Lakeshore East’s Vista Tower continues to rise, reaches midway-milestone

By Julie Whitehair | Community Contributor

Published July 4, 2018

Development of Chicago’s burgeoning Vista Tower is speeding along—the sky-scraper reached its halfway mark in June with the construction of its 50th floor.

The jewel in Magellan Development Group’s portfolio, is set to stand nearly 1,200 feet tall with 101 levels on East Wacker Dr. in Lakeshore East. This height would push it past New Eastside’s Aon Center as Chicago’s third-tallest skyscraper, behind the Willis Tower, 233 S. Wacker Dr., and Trump International Hotel and Tower, 401 N. Wabash Ave.

Chicago architect Jeanne Gang envisioned a unique, geometric shape for Vista Tower involving three separate towers or “tubes” of stacked frustums set side-by-side in varying heights. Curbed Chicago reported the first of the three tubes has been topped off already, and that a blue-green glass exterior will be added to the project ahead of its opening in 2020.

As construction continues on the building, its developers have set up webcams for architecture enthusiasts and anyone curious to watch the latest construction of the Vista Tower. The webcam can be found on the Vista website, vistatowerchicago.com/webcam.

Construction on the reported $1 billion building began in September 2016. Once opened, Vista will be a mixed-use tower featuring a hotel and high-rise residences. About 44 percent of the 396 Vista condos—a lower figure than originally announced because some buyers combined multiple units—have already been sold, the Chicago Tribune reported.

To combat swaying from winds, the Chicago Tribune reported the tower will have water-filled tanks atop the structure to slosh and counterbalance the winds as well as an empty “blow through floor” for the wind near the top.

Proposed Aon Center Observatory will put tourists over the edge

By Stephanie Racine | Staff Writer

Aon Center will soon be able to flaunt its jaw-dropping views with an observatory, glass elevator and “pod ride” that is coming to its 82nd and 83rd floors.

On May 14, The Chicago Loop Alliance and Alderman Brendan Reilly met with community members at The Mid-America Club to discuss plans for an observatory to cap the Aon Center tower located at 200 E.Randolph St.

Representatives from developers 601W Companies, architectural firms SCB and The Hettema Group, and engineering consultants Kimley-Horn and Associates presented designs for the observatory, highlighting the effect the family-friendly attraction will have on Chicago’s tourism industry.

“[The observatory] would also have a very positive impact on the area,” said Mark Karasick, managing director of 601W Companies. “We commissioned a study which found that more than $900 million in direct economic impact will be generated over the next 20 years due to this venture.”

Slides shown at the meeting detailed how the new observatory will transform Aon Center into a world-class destination and help maintain the building’s financial health and iconic real estate status.

To get to the top, visitors will take the external glass elevator—which will be the tallest in the U.S.—traveling at 1,200 feet per minute. The elevator will be accessed via a separate entrance pavilion on the east side of the building that takes visitors down escalators to a walkway at lower level three near Lower Randolph Street, according to SCB design principal Martin F. Wolf. Once at the base of the elevator and on the way up, “views will be quite spectacular,” Wolf said.

Visitors will experience floor-to-ceiling views with interactive multimedia attractions, along with other activities, snacks and drinks, according to Phil Hettema, president of The Hettema Group. They can also check out the Sky Summit pod ride which will lift visitors seated in a see-through capsule over the south edge of the building.

“You will get an absolutely unforgettable view of Millenium Park,” Hettema said. “We just want to give you an experience that’s unlike anything anybodyhas ever seen.”

Many of the residents at the meeting voiced concerns about the tourist attraction’s impact on traffic in New Eastside.

Peter Lemmon from Kimley-Horn and Associates shared the results of a traffic study and proposed widening sidewalks by the pavilion entrance along Columbus Street by 15 feet to accommodate the increase in foot traffic, re-striping crosswalks and establishing a dedicated bus zone. Both Reilly and Lemmon assured residents that options to improve traffic in the area, both related and unrelated to the Aon Observatory, are being considered.

More information about the Aon Center Observatory can be found at aoncenterobservatory.com

Published June 3, 2018

Balbo Drive renaming proposed

By Taylor Hartz Staff Writer

The decades-old debate to rename Balbo Drive gained attention at a Chicago City Council meeting last month, when two aldermen proposed an ordinance to rename the street after Ida B. Wells.

On May 23rd, New Eastside Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) and Ald. Sophia King (4th) held a joint press conference alongside other elected officials, community leaders and groups to announce the change of name for the Loop street. Other elected officials, community leaders and groups joined in the announcement.

Rather than honoring Italian aviator Italo Balbo, the aldermen introduced the idea of recognizing Wells, an African-American investigative journalist who brought attention to the lynching of African-Americans in the 1890s.

Wells joined other African-American leaders in calling for the boycott of the World’s Columbian Exposition 1893. She died in Chicago in 1931.

“Balbo is to be named after an individual whose advocacy and life’s work will continue to have an historical impact that is timeless,” said a joint statement from the aldermen on May 23.

If the ordinance is approved, this will be the first time a street in Chicago has been permanently renamed since South Parkway was changed to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive in 1968, according to the aldermen’s statement.

The street, which runs from Lake Shore Drive to State Street between Harrison Street and 8th Street, will also be the first in the Loop to be named after an African-American woman.

Published June 4

Chicago police using ‘Nextdoor’ for community outreach

By Stephanie Racine

 In an effort to improve communication with the public, Chicago police are now sending updates and posting messages through the online forum, Nextdoor.com.

On April 5, Sergeant Anthony Dombrowski, the community policing sergeant with the first district, announced on Nextdoor that he would be using the resource as a community outreach platform “to build community, improve quality of life and work together to make your neighborhood safer and stronger.”

Nextdoor is an online forum and social networking application made up of neighbors and community members who are vetted by submitting their addresses and phone numbers to the Nextdoor website—if you don’t have a valid New Eastside address, you won’t be able to join. Since posts can be limited to a certain neighborhood or district, New Eastside has its own message board where only members of our community can post or see messages.

Messages from first district officers will only be visible to Nextdoor users who sign up to receive them. Dombrowski also assured users in his post that interactions between members would not be monitored by police—only the comments on CPD’s posts will be visible to them.

Dombrowski used the platform again on May 1, to announce a reduction in crime in

the area. “During the month of April 2018 the 001st District had 40 percent fewer robberies and 20 percent fewer burglaries than compared to April 2017,” Drombrowski

wrote.

In his initial post, Dombroski emphasized that Nextdoor is not to be used in an emergency, and residents should still turn to 911 in a crisis. Non-emergency tips should be directed to the anonymous website CPDtip.com, or by texting 274637 (CRIMES). CPD will be monitoring Nextdoor infrequently and any other issues or questions should be directed to the CAPS office CAPS.001District@chicagopolice.org. Inquiries made by New Eastside News via Nextdoor were not returned.

Published May 9, 2018

Local hero performs CPR, helps save life in Maggie Daley Park

By Angela Gagnon | Staff Writer

It was just a normal Saturday in Maggie Daley Park—until it wasn’t.

Park employees sprang into action when a man visiting from Texas collapsed and began seizing near the park’s playgarden at about 5:30 p.m., March 10.

Upon hearing the man’s wife call out for help, Security Officer Jarrell Brown quickly
radioed Officer Michael Malone, a former Chicago Fire Department firefighter and
first responder who was on duty near the playgarden. Malone rushed to the scene
and called 911.

When Malone reached the man, he realized his condition was serious. “I knew it was an emergency since he was seizing up,” Malone said. “The seizure was going on for
two minutes and he wasn’t responding to his name or anything verbal. He soon became unresponsive and stopped breathing.”

That’s when Malone started CPR. His quick response worked, and after a few
minutes, the man finally coughed.

“We celebrated like it was a sporting event,” Malone said. “And then he went to
sleep, which is a good sign.”

While Malone was handling the hands-on response, Paul Fuller, Maggie Daley Park operations manager, helped first responders find the best route into the park. Security Officer Laron Jackson then guided them to the area where Malone was
administering CPR. The team was able to revive the man and get him to a hospital
safely for further care.

Malone said their team effort in a time of crisis was crucial during this emergency. He credited his training and the team’s adherence to emergency protocols as
the reason the they were able to save the man’s life.

“I was in the right position at the right time to help,” he said.

Published on May 2

Columbus Drive bridge closed for repairs

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

Repairs are underway to clean up and improve the Columbus Drive bridge, closing the bridge to pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic for most of the month.

On March 26, the Chicago Department of Transportation began a project to repair
the roadway and sidewalks on the bridge. Crews will be replacing the sidewalk grating, sidewalk stringers and the center breaks in the roadway, according to a notice from Ald. Brendan Reilly.

In a statement last month, Ald. Reilly called the repairs “much needed.”

While the project is underway, the bridge will be closed Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., but will be open during rush hour to accommodate traffic.

The first phase of the project will involve replacing the center breaks on the roadway. The bridge will be closed until this part of the project wraps up at the end of April, said Reilly.

To avoid the closed bridge, northbound traffic is redirected from Columbus Dr. to Lower Wacker Dr. and towards Lake Shore Dr. to Grand Ave. which then reconnects
with Columbus Dr. Southbound traffic is asked to take Columbus Dr. to Illinois St.,
then Lake Shore Dr., to Lower Wacker Dr. which reconnects to Columbus Dr.

The entire project is expected to continue until October.

Divvy launches new ride options

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

If you don’t already use Chicago’s rentable blue bikes for your daily commute, or for easy transportation to any outing, you may want to start. As the weather starts to warm up, the Divvy bike share system has launched new fare pricing options and benefits for riders.

Divvy announced their new offers on Feb. 1 with the slogan, “Divvy just got better.” The offers include a “Single Ride” pass and an “Explorer Pass.”

The “Single Ride” option will run for the bikeshare’s lowest price yet, just $3. In a monthly memo, Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) said the single ride option “will help commuters quickly get around town and enable Chicago residents to easily try the system before committing to an annual membership.”

The $3 ride will give riders a 30-minute window to bike to or from any of the city’s570 Divvy stations.

Another new option is the “Explorer Pass.” For $15, this pass gives riders access to a bike for three hours within a 24-hour period. This option will give riders a chance to see more of the city, at a more leisurely pace.

“From a trip down the 606 to the full lakefront trail, beautiful bike rides around Chicago are easier than ever,” Ald. Rielly said. On its website, Divvy suggests this as the perfect option for Chicago visitors.

As with all new things, old things must go. If you’ve been a fan of the standard 24-hour pass $9.95, it is no longer offered. If you go over your time limit, you’ll be subject to Divvy’s new standardized overage fee of $3 for every 30 minutes. But if you’re an annual Divvy member, you will immediately have access to 45 minutes per ride, rather than 30 minutes, at no additional cost. Annual memberships cost $99 per year and include unlimited 45-minute rides. This option is also offered with monthly payments of $9.95.

New Eastside residents form neighborhood watch group

By Nicole VandeBoom and Taylor Hartz | Staff Writers

Published March 4, 2018

Concerns over safety and criminal activity in Chicago prompted a group of New Eastside residents to gather informally to discuss neighborhood crime on Feb. 27 at a local coffee shop.

The half-dozen attendees hailed from buildings all over the area. Residents shared personal anecdotes of crimes, uncomfortable situations, and nefarious things they had witnessed – from robberies to lax security in their own buildings to reporting other frightening things they had seen.“We have quite the variety of shenanigans ranging from nuisance to actual crime,” said resident Tom Besore.

Another attendee, Cate Hickey, outlined the 1st District police boundaries, noting the size of the area that extends south of the Chicago River to 31st street, and from Lake Michigan west to the Kennedy Expressway.

The group agreed that as residents, they had to take matters into their own hands and advocate for themselves. Some of the strategies discussed included advocating for improved lighting in darkened areas, adding security cameras, locking gates and spreading the word about community involvement in the fledgeling neighborhood watch group.

One participant suggested that residents call 911 for every disturbance or odd thing they notice in New Eastside in order to keep New Eastside on the police radar. Residents also discussed the idea of reporting crimes and safety concerns to the local alderman, building management, and condo board members.

At recent CAPS meetings for the local police beat, officers have encouraged residents to call 911 with every concern. Though it may seem like not every call gets answered, officers assured residents that every complaint gets addressed and cataloged.

“Taxpayers of the city of Chicago, stop calling 311,” said Nicole Bryson at a CAPS meeting in Novemeber. “You pay for 911, use your city services.”

She also discouraged residents from calling 311 with ongoing or immediate
complaints. Plans are in the works for a larger neighborhood watch meeting in the spring.

Organizers intend to start a community Facebook group dedicated to safety concerns of the New Eastside. “Things happen when somebody champions a cause,” Besore said. They all agreed to attend the next CAPS meeting on March 8 at 400 E. Randolph St., and raise the topic of the formation of the neighborhood watch group.

At the end of the meeting organizers handed out safety whistles to attendees.

For more information and to get on the email list for the group, contact Tom Besore
(312) 725-0223.

No right on red

New red light cameras planned for 42nd Ward intersections

By B. David Zarley | Staff Writer

November 15, 2017

By the end of the year, three new red light cameras are slated to be placed at the intersections of Michigan Ave. and Ontario St., Michigan Ave. and Jackson Blvd., and Lake and Wacker Streets, barring objections by 42nd Ward residents. The metrics for selecting the new corners were provided by an Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) commissioned study by the Northwestern University Transportation Center to reevaluate the city’s controversial camera program.

An intersection’s crash numbers are entered into the Transportation Center’s template and receive a score, explained Abraham Emmanuel, CDOT’s deputy commissioner for traffic safety. “We can take any intersection in the city, plug that in and get the score,” Emmanuel said. While the Northwestern study is being used to help select camera placements, Emmanuel made it clear that it is not the only factor—human judgement and community input matter as well.

At a public meeting in October, Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras and a small contingent of envoys from Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) met in the Chicago Cultural Center’s Millennium Park and discussed placement of red-light cameras.

For the most part, the meeting seemed a formality and show of strength; most of the speaking was done by the abolitionists in their bright, logo-bearing sweatshirts and six CDOT posters. “We are here as an advocacy group that [has] been advocating for the abolition of photo enforcement—or red-light cameras, speed cameras—in the city of Chicago for over five years,” said Mark Wallace, executive director of Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras and host of The People’s Show on WVON. “There’s no questions that it’s about revenue [more] than it is about traffic safety.”

CDOT Deputy Commissioner for Traffic Safety Abraham Emmanuel (foreground left) at the October 16 meeting; Mark Wallace, executive director of Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras can be seen in a black vest and white shirt in the background. Photo by B. David Zarley

Wallace cited a study done by Texas A&M’s Zachry Department of Civil Engineering, published by the Tribune in 2014, that found the cameras “do not reduce injury-related crashes overall.” The study also found minor reductions in right-angle crashes—around 15 percent—and a 22 percent increase in rear-end crashes, perhaps caused by motorist’s slamming of the brakes or becoming yellow-shy at the idea of getting snapped for a ticket.

From its outset, Chicago’s red-light camera program has been rife with controversy. Cameras were installed in the midst of a bribery scandal and issued tickets for intersections where the yellow-light times were below federal minimum. The cameras also failed to send out second notifications before raising fines, leading to a class-action lawsuit that saw the city settling for millions. Since then, the second notification was written out of the ordinance.

In an effort to help build public support for the program and make the ordinance more fair, the city has increased the grace period—during which a light can be red and a car not be photographed running it—to 0.3 seconds. Additionally, cameras that issued tickets but did not see a markedreduction in crashes are being removed.

“They generate tickets, but that’s not a concern of ours,” said Mike Claffey, directorof public affairs at CDOT. “Our concern is based purely on traffic safety.”

The Northwestern Study, completed in early 2017, found that the cameras led to a 10 percent overall reduction of crashes and a 19 percent reduction in more dangerous crashes. The study also found the program causes a “spillover” effect, making intersections safer even without cameras.

Apple unveils new Riverwalk store

By Taylor Hartz

October 19, 2017

The mystery surrounding Apple’s new Michigan Avenue store was unmasked Thursday, with a preview of the tech-mogul’s new Chicago location.  

Staffed with 250 employees, the store will officially open at 5p.m. on Friday, replacing the North Michigan Avenue store that opened in 2003. The former retail spot, which was Apple’s first U.S. Flagship store, closed Wednesday.

“It’s an honor to unveil our newest greatest project here in Chicago,” said Senior Vice President of Retail Angela Ahrendts, giving a guided tour Thursday.

Angela Ahrendts, senior vice president of retail for Apple, gives a tour of the new Michigan Avenue store.

Ahrendts said she hopes that the new store will not only serve as a retail and trouble-shooting center, but as a community gathering spot.

“We really wanted to create the town square for Chicago and for the Midwest,” said Ahrendts.

With floor to ceiling windows, the new space includes a retail floor where new Apple employees called Creative Pros will give demonstrations on apple products and technology tools, and a new upper-level genius gallery to view courses and workshops that take place in the open-concept “forum”.

Outside, the store connects Pioneer Plaza to the Riverwalk with a two staircases that run down either side of the store. According to Ahrendts, Apple executives met with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office to discuss ways the store could help draw more foot traffic to the Riverwalk.

“Apple Michigan Avenue is about removing boundaries between inside and outside, reviving important urban connections within the city,” said Apple’s chief design officer Jony Ive in a statement. “It unites a historic city plaza that had been cut off from the water, giving Chicago a dynamic new arena that flows effortlessly down to the river.”

Compared to the previous store on Michigan Avenue, the new store will have up to five times as many employees on deck to help customers learn more about their technology.

Angela Ahrendts, senior vice president of retail for Apple, gives a tour of the new Michigan Avenue store.

“The role of retail for Apple is human connection because that’s what you don’t get on the app and don’t get online,” said Ahrendts.

To help foster that human connection, Apple has a calendar full of plans to bring community members together in the “forum” to socialize, network and teach one another in hands-on workshops.

As a part of Apple’s in-store programming series Today at Apple, the new store will host a city-focused Chicago series.

Oct. 23 through Nov. 17, local artists, authors, and entrepreneurs will host a series of tech-based workshops.

The first event on Oct. 23 will be led by 1871 Chicago’s Center for Technology and Entrepreneurship, based in merchandise mart, and will focus on using technology to accelerate a startup.

Other events will include poetry slams and an art collaborative with Black Monks of Mississippi.  

According to Today at Apple Director Hasehm Bajwa, the courses are meant to “inspire people to do more with the things they’re passionate about.”

Today at Apple Director Hashem Bajwa discusses The Chicago Series during a preview of the new Michigan Avenue store.

Taking on a Chicago focus, the courses are also meant to give attendees a chance to network with one another, fostering creative connections within the community.

“We wanted to make sure we were in fusing local knowledge to create his programs,” said Bajwa. “This is in Chicago, of Chicago.”

Bajwa said the local program is launching here because “Chicago is such a thriving city there’s so many new and interesting immersing creative pockets across the city. We wanted to celebrate that and fuel it,” but he hopes more locally designed programs will soon develop in other cities.

The store will also host “Teacher Tuesdays” every week, where employees will show local educators new ways to use technology in classrooms. 

Apple users can also get lessons in new technology, including Augmented Reality, or AR. Announced in an Apple Keynote this summer, the company is exploring ways to use AR to improve gaming, bring children’s books to life, and even help users shop for furniture by visualizing pieces in their own home right on their phone.

According to Apple, all devices at the store will be equipped with AR, and employees will be available to walk users through the new technology. 

The new Apple Store at 401 N. Michigan Ave. will open at 5p.m. on Oct. 20.

For a full list of Chicago Series events, visit 

www.apple.com/today/collection/chicago/

 

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