Holi celebration set for Navy Pier

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

Holi is coming to downtown Chicago.

Holi is a Hindu celebration that runs March 20-21. Navy Pier is hosting a free Holi festival on March 23, from 1 to 5 p.m. in the Aon Grand Ballroom.

Holi is known as the festival of colors and the festival of love.

It is a celebration of letting go of resentments, while playfully dousing others in colored powder or water. Holi begins with the lighting of a bonfire, meant to symbolize the triumph of good over bad, according to the official Holi Festival website.

A number of legends attached to the festival.

The legend that is said to have led to the celebration of colors involves the Hindi god, Krishna becoming jealous of his soulmate Radha’s light complexion, according to the Holi site. Krishna complained to his mother, who told him to color Radha’s skin any color he wished. He did so, and the mischievous act turned into a celebration, and a symbol of love between partners.

“Lovers long to apply color on their beloveds face and express their affection for each other,” the Holi site said.

Navy Pier’s celebration will feature musicians Red Baraat and Funkadesi. There will also be dance performances from groups including Peirce Elementary School and Mandala Arts. Bombay Wraps will sell food and colored powders will be available to be thrown outside in the Miller Lite Beer Garden, as supplies last, until 4 p.m. Visitors may not throw powder inside.

To learn more about the Holi celebration at Navy Pier, visit navypier.org/event. To learn more about Holi, visit holifestival.org.

Buildings go green to show St. Patrick’s Day pride


By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

Green river. Green beer. Green buildings. Is Chicago the greenest city in the world?

For the seventh year in a row, the nonprofit group ShamROCK Chicago says yes. ShamROCK Chicago is the nonprofit that works with downtown buildings to go green—to light up at night in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.

Blair Ciecko, director of branding and communications for the group, said the project is a fun way to promote Irish culture.

The tradition of greening landmarks comes from Tourism Ireland, a nonprofit that works to spread Irish pride around the globe, and dates back 10 years. Chicago’s joins cities worldwide, including London and Sydney who also participate in the greening initiative

Ciecko said the Chicago project is also a bit of competition with Boston—a city famous for its Irish roots.

This year’s greening kicks off March 11 with an event at a Chicago Blackhawks game.

“Prior to the game, in the atrium, were going to flip a big switch to turn the building green,” Ciecko said.

She said building owners are receptive to the celebration and the greening has grown since it started. This year, Ciecko said residents can expect nearly a dozen buildings to go green, including Willis Tower, Soldier Field, the Broadway in Chicago playhouses. Last year Navy Pier joined in and the iconic Ferris wheel lit its spokes in green light.

Ciecko added she hopes the lights get people in the spirit of the season, because even without Irish heritage, there’s a reason to celebrate.

“There’s no political aspect or donation aspect,” she said. “It’s a good way to let everyone know it’s St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago.”

“Take some selfies and post them on our Facebook page,” she said. “Or Tweet them at us.”

The greening will run from March 11 to 17.
To find out more about the group, visit shamrockchicago2019.com.

Area businesses lend a hand to help Girls Scouts sell cookies

By Angela Gagnon, Staff Writer

Girl Scouts are busy selling their famous cookies all over downtown Chicago while partnering with local businesses that provide warm spaces where scouts can sell extra boxes through the end of March.

Troop 20461, from South Loop Elementary, recently sold cookies at Pinstripes in Streeterville on a blustery Saturday morning. Troop co-leader Angelica Prado helped set up, and fourth grade troop members Mia Prado and Katie Boone sold to Pinstripes customers.

“My favorite part of selling Girl Scout cookies is asking people to buy our cookies,” Mia said. “Even if they say no, they know who we are and they can tell more people about the cookies.”

“I like selling Girl Scout cookies because it teaches me to set a goal and try to complete that goal,” Katie added.

“The girls decide on a cookie goal and work to reach that goal,” Katie’s mom and troop co-leader Aimee Boone, said. Troop 20461 set their goal for each girl to sell 100 boxes of cookies.

At the end of cookie season, the troop can decide what to do with their share of the profits, which is about 90 cents per box.

A portion goes to a charitable donation of the troop’s choice. Troop 20461 will be donating to Mercy Home for Boys and Girls this year. They also vote on something fun to do as a troop, as a reward for all the hard work they do during cookie sales.

Girl Scouts will set up booths at select locations until the end of March. Troop 20461 will be back at Pinstripes, 435 E Illinois St., March 24 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

On March 2, they will be selling cookies at Sod Room, 1454 S Michigan Ave., from 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

“Inviting them to sell at Sod Room helps shift the ownership back to the child,” Sod Room owner Cynthia Valenciana said. “That’s hard in today’s climate, and there’s so much power in that.”

For a list of cookie booth locations, dates and times, visit the Girl Scouts’ website, girlscouts.org, and use the “cookie finder” to locate nearby booths.

Tough and hearty, the tradition of tulips along Michigan Ave. celebrate city’s spirit, history

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

All along Michigan Avenue, flower boxes sit, topped with a layer of pine boughs and inches of snow, ice and street salt.

They are as gray as winter skies.

But, buried within the boxes are bulbs—thousands of tulips and hyacinth bulbs—ready to erupt into a riot of color just as soon as the mercury allows.

The seasonal routine began in the early 1990s, an initiative of Mayor Richard M. Daley and business leaders on Michigan Avenue as a way to spruce up the busy thoroughfare. In the decades since, the flowers have become nothing short of a national phenomenon.

In 2016, the American Society of Landscape Architects awarded the city and the Michigan Avenue Streetscape Association its Landmark Award for 20 years of Magnificent Mile blooms.

Chicago Department of Transportation spokesperson Mike Claffey said the flowers have found fans in cities far and wide. CDOT is now in charge of the planting program.

“Many cities have reached out to CDOT for background on how to launch a similar planting program—including New York City and San Francisco,” Claffey said in an email. “When Gavin Newsom (now governor of California) was mayor of San Francisco, he asked for and was given a tour of Chicago’s tulips on Michigan Avenue and he asked a number of detailed questions about the program.”

Maintaining the 2.3 miles of Michigan Avenue included in the program is a big job.

Claffey said each November the city plants 110,000 bulbs on Michigan from Roosevelt Road to Oak and the southern section where the planters are bigger, from Roosevelt to the river, includes 78,000 grape hyacinth.

Over eight days in November, a 10-person crew of A Safe Haven workers plant the bulbs. A Safe Haven Foundation employs at-risk youth, veterans and people recovering from substance abuse. This year’s tulip varieties are show winner, margarita, orange emperor, double negrita, apricot impression and pretty princess. Later, the beds are covered with pine boughs to protect the bulbs from extreme cold.

The flowers must be chosen carefully, as not too much can survive Chicago’s winters which can be downright arctic, even without polar vortices. But, Claffey said, when the bulbs bloom, usually in early April, it’s a treat for Chicagoans.

“They represent the spirit of Chicago,” Claffey said, adding that the city’s motto is urbs in horto, Latin for city in a garden.

“It’s a way to celebrate another winter is over in Chicago and the toughness of the city,” he said.

By May, however, it is over and the city replants the planters with summer selections. But the bulbs live on.  

“They’re transported to the Garfield Park Conservatory where each year the public is invited to pick up a bag of tulip bulbs in late May for the low, low price of zero dollars,” Claffey said.

Joshua Harris is the New Eastside doorperson of the month

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

Joshua Harris has worked at the Aqua at Lakeshore East for 10 years, starting his job just a year after the building opened. Harris said he got in because a friend, one of the building’s first employees, thought Harris would be a good fit at the 225 N. Columbus Dr. residence.

So far, so good. He said that he’s enjoyed the last decade, “It’s like a vacation coming to work. And actually, the time has flown by. Someone asked me the other day how long have I worked here, and I said seven or eight years, and my partner said, ‘It’s been 10 years,’” Harris said.

The building is a mixed-use facility with rental apartments, condos and a hotel sharing the space, so Harris interacts with all kinds of people; office workers, residents and visitors looking for the front desk at the Radisson Blu hotel, next door.

Harris said the residents are mostly families and older folks, so there isn’t too much chaos but says that wasn’t always the case.

“It used to be a really big crowd that would go out on the weekend,” Harris said. “When the building first opened, it was a lot of college kids and everybody went out and partied, but the building changed, and it’s an older crowd and everybody slowed down.”

Besides his work as a doorperson, he operates an extermination company with his father.

“My father, he’s been in the extermination business for 30 years,” Harris said. “And he’s moving on, and so I’m taking over. [Being a doorperson] is only eight hours, and there are 24 hours in the day.”

Which isn’t to say Harris doesn’t have a fun side. He enjoys photography and golf, when he can find the time. Harris’ favorite golf tip?

“Rule number one, keep your head down and let the club do the work,” he said.

To nominate your favorite doorperson, email info@neweastsidecommunity.com with the door person’s name and why you think they should be the doorperson of the month. Each winner will receive a $25 gift card to Mariano’s.

New Eastside News news briefs

Staff reports

Sweetwater to be open in time for St. Patrick’s Day

Sweetwater Tavern and Grill, 225 N. Michigan Ave., a popular local eatery, will be open in time for March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day, according to the restaurant’s website.

The bar and grill has been closed since Dec. 23 for extensive renovations.

“It’s exciting to be able to take what we have learned from our more than 15 restaurants over the years and apply it to one of our most successful restaurants on Michigan Avenue,” Angela Zoiss, Vice President of Marketing for Bottleneck Management, said in a press release. “Sweetwater’s renovation will breathe new life into the space and kick off our 10th anniversary as a Chicago hot spot with a fresh new look.”

Bottleneck Management has added an additional 10 years to Sweetwater’s lease, for a total of 15 years in the dynamic space in the heart of Michigan Avenue.

New Eastsiders can now shop at a brick-and-mortar Amazon store

In February Amazon opened a brick-and-mortar store Amazon Go at 111 E. Wacker.

The cashier-less store is the first Amazon store in the New Eastside, but it joins several other locations around the city.

Besides not having cashiers, the store is cashless, too, and customers pay by scanning items with their cellphones via an app. There are no lines and the store offers a variety of food and snack items.

New 311 app easier to use than phone system

In December the city launched a 311 app—a phone application allowing users to more easily report on small issues such as potholes and graffiti in their areas. The app upgraded the previous system, launched in 1999, that depended on a telephone call and paperwork.

Since the system launched, it’s garnered national attention, with Wired Magazine calling it “a huge win for public works.”

Closer to home, the system is also receiving praise. Neighborhood leader Richard Ward said in February the new system is helpful, easy to use and provides added benefits to New Eastside residents.

“The home page of the website has an overview of the program and nine broad categories of service request areas such as seniors, health and animals. ‘View-all’ presents nearly one hundred specific issue topics like graffiti, lights out and potholes,” he wrote in an email.

Ward said the New Eastside is nearly graffiti-free because of eagle-eyed residents calling the previous system. Now, residents can use the new app to report graffiti or other maintenance issues.

To find out more about the app or download, visit 311.chicago.gov.

Ad seems to indicate a new residential building is coming

A magazine advertisement by CA Ventures could indicate a new, large residential building is coming to the New Eastside.

In January, Real Estate Alert, a real estate trade magazine, ran an ad from developers CA Ventures featuring a large building at Lake and Stetson, the 40,600-square-foot lot that was supposed to be the home of the Mandarin Oriental hotel and luxury condominiums before that plan failed two years ago.

However, CA Ventures won’t say what the ad means and whether they will develop the property.

“We don’t have anything to share at this time,” said Mimi Simon, a spokesperson for CA Ventures with Taylor Johnson Public Relations.

The ad includes other existing properties developed by CA Ventures around the country.

New WTTW11 program to highlight Midwest history

Take a nostalgic family road trip throughout the Midwest when “Chicago on Vacation with Geoffrey Baer” premieres on WTTW11, Chicago’s PBS station, and online at wttw.com/vacation at 7:30 p.m. on March 5.

Inspired by his family adventures, Baer sets out in a 1973 Chevrolet Impala station wagon (the same car his family drove) to visit favorite tourist destinations and discover hidden history throughout the Midwest. Stunning archival film and home movies take viewers back to a time when road trips were routine for families looking for an affordable, drivable getaway.

Highlights of Geoffrey’s 2,000-mile road trip include:

  • Touring Lake Geneva with two teenagers that deliver mail by jumping off a moving boat
  • Meeting an all-female ice-fishing group from Wisconsin’s Northwoods
  • Discovering a renewed interest in the “Black Eden” of Idlewild, Mich., a popular spot for African Americans when segregation during the Jim Crow era limited vacation options
  • Visiting the once-booming Jewish resorts in South Haven, Mich., previously called the “Catskills of the Midwest”

Local news drives newspaper readership, study finds

A large study by Medill’s Local News Initiative discovered in February that local news still matters to readers and it may save newspapers.

The study analyzed subscriber data from three metropolitan news websites in an attempt to see what content most attracted readers. The intention is to provide newspapers with a guide to improving community service and to shore up financial sustainability as the media landscape changes.

The study showed that rather than viral stories, readers want quality local content.

“This research illustrates a sea change in the relationship between local news organizations and their readers,” Tim Franklin said in a news release.

Franklin, a senior associate dean at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, heads the Medill Local News Initiative, a project that includes this study and other research to help local journalism overcome the industry’s loss of readers and revenue. Medill partnered with three news organizations — the Chicago Tribune, The Indianapolis Star and the San Francisco Chronicle — that provided 13 terabytes of anonymous reader data for the study.

Hidden New Eastside spots you need to know

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

Bockwinkel’s

While Mariano’s might dominate the market scene of New Eastside, the area is actually home to three grocery stores. The Bockwinkel’s at the corner of Stetson and South Water St. is a favorite of many residents and office workers. The grocery chain has another location in the lower level of 155 N. Harbor Drive. You don’t need to be a resident to shop at this location, it’s accessible to the public and ultra-convenient.  

Need to mail something?

Descend to into the Pedway and visit the post office in the lower level of the Aon Center or ship via UPS in Swissotel or FedEx in One Pru.

Get same day passports

Fancy packing up and flying overseas tomorrow? Don’t let an expired passport slow you down. In New Eastside, you can get expedited passport services at Sameday Passport and Visa located at 180 N. Stetson Ave.

Swim Schools

Learning to swim in New Eastside is easy with a swim schools operated out of some righrise pools. Local instructors, like olympic qualifier Kathy Kelly of Swim with Kathy Chicago, teaches students in the Radisson Blu Hotel pool. The British Swim School holds lessons at 175 N. Harbor Drive. Both offer small group and private classes. For more information, visit britishswimschool.com or swkchicago.com

Shortcuts

New Eastside is full of quick and simple shortcuts. To skip the hustle and bustle of Michigan Avenue while traveling to Grant Park, take the stairs, located along Randolph, down to Columbus heading south. Try walking south via Columbus to get to the northern edge of Grant Park and Monroe Street. If the wind tunnel of Randolph is too much walking to Michigan Avenue, try cutting through the Aon Center courtyard between Stetson and Columbus—the buildings block the breeze.

A look inside One Bennett Park

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

With work wrapping up, developers of One Bennett Park said residents of the upper floor condominiums will begin moving into the property in March.

Floors one through 39 opened in November.

The 70-story project gives Streeterville one of the tallest buildings in the city and will add hundreds of residents to the 451 East Grand Ave. location.

Tricia Van Horn, vice president of marketing and communications for Related Midwest, said her company is no stranger to the Streeterville area.

Related Midwest has developed highly successful apartment and condominium buildings in Streeterville for more than two decades, including 500 Lake Shore Drive, and we know it’s a terrific place to call home,” she said in an email.

Van Horn cited the neighborhood’s history and proximity to retail, transportation and cultural institutions as attractive features for developers. She said she expects the One Bennett Park development will be a good fit.

The building was designed by Robert A. M. Stern Architects (RAMSA), and Van Horn said the exterior reflects a classic, historic style.

“One Bennett Park, Related Midwest and RAMSA have created an all-residential, heirloom building whose design pays homage to the city’s beloved pre-war architectural heritage. A limestone podium, formal motor courts, ornamental metalwork, vertical setbacks and a lantern ‘crown’ distinguish the building from most new construction towers,” she said.

The exterior might look old-school, but the inside amenities are modern. Apartments and condominiums range from $3,700 to $18,500 per month, with floor plans from 905 to 3,323 square feet.

Residents will have access to fitness and wellness facilities located on the third and fourth floors. These include training studios, a club-level gym with cardiovascular and strength equipment, a 60-foot indoor pool and a 10,000-square-foot deck overlooking Bennett Park with an outdoor pool, fire pits and grilling stations, Van Horn said.

The third and fourth floor amenities include a children’s play area, prep and catering kitchens, and a “tween room” with games, televisions and modular lounge seating.

Additionally, the two-acre Bennett Park is expected to open in summer 2019. Designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh, the creator of Maggie Daley Park, the park will lie adjacent to the property and include a playground, dog runs and meandering pathways, Van Horn said.

The park will be closed certain days each year for One Bennett Park residents to hold private events.

As of February, units were still available. Contact a Related representative at www.onebennettpark.com for information.

Tavern at the Park to close in March

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

After nearly 12 years as a New Eastside staple, the Tavern at the Park will close.

Owners of the popular restaurant, 130 E. Randolph St., completed the deal with Sterling Bay in December. The restaurant is expected to close in March, though partner Peter de Castro said he’s not sure when the last day will be—they have to be off the property by March 29.

“It’s kind of a moving target for the closing date. It depends on how much staff is left,” he said. “As soon as we decide we don’t have the staff to do things to our standards as we’ve always done them, we’ll make that decision and close it from there.”

De Castro said he and the other partners hadn’t planned to sell but Sterling Bay, the group that owns Prudential Plaza, approached the partners and made an offer. De Castro had mixed emotions about closing up shop.

“The decision was tough for staff because we had to give them 60-days notice, and so you want to make sure you take care of them,” he said. But from the financial side, it was an easy choice.

“A 12-year-run is a long run for a restaurant. At that point you have to talk about major remodeling anyway to stay fresh, and that shuts you down,” he said.

The news was especially tough on some longtime customers.

Robert Ogonovich said he’s been visiting the restaurant for years—practically since it opened—when he visits his daughter, who works downtown.

“I always pop in for a drink, when it’s convenient,” he explained.

This month he will have to look elsewhere, and said he is open to exploring the neighborhood.

“I’ll just have to find another place close to here,” Ogonovich said. “I’ll have to survey the neighborhood.”

Looking ahead, de Castro said he doesn’t know what he will do next. He has owned restaurants since 1987, but he said the industry is tough right now. A low unemployment rate is driving up wages for staff, and the city’s minimum wage is scheduled to increase to $13 an hour this July.

“I don’t know what will happen next,” he said. “There aren’t plans to do anything yet, but that could change tomorrow. I think we’re going to take a log off the fire and sit back.”

A gem on Jeweler’s Row: Hamilton Jewelry makes it special by hand

By Angela Gagnon | Staff Writer

Along Wabash Avenue, between East Washington and East Monroe, sit 350 jewelers.

This two-block stretch of downtown is Jewelers Row, Chicago’s historic diamond district, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the choices. Still, Kailee Swift’s Hamilton Jewelry stands out, her store a cut above the rest.

With her store nestled in the art deco Mallers Building at 5 S. Wabash St., New Eastside resident Swift has been quietly burninishing her reputation—and wowing clients—for decades by custom designing perfectly personal pieces.

Swift has been creating custom jewelry since she opened Hamilton Jewelry in 1997. Despite the Internet bringing a fundamental change in how people shop, Swift has kept with her handmade, traditional approach. It has served her well.

Swift offers a personalized, full-service experience. Due to her location on Jewelers Row, she can easily connect with goldsmiths who work nearby.

“I have more control and can oversee the projects firsthand,” she said. “Also, there is no need to ship jobs or have a messenger as retail stores do. Everything stays right here, which saves time and money.”

The hunt for the perfect piece of jewelry can seem daunting.

“Everyone’s afraid they’re going to be ripped off,” Swift said, “so I want people to trust Hamilton.”

Kevin and Allison Carnahan are longtime clients of Swift’s.

“I first used Kailee for Allison’s engagement ring,” Kevin said. “When I got there, I knew next to nothing about diamonds or bands or how diamonds were set. Kailee was able to explain the different diamond characteristics to help me design the perfect ring.”

“We love working with Kailee,” Allison added. “She is patient and she produces beautiful customized jewelry that you are excited to show off.”

Besides custom designs, Swift can also help with repairs and appraisals and help customers find a specific vintage piece.

Swift loves educating customers on just about everything jewelry-related.

“People come in so nervous,” she said, “I try to keep them at ease, provide tons of education and help them relax.”

In addition to serving her regulars, Swift is a familiar face at holiday shows, trunk shows and charity events.

“I love to give back, and [fundraising] is something that I hold close to my heart,” she said.

“We pride ourselves on quality, exceptional value and service over a lifetime,” Swift said.

Visit the store online at hamiltonjewelryinc.com

5 S. Wabash, Suite 1310

(312) 704-0404

Owner and designer, Kailee Swift, at her store Hamilton Jewelry on Jewelers Row. Photo by Angela Gagnon

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