Hidden gems of New Eastside

Discover these little-known spots in New Eastside

 

Dog Parks

Everyone knows about the dog park in Lake Shore East Park, but there is a second dog park in New Eastside that is less busy. Located just east of the Lancaster (201 N. Westshore Dr.), you can find it on your walk to the Lake- front Trail from the Lake Shore East Park. Slightly larger than the main dog park, it is ideal for larger dogs to run off-leash. It is also not as well-known as some of the other parks, so it can
be a better location for dogs that get frightened from too much action but still want to run free.

A third dog park is located at the top of the stairs at the northwest corner
of the Lake Shore East Park next to GEMS- World Academy (350 E. South Water St.). It’s probably only best for a quick jaunt for a small dog, but it does feature a doggy-sized water fountain for thirsty pets.

 

Breakfast on the Lakefront Trail

Fancy a lakeside breakfast? You don’t have to go far. Cafe Michelle at DuSable Harbor (200 N. Lake Shore Dr.) is open for breakfast. To get there, you have to walk behind the Lancaster (201 N. Westshore Dr.), past the dog park, and through a parking lot toward the lake. The simple and no-frills cafe has a hearty breakfast, smoothies and even cocktails to enjoy while overlooking the harbor and Lake Michigan. The view and ambiance is worth a trip. Open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

 

Pedway restaurants

Many of the office buildings in New Eastside also have public shopping and eating areas, but they can be difficult to find. Visit the Pedway level of 225 N. Michigan Ave. and 111 E. Wacker Dr. and you will find some of your favorite restaurant chains: Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Wow Bao and Pret A Manger. Sopraffina Marketcaffe and Baskin-Robbins are located at the base of the Aon building (200 E. Randolph St.).

 

Milton Olive Park

A quick walk north of New Eastside, a little past Navy Pier, tall iron gates mark a path flanked by a phalanx of trees, which lead into an innocuous green space known only to wedding photographers, well-versed locals and lucky visitors who happen to stum-
ble across it. The park is named after Milton Lee Olive III, the first African American Medal of Honor recipient in the Vietnam War. Born in Chicago on November 7, 1946, Private Olive sac- rificed his life to save the other men in his platoon from a grenade on October 22, 1965. He was 18 years old. The park comprises a surprisingly large expanse of green grassy field, overlaid with an intricate series of walkways connecting five now-dormant circular fountains. The geometry of the walkways and fountains is designed to be viewed from the neighboring high-rises. But it’s the view of the Chicago skyline that is truly striking when seen from the park.

— Stephanie Racine and Matthew Reiss, Community Contributors

Chicago Spider-Man spotted in New Eastside

Had it not been for a schoolyard bully- ing incident, we wouldn’t have Spi- der-Man adorning unexpected sights in Lakeshore East.

What startles passersby is that this Spi- der-Man doesn’t behave like a street per- former with an obvious means of cashing in on his act. He’s been spotted on the tops of bus stops, fire hydrants, news- stands, railings, hanging off light posts, overpasses and bridges in the area. I first heard about him from Kumush, an Uber driver taking me home earlier this year. He coyly asked, “Hey, have you ever seen Spider-Man in your neighborhood?”

Chicago Spider-Man Joshua Marks perches on top of a Millennium Station elevator. Photo: Ben Cirrus

That conversation set me off on a months’ long search that led to many stories of sightings by residents, but no leads to unmask our superhero. It wasn’t until I was strolling home mid- May that I spotted Spider-Man on top of the Millennium Station accessibility elevator on the northeast corner of the Chicago Cultural Center—there he was on his first outing of the season!

His story begins with a bullying in- cident in a Chicago Public School in Logan Square. Kids picking on Joshua

Marks threw his bag on top of the ledge over one of the building entrances. You could say, “Mozart Elementary School at 2200 N. Hamlin Avenue is where this Spider-Man was born,” says Marks, 33.

Marks stayed there wondering what to do. If he asked the school staff for help he could be called a tattletale, risking more bullying. After a while he concluded that he should solve the problem on his own, and proceeded to examine what he had to work with to retrieve the bag himself.

This brings us back to how I saw Marks creatively make his way down from the top of that unusually tall elevator structure. If you saw him up there, you’d have the same thought…how did he get up there?

For now while out and about in the city, Marks wants to “prove his skills and motivation,” and in the process spread positivity and smiles. He supports him- self partially by performing at children’s birthday parties.

He eventually intends to build publicity for himself and his troupe to the point that they can start a non-for-profit organization to entertain sick children in area hospitals as a full-time job. He says if he can help them “forget their pain” for a few seconds, it will all be worth

it. The Chicago Spider-Man’s parting message on his way up another seem- ingly impossible climb was that “we can all be heroes by being the best version of ourselves.”

More information about the Chicago Spider-Man can be found at the Chica- go Spider-Man Facebook and Twitter pages.

www.facebook.com/thechicagospider-man

www.twitter.com/TheChiSpiderman

— Ben Cirrus, Community Contributor

Millennium Park Family Fun Festival

Located under the big tent at Chase Promenade North (201 E. Randolph St.), the Family Fun Festival, presented by Millennium Park Foundation, offers daily events and activities for kids of all ages. The festival is held daily from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and runs from June 19 through August 20.

“My daughters and I love going to the Family Fun Festival in Millennium Park,” says New Eastside resident Nicole Decker. “We go for the musical perfor-

mances and stay for story time. It is nice that the crafts are different every week. We look forward to it every summer.”

Children play with hula hoops inside the Fam- ily Fun Tent at Chase Promenade, Millennium Park. Photo: Angela Gagnon

The Activity Zone arts and crafts presented by a different sponsor each week, have, in the past, included Lurie Garden, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Art Institute and Looking- glass Theatre.

New Eastside resident Reemaa Konkimalla has been attending the Family Fun Festival for several years.

“Each year we are amazed with the di- versity of the participating companies. My son has a proud collection of hand- made puppets from Chicago Theater, an architectural bridge from Chicago Architecture Foundation and miniature Lego creations by MSI.”

For more information and schedules, visit www.cityofchicago.org.
Millennium Park Family Fun Festival Chase Promenade, Millennium Park
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Daily/June 19-August 20

— Angela Gagnon, Community Contributor

Chicago’s urban summer camps

Two recently launched summer camps aim to transform Chicago into an interactive textbook when the school year ends a few months from now. Designed by professional educators and built on core academic disciplines, they are dedicated to optimizing students’ futures through classroom, studio and hands-on learning.

The foundation of both GEMS World Academy’s CAMP GEMS and the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Summer Camps is an educational philosophy called STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Schools and educational businesses have regarded these disciplines as the keys to elite universities and professional success for nearly two decades.

At the same time, students have regarded summer as the season of not going to school. So the real question is, are these camps any fun?

CAMP GEMS

“We make it fun,” explains GEMS World Academy French teacher Marjorie Blettry. “We are going to take the kids outside, into the park and to the museums. Chicago is a great place to teach.”

Many of GEMS campers will design and fly their own kites, build and launch their own rockets, and take “eco-walks” to learn about the fundamentals of decomposition, among other things. Understanding how wind, fire and dirt fuel these phenomena should be enough to help any kid have fun.

Blettry is one of the main faculty members behind the planning and implementation of CAMP GEMS, which will begin hosting weeklong sessions on June 19. A native of Lyon, France, she arrived at GEMS in 2016. Prior to that, she spent 14 years as a primary teacher at Lycée Français de Chicago, which is frequently referred to as “The French School.” While there, she “was always involved in the summer camps.”

She is confident that CAMP GEMS will be different — and better — than similar programs because it will be guided by the “culture and spirit of GEMS.”

“We start with an inquiry — like ‘why do people travel?’ — and do everything based on that,” she explains. “The students would learn why tourism is important. They might go to a travel agency. I would teach them how to book a hotel in French.”

Since GEMS is an international school where “the kids all learn a language,” an hour of French or Spanish will follow mornings of science within the school itself every day of the week except Wednesday, when the kids will pursue related field studies throughout the city. The curriculum will also devote plenty of time for sports activities on GEMS’ rooftop playground in the afternoons.

GEMS is also an International Baccalaureate school (IB) and, as such, maintains standards set by the Swiss educational foundation of the same name.

“At the end of high school in many European countries, you take this exam with all the subjects: native language, foreign language, history, math and science,” explains Blettry. “If you do not pass that exam, you cannot go to college.”

Although the curriculum at CAMP GEMS does not designate any specific time to the IB, Blettry is certain that the kids won’t mind the effect it may have on their summer. 

“I’m always amazed by their motivation to learn,” she says. “It’s kind of magical.”

Chicago Architecture Foundation Summer Camps

The mission of the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Summer Camp is “to inspire kids to discover why design matters,” says Gabrielle Lyon, the Vice President for Education and Experiences who launched the program in 2015.

In many ways, it is a youthful extension of the organization itself. “CAF has been helping people to appreciate the architecture of Chicago for fifty years,” she continues. Besides offering tours, events, programs and exhibitions, the CAF also operates Chicago’s First Lady — the overwhelmingly popular architectural tour boat that cruises up and down the Chicago River.

Lyon is both proud and confident to follow in its wake. “It’s actually the number one thing to do in Chicago,” she boasts. “Unless you’re seven years old, in which case the best thing to do is to take the CAF summer camp.”

The summer camp program consists of four separate weeklong terms, each offering a specific topic to a specific age group, beginning in late June. Campers will not only learn about architecture by meeting with experts and exploring the Loop, but they will also design their own skyscrapers and parks with a collection of tools ranging from Legos and clay to professional industry software.

“Every day we’re doing projects,” explains Lyon. “All the kids work as a team. They really collaborate.”

Before joining CAF in 2014, Lyon spent two decades as a key player in the nation’s educational arena. Recognized for her focus on “ensuring equitable opportunities for children,” she founded Project Exploration, an organization that “changes the face of science from white male and wealthy to women, minorities and the overlooked,” in 1999, and earned a PhD in Education from the University of Chicago in 2010.

“I was brought on to overhaul the way the organization is involved with young people,” she says. “I just love it.”

Each session will contain 16 campers divided into groups of four or eight. At the end of the week, each group will make a presentation in a public show for the parents and administrators. Past shows have featured physical models, PowerPoint presentations and, in one case, a song.

But before getting to that point, the campers will have to “listen to other people’s ideas and act on the one that’s the strongest,” says Lyon.

For the most part, the presentations will be created in CAF’s ArcelorMittal Design Studio, which Lyon describes as “the first interactive design studio in the city.” The bright, flowing space is equipped with clay and art materials for younger architects, Macs and PCs for the older kids and, it seems, everything in between.

Although she considers it a “terrific space for teaching and learning,” the studio is meant to complement the world-class lessons that the campers will receive by exploring the Loop with knowledgeable, career-minded adults.

“We teach kids how to see in new ways,” she says. “They’re going to leave this program looking at buildings with different eyes. The architecture and history of Chicago are the best tools for that.”

— Daniel Patton, Staff Writer

Bucky the squirrel a tourist attraction

When the weather turns warm, Bill Prahofer always ends up giving in to a certain freeloader who begs for free food from his restaurant, Buck’s Four Star Grill in Grant Park. He doesn’t mind sharing because the penniless patron is actually good for business.

Also, he’s a squirrel.

“Every year, there’s one squirrel that gets super friendly,” he says. “He will actually climb on me when I come every morning to deliver food.”

For the past three or four summers, the squirrel has not only become part of Prahofer’s daily routine, but he has also achieved fame with tourists who visit the restaurant specifically to meet the furry diner.

They call him Bucky.

“Some Australians found out about him because we post pictures on Facebook,” recalls Prahoffer. “They wanted to see squirrels because they don’t have them down there. They brought peanuts all the way just to feed him and take pictures.”

According to Liza Lehrer, Assistant Director of Lincoln Park Zoo’s Urban Wildlife Institute, Bucky’s behavior is typical for his species.

“The animals that thrive in Chicago are sort of flexible and can take advantage of human food resources,” she says.

“The tree squirrels that you often see are grey squirrels. We also have Fox squirrels. They’re a little bit bigger and have a rusty, orangish-red coloration. Research by UIC and the Nature Museum indicates that grey squirrels are better foragers and competitors.”

The Urban Wildlife Institute observes the animals that live in Chicago through a “long-term biodiversity camera project” that Lehrer describes as “the longest and broadest study of urban wildlife.”

With hundreds of covert cameras installed throughout Chicago, the project furthers the Institute’s mission “to understand how animals live in the city” and “learn how to coexist as our planet becomes more diverse.”

Besides squirrels, who spend most of the winter nesting in trees and surviving on carefully stored nuts, the cameras have recently begun to capture a good deal of foxes and coyotes.

Chicagoans can see the action by logging into the Zoo’s wildlife page.

— Daniel Patton, Staff Writer

Flower & Garden Show at Navy Pier

From March 18-26, the Flower and Garden Show will bloom at Navy Pier, giving our early spring weather a colorful kick.

Show director Tony Abruscato, who lives in The Tides, says this year’s show is especially well suited to New Eastsiders.

“A lot of the focus this year is on edible gardening and small space and container gardening,” he says.

“It’s great for people living in New Eastside. [Those with] balconies and small spaces can get great ideas for their apartment or condo.”

Now in its 170th year, this horticultural heaven, sponsored by Mariano’s, features 23 display gardens, 30 culinary demonstrations and more than 100 workshops and seminars. The sprawling Home and Garden Marketplace gives serious gardeners a chance to browse fresh-cut flowers, bulbs and gardening supplies from more than 100 exhibitors.

New this year is the Fleurotica couture show March 17, which pairs flowers and fashion.

“All the clothing is made from live plant material,” says Abruscato. “It’s Rose Parade meets ‘Project Runway.’”

Mini flower fanatics won’t want to miss the Kids’ Activity Garden and Butterfly Garden, while grown-up green thumbs can learn to spruce up office space in Garden #4, “Blooming in the Office.” Other gardens include “World Series Cubs Tribute” (Garden #15), featuring the Cubs logo spelled out in chrysanthemums, and “Health and Healing Garden” (#5).

“If you want to escape snow and cold winter… it’s a great way to experience spring, even if you’re not a gardener,” says Abruscato.

$10-16 ($5 for kids) · www.chicagoflower.com/tickets

Siskel Film Center’s year-round celebrations

The Gene Siskel Film Center will host North America’s “largest showcase of European Union cinema” from March 3 – March 30. Screening 62 movies from 28 countries, it is the Center’s 20th annual celebration of motion pictures from across the pond.

Besides helping to “broaden peoples’ minds and perspectives,” says Associate PR Director Karen Durham, select films will be accompanied by special appearances, panel discussions and Q&A sessions.

Providing access to group discussions and filmmaker insight also serves as a great way to help moviegoers “get past the whole movie-with-a-subtitle situation,” she continues.

Connecting audiences with artists — and with one another — is part of what makes the Gene Siskel Film Center a successful community-minded venue.

In addtion to showing approximately 1,600 movies and welcoming about 200 directors annually, the center also hosts a series of celebrations to kick up the social aspect of moviegoing.

The annual “Hollywood on State” event is a catered, black-tie Oscar viewing party and Academy Awards telecast that fills the Center’s lobby, café and two HD theaters to capacity.

The Black Harvest Film Festival is a “vibrant showcase of new work from the African Diaspora” that takes place every August.

The annual gala in June occupies one of the city’s four-star hotels and honors the achievements of film greats. Past honorees in attendance have included Alan Arkin, George Lucas, Felicity Huffman, Robert Downey Jr., Jamie Foxx and Reese Witherspoon.

And for those who just want to watch a movie, the Siskel Center delivers in style and within budget.

Tickets for all films at the Center are $11 ($8 for the 2 p.m. Friday matinee). The snack bar is loaded with favorites, including a choice of white or red wine and a robust selection of beers.

Concessions are permitted in the theater, which is equipped with some of Chicago’s roomiest and cushiest chairs.

164 N. State St. · (312) 846-2800 · www.siskelfilmcenter.org

— Daniel Patton, Staff Writer

Is New Eastside meteorite-ready?

In the early morning hours of February 6, a two-foot-wide meteorite streaked across downtown Chicago, leaving a bright green trail in its wake. The meteorite took a northeast trajectory before plunging off the coast of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, about 150 miles away.

While Chicago is protected from most natural disasters, it remains vulnerable to a meteorite strike.

I asked two local experts, Dr. Mark Hammergren, astronomer and meteorite specialist at the Adler Planetarium, and Joy Squires, Chief Communications Officer of the American Red Cross Chicago Region, what would happen if Chicago were struck by a meteorite.

TP: Mark, should we be worried?

MH: Is this something to be concerned about? No. Bright meteors are rare from any given location. A meteor leaves a streak of light in the sky; a meteorite is a rock that drops to earth. Although a woman in Alabama was struck by meteorites as she lay sleeping in a sofa in her living room.

TP: Can you say what would happen if a larger asteroid hit the lake?

MH: A tsunami [would be] possible. That is a concern for midsize asteroids, something [between] 100 and 1,000 feet could generate a wave that could cause damage. That said, something a lot smaller could cause damage if it came directly over the city. A sonic boom—the blast of air—from a meteorite in Chelyabinsk, Russia, was so intense it broke many windows and sent 1,600 people to the hospital.

TP: Has a meteor ever hit Chicago?

MH: In 2003, there was a bright meteor in the sky, and then rocks started falling over Chicago’s south suburbs. Some hit houses and cars.

TP: Joy, what would be the challenges for helping the New Eastside through a major meteor strike?

JS: With any concentrated area, there are challenges to helping people just look out. With Hurricane Sandy in downtown New York, [it was] “How do we work in the high-rises and get food up to people”… and the elevators being out. We also wouldn’t know where the shelter area would be… decisions would have to be made in the moment.

TP: Is there anything New Eastsiders can do to feel less helpless?

JS: Be informed. Get the Red Cross emergency app; it tells you where shelters are and what they need.

— Tricia Parker, Staff Writer

Pedway renovation kicks off

A city-backed coalition of business owners, nonprofits and design firms aims to make drastic improvements to Chicago’s Pedway. With a budget of $125,000 they envision transforming sections of the Pedway into a “destination” and “oasis.”

“We think this is the time to revitalize and tap underutilized aspects of the Pedway,” says Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC), the Chicago-based advocacy firm spearheading the effort. “We are committed to developing a serious design concept plan.”

Learner says several city agencies are supporting the group’s efforts, including CDOT, DCASE and the Chicago Infrastructure Trust. Learner declined to comment on how the group will raise additional funds, but said it is “ambitious” and wants to design a Pedway on par with underground systems in Montreal and New York. The $125,000 is coming from the ELPC’s own funds.

In mid-January, the ELPC hosted three public meetings, attended by about 100 people, in which group leaders sought ideas from eager attendees. While leaders declined to share specific design ideas at the meeting, group-moderated discussions hinted at possibilities. Moderators circled back to several themes: “interactive art,” better signage and connectivity, more dining options and “natural” aesthetics.

Residents, designers and architects discuss ideas during a January forum at the Cultural Center (Patton)

“Water features and bringing in natural light throughout the system [would give you] moments to contemplate when you meet a business colleague or friend,” said a representative of Chicago-based Billings Jackson design firm, one of three design firms in the group.

Design plans will initially focus on the main Randolph Street “stem,” from LaSalle Street in the west to Beaubien Court in New Eastside. Learner says New Eastside’s Pedway could be next.

“If we’re successful in revitalizing the main stem, the next logical step is to see how the New Eastside Pedway can be improved and linked to the main stem,” said Learner. “It ought to be a heck of a lot easier than it is now.”

New Eastsiders face a logistical gauntlet getting from Lake Shore East Park to the Cultural Center and beyond, with a series of loosely connected street-level and underground passageways. Signage is limited, and closing hours are unclear. Most buildings shut their Pedway at 7 p.m., but neighbors report seeing the Pedway open as late as 9 p.m.

For New Eastsider Tom Prenzno, who attended the first two meetings, better-defined closing hours are just the beginning of needed improvements.

“My wife walks with a cane, and is mobility challenged,” he said. Two aspects of New Eastside’s Pedway make navigation especially difficult for the Prenznos, who live at 222 N. Columbus: 23 stairs descending from the Prudential Building into Millennium Station, and the lack of handicapped doors.

“It’s a real problem.  [I’ve seen] at least five doors that were broken, and regular doors are often very heavy,” says disability lawyer Barry C. Taylor, who attended the second meeting.

“A list of dreams is good,” says Prenzno, “but until we fix the basic fundamental infrastructure, nothing is going to happen.”

The group says it will work on “design development” from now until March 14, and present its plan to key city stakeholders on March 15.

Stroller-friendly Pedway shortcuts

Millennium Garages, which consists of four vast underground parking lots beneath Grant Park and Millennium Park, has more to offer than just a dry place to put your car. Equipped with elevators and ramps, the underground structure at Randolph St. and Columbus Dr. provides accessible connections and shortcuts from New Eastside to some popular destinations.

New Eastside residents heading to the Art Institute on a particularly cold or rainy day, stroller-pushing or otherwise, can take the elevator on Upper Randolph (across the street from The Buckingham) down to the Millennium Garages.

There is another elevator in the heated and enclosed garage that connects to Monroe Street at the south end of Millennium Park, directly across the street from the entrance to the Art Institute.

The elevated sidewalk connecting 300 E. Randolph St. to Millennium Park

If you’re Loop-bound and wanting to avoid the elements, you can take the elevator at Harris Theater — which serves the Millennium Garages — and connect to the Pedway at Lower Randolph via the Metra Station (South Shore Line at Millennium Station). After passing through on the train station platform, you will be welcomed by glass doors that open to the Pedway. You’ll find a secret, bustling urban community with shops, restaurants and CTA access. The Cultural Center, Macy’s and Block 37 are just a few of the popular destinations in this portion of the Pedway.

New Eastside resident and regular Pedway user Janice Dantes points out that, “The door- holding is tricky,” when navigating with a stroller. “But it’s not impossible and occasionally a kind stranger will lend a hand,” she says.

“One thing I wish they had is an elevator from the Prudential Building to the Metra Station,” she adds. “This would make getting to Macy’s much easier.”

If you’re eager to try out these convenient routes for yourself, grab a friend and head out to explore. You’ll probably uncover some Pedway secrets of your own.

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