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Chicago will overcome G-8 summit loss in the end

Crowds shop North Michigan Avenue. | John H White~Chicago Sun-Times

Crowds shop on North Michigan Avenue. | John H White~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: April 10, 2012 10:58AM



Chicagoans should be accustomed to losing, but some of us still overreact when grand civic ambition is denied. So let’s not get carried away with this transfer of the G-8 summit to Camp David, Maryland, which some have called a humiliation for Chicago.

Really? It’s a humiliation maybe for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose world domination tour has been put on standby. But for everybody else, it might make for a more sane and profitable summit weekend in May, when the NATO leaders still will gather here.

The original plan was for the meeting of the G-8, or Group of Eight, to start here May 19 and lead directly into the NATO summit over the next two days. Losing the G-8 cuts Chicago’s time on the world stage by a day.

Its possible, though, that Chicago still has the best part of the bargain. The NATO meeting is far larger, with 28 nations taking part and dozens more on the outside looking in. Six nations in the G-8 belong to NATO anyway.

Yet for whatever reason, the G-8 has a more devoted following of protesters, the vast majority with honestly held convictions, but with some just looking to stomp a squad car. The protest spokespeople say they will come to Chicago anyway, but better choices are at hand.

Why not head to Camp David, on the beautiful public land of Catoctin Mountain Park, and make it anti-globalization Woodstock? Or they could save their effort for June, when the real economic powerhouse, the G-20, accounting for 90 percent of the globe’s spending, meet in Los Cabos, Mexico. They could test the limits of civil liberties beyond our border.

In the meantime, our immediate loss from the G-8 move seems slight. Hotel leaders report few cancellations. Some local consulates that were handling travel arrangements hadn’t even booked Chicago rooms yet.

Downtown property owners anxious about security are being told to continue preparations as they would for any special event, said Michael Cornicelli, executive vice president of the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago.

Many business leaders not in immediate thrall to Emanuel grumbled about the summits. Some think the opposition filtered back to President Obama and convinced him to move the G-8. That’s doubtful, but there’s no harm in letting the world think we have common sense.

We all remember the Chicago 2016 Olympic disaster. Fading fast, however, are memories of the push for a 1992 World’s Fair. It was a campaign forced on people from on high, had an open-ended price tag for taxpayers and generated opposition so strong that legislative leaders vowed not to give it a dime.

Humiliation? Hardly. Let’s take credit where we can.

NOW IT CAN BE TOLD: The downtown development site at 400 W. Randolph along the Chicago River was sold for $12.5 million. John O’Donnell bought the site alongside Amtrak-owned railroad tracks from Michael Reschke. O’Donnell hopes to use air rights to build a roughly 50-story office tower over the tracks.

CRANKING IT UP: An unofficial Chicago landmark with a sweaty pedigree is on its way to a rebirth. Work is going on inside the old Russian and Turkish Bath House at 1914 W. Division, one of the last examples of public bathhouses that used to be common in immigrant neighborhoods. The business closed a few years ago.

Owner Alex Loyfman, manager of AM Realty Management Inc. in Skokie, said he hopes to have the place open in 90 to 120 days. It’ll be called Chicago Bath House, and a restaurant will be attached to it. Loyfman said that business will be called Red Square and will have a menu dominated by Russian, Mexican and American dishes.

His goal is to make the enterprise more family oriented while still drawing what he calls “the Goodfellas crowd,” the regulars who once gave the place character. “The Goodfellas will still be treated nicely but everything’s going to be modernized,” Loyfman said, adding that the space probably will be in the best shape ever.

His partnership bought the two-story building for $1.65 million last October. Loyfman said he’s like to preserve a couple traditions at the business. One would be a return to a long-ago design of having separate facilities for men and women.

The other would allow even nude patrons a place to order from the restaurant.

But have no fear. Loyfman has no desire to frighten the neighborhood trade that he hopes will fill the outdoor dining space in the warm weather.

Above the bathhouse space are five two-bedroom apartments Loyfman also has fixed. He said he plans to lease them after the disruptive work downstairs is complete.

Loyfman said he has a weakness for historic buildings. His company also controls the landmark Rosenwald Apartments at 4600 S. Michigan, where a prospective purchaser has been discussing plans with the city. A deal could be complete late this year, Loyfman said. Landwhite Developers LLC is the prospective buyer, but Loyfman said he might stick around as a limited partner.



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