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Curbed Cup 1st Round: (4) Noble Square vs. (13) Chinatown

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The Curbed Cup, Curbed Chicago's annual Neighborhood of the Year tournament, is kicking off with 16 'hoods, which will square off in a series of one-on-one matchups. Voting for each matchup will close in the breakfast hour of the following day. We'll showcase two first round contests per day through the week with results reviewed on Friday. Let the eliminations begin!

Noble Square began to "take off" several years ago, with a microburst of new stores and restaurants mostly confined to a four-block stretch of Chicago Avenue b/w Throop and Greenview. That district is mature enough to now be experiencing turnover among newer establishments, with the recent closure of foodie anchors West Town Tavern, Branch 27, and Leopold, the arrival of Chilam Bilam and Unite Grill, and the pending arrival an Oyster Bar. Down on Grand there's been more trial and error in the company of older Italian businesses, though Twisted Spoke and Sip Coffee thrive while Green Grocer holds court as an uncommonly healthy and locally-sourced grocery outpost. Thus, the commercial life of the neighborhood is treading water. Meanwhile, development prospects for underutilized sites are pointing to more people, higher rents, and another crop of retail in the near future. The two prominent sites that spring to mind are Noah Properties' plan for several condos and a couple retail/office spaces at Chicago & Noble (recently begun), and a 42-unit proposal from developer Mark Sutherland may well wedge into a tight curve of Haddon b/w Milwaukee and Ashland. Another vacant swath on Bishop near Grand has drawn interest from apartment developers. Finally, it should be noted—with regret—that no suitable reuse has gained traction for fragile old St. Boniface Church.

Chinatown deserves attention for its population boom, its growing national and international profile, a wealth of good eating, new park space, and a handful of developments in the pipeline. We try not to make restaurants our business, but the Tony Hu empire of regional Chinese restaurants, along with places like Sweet Station, Sze Chuan Cuisine, and soup & noodle paradise Hing Kee are a clarion call to all Chicago. The park development alluded to is the completed second phase of Ping Tom Park and its new field house. Taken as a whole, Ping Tom is one of the Chicago's most sublime neighborhood parks. As for other development, keep your eyes peeled for a new Chinatown Branch Library designed by Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill, a small hotel project, and the under construction Cermak/McCormick Green Line Station.
·Curbed Cup 2013

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