walked here.”

Another business, Original Soul Vegetarian, is popular with college students from different schools throughout the city. Owner Arel Brown said that 45 percent of his business comes from people who commute from the North Side of the city for their vegan and vegetarian cuisine.

A big concern with a lot of Red Line commuters is the amount of time it will take to get from one place to another during the renovation. One of Hart’s employees at the bakery, Shakemma Buchanan, has to purchase a car for her family.

Continue reading

Communicate with the world as a convergent journalist

With so many buzz words like “multimedia” and “smartphone” in journalism, it’s apparent that the old ways of sitting at your desk and cranking out a story are long gone. The only way to have an edge on the competition is to stay on top of the constant stream of new tools and ways to tell a story to an audience. 

One of the newest additions to reporting and one of the most important tools for people everywhere–regardless of their profession–is social media. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram among others have changed the way people tell a story and who can tell the story. Now anyone can “break news” to a large audience and essentially, the world. 

Newsrooms rely on social media so much so that there are full-time jobs dedicated to the position popping up everywhere. This job posting has social media in the title

In Chicago, newsrooms like NBC5 and their reporters like Mary Ann Ahern break news on Twitter and even give a play-by-play when they’re interviewing to keep followers informed in real time. This means that journalists need to be plugged-in and giving their followers and readers information all the time. 

These outlets for communicating provide many benefits, but also many opportunities for problems. 

False reports of celebrity deaths and misinformation are just a few of the issues that are constantly appearing on the social media site. These kinds of tweets have been retweeted thousands of times and when a reputable news source like CNN retweets the false tweet or tweets about the subject matter, that brings down the credibility of that news organization. 

Basically, when you hear, “don’t believe everything you read on the Internet,” the same applies for Twitter. 

As long as you’re careful, you can use these social media sites to tell a story, share information, or even score a job. 


The Safes: Chicago rock band that places family and music first

Frankie and Patrick O’Malley are lucky to have each other. Brothers, roommates, and band mates in Chicago rock ‘n’ roll band, The Safes—nothing comes between them and their music.

Well, except arguments. And when you’re working with your family, they’re bound to happen.

“You can be more viciously mean to the other,” said Frankie.

“When you fight, yeah, it can be brutal, but you get over it fast,” said Patrick.

But even their views on their disagreements differ.

“Sometimes you get over it fast,” said Frankie. “Sometimes it takes a while. Sometimes it’s so, and I don’t mean to complain about it, I just want to be honest about it, we get into fights that interfere with…”

“…progress,” Patrick finished.

“Progress at times,” Frankie added. “And interfere with, you know, I had a bad show in Indianapolis once because we basically got in a fist fight before we played.”

“Yeah,” Patrick chuckled. “It was all nonsense. We were fighting on stage.”

It’s easy for them to talk about fighting with each other, but it’s easier to admire each other’s talents.

“Every success we have really goes back to Patrick,” said Frankie.

“I just do research,” Patrick responded. “I’ve been doing the business for a long time.”

“And doing a hell of a job,” Frankie complimented.

Frankie O’Malley and Patrick O’Malley of The Safes hang out in their home that at every turn and in every room, is dedicated to music.

Rock ‘n’ Roll DIY

Their home on the north side of Chicago is a music laboratory. It has everything a touring band would need. It’s a recording studio, practice space, storage for their endless amounts of instruments, and there’s even a room for designing and making tour t-shirts. The O’Malley brothers are involved in every aspect of the music industry in ways that other musicians wouldn’t be able to handle. Patrick is an eternal student of music as he continues to teach himself about the production process.

“Now all this recording stuff, he’s coming back and being like, ‘oh I found out about this piece of equipment and this piece of equipment that Led Zeppelin used and The Kinks used this and this is what the guy who produced Jimi Hendrix records used’ and like he’s studying how they made records,” said Frankie, admiring Patrick’s dedication. “I’m reading all the time and documenting,” said Patrick. “I take notes.”

And it has paid off.

Thee Lexington Arrows, a garage rock band from Baltimore, asked Patrick to produce their newest album that will come out early 2013. The band wanted a brighter, live-like sound and that’s exactly what they’re getting. When listening to one of the tracks, it sounds like the band is playing a live set in the same room.

Patrick also produced the newest single from The Safes, “Century of Saturdays” which features two tracks showcasing a softer side to their usual straightforward rock and power pop sound. These songs have had airtime on PBS program “Roadtrip Nation” but their songs are not unfamiliar to television.

When they released their third album, “Well, Well, Well” in 2007, Patrick made sure they had an instrumental version of the album. Oddly enough, it ended up being a great business decision.

“One of the music supervisors at MTV contacted us via e-mail saying, ‘I read about your record, I bought it, I love this record. I want to help your band. If you guys happen to have instrumental versions of this album, I can put it in the wheel well for all our reality shows,’” said Frankie. “We’re on like, five episodes of Jersey Shore.”

Patrick O’Malley of The Safes plays the drums at a show in March 2010. (Photo taken by katiebot5000 on

The Creative Process

Creating the music can be quite laborious. And the brothers approach that process differently.

“Well, Frankie will write a whole album by himself,” said Patrick. “For real. Like, you know, he’ll be like, ‘check out this song I recorded.’ He’ll have the lyrics, you know, the music, meaning like drums, the bass, the guitar, keyboard.”

Frankie opens the boombox sitting on top of one of their pianos.

“There’s a CD here with like 33 songs of exactly what he’s talking about that I will demo on like a digital a-track by myself,” said Frankie.

“We’re all creative,” Patrick added. “But he’ll write albums. Some people write songs. He writes albums. When he starts creating something, he needs to finish it, whereas me, I’ll let it marinate or ferment, you know, for decades.”

But as always, Frankie plays the big brother role, jumping to his defense.

“And then he’ll end up with the best song you’ve ever heard.”

But that doesn’t mean that once a song is recorded that they shove it aside and solely focus on the next one. Their appreciation for music as an art shines through when they talk about perfecting their sound.

“One song we ended up re-recording all the drums on it after two and a half years,” said Frankie. “I’m like, ‘dude, we need to re-record the drums.’ Do you remember that?”

“Well, yeah, I do,” Patrick snickered. “You wanna know why? It’s because of one drum.”

Frankie grinned and simply responded, “How about that for a perfectionist?”

The Safes have been performing coast-to-coast for almost 10 years. In the early days, they would sometimes play two or three shows in 24 hours.

Steve Segel, a former booker at Chicago music venue, Quenchers Saloon, has secured the guys for around eight to 10 shows.

“This is one of those bands that I think they just get it,” said Segel. “Even though they were all about clearly having fun and playing lots of shows, it was always like, you know, a very professional looking product. I mean, I have like probably 10,000 demos. It’s ridiculous. But I still listen to their album.”

Their next local gig is at Township on Wednesday for their annual Thanksgiving Eve show.

“It’s just a fun night to play,” said Patrick. “No one has to work the next day.”

“And everybody can get wasted,” Frankie remarked.

Frankie O’Malley of The Safes plays for a crowd in March 2010. (Photo taken by katiebot5000 on

All In The Family

In a household nurtured by music, the O’Malley clan included 11 kids—four boys and seven girls—raised by their Irish immigrant parents, one of which was a professional musician. Their father’s band, The Frank O’Malley Band, played weddings, dances, and benefits a couple times a week for years.

And with a father who played the accordion, saxophone, flute and guitar, it isn’t surprising that both Frankie and Patrick can play a plethora of instruments. Both play the drums, guitar, bass, piano, mandolin, and bango, and Frankie can also add the vibraphone, accordion, and violin to that mix.

“Oh god,” said Patrick. “He can’t go into a room. If there’s an instrument in a room, he has to play it.”

“And if I’m like, hanging out with a girl or whatever and I’m like going to her place on a regular basis, I’ll be like, second or third visit, I’ll be like, ‘Is it cool if I leave this guitar here?’ You never know when inspiration is gonna strike,” said Frankie. “And when I show up some place where there’s a piano, I can’t resist. Even if it’s like, ‘don’t touch the piano.’”

And naturally, there’s a story about Frankie’s obsessive need to have his hands constantly on an instrument.

“There was this one time where we played a show for the University of Illinois-Champaign and there’s this big auditorium and this huge piano and it’s in the corner and there are couches around it,” said Patrick.

“There was like a fortress around it,” said Frankie.

“So Frankie climbs over all this stuff, there’s people studying, he climbs over all this stuff and he starts playing it for like, 15 minutes,” said Patrick. “No one seemed to mind, but like…”

“…actually there was one girl who like, clapped and said, ‘thanks’” Frankie interrupted. “Patrick’s like ‘don’t, don’t, don’t’ and I got over there and as soon as I started playing he walked out of the room.”

“I was just like, ‘I can’t be a part of this,’” Patrick laughed.

“It was me needing to be like, ‘I can’t not go over there and play that instrument,’” Frankie declared.

And as he reminisced about that piano, Frankie continued to quietly strum one of his many guitars.

Then all was still for a few moments except for the soft sounds flitting around the room.

It was the first silence to overcome the brothers after three hours. That is until Patrick finally acknowledged Frankie’s earnest devotion to the extravagant instrument.

“It was a beautiful grand piano.”

–Ali Trumbull

Thanksgiving Eve concert with The Safes, Decoy Prayer Meeting, and The Dead On

When: Wed. Nov. 21 at 9 p.m., 21 and over show

Where: Township, 2202 N. California Ave.

Price: $8


The pursuit of justice through art at the SAIC Sullivan Galleries

At this moment, Jon Burge is sitting in a prison cell in North Carolina. The former Chicago Police Department commander has a 4 1/2-year sentence at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex but in Chicago, his two decades of torture live on in the minds of his victims and their families. Burge tortured African Americans to get a confession, even if the man in question didn’t commit the crime.

Opening the Black Box: The Charge is Torture is an art exhibit and dedicated memorial honoring the survivors of Burge’s torture. Burge and the men under his command allegedly tortured more than 110 African American men from 1972 to 1991 in Chicago’s Area 2 district. Located at the School of the Art Institute Sullivan Galleries, Opening the Black Box showcases a variety of work from artists and proposals for monuments that could help recognize what these men had to endure. The Chicago Torture Justice Memorials Project (CTJM) asked for proposals for the exhibition and they got them, receiving over 75 proposals of work hoping to help acquire justice in the situation, piece by piece.

Brenna Conley-Fonda’s piece Untitled shows three different men shaped from merely hair and glue. The images of them sitting handcuffed in a chair or handcuffed to a furnace are powerful. They are faceless as if they didn’t have an identity and were just another body. Another piece by Hans Heydebreck called Stars or Stripes is a digital print on fabric. It’s a mutation of the American flag but instead of the stars, there are prison cell bars. In replacement of our 13 stripes is just one beam of light coming through the barred prison cell window.

A display of pictures of common everyday things such as a plunger, telephone book, pants and shoes, flashlight, or a typewriter cover stand out the most. These items weren’t used for what they were created for but rather as a form of torture. Not necessarily associated with Burge, although his weapons of choice were a typewriter cover and his mysterious black box, the pictures are of weapons used in multiple situations similar to Burge’s by officers on African Americans throughout the nation.

Although this exhibition is scheduled to end Dec. 21 and Burge is locked up for the time being, the memories of Burge’s torture take a permanent residency in the minds of those tortured and their families. The CTJM team tells this story of torture and the pursuit of justice through art and it’s a powerful message, one that hopefully will continue even after this exhibit closes.

Opening the Black Box: The Charge is Torture

When: October 4- December 21, Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Where: School of the Art Institute Sullivan Galleries and Betty Rymer Gallery, 33 S. State St., 7th floor

Price: Free and open to the public