06/18/2009 8:55 AM
I stumbled onto Sloopin.com while lost in a maze of Google searches one day this spring and have been reading ever since. Featuring photographs, surveys and an oft-updated blog about everything from real estate to restaurants, the Olympics and CTA, the site offers a daily take on South Loop issues and events.
I've been e-mailing with Sloopy, the site's publisher, and he agreed to answer some questions about the site over e-mail. He's staying anonymous for now, using a collective editorial voice for the site (read below for a fuller explanation).
I'm planning to reach out to more bloggers on the Near South and Near West Side and feature them on this blog I've got going, Near Loop Wire. Any thoughts on who should be next? E-mail me at email@example.com or leave a comment below.
Here's my e-interview with Sloopy:
Why did you start Sloopin and what are your goals with the site? When did the site go live?
We started Sloopin because in our opinion there wasnít a central place online where we could get information about the South Loop. Before we moved to the neighborhood we did a lot of research and found a ton of great information, but the problem was that we had to search all over the place to get what we were seeking. We had some friends that lived in the South Loop and knew they were always looking for news and information about the neighborhood but werenít getting it consistently enough.
When we went live on Monday September 22, 2008 the goal for the site was relatively simple: try to be a resource for people interested in the South Loop. Itís evolved a little but hopefully weíre staying true to the course and providing interesting links, entertaining content and an informative experience for our readers.
How does the site operate - is there a team pitching in, or just one person?
The site is primarily edited by one person (Sloopy), but we get tips, opinions and leads from various friends and acquaintances (I guess you could call it Ďour boardí). We try to consult others prior to posting but that doesnít always happen due to the urge to get content up quickly.
We also like to rely on our readers for help with content, tips, pictures and opinions. Weíve had some of them sign up to be guest bloggers or simply contribute ideas and content (such as pictures, news links, etc.).
Did you take any inspiration from other neighborhood-centric blogs in Chicago or other cities?
Initially the inspiration came from Andrew Sullivan, who is a great political blogger at the Atlantic. As Sloopin evolved, we did interact and get inspiration from various Chicago blogs such as Chicagoist, YoChicago, CTA Tattler and most recently Uptown Update. Itís definitely been a learning process, but something weíve truly enjoyed.
What do you think such blogs bring to the communities they cover?
In our opinion these types of blogs provide a unique and unconventional voice within their respective neighborhoods. They also tend to fill a void or provide interesting and/or engaging content people are seeking. They also seem to be more agile and quick to post about stories and observations since they donít have to go through the ringer that typical news outlets require. Obviously this can be seen as a good or bad thing depending on your point of view.
Do you live in the South Loop, and if so, for how long? What drew you to the neighborhood? Any other biographical details you can share? And why is anonymity important for you?
Yes, I personally live in the South Loop and have for about a year and a half. I was drawn to the South Loop for a variety of reasons, but initially it was a simple fascination with a ďnewĒ neighborhood. The more I visited and the more I read about the neighborhood, the more it appealed to me. Itís already a great neighborhood, but I also see a ton of potential here and in my opinion thatís exciting.
Weíve chosen to stay anonymous for a variety of reasons, but mostly because itís supposed to be about a collective view on the South Loop; not an individualistic one. Personally, I liked the idea of a collective voice (such as the Economist or editorial pieces in newspapers). Although Sloopin isnít always a collective voice and by no means as good or as professional as some of the examples we just gave, we strive to get different opinions and perspectives in our posts.
In regards to myself (Sloopy), I do have a wide range of experience around the world of journalism, however I donít really consider myself a journalist (and it wasnít what I studied in college). In high school I was an editor for the school newspaper. In London, I worked in the marketing department for USA Today. In college, I was in charge of circulation and distribution for the universityís daily newspaper and currently I work in advertising and marketing so I deal with a wide variety of media outlets.
ĎOur boardí has a diverse background, but almost all of them live in the South Loop or are very knowledgeable about the area.
What do you see as the main issues that exist in the neighborhood?
Parking, Gentrification and Real Estate seem to be the main issues we hear about and read about.
Any predictions for how some of those issues will play out over the next couple of years?
Parking is always going to be an issue (and seems to be a problem with many neighborhoods in the city). Hopefully the aldermen and city officials ensure that developers provide options especially in areas where high-rises are going up. Unfortunately, our guess is that parking isnít going to get better, just worse.
Gentrification is always a touchy subject. The South Loop has changed so much in the past 10-15 years with the real estate boom that many businesses and residents simply canít afford to live in the area anymore. This seems to be a trend that will continue as it seems as if the city is committed to making the neighborhood increasingly desirable.
Real estate goes hand in hand with gentrification, but everyone read and heard about how the South Loop grew during the real estate boom. With the economy and market going south, this has definitely put a strain on the real estate prospects in the neighborhood. However, this shouldnít take anything away from the neighborhood. The South Loop is a diverse, dynamic and interesting neighborhood that continues to evolve. Itís close to the best that Chicago has to offer: Lake Michigan, Grant Park, world class museums, the Loop, public transportation and major highways to name a few highlights. At the end of the day, not many neighborhoods can say they have this, so we feel that the real estate prospects are great in the long term.
How do you think a 2016 Olympic games would impact the South Loop and Near South Side?
The 2016 Olympic Games are something we love to watch closely on Sloopin as we selfishly think the games would speed up the development within the neighborhood. Everyone we talk to who doesnít live in the South Loop thinks that we just want to rent out our condos to rich foreigners during the Olympics, but to be honest that would just be gravy in our opinion.
There are two big reasons why we think the Olympics would benefit the South Loop and Near South Side. First, infrastructure projects would be fast tracked. Whether itís CTA stops or street improvements or park improvements, everything would happen quicker because of the 2016 date. Second, it would provide a lot of great exposure for the neighborhood, which hopefully would result in an influx of retail. The one big knock historically on the South Loop is that it doesnít have the retail of a Gold Coast or Lincoln Park. Or that it doesnít have the night life of a Wicker Park or River North. Although it has been getting better, we feel like this will really pick up because of the exposure and attention of the Olympics.
Does the neighborhood have to have the Olympics? No, but it would speed up the development for sure.
Ten years from now, which current Chicago neighborhood will the South Loop most resemble? Which neighborhood would you like it to resemble?
To be honest, most Sloopers will tell you that they want the neighborhood to be its own, unique place. Most people who live in the South Loop live here because it has its own vibe and isnít like Wrigleyville or Bucktown or Old Town. We love the neighborhoods within Chicago, but hopefully the South Loop continues to evolve and be its own distinct place. Thatís not really answering the question, but itís the truth.
In ten years, we think the South Loop might actually resemble an area in Manhattan more so then another neighborhood in Chicago. The greater South Loop neighborhood has a lot of similar characteristics as the Gramercy/Union Square/East Village/Chinatown neighborhoods in Manhattan (which are also all right next to each other).
For instance, Gramercy is a very exclusive and posh area of New York which could maybe correlate to the Prairie District or some of the premium high-rises on Roosevelt and Michigan. Union Square and the East Village are bustling with NYU buildings and college students. This trend is very similar to what weíre seeing with the northern parts of the South Loop where schools like Columbia, Roosevelt University and Robert Morris are expanding and students are flocking. Chinatown is an obvious comparison.