Grant Park Music Festival Salutes July 4

(Published June 18, 2019)

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

The Grant Park Musical Festival presents “Independence Day Salute” on July 4, at 6:30 p.m. in Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion.

The orchestral presentation, performed by the Grant Park Orchestra and conducted by Christopher Bell, will feature classic patriotic music including “1812 Overture,” Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” the “Armed Forces Salute” and more. The performance will feature Grant Park Orchestra principal flute Mary Stolper and Grant Park Chorus baritone John Orduña.

Free seats are available on the lawn or in most of the seating bowl. For those who wish to purchase reserved seating, one night member passes are available. Call 312-742-7647 or go online at gpmf.org to get a pass.

Millennium Park requires extra security for all its Pritzker Pavilion concerts and bag checks will be conducted.. No outside alcohol is allowed at this performance, but beer and wine will be available for purchase at concession stands inside the park. Lines open at 3:30 p.m.

For those that cannot make the performance, it will be broadcast live on 98.7 WFMT and online at wfmt.com/streaming. Also, a free rehearsal performance will take place at the Pavilion at 10:30 a.m. on July 3.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois remind residents to plan now for extreme weather

(Published June 4, 2019)

For the News

From tornadoes to hurricanes to floods, Illinois is now in extreme weather season and to be safe, it pays to prepare now for weather emergencies

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) would like to offer a few tips to help residents prepare for the weather.

First, follow this top 10 list of things to put in any weather preparedness kit.

1. Nonperishable food (three days’ worth for each person)

2. Water (one gallon per person, for at least three days)

3. First aid kit (include bandages, pain relievers, prescription medications)

4. Flashlights and/or lanterns, and extra batteries

5. Portable battery charger for devices (e.g. smartphones and tablets)

6. Tarps, waterproof tape

7. Multi-tool with wrench to turn off utilities

8. Cash

9. Copies of critical information (e.g. insurance cards, identification, bank account)

10.Any special supplies for children (diapers, games, etc.) and pets

It seems extreme weather is the new normal for our planet. With very little warning, families must face the devastating effects of floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. People may lose their homes, jobs, possessions, and even family members’ lives during these disasters. The last thing they should have to worry about is if they have their prescription medications, eyeglasses or insurance cards.

Fortunately, when Blue Cross Blue Shield members need them, the Seasons of Life team members are there to help. Blue Cross Blue Shield customer advocates proactively call members in declared disaster areas to check in and help them do the things they cannot easily do in times of crisis – replacing insurance ID cards, refilling lost prescriptions or accessing in-network doctors if the member or their doctor is displaced. They also can arrange for members to participate in a virtual visit with a health professional.

In 2018, the Seasons of Life  program reached out to 18,663 members during disasters. To find out more about the program, visit their website, bcbsil.com.

Reorganized GPAC looking for community input

(Published May 30, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

The newly-reorganized Grant Park Advisory Council met in May to seek input from area residents and to announce meeting dates.

President Leslie Recht said the council will meet the third Wednesday of every month aside from July and December, at the Maggie Daley Field House. Recht said the group will soon have a Facebook page and website, and she welcomes community input.  

“You should be able to attend a number of meetings,” she told the audience of about 20. “They will be here at 6:30 in the evening.” She said GPAC will not call last-minute meetings.

Recht also announced Maggie Daley Park will host a party for the park district.

“This is the 85th birthday for the Chicago Park District and Maggie Daley was chosen as one of the party sites, and we’re celebrating June 20 with (the movie) ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet,’” she said.

Movies begin at sundown.

During the meeting, various subcommittee heads offered updates. GPAC vice-president and safety and security committee co-chair Jim Wales, a former police officer, encouraged residents to make suggestions and get involved with the group.

“We are looking for people who have an interest in that specific area in Grant Park and if you want to serve on any committee, and you’re not precluded to serving on more than one committee.”  

Subcommittees include safety and security, maintenance and infrastructure, permits and leases, cultural affairs, long range planning, skateboard park and recreation and special interests.

Contact the group at their email address gpacchicago@gmail.com.

New speed limits passed for Lakeshore East Park

(Published May 30, 2019)

After residents complained to Alderman Brendan Reilly’s office about motorists speeding around Lakeshore East Park, the Chicago City Council introduced 20 mile per hour speed limits on North Field Boulevard, East South Water Street, North Westshore Drive, North Park Drive and East Benton Place.

The streets front several residential towers as well as GEMS World Academy and people frequently cross the streets with bags of groceries from Mariano’s or with dogs. Several area residents, said they didn’t think speeding had ever been a problem.

“I don’t think speeding was a problem,” Kevin Zheng said. “People were driving pretty slow already.”

“I don’t think speeding was a problem,” Kevin Zheng said. “People were driving pretty slow already.”

Lakeshore East play area to re-open in early June

The Magellan Development Group announced in May that the children’s play area in the park would close through early June because the group will add playground equipment for children. The equipment will include slides, swings and playsets.

The Lakeshore East Master Association is responsible for the upgrade and a re-opening event will be held, though the date was not set as of press deadline.

Part Illinois Center, other high rises, up for sale

A New York real estate firm, AmTrust Realty, is looking offload a slew of downtown properties for a deal which could fetch $1.4 billion, according to Crain’s.

The buildings include two towers in the Illinois Center, 233 Michigan Ave., as well as buildings at 111 E. Wacker Drive, 233 N. Michigan Ave., 135 S. LaSalle St., 1 E. Wacker Drive, 30 N. LaSalle, 33 N. Dearborn St. and 33 W. Monroe St.

LH Rooftop to host pop-up rose bar

In honor of National Rosé Day on June 8, LH Rooftop, the tri-level rooftop bar and restaurant at LondonHouse Chicago, will launch a weekend-long rosé pop-up bar. Partnering with Gérard Bertrand, among other winemakers, LH will offer dozens of rosé wines by the glass ($14-18 per glass), still and sparkling, from around the world for three days only.

Guests can enjoy their rosé sampling in the crown jewel of LH Rooftop, the Cupola – which will be decked out in rosé-all-day fashion with pink-clad lights, florals, and additional décor. LondonHouse is located at 85 E Wacker Dr, Chicago.

Residential tower to replace parking garage on Randolph

Developers Moceri and Roszak have proposed a 25-story, 241 unit multi-family rental and condo building with a retail base located at 50-60 East Randolph. Currently, there is a three story valet parking garage on the site.

The proposed 25-story structure includes 6,400 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, with two stories of parking and 22 stories of residential and amenity space above. Residential units range from 550 square foot studios to 2,600 SF four-bedroom penthouse units. The proposal includes 190 apartment units and 24 condominiums.

This is a transit served location, in close proximity to both the Washington & Wabash CTA Station and Millennium Metra Station, and will provide 70 accessory parking stalls. The garage will be accessible only via Benton Place to the north of the site. The existing triple wide curb cut on Randolph Street currently servicing the valet garage will be eliminated.

Sidewalk landscaping includes planters with low vegetation on Wabash due to the proximity of the L-tracks. Similar planter landscaping on Randolph is punctuated by four tall shade trees.

The underlying zoning for this project is DX-16. The proposal adheres to the underlying zoning, and is nearly 150 feet shorter than the maximum allowable height, measuring to a total of 293 feet tall.

Although the proposal does not require city council approval, it must obtain Lakefront Protection Application approval from the Chicago Plan Commission to ensure that the building does not impede access to the Chicago Lakefront or inflict harm on the natural lakefront environment.

Resident comments and observations are welcome and should be emailed to development@ward42chicago.com.

Mariano’s to undergo remodeling in June

The Benton Place Mariano’s will undergo remodeling in June.

Company spokesperson Amanda Puck said the remodeling should not affect customers and it won’t close the store. She also said the extent of the renovations aren’t yet clear.

“We’re going to make some great enhancements to the customers’ experience, we don’t know what that means yet.” Puck said. However, she said the hot foot bar upstairs will be remodeled, as will the wine bar and the produce section.

She said renovations are scheduled to wrap up in October.

In addition, the company is considering buying shopping carts that will automatically freeze their wheels at the doorway, meaning residents may not be able to take the carts to the residence. The move comes after months of complaints by building managers about empty carts abandoned at residential doorways.

Lakeshore Park summer movie series announced

The Magellan Property Group has announced the summer film lineup for the Park at Lakeshore East.

Every month, starting in June, families can gather in the park for arts and music at 7 p.m. and stay for a movie beginning at 8:30 p.m. The series begins June 20 with “Goonies.” On July 25 the movie will be “Mary Poppins Returns,” and finally on Aug. 22 the film will be “The Notebook.”

All events are free.

Several options available for fresh, local vegetables

(Published May 29, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

With summer comes fresh, local produce.

In Streeterville, this means the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents’ (SOAR) annual farmer’s market which will return June 4 and continue through the end of October, opening every Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s front plaza.

But, even if Tuesday’s are inconvenient, residents can now get fresh, home-delivered produce thanks to a new and customizable straight-from-the-farm delivery service, courtesy of Angelic Organics. That service will begin June 24.

John Peterson is a farmer who owns Angelic Organics, one of the very earliest community supported agriculture (CSA) farms in the area. The farm is located in Caledonia, two hours outside of Chicago.

Angelic Organics relies on “shareholders” to sign up for weekly fresh produce boxes and Peterson said he’s happy to pack and substitute whatever clients want.

“We’re now doing customized boxes,” Peterson said. “People choose ahead of time the vegetables they like and they don’t like and they don’t get what they don’t want. That’s a breakthrough for community agriculture.”

Peterson said his boxes are filled with the same range of vegetables available at a farmer’s market.

Peterson hopes to  begin June 24. Shareholders get 20 weekly deliveries or 10 bi-weekly deliveries of a ¾ bushel box, which Peterson said is about 1.5 paper grocery bags filied with vegetables. Each deliver is $40, though there is an extra $12 for home delivery service.

There are no pickup sites in Streeterville or New Eastside, though the delivery service does deliver to the neighborhoods.

To find out more, visit the website, angelicorganics.com.

In the meantime, if residents can’t wait until the end of June to get fresh veggies, SOAR president Deborah Gershbein said all the vendors from last year are returning to this year’s market.

“We have about 45 tents out on the plaza with a variety of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables and herbs and baked goods and prepared foods and beautiful flowers,” Gershbein said.

Gershbein said as the months continue into fall, the produce will change so residents should check out the market each week.

“As the season warms up then we get asparagus, onions and those types of things, and then we get into strawberries,” she said.  

This year will also feature chef demonstrations. On June 25 the chef from SPACE 519 will prepare a dish made of market ingredients. While the market will open the first Tuesday of the month, a season opening ceremony for the market’s fifth season is set for noon, June 18.

“We will celebrate with a huge Eli’s Cheesecake, topped with fresh locally grown strawberries,” Gershbein said.

Travelle at the Langham to offer picnic baskets

(Published May 14, 2019)

Starting Memorial Day weekend, Travelle at The Langham launches picnic baskets for guests to enjoy outside the restaurant throughout the summer. Whether dining al fresco along the Chicago River, taking in a movie at Millennium Park, or traveling to Ravinia to enjoy a concert, these picnic baskets include everything needed for enjoying the warm weather in the great outdoors. With three different options to choose from, each picnic basket provides the perfect complement for savoring the beautiful summer days.

The contents of the picnic baskets range from stroll-worthy snacks and beverages to gourmet sandwiches and alcoholic pairings including wine and champagne.

  • City Tour Picnic Basket ($42 per person): The lightest of the baskets includes a variety of snacks and beverages for guests exploring the sights of Chicago during the day
  • Millennium Park Picnic Basket ($85 per person): Perfect for a sunny afternoon spent in the park, the standard package will include gourmet sandwiches and beverages with an option to add alcoholic beverages
  • Magnificent Mile Picnic Basket ($190 per person): Elevate an outdoor concert experience with an elaborate picnic basket including a delicious dinner for two complemented by wine or champagne

To order a picnic basket, please email Rachael at travelle@langhamhotels.com or call 312.923.7713; extension 4236.

GPAC elects new leaders, even as former GPAC group announces it’s not going anywhere

(Published April 30, 2019

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

In April, the Grant Park Advisory Council (GPAC) that is officially recognized by the Chicago Park District elected a new board, even as the ousted Grant Park Advisory Council continued to meet.

The GPAC advises the city on park usage and programs and takes input from the public.

Leslie Recht, a founder of the original GPAC, is the new president, Jim Wales is vice president, John Talbot is secretary and Richard Ward is the treasurer.

“As the four newly elected officers (recognized by the CPD), we are learning and listening, so that we can be as knowledgeable and transparent as possible into the future,” Ward said in an email.

The original GPAC board came under scrutiny a year ago by the Chicago Park District over impropriety allegations against its former president Bob O’Neill. The CPD removed O’Neill and in February the CPD inspector general’s office released a scathing report that accused O’Neill of using the nonprofit Grant Park Conservancy he heads as a personal piggybank by illegally re-selling park permits at an exorbitant rate.

O’Neill disputes the allegations. He added the conservancy is overseen by a board the includes several attorneys and the board and the CPD were aware of how he was managing the conservancy.

O’Neill has agreed to step away from the GPAC group he once led. Council spokesperson Omari Jinaki said Roman Sanders is the new president. He added the group will continue to meet because the CPD ignored the GPAC’s bylaws when it removed O’Neill and the  recent GPAC election was also illegal because it violates bylaws.

“With very little notice, the CPD proposed an April 10 election, which is also outside of the GPAC election period. Moreover, the CPD never held a valid February 2019 meeting which is the requisite meeting timeline for the nominations for GPAC officers,” Jinaki wrote.

In the meantime, Recht’s group is planning a redesign of the website with a new domain name. Recht said she hopes attendees will go to her group’s GPAC meetings.

“Everyone who has been going to the Bob O’Neill meetings is welcome to come to the GPAC meetings. We welcome them,” she said.

Recht said she wants the community’s input on a framework plan of what the park needs. One urgent need is an updated dog area.

“The dog friendly area is really behind the times,” she said.

Recht said besides house pets, some TSA security dogs live in the area and use the park as well.

“It’s not just residents; there are a number of people who need space to run their dogs,” Recht said.

Recht said the first meeting will be May 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Maggie Daley field house and this will be an organizational meeting.

Grant Park still has two advisory councils, though the city recognizes only one. Photo by Jesse Wright

Peregrine falcons find a home in Chicago

(Published April 30, 2019

Abhinanda Datta, Staff Writer

If you spot a mid-sized raptor swoop in at incredible speed and catch another bird in flight, don’t be surprised—it is just a peregrine falcon.

Found throughout the world, these birds have found a home in the Midwest, with more than 20 American peregrine falcons in the Chicagoland area.

With a body length of 15 – 20 inches, the peregrines can attain a speed of 200 mph when diving on their prey.

According to Mary Hennen, collections assistant in the Bird Division at the Field Museum, an estimated 400-500 pairs of Peregrines once nested in the Midwest and eastern United States. But by the 1960s, the species had been wiped out regionally.

“The primary cause was the buildup of DDT and its byproducts in the birds,” she said. “These accumulated chemicals caused abnormal reproductive behavior in adults and thinning of shells, which led to egg breakage.”

The Chicago Peregrine Program began in 1985 as a cooperative effort between the Chicago Academy of Sciences, Lincoln Park Zoo, Illinois Department of Conservation and the Illinois Audubon Society, with the aim of restoring the population.

From a single breeding pair at a Chicago-Wacker site in 1988, Illinois had 12 breeding pairs in over 23 different territories by 2011.

“Although Peregrines still remain endangered in some states, in Illinois, the population has rebounded. In fact, our Peregrine status has been upgraded from endangered to threatened,” Hennen said.

In May, eggs that were laid during March-April, are incubated for about 30-32 days. The male and the female take turns looking after the eggs. Hatching begins in mid-May or around Mother’s Day.

“This is also the time period where the adults are most defensive of the nest site. Males will spend most of their time hunting in order to feed the female and chicks,” Hennen said.

In the coming months, especially around mid-June to July, people can see the peregrine fledglings’ first flight as they glide down from the nest site. People can also observe the birds through the Illinois Peregrine Webcams found on the Field Museum website. For more information, visit fieldmuseum.com.

A peregrine falcon from a 2018 webcam in Rockford. Photo courtesy the Field Museum

Summer fun for all: Parents have plenty to choose from in local summer camps

(Published April 30, 2019

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

With summer around the corner, schools, museums and even watersport companies are offering summer camps for kids.

At Camp GEMS, kids can explore the city through a six-week program that mimics the school’s curriculum, although the program is open to all kids, even non-students. Through the camp, kids explore the whole city and the build and design the city features. Each week is $475 or $2,700 for six weeks. Camp Gems is open to kids 3-12.

Taneal Sanders, a GEMS teacher, said Camp GEMS aims to benefit the entire student.

“We focus on keeping the kids’ minds and bodies active,” she said.

Each week has a different theme, and students learn lessons based on each theme. The first week is “who we are,” the second weeks is “where are we in place and time,” the third week is “how we organize ourselves, the fourth week is, “how the world works,” the fifth week is “sharing the planet” and the final week is “how we express ourselves.”

Throughout the camp, kids explore the city, design model cities, visit a theater and visit various markets and festivals in the city.

“On Fridays, we do a share-out where all age groups come together and we kind of have a little assembly where we share what we learned during the week,” Sanders said.  

Last year, kids took a water taxi to Chinatown and on another day they visited the Field Museum.

“We don’t just stay right in the neighborhood,” Sanders said. “With the younger campers, we stay close to school, but for the older kids, we venture out on public transportation.”

In addition to the cultural diversity, Sanders said Camp GEMS is staffed by GEMS teachers and the ratio is five students to one teacher, ensuring the kids are learning as well as enjoying the city.

“It’s not just for GEMS students,” Sanders said. “We love that it brings in different people and different perspectives.”

A variety of other day and week camps are available for kids.

Sailing and STEM camp

The Chicago Park District is hosting its annual sailing and STEM camp in May, June and July.

Kids can learn to sail at Monroe Harbor, with no experience necessary. The camp is for 5th-8th grade students in Chicago and it requires a $250 donation, though low-income applicants can get in free. To apply for a spot, visit endeavourchicago.org.

The four day-sessions (Monday-Thursday) go beyond  sailing. Students will learn science, technology, engineering and math curriculum. The course opens May 4 and meets every Saturday at 9 a.m. A June camp runs from June 24 to Aug. 1.

Visit EndeavourChicago.org for more details and to apply online. Scholarships are available.

Urban Kayaks paddle and kayak camp

Urban Kayaks summer paddle and kayak camp kicks off July 29. The camp runs weekly from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and is aimed at kids ages 10 to 16. The course, at $550 per week with a 25 percent discount for siblings, is located at Monroe Harbor. For more information, visit urbankayaks.com or call 312-965-0035

Navy Pier’s Wiggleworms music program

While not a camp, Navy Pier is again hosting Wiggleworms, a free music program for children every Friday beginning June 21.

Wiggleworms, Old Town School of Folk Music’s early childhood music program, introduces young children and their families to a musical world. The program is at the Polk Brothers Park stage and it runs Fridays from 10 to 11:45 a.m.

Camp GEMS gets campers out and into the city for lessons. Photo courtesy GEMS

A look at the numbers behind the Navy Pier fireworks

(Published April 30, 2019)

By Elisa Shoenberger, Staff Writer

With the warmer weather comes Navy Pier fireworks.

May 25 is the start of the annual Navy Pier fireworks and Melrose Pyrotechnics will again produce the weekly displays, just as they have for the past 15 years.

For the audience, it’s 10 minutes of fun filled with fire, smoke and dazzling colors all set to music. But the behind the scenes is real work and somebody has to do it. One of those somebodies is Jonathan Gesse, a soundtrack producer with Melrose Pyrotechnics.

Gesse said “a minimum of 30-hours preparation goes into each Navy Pier display, which includes everything from soundtrack design, choreography, labeling, packaging, setup, product testing and transportation.”

The day of the show, five technicians set up about 10 hours beforehand, including monitoring the equipment in advance of the show.

Each show is a “unique pyromusical experience,” Gesse said. “Our team of choreographers uses industry software to ‘script’ each display according to the musical soundtrack by listening to the music and building scenes of light and color.” Once the show is ready to start, Melrose sends a “coded radio signal from Navy Pier to the fireworks crew, which the firing computer receives and synchronizes itself to the music that plays through the speakers at Navy Pier.”

Melrose gets fireworks from all over the world including China, Italy and Spain. They use 500 new products each year and more than 1,400 feet of XLR cable for the shows.

Gesse said the heights achieved by fireworks depends on the diameter of the shell. Three- and four-inch shells will generally explode from about 300 to 400 feet in the sky, and 10 inch shells will rise to well over 10,000 feet in the air before they break.

“At Navy Pier, we use aerial shells ranging from two-and-a-half inches up to 10 inches in diameter,” Gesse said.

This year, there will be 31 firework performances, each Wednesday and Saturday from May 25 to Aug. 31 with additional shows July 4 and New Year’s Eve. Wednesday fireworks are at 9:30 p.m. and Saturdays are at 10:15 p.m., weather dependent.

The displays last 10 minutes while the July 4 and New Year’s Eve displays last 15 minutes. Last year, CBS reported that nearly 100,000 people attended the July 4 celebration and that the fireworks performance had 2,000 firework shells go off with “300 different effects.”

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