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Chicago Ranks at Top of List of Best Cities in the World and the U.S.

by Thomas Makinney

Congratulations to our eastern neighbor Chicago, the city of big shoulders, which was recently recognized as the seventh best city in the world and the second best city in the U.S.!

Resonance Consultancy, a global advisor for tourism, real estate, and economic development, ranked cities across the world and the U.S. as a way to help cities understand their strengths and gaps. The U.S. survey looked at housing affordability, job opportunities, diversity, economic prosperity, art scene, culture, restaurants, and nightlife.

Chicago has an impressive amount of museums, national teams in every major sport, vibrant neighborhoods, two airports, and a variety of public transportation. It also boasts impressive higher education institutions, an enormous convention center, and world-renown architecture.

The city came in second (to New York) in U.S. cities for programming (shopping, nightlife, culinary, and culture). In global rankings, it finished sixth in the product category (infrastructure) and ranked #22 in the world for its food scene.

The top 10 U.S. cities are ranked as: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, San Diego, Houston, Miami, Seattle, and Boston.

The top cities in the world are listed as: London, Paris, New York, Tokyo, Barcelona, Moscow, Chicago, Singapore, Dubai, and San Francisco.

 

Elmhurst’s proximity to Chicago (15 miles as the crow flies and a variety of highways and public transit options, including a direct Metra train line) makes it the perfect community for people attracted to the vibrant culture and job opportunities of the city but who also want a more suburban lifestyle with good schools, parks, and amenities.

 

Living in Elmhurst means easy access to the vibrant city scene of Chicago. We’re proud of both cities. To find out more about what makes living in our area so remarkable, call us at (630) 441-5570 or visit us at www.gmregroup.com.

Portillo’s Awarded Best Fast-Casual Restaurant in the U.S.

by Thomas Makinney

What started with a little hot dog stand in Villa Park is now recognized as THE best fast-casual dining spot in the U.S.

TripAdvisor.com just awarded their annual Travelers’ Choice awards for restaurants, and Portillo’s came out on top. The awards honored 75 eateries across the country in the categories of fine dining, everyday dining (great meals for any occasion), and fast casual (high-quality meals at great value served quickly).

Whether it’s the Italian beef, the chocolate shakes, or the classic hot dog (all-beef Vienna hot dog on a poppy seed bun, topped with mustard, relish, freshly chopped onions, sliced red tomatoes, kosher pickle slice, celery salt, and slightly spicy sport peppers, and NO ketchup), Portillo’s fans are devoted and legendary.

Started in 1963 by Dick Portillo, the first Portillo’s was a trailer parked in the parking lot of a Villa Park discount store. It now boasts 57 restaurants in seven states in the U.S. It offers catering and ships nationwide.

TripAdvisor ranked restaurants based on quantity and quality of reviews over a one-year timeframe.

Three other Chicago restaurants were recognized in the list. In the everyday dining category, The Purple Pig came in 15th place; while in fine dining, Alinea placed 19th and Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf rounded out that category in 25th place.

Portillos is followed on the top 10 fast-casual dining list by Earl of Sandwich, Shake Shack, Blaze Pizza, In-N-Out Burger, The Taco Stand, Five Guys, Super Duper Burgers, Tacos el Gordo, and Torchy’s Tacos.

You can see the full list here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/TravelersChoice-Restaurants-cFastCasual

Here at Gracik Makinney, we’ll be celebrating with a classic hot dog, a side of crinkle fries, and a chocolate cake shake. To find out more about living in our area, call us at (630) 441-5570 or visit www.gmregroup.com.

 

Recycle Those Holiday Lights at Elmhurst Locations!

by Thomas Makinney


The upcoming holiday weekend is not only a time to be grateful, for many it’s a time to start holiday decorating. Are you dreading pulling out the holiday lights only to find they’ve somehow turned themselves into an impenetrable ball? Or that you’ll plug them in only to find they gave up the light over summer?
 
Whatever the situation, if you find yourself with holiday lights that don’t work anymore, don’t throw them in the trash!

The City of Elmhurst and the Elmhurst Park District have partnered with SCARCE (School and Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education) for the annual holiday lights recycling program. There are five donation drop-off locations in Elmhurst and more than 55 in DuPage county (see lists below).
 
The program, which is seven years old, has so far recycled an amazing number of more than 50,000 pounds of holiday lights.
 
Items that are acceptable for drop-off include: Italian mini-lights, traditional lights, extension cords, rope lights, and LED lights in both working and non-working condition. Please note that they cannot accept lawn ornaments or other holiday decorations.
 
The light strands go through a shredding system and then get sorted by material (copper, glass, and plastic). It’s the copper that makes the holiday lights worth the recycling effort, but the plastic and brass prongs from the plugs get recycled too along with the metal from the strand.
 
By recycling your lights, you not only save landfill space, you save energy as well, especially if you replace them with energy-efficient LED light strands.
 
Elmhurst residents can drop off their holiday lights at the following locations. Look for the bins labeled “Holiday Lights.”
 
·     Elmhurst City Hall, 209 N. York Street: M-F: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
·     Courts Plus, 186 S. West Avenue: M-F, 6 a.m.-10 p.m., Sat/Sun 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
·     Park District Administrative Building, 375 W. First Street: M-F: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
·     The Abbey, 407 W. St. Charles Road: M-Th, 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; F, 8:30 a.m.-12 noon
·     Wager Community Center, 615 N. West Avenue: M-F, 8 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sat. 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Click here for a list of locations through DuPage County.
 
This program is one of the many ways that Elmhurst makes recycling easier than ever for residents. We’re proud to be a part of such a progressive and forward-thinking city. To find out more about life in our area, call us at (630) 441-5570 or visit our website, www.gmregroup.com.
 

Elmhurst Public Library Receives National Five Star Rating

by Thomas Makinney

Elmhurst residents know just how amazing and special our library is—with its vibrant atmosphere, depth of materials, stunning views, and friendly staff, it’s consistently ranked among the best in the area. But it has officially been once again recognized as one of the best in the entire country.
 
For the second year in a row, the Elmhurst Public Library received a five-star rating from Library Journal’s prestigious national review of public libraries. Out of 7,361 public libraries rated across the country, only 257 qualified as star libraries. In Illinois, 21 libraries were given star ratings, but Elmhurst is one of only three that received the top-tier five-star rating, joining Skokie Public Library and Oak Park Public Library.
 
In fact, Elmhurst Public Library had the honor of being ranked in the top ten libraries ten nationwide and was ranked first in Illinois in the $5-9.9M category.
 
The ratings system looked at five measures: overall circulation, circulation of electronic materials, library visits, program attendance, and public computer use. Circulation and visits were the two strongest indicators, but Library Journal also reports that the best libraries need to have welcoming facilities (yes!), a variety of well-attended community programs (yes!), and a wide range of collections (yes! yes!). Technology use and access were also factored in.
 
Libraries were compared to other libraries with similar funding, meaning that a star rating is given on an apples-to-apples comparison basis and small libraries are not at a disadvantage.
 
The five states with the most Star Libraries are New York (31), Ohio (23), Illinois (21), Massachusetts (13), and Kansas (12). 
 
The breadth of offerings of our library—from the coffee shop to the makerspace, the story time room to the teen room, the senior programming to the business center—makes the library one of the consistently most popular places in town. When you tie in the expansive view of windows overlooking Wilder Park, the fresh coffee and pastries, and the welcoming fireplace, the magic of our library is particularly evident.
 
Congratulations to one of Elmhurst’s crown jewels! To find out more about offerings at the library and other aspects of life in Elmhurst, call us at (630) 441-5570 or visit www.gmregroup.com.

Elmhurst tree will be star of Chicago’s Christmas scene

by Thomas Makinney

Chicago’s official Christmas tree will actually be an Elmhurst tree. Longtime resident Deborah Orth’s 60-foot Norway Spruce will be aglow all season in Millennium Park.

The 48-year-old tree has graced the yard of the Orth’s home since it was built in 1949.  It weighs a whopping 8,200 pounds. Workers came last Thur., Nov. 1, to cut it down and bring it to Millennium Park.

It will be adorned with approximately 30,000 glowing lights, and the Orths will have the honor of flipping the switch at the official tree lighting ceremony on Fri., Nov. 16.

The city put out the call for a tree in mid-September, and the Orth’s tree was chosen by out of 79 submissions. 

To qualify trees must be at least 55 feet tall, be less than 100 miles from Chicago’s Loop, and be a Spruce or Fir (pine trees aren’t sturdy enough). Applicants must send in two photos and a brief description of why their tree deserves to be the city’s official tree.

The tree will get it’s chance to shine next week. Festivities kick off at 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 16. The star of Chicago’s production of Hamilton, Miguel Cervantes, will be the host of the evening. In addition to the tree lighting and appearances by Santa and Mrs. Claus, there will also be performances by the cast of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and musicians from the Grant Park Music Festival.

Congratulations to the Orth family! We’re proud that a local tree will be enjoyed through Jan. 6 at Millennium Park. To find out more about the houses (and trees) in Elmhurst, call us at (630) 441-5570 or visit gmregroup.com.

Elmhurst Centre for the Performing Arts’ Spotlight Gala

by Thomas Makinney

There’s still time to get tickets for one of the most exciting events in town! Elmhurst Centre for the Performing Arts will host its third annual Spotlight Gala on Saturday, Nov. 3 at the Elmhurst Art Museum.

The nonprofit group is working to raise funds for a downtown state-of-the-art performing arts center, which would comprise a 50,000 square foot facility with two theaters of different sizes, a vibrant lobby, and rooftop green space that would be available for smaller groups. During the gala, the group plans to announce the latest updates in its search for a permanent location.

Approximately 30 local performing arts groups in and around Elmhurst have expressed interest in using the center.

The evening will include performances by Evolution Dance and Extensions Lyrical Dance performers as well as musicians from York High School.  Attendees can dance to music by the talented Elmhurst resident Brian Patti's seven-piece orchestra.

There will also be plenty of food, live and silent auctions, and wine and beer pull. Tim Soszko from Elmhurst Children's Theatre will serve as the evening’s emcee.

The Elmhurst Centre for the Performing Arts (ECPA) was established as a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization in 2016. Once the group has landed on a location, they will begin a capital fundraising campaign. Earlier this year, a study conducted by a Chicago-based consulting group confirmed that the city and surrounding area could support a performing arts center.

Tickets to the gala are $150. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.ecpa-elmhurst.org.

Here at Gracik Makinney Group, we’re thrilled to watch the vision of ECPA come to life. The city has a well-known, vibrant arts scene, and there is no doubt a center would be a jewel in the crown. To find out more about living here, call us at (630) 441-5570 or visit us at www.gmregroup.com.

Image rendition courtesy of Elmhurst Centre for the Performing Arts.

 

 

Elmhurst 205 School Referendum – Don’t Forget to Vote!

by Thomas Makinney


As if the stakes weren’t high enough already, there’s a great local reason to head to the polls this Nov. 6. District 205 has an important referendum on the ballot, and it hopes all residents understand the importance of the question and how the funds will be used.

Each of the 13 schools will have some type of improvement in the $168.5 million plan, which breaks down into a tax impact of approximately $150 per year in additional taxes on a $500,000 home.

The benefits for students and the schools will be tremendous and will include the following:

  • Rebuilding two elementary schools: 103-year-old Lincoln (103 years old) and Field (87 years old)
  • Providing security updates at Sandburg, Bryan, Churchville, ­­Jackson, and Jefferson schools
  • Creating learning spaces that will enhance science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)
  • Providing classroom space for optional, all-day kindergarten programming
  • Enhancing district-wide technology infrastructure
  • Adding or updating air conditioning and other HVAC systems at Jackson and Jefferson elementary schools
  • Renovating aging buildings including:
    • Renovating and expanding Edison Elementary School
    • Building an auditorium at Churchville Middle School
    • Adding a classroom and stage at Fischer Elementary
    • Renovating the auditorium to meet safety expectations at York High School as well as continuing athletic field and school land improvements.
    • Acquiring a new space for the transition program for students with disabilities after high school
    • Creating age-appropriate facilities at Madison Early Childhood Center

Placing the referendum on the ballot was the result of three years of community engagement.

If voters approve the referendum, committees of architects, construction experts, parents, staff, and residents will help shape the focus of the plans and their implementation.

If the referendum doesn’t pass, the district will be forced to pull funds from the operations and maintenance budgets (as allowed per tax laws) to handle the $26 million basic maintenance needs the district will need over the next 10 years.

The district has complete information on its website, elmhurst205.org and residents are also encouraged to learn about the Master Facilities Plan at elmhurst205.org/MasterFacilityPlan.

Here at Gracik Makinney Group, we vote “Yes” on the referendum and urge residents to inform themselves and head to the polls on Tue. Nov. 6. To find out more about our schools and amazing community, call us at (630) 441-5570 or visit gmregroup.com.

 

Elmhurst Explores Ideas of Beehives and Food Trucks

by Thomas Makinney

We love how the leaders and planners in Elmhurst are constantly challenging themselves to improve and make life better for residents. Right now, the city is listening to an influx of requests and considering two concepts: one to allow residential beekeeping and one eyeing the possibility of food trucks.

Residents have been buzzing about the possibility of beehives since the city allowed educational institutions to establish hives. Currently, Elmhurst College has two thriving hives, and York High School has plans in the works but nothing up yet.

Of the 39 communities in DuPage County, 15 of them allow some type of residential beekeeping, usually with some type of restriction on lot sizes and distance between residences and with the understanding that the practice is only in hobby form.

Members of the Public Affairs and Safety committee are now researching specifically how those communities handle the bees and beehives.

Also hitting the pavement are members of the Development Committee as they begin looking at the possibility of food trucks in Elmhurst.  These are food trucks that actually cook the food as opposed to canteen trucks, which sell drinks and pre-prepared food and are popular around construction sites, and ice cream trucks.

Although the food trucks aren’t expected to generate booming business, alderman see them being popular at block parties. But they want to ensure the trucks don’t have a detrimental impact on brick and mortar restaurants and bars.  One suggestion was to allow them to operate near a central downtown location and only between the hours of 10 p.m. and 1 a.m.

Committee members are now going out to talk to local restaurant owners and members of Elmhurst City Centre.

Both topics are on the agenda for the council’s next meeting on Oct. 22.

Here at Gracik Makinney Group, we love how our city is constantly exploring new ways to grow and change. To find out more about living in Elmhurst, call us at (630) 441-5570 or visit our website, www.gmregroup.com.

 

 


 

Plans Move Forward for Elmhurst Dog Park

by Thomas Makinney


Tails are wagging across Elmhurst since the Park District moved one step closer to finalizing plans for a dog park in south Elmhurst. The board of commissioners recently approved a design plan for the potential park to be located on 3.4 acres off Old York Road on a former trailer park property.

Following a July 26 open house for residents to view proposed designs, the Park District and Upland Design of Plainfield (which has been analyzing the site, collecting public input, and preparing preliminary designs) released its dog site park site analysis.

Plans for the dog park include separate areas for big and small dogs, a water feature, a walking path within the park, and a shade structure as well as seating. A paid permit will be required to use the dog park.

A tentative cost estimate of close to $2 million would include clearing brush and dead trees; removing pavement, a small office building, and a garage; and construction costs of the actual park. Those numbers are not firm, however, and will likely change once plans are finalized and bids go out. The park district will most likely find additional sources of revenue (such as partnerships, grants, or even a referendum) to offset the costs.

No timeframe has been set for construction to begin. Cost will likely play a large factor in how quickly it can go constructed.

The push for a dog park came about after the community showed interest in the Vision 2020 Community Needs Assessment survey.

Here at Gracik Makinney, we’re all dog lovers and thrilled that Elmhurst is making plans for pups to play and romp off leash. For more information about the many benefits of living in our city, please call us at (630) 441-5570 or reach out through our website, www.gmregroup.com.

Elmhurst Considering Rooftop Decks

by Thomas Makinney

Rooftop bars, restaurants, and other sky-high amenities could be coming to Elmhurst soon. The city council voted last week to send the idea of rooftop decks to the Zoning and Planning Commission who will open up the possibility in a series of public hearings.

The possibilities for what to put on rooftops range from bars and restaurants to recreational/fitness spaces, dog runs, fire pits, community gathering sites, and even swimming pools.

The city council’s current recommendations for rooftop amenity decks include a required three-foot setback on all sides from exterior walls for safety reasons, a height limit of 15 feet, and a space limit of 25 percent of the roof footprint. The decks would have to meet city building codes and receive engineering approval.

Hours of operation for rooftop businesses would follow the same guidelines as Elmhurst beer gardens, and they would be subject to the same rules on noise and lighting.

Developers approached the city in June with the idea of having amenity decks on downtown buildings after several businesses inquired about using their roofs as gathering spaces. Currently, only structures used for housing mechanical equipment can be on the rooftop, and any of these structures, including chimneys, cannot extend more than 15 feet above the allowable building height restriction.

Among the decisions still to be determined is where the rooftop structures could be located, but they could potentially be allowed throughout Elmhurst.  The decks are only being considered for commercial and multi-unit buildings, although planners haven’t ruled out the possibility of allowing them on single-family residences.

The zoning and planning commission hasn’t yet set a date for public hearings.

Here at Gracik Makinney Group, we love how our city expands and adapts to the needs and wants of residents. As our downtown continues to flourish, rooftop decks are yet another way to soak up all we have to offer.

For more information about life in Elmhurst, call us at (630) 441-5570 or visit our website, www.gmregroup.com.

 

 

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