City confidential: Post-Olympic bid party still popped | stanton-company.com

City confidential: Post-Olympic bid party still popped

“Dancing with the Stars” champion Shawn Johnson may have tangoed Friday night in front of her smallest audience: about 500 people.

But given the setting, that was rather remarkable. Coca-Cola‘s “Celebrate the [Olympic] Spirit” party on the rooftop of the Harris Theater at Millennium Park was upbeat, even though Chicago didn’t even medal on Friday. As promised, the A-list athletes, including gymnast Johnson, speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno and snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler, mingled. And, amazingly, so did a few politicians, including Ald. John Pope, 10th, and state Rep. Susana Mendoza.

About half of the people who said they’d attend came through. When John Cunningham’s wife asked him Friday whether they were still going, the regional manager for Speedway replied in a text message: “Win or lose, we always booze.”

Monkey business Andrew Mason‘s Web site Groupon.com last month expanded to Miami, Philadelphia, Tampa, Fla., and Austin, Texas. Portland, Ore., and Nashville, Tenn., launch Monday. In all, Mason hopes to be operating out of 25 cities by January.

The idea behind Groupon, based in Chicago, is simple. It offers one or two “deals” per day in each city (group + coupon = groupon). But to snag the steep discounts, such as a $110 annual membership to The Art Institute for $40, a certain number of consumers have to purchase it.

In the Art Institute’s case, the discount “tipped” when 300 buyers signed on. The weekend-long offer netted 4,913 new members, or the equivalent of about one-fifth of the museum’s annual take.

I wanted to know if Mason, who dropped out of grad school at the University of Chicago, had any other brilliant ideas before this. Mason, 28, said he originally proposed a monkey-rental business.

“That’s true, by the way,” said Eric Lefkofsky, who owns a private-equity firm and led the effort to loan Mason $1 million to start Groupon. “We actually spoke about it. (He) has tons of ideas. Some are great. Some are not so great.”

Mason even tested the monkey business on last April Fool’s Day by promoting a fake monkey-rental groupon. Ninety-three people signed up; 10,000 were needed. “That would have been enough for me to quit this job and start my own monkey-rental business,” he said.

South Works worksCity Hall and the developer of the former U.S. Steel site on Lake Michigan in South Chicago are close to an agreement for a planned Loop-size city within a city, says Ald. Sandi Jackson, 7th, and developer Daniel McCaffery.

Zoning on approximately 350 acres of Chicago’s largest parcel of undeveloped land is on track to be approved by the end of November, McCaffery said.

Peter Strazzabosco, a spokesman for the Zoning Department, declined to comment other than to say a November resolution was “possible.”

Jackson said four minor issues remain. But “the difficult ones,” the mix of retailers and number of housing units “required to make it profitable, have been ironed out.” The plan calls for 13,500 residential units, lakefront parks, a retail town center, a marina and an extension of South Shore Drive.

McCaffery, meeting with the city for four years, has dealt with three chiefs of staff ( Ron Huberman, Lori Healey and Paul Volpe) and three chief financial officers ( Dana Levenson, Volpe and Gene Saffold).

“Each new person has had to take the time to get their mind around it,” Jackson said. “It’s a 30-year-long project.”

For the complete story, please visit The Chicago Tribune, Business Section.

Posted on: October 4, 2009