Axios Chicago

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Today's newsletter is 875 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Downtown is for living

Photo of a street with a big sign that says "Chicago"

Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Chicago's downtown ranks among the nation's best for residential living.

  • The rating comes from a recent analysis by self-storage company StorageCafe.com, which looked at living options, safety and lifestyle amenities balanced by cost.

Why it matters: Recent Chicago downtown narratives have focused on crime (which is rising again) and fading retail districts rather than its residential awesomeness, which, according to this analysis, tops the rest of the country outside of Dallas and Austin.

Incidents of theft and violent crime in downtown Chicago
Data: City of Chicago; Note: Data includes crimes labeled as battery, robbery, theft, criminal damage, assault, motor vehicle theft and homicide in the Near North Side and Loop; Chart: Alice Feng/Axios

What they're saying: "Downtown Chicagoans get to enjoy top-notch living conditions while playing their part in saving the planet," the report says, noting that 23% of downtown apartments are LEED certified for sustainability.

Of note: Only Austin and Boston do better in that category.

  • Top-ranked cities just behind Chicago include Seattle, Nashville, Houston, Columbus and San Diego.

By the numbers: The residential population of the Loop grew by 45% from 2010 to 2020, per the census.

  • According to the report, about 67% of the downtown apartment units are considered "high-end."
  • 90% of rental buildings offer access to fitness centers.
  • There are about 11 restaurants and 2.6 theaters per 1,000 downtown residents.
  • 83% of downtown residents hold a bachelor's degree or higher.

What's more: Downtown renters are "generally able to keep their housing expenses below the threshold of 30%," according to the report.

Yes, but: This rise of high-income renters may also reflect Cook County's growing income disparity, checking in at almost double the national average.

Keep reading

2. Child care costs creep up

Change in babysitting rates, 2021 to 2022
Arrow chart showing the change in babysitting rates for one child among bookings on UrbanSitter from 2021 to 2022. Data: UrbanSitter; Chart: Alice Feng/Axios

Babysitting rates rose 13% in Chicago in 2022 from the year prior, according to survey results caregiver-finding platform UrbanSitter provided to Axios' Jennifer A. Kingson.

  • Still, it's cheaper here than in much of the U.S.

The big picture: Nationally, babysitting rates rose 9.7% — a bit less than the 11% hike seen in 2021, yet outpacing inflation for the second year in a row.

  • That's a staggering 21% increase in just two years, according to UrbanSitter, which looked at booking data from 15,000 U.S. families.

Why it matters: A shortage of babysitters and other child care workers — and higher pay those remaining are able to command — is creating seismic ripples in the labor market, keeping some parents at home or in precarious care arrangements.

  • It's also attracting teachers, nurses and other trained professionals into the career — which in turn drives up rates, because of their experience.
  • In the other direction, day care workers are quitting for higher pay elsewhere — including at custodial jobs.

Between the lines: Rates are up across all categories of care, from casual babysitting to full-time nannies to day care (where it can be hard to even get on a waitlist).

  • Per a 2022 Care.com survey, 51% of U.S. parents were spending over 20% of their income on child care — far more than the 7% that the federal government deems "affordable."

💭 Justin's thought bubble: My kid is old enough to stay at home alone now, but this was a huge deal before the pandemic, when I had to spend $60+ for a sitter just to go to dinner.

  • And you wonder why heart-shaped takeout are all the rage on Valentine's Day.

Read more

3. Tips and hot links

Illustration of a restaurant-style neon sign featuring the Axios logo, and reading "Tips & Hot Links."

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

CPS is facing pressure to take action after a dramatic rise in after-school shootings last year. (WBEZ)

🎰 Bally's wants to remove the Tribune Publishing printing plant from its casino site. (Tribune 🔒)

🍽 An Uyghur chef who fled China as a child talks about the suffering of his people and his path to opening a Rogers Park restaurant. (Block Club)

4. Pizza tourney: Chicago vs. Twin Cities

Tavern style pizza

Ultra thin tavern-style pizza from Vito & Nick's. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

The Axios Local Pizza Tournament has moved into the second round, so it's our time to shine!

Data: Axios survey; Bracket: Jacque Schrag/Axios
Data: Axios survey; Bracket: Jacque Schrag/Axios

We asked Nick Halter from Axios Twin Cities to get the trash talk started:

  • "Chicago should be disqualified from this tournament for serving lasagna and calling it pizza ... and then exporting that lasagna to the Twin Cities via Giordano's.
  • "If you like pizza that won't make you fall asleep, check out some of the up-and-coming pizzerias in the Twin Cities, like James Beard winner Ann Kim's Pizzeria Lola and Young Joni; Boludo (an Argentine pizzeria) and coal-fired Black Sheep.
  • "A new pickle pizza at the Minnesota State Fair drew some of the longest lines the fair has ever seen."

🙄 Thanks for the bulletin board material. The rest of the country seems to think that deep-dish is all we have, so get ready for nasty comments about our pies.

  • But we know the real deal: Tavern-style could beat the entire tournament field.
  • Also, we've never heard of Twin Cities pizza. My guess is that they secretly eat Chicago pizza and call it something else.

The bottom line: Attacks on our fine city cuisine will not stand. Vote for Chicago here. Voting closes at 2pm Central.

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5. Where in the world is … Justin?

Photo of a man standing against building with skyline in background.

Photo: Justin Kaufmann/Axios

Can you guess where Justin is today? Hint:

  • A location perfect for today
  • When tempting breezes waft your way
  • A functioning factory in the middle of a metropolis
  • The store is gone, but the product still exists.

📬 Respond to this email, and you could win some Axios swag!

Edited by Alexa Mencia and copy edited by Rob Reinalda and Keely Bastow.

Our picks:

🚔 Monica is relistening to this WBEZ "Curious City" episode where reporter Patrick Smith explains the city's police accountability system in the clearest way she has ever heard.

🏀 Justin is learning everything he needs to know about Benny the Bull from this "City Cast Chicago" episode.

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