With a message of optimism, Lightfoot sworn in as mayor

By Jesse Wright | Published on May 20, 2019

On May 20, US District Judge Susan Cox swore in Lori Lightfoot as Chicago’s mayor at a ceremony attended by thousands at the Wintrust Arena.

Lightfoot is the city’s first openly gay and African American female mayor, and the significance was not lost of Lightfoot.

“I can’t help but feel the spirit of the late great mayor, Harold Washington,” she said.  Washington was the city’s first African American mayor and he stepped into office in 1983 and left in 1987. Lightfoot’s mention of Washington drew a standing ovation.

But it was a historic day for others, too, as Lightfoot noted. Besides Lightfoot, Melissa Conyears-Ervin was sworn in as city treasurer and Anna Valencia was sworn in as the city clerk. All are African American women and this is the first time voters elected African American females to all three citywide positions.

The city’s aldermen were also sworn in.

For her first speech as mayor, Lightfoot’s message was an optimistic and firm promise to unite the city, and work for the betterment of those who need help. In addition, she promised to end aldermanic privilege after the inauguration ceremony.

“I’m looking ahead to a city of safe streets and strong schools for every child regardless of neighborhood or zip code,” she said. “A city where people want to grow old and not flee. A city of sanctuary against fear where no one must hide in the shadows. A city that is affordable for families and seniors and where every job pays a living wage. A city of fairness and hope and prosperity for the many, not just for the few, a city that holds equity and inclusion as our guiding principles.”

She made reference to recent anti-abortion laws passed in Alabama, and she promised that Chicago would fight for women’s rights.

“We must stand with women all across our country who fear for their basic rights and feel powerless in the face of the hateful legislation designed to control our bodies, our choices,” she said. “We cannot go back – not in Chicago, not as a nation.  We will join together and we will fight.”

This, too, drew thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

She also looked inward, at the problems within City Hall, an institution plagued by a history of corruption and she promised reform. She told the audience after the inauguration, she would sign an executive order ending aldermanic privilege, a tradition that allows aldermen to pass or block city government actions that could hurt or benefit their wards. Critics have charged the system allows for corruption, favoritism and inconsistent application of ordinances around the city.

“It means this,” she said. “It means ending their unilateral and unchecked control over every single thing that goes on in their wards. Aldermen will have a voice but not a veto. This is the time of for a new era of trust.”

This promise drew some of the loudest, most sustained applause.

Following the ceremony, City Hall hosted an open house for the public.

Lendlease Development, Magellan pre-selling units at Cirrus

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer|May 1, 2019

Lendlease Development, a leading international property and infrastructure group, along with Magellan Development Group, announced in April the start of pre-sales for Cirrus, a 47-story, 363-unit luxury condominium tower at 211 N. Harbor Drive, along Chicago’s lakefront in the Lakeshore East community. Scheduled to begin construction this summer, with first deliveries in fall 2021, Cirrus is part of a three-tower addition that represents one of the final phases of the Lakeshore East master plan.

“With Cirrus, we’ve worked with our partners to carefully design a tower that complements this idyllic site at the prominent juncture of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River,” said Tom Weeks, executive general manager of development at Lendlease in a press release. “In addition to being thoughtfully placed to maximize views of the lake, river, skyline and adjacent Cascade Park – a public green space for the entire neighborhood – Cirrus fills a void in the new-construction condo market with a range of floor plans and price points that presents a unique opportunity for the downtown buyer, especially in such a prominent location.”

Rendering courtesy Lendlease

Buyers can choose from one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom condos, as well as two townhome residences at ground level and 15 penthouse residences – including one duplex – located on floors 42-47. Units will range in size from 650 to over 3,000 square feet and be priced from the mid-$400,000s to over $4 million.

All residences will showcase one of two curated finish palettes with several alternate options available. Nine-foot ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows will highlight the panoramic views.

Cirrus residents will enjoy 48,000 square feet of exclusive amenities. In the lobby, residents will have access to a 24-hour concierge and lounge with an open, circular fireplace. An adjacent outdoor pool overlooking Lake Michigan will include a deck with seating and cabanas. Other amenities include an indoor pool lounge, private workspaces, conference rooms, a social lounge with fireplace, conservatory overlooking the adjacent park, dry-cleaning lockers and a package room. Additional owner amenities will be located on the 41st floor, including a wine cellar with tasting room, separate show and prep kitchens with a dining area and chef’s corner lounge, and an east-facing outdoor terrace with barbecue and fire pit.

Cirrus will share additional amenities with Cascade, an adjacent 37-story, 503-unit apartment tower that will break ground simultaneously and be developed by the same partners. These common areas, which will be located in a shared podium, include a 25-yard indoor lap pool, heat therapy pool and splash pad; children’s playroom; fitness center with adjacent yoga/spin studio, HIIT training area and locker rooms; massage and steam rooms; game room with golf simulator and billiards; screening room; shop space; music room; multi-purpose community room; dog-washing station; and indoor dog run.

Artists renderings of Cirrus Condominium Tower in Lakeshore East. Rendering courtesy Landlease

Door decoration ban sparks confusion


(Published April 1, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Leanne Fox is a mother of two, Ryan, 4 and Ethan, 3 and like most young children, they like to draw and paint.

Fox, a resident in North Harbor Tower, 175 North Harbor Drive, doesn’t know why anyone would object to her sons’ artwork but in March, she said someone did—her building’s management.

Fox said she had been hanging the artwork on the outside of her apartment door as a way to show off her kids’ artistic ability and the most recent piece had been on display since Mother’s Day of last year when she got an email from her building management.

Fox said most of the email concerned maintenance issues at her apartment and was routine. Until the end.

“And by the way,” Fox said, paraphrasing the email, “The apartment across from you is now vacant and my bosses up there were showing it or looking at it and they noticed you had pictures on your front door and you need to take it down.”

Fox has no idea why. She said she’s not seen any written policy on door decoration and other apartment doors are decorated.

“We hung up a wreath for Christmas,” said Adam Birch, a resident in North Harbor Tower.

His brother, Noah Birch, who lives at the Shoreham, said so far as he is aware, the Shoreham does not have a problem with door decorations.

More to the point, after Fox protested the notice on Facebook, two other residents who live in the building responded that they or someone they know posted children’s artwork without any consequence.

Waterton manages the property, but an executive with the property management company declined to offer any statement or provide clarity on any policies. If Waterton does ban all decorations, they may be an outlier in the neighborhood as several nearby residential units allow decorations.

So, Fox is left confused and her door is left without decoration.

“It’s not religious, it’s not political,” she said. “It’s not offensive. It’s just squiggly lines.”

And Ethan, Fox said, is left hurt.

“He asked, ‘what happened to picture? Mommy no like it anymore?’” she said. “It’s heartbreaking.”

While Fox has seen no written rule on the incident, she did say an employee at the building warned her the residence could look bad if everyone decorated their door.

“When I repeated again, why him? Why the target? I was told, ‘Well, imagine if every person was allowed to put art or decor on their door, it’d look like a college dorm,’” Fox wrote in an email. “OK. If that is the thought then why allow some and not others? Why target a 3 year old’s picture? Other families have artwork up on their doors as well. So what’s going on?”

With temporary fix, north Lake Shore Drive open again

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

(Published Feb. 12, 2019)

According to the City of Chicago, the northbound lanes of traffic are now open on Lake Shore Drive.

The lanes were closed mid-day Monday after Chicago Department of Transportation employees noticed two cracked girders on Lake Shore Drive and another cracked girder on a ramp from Wacker to south Lake Shore Drive. The closure lasted just over a day. Since the problem was discovered, CDOT workers worked nonstop to repair the street.

Susan Hofer, a CDOT spokesperson, said the work went well over the 24-hour period.

“We made good progress through the night,” she said in an email Tuesday. “We re-opened The Wacker to southbound Lake Shore Drive ramp last night.”

At an on-site press conference with CDOT Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld, she explained the cracked beams were bolstered with four shoring towers.

“This will allow us to make repairs,” she explained. “We expect permanent repairs will be done over the next several weeks.”

The shoring towers can withstand a total of 300,000 pounds of pressure each.

The total cost of the temporary and permanent fix isn’t yet known.

Hofer added that CDOT is still not sure what exactly led to the cracks, though the polar vortex might have been a factor.

“We think the extreme temp variations might be part of the problem,” she said. “We’re still working on determining the causes. 

CDOT engineers are continuing to inspect other girders throughout the road system for cracks.

Northbound Lake Shore Drive is open

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

According to the City of Chicago, the northbound lanes of traffic are now open on Lake Shore Drive.

The lanes were closed mid-day Monday after Chicago Department of Transportation employees noticed two broken beams on Lake Shore Drive. The closure lasted just over a day.

Since the problem was discovered, CDOT workers worked nonstop to repair the street.

Susan Hofer, a CDOT spokesperson, said the work went well over the 24-hour period.

“We made good progress through the night,” she said in an email Tuesday. “We re-opened The Wacker to southbound Lake Shore Drive ramp last night.”

Hofer added that CDOT is still not sure what exactly led to the cracks, though the polar vortex might have been a factor.

“We think the extreme temp variations might be part of the problem,” she said. “We’re still working on determining the causes. 

CDOT says Lake Shore could be fixed by Tuesday evening rush hour

By Jesse Wright Staff Reporter

Some ramps to Lake Shore Drive are open Tuesday after a Chicago Department of Transportation employees noticed two broken beams on Lake Shore Drive Monday morning.

However, by noon on Tuesday, traffic remained congested as northbound Lake Shore Drive remained closed. Since the problem was discovered just prior to noon, CDOT workers have been working nonstop to repair the street and a CDOT spokesperson said she’s hopeful repairs could open Lake Shore Drive by evening rush hour.

Susan Hofer, a CDOT spokesperson, said the work is going well.

“We made good progress through the night,” she said in an email. “We re-opened The Wacker to southbound Lake Shore Drive ramp last night. The shoring towers under northbound Lake Shore Drive are in place and we are starting to jack them up around (Tuesday morning). The goal is to re-open before the evening rush. However once the road is raised up, it will take additional time to salt and clear ice off the roadway. Safety is the top priority.”

Hofer said updates will continue throughout the day.  


Ida B. Wells honored with downtown street name

Civil rights activist Ida B. Wells was honored Monday morning when city and state leaders officially unveiled new street signs for Ida B. Wells Drive.

The 1.2-mile downtown street was formerly known as Congress Parkway and aldermen Sophia King (Fourth Ward) and Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward) co-sponsored and passed the ordinance to rename the street in July 2018. This is the first downtown street named after an African American woman.

“She was an original boss,” King said. “She spoke truth to power and … changed the landscape of Chicago and the world.”

Wells was born into slavery in 1862 in Mississippi, but it was her pioneering work as a Memphis publisher and journalist where she first gained widespread attention. In 1891 Wells, who was also a public school teacher, began reporting on unequal conditions in black schools. Those articles got her fired from her teaching job.

A year later, in 1892, she began work on a series of articles on lynching that showed the practice, far from being a legitimate form of law enforcement, was a means of terrorizing African Americans to keep them powerless and scared. Her stories used data analysis and extensive investigative techniques that were new in journalism.

The stories so upset white Memphians, a mob burned her offices, destroyed her printing press and forced her to flee the South, though the series got national distribution in black papers. After a speaking tour in Europe, she settled in Chicago where she continued to civil rights work for African Americans and for women’s issues until her death in 1931.

“I believe this honor is long overdue,” said Reilly. “I believe it is wrong that until this day no street in downtown Chicago has ever been named for an African American woman. It’s wrong. But I can’t think of a better or more deserving individual than Ida B. Wells to right that wrong today.”

The mayor and Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton also praised Wells’ legacy and Michelle Duster, a great-granddaughter of Wells, said she hopes the street is an inspiration.

“Ida B. Wells Drive will remind everyone, no matter where they start in life, that it is possible to make their voice heard,” Duster said.

Chaz Ebert, the keynote speaker for the event, said public memorials to people of color are important, especially for children of color.

“As a little girl I used to wonder, did we really matter? As a little girl I had never seen a black fireman or a black nun,” she said. “And I would wonder, did we matter?

“Buckminster Fuller, when he used to greet people who said ‘hello’ to him, he would say, ‘I see you is see you.’ Because we all have a universal need to be seen, to be heard, to be loved and to know that we matter and that the footprint we leave on this earth will be observed by someone. And that’s what’s happening this morning.”

North Lake Shore Drive closed for ’emergency’

Just before noon on Monday, the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communication announced northbound lanes on Lake Shore Drive are closed to Grand Avenue because of a “structural emergency.”

According to the Chicago Department of Transportation, a beam is cracked at an on-ramp and the beam was not repaired in time for Tuesday’s morning traffic

It’s not clear when the beam cracked.

This story will be updated as new details emerge.

Lakefront Trail separation project completed

New Eastside News News BriefsLakefront Trail completed

After three years of work, the Chicago Park District announced in December that the Lakefront Trail renovation project is complete.

For years pedestrians and cyclists complained of confusion, accidents and general crowds along the trail. In 2016, spurred by a $12 million gift from Ken Griffin, Illinois’ richest man according to Forbes, the city began widening the trail and separating it by direction and by use between bicyclists and pedestrians. The trail extends from Ardmore Avenue in the north to 71st Street in the south. The city has not yet completed all landscaping improvements along the trail. While the trail is completed, parts may be closed due to winter weather advisories. Check chicagoparkdistrict.com to see the status of the trail

400 E. Randolph Building increases security

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

After the theft of a classic car in November from the residential building at 400 East Randolph, residents at the January CAPS meeting said that the building’s management has increased its security presence in the garage.

At the meeting, residents of the building and the neighborhood expressed concern to police that not enough is being done to prevent car thefts. The police confirmed that the suspect in the November theft is a repeat offender.

Sergeant Anthony Dombrowski said that since residential garages are private property, it is incumbent on the building owner to take precautions.

Management of 400 E. Randolph did not return calls for comment.

Slalom moves to Aon Center, expands to two floors

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

In January, Slalom, a national business services and technology consulting agency, announced their move from the Prudential Plaza to the Aon Center.

The Seattle-based company that consults in a wide variety of departments, including organizational effectiveness and data analytics, now occupies 65,000 square feet over floors 37 and 38 of the Center. This doubles their previous office space. However, in the last 14 years since the company set up shop in Chicago, steady growth demanded a larger space, general manager Justin Odenbach said in a press release.

“With more than 700 employees now—and plans to grow beyond 1,000 in the next three years—we simply outgrew our previous space,” Odenbach said. “Because we have a local business model, our people live and work in the Chicago area, so staying in the city was key. We were thrilled to find a space that met our criteria for location, growth, flexible use, and culture fit right here in the neighborhood we know and love.”

GEMS holds topping out ceremony for last beam in Upper Builing


By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

The topping out ceremony is an old ritual for new buildings. The ceremony celebrates when the final beam is laid in place and is a milestone for any project. On Nov. 30, the New Eastside’s GEMS World Academy got to hold their own topping out ceremony for their new building.

With the new building, dubbed the Upper School, the private academy can expand class sizes and will serve grades six through 12. The building is located at 355 E. Wacker Drive, behind the main building at 350 East South Water St. and the Upper School means more than just extra space. Students will get a full-sized gym, music practice rooms, new lockers and classrooms dedicated to design courses.

This represents the largest expansion to date for the five-year-old campus. Thomas M. Cangiano, head of the school since July of 2018, said he understands what a big deal the topping out ceremony is for the students and faculty. “All the work is going to be in the interior from now on,” he said. “When the kids left the school last spring (in 2018), they left a hole in the ground. So to see this frame come up so quickly and to see there were already a few floors built, I think it gives the kids a sense of how quickly the building can go up.”

Cangiano said he hopes the Upper Building will wow the neighbors as well. Much of the first floor will feature practice studios for dance and other activities and all the action will be visible to pedestrians through large plate glass windows.

The building will be ready for move in by the fall 2019 semester.

As Chicagoans will be able to look in, Cangiano wants the students to look out, beyond the school and into the heart of the city. The school has a sizeable international student population, but Cangiano has long maintained that the school must prepare international citizens to also be citizens of Chicago. “You can’t really be a true international citizen unless you’re a good local citizen,” he said. “You have to understand the context in which you live and go to school and play and the economics, economic development, transportation, infrastructure and mundane things like revenue and expenses.”

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