Starbucks Chicago Roastery a coffee wonderland

By Elisa Shoenberger

At 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 15th, Starbucks Chicago Roastery opened as a temple dedicated to all things coffee. Each facet, from the architecture to food offerings, is a celebration of the exalted coffee bean. 

It’s the “best experiential retail you’ll see anywhere,” guest speaker and Crate and Barrel founder Gordon Segal said. The new store honored the former location of the Crate and Barrel flagship that was designed to be an experience for its customers.

Visitors appear to be filled with wonder as they enter the largest Starbucks in the world. Eyes are drawn to the 56-foot golden cask filled with roasted coffee. It soars up several stories with “symphony piping” shooting roasted coffee to the many bars and coffee stations throughout the store. 

“If you want to come in and just look and grab your coffee, that’s fantastic. But if you want to dig down on coffee and learn everything, then we’re here for that too,” said Marc Wanless, Director of Global Operations, Roasteries at Starbucks. 

Throughout the day, employees roast 25 pound batches of coffee beans that are loaded into the giant cask. All coffee roasted, Wanless explained, was exclusive to the Roastery Chicago location.

By following the cask and symphony piping to the upper floors, visitors will find more than the average Starbucks cup of coffee. There is a holiday special, a three-layered “Pistachio bicerin” at Experiential Coffee Bar on the third floor and exclusive Chicago cocktails infused with Starbucks or Teavana flavors at the fourth-floor bar.

There’s even a station dedicated to whiskey barrel aged coffee where green coffee is put into Knob Creek whiskey barrels, Starbucks partner Shiami Ranasinghe said. 

And as a final nod to the process of coffee, the backstairs feature a five story mural of a coffee harvest by Chicago artist Eulojio Ortega.

While this Roastery is devoted to all aspects of coffee, it’s also a celebration of all things Chicago. The location uses local distilleries for the cocktails and works with Chicago-based chocolatier Uzma Sharif to pair her chocolates with coffee.  

There’s a love letter on the fourth floor of the building with the line: “This Roastery honors all of these years of beautiful coffee in this beautiful city. A shrine to coffee, and a celebration of all we have done and will do here together. Thank you, Chicago.”

GPAC members look forward to wintertime in Chicago

By Mat Cohen

Like the people of Chicago, the parks are gearing up for winter.

The preparations were discussed Oct. 16 at Maggie Daley Field House.

The Grant Park Advisory Council (GPAC) discussed revised by laws, an approach for more signage throughout the park, dog-friendly events and physical park updates.

The revised by laws were passed by unanimous vote. 

Maggie Daley Park Supervisor Jackie Guthrie said winter programming will be announced Nov. 18. The lower Hutchinson Field is being re-sodded and a few broken sprinklers will be ready for spring.

Guthrie added the ice rink at Maggie Daley Park this winter will be operated by Rink Management, a change from last year. Rink Management is one of the largest organizations operating ice rinks in the country.

GPAC President Leslie Recht assured meeting attendees the park is moving in the right direction for improvement of the dog-friendly area, including a possible dog agility event in spring. 

Recht said there are too many complaints of people getting confused while finding their way through the park.

“We need to try and work with everybody to get better signage throughout the park to help with people from Chicago and people who are visiting,” she said.

She said the GPAC wants to work with parking garages surrounding the area to incorporate a validation system. 

“It would be a benefit to everyone bringing more people into the park,” Recht said.

The next GPAC meeting will be Nov. 20 at Maggie Daley Field House. There will not be a meeting in December and dates for the 2020 meetings have not yet been announced.

AmazonGo coming to the Prudential Building

By Stephanie Racine and Mat Cohen

AmazonGo is under construction at the Prudential Building on the plaza level, near Lake St. and Stetson Ave., according to the Amazon website. 

It will be the second AmazonGo location in New Eastside, joining its Illinois Center location at 111 E. Wacker Drive. AmazonGo is Amazon’s version of grocery and convenience store shopping. Customers scan in with the AmazonGo app, take what they need from the shelves, and walk out. 

“Our checkout-free shopping experience is made possible by the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning,” the website stated. After Amazon automatically detects what has been taken, the items appear in a virtual cart, and the customer’s account is charged. 

AmazonGo is a popular stop for workers and busy people in New Eastside. “I’m about to get on an airplane so just wanted to stop in quick to grab a bottle of water” said AmazonGo Shopper Bill Meier. Meier has been to the AmazonGo in San Francisco as well, and is a big fan of the convenience. “It’s high tech, futuristic and where things are going,” said Meier. 

“I don’t always have a ton of time in the middle of the work day, or when I’m trying to get home at the end of the day,” said shopper Catherine Phaneuf. For Phaneuf, stopping at AmazonGo is the easiest and fastest way to grab a snack, or a full meal in a hurry. 

Beyond groceries, AmazonGo offers ready-to-make meal kits, which can be cooked for two people in 30 minutes. Local bakery and other artisanal items are also available.

AmazonGo even has organic raw beef or chicken to pick up. “It saves an extra trip to the grocery store if you decide to cook something on a whim last minute,” says Phaneuf. 

For more information about AmazonGo, visit amazon.com or download the AmazonGo app.

Mercy Home Marathon Runners Run for Home

By Stephanie Racine

Mercy Home is a privately funded full-time home for displaced youths that has operated in Chicago since the 1800s. 

In 1887, Reverend Dennis Mahoney put together a plan to refuge homeless young men. Mercy Home’s 1140 W. Jackson Blvd West Loop location still exists as its headquarters. Today, Mercy Home offers comprehensive support for youth in need.

“We provide kids with safety, housing, food, therapy, job opportunities, tutoring, and career guidance 24-7 throughout the year,” said Director of Communications Mark Schmeltzer.

Running the Chicago Marathon as a Mercy Home Hero is a way to support the organization. The Chicago Marathon is set for 8 a.m. Oct. 9.

Mercy Home Heroes can be anyone. Two heroes running this year, Reggie Williams-Rolle and Patrick Zamkin, both former youths at Mercy Home, are running to support their home.

“I’ve made it my life’s mission to do everything I can to make sure that folks know about [Mercy Home]” Zamkin said.

This is Zamkin’s fourth year running the marathon. Despite a number of metal replacements following a motorcycle accident when he was 20, Zamkin is gunning for five Chicago Marathons.

“It gives my orthopedic surgeon fits,” Zamkin said.

Zamkin was dropped off at Mercy Home on his 15th birthday. He said the support he got from the home helped him move forward. He works as a financial advisor after 10 years at the Chicago Board of Trade. 

“You got these guys in your corner. There’s nothing you can’t do,” Zamkin said.

Williams-Rolle is preparing for his first marathon. Training has been difficult, he said, but he’s excited to be giving back to Mercy Home.

“It’s just been a matter of being able to give back in any way that I can because I understand the importance of Mercy Home,” Williams-Rolle said.

Williams-Rolle was at Mercy Home for his final two years of High School. He graduated from St. Ignatius and got his Bachelor’s in Political Science from Emory University. He works in HR and is working on his Master’s Degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology.

Both runners are looking forward to the point in the marathon that passes by Mercy Home at mile 16.

“It’s at the perfect time because you’ll be at that point in the race where it is a little exhausting,” Williams-Rolle said.

“What a boost, seeing my family out there, all the employees, and the kids, they’re really out there rooting for you.” Zamkin said.

Mercy Home invites everyone to join their cheering section on Jackson Blvd. between Aberdeen and Racine.

For more information about Mercy Home, visit their website mercyhome.org.

GPAC Meeting Focuses on Revitalization

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

The Grant Park Advisory Council met at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 21 at the Maggie Daley Field House. The meeting was mostly dedicated to the proposed revitalization of the southwest corner of Grant Park. Other topics included the dog-friendly area of Grant Park, by-law updates, and adding instructors at Maggie Daley Park.

Ernie Wong from Site Design Group, presented his vision for an overhaul of the southwest corner of Grant Park, located at Roosevelt and Michigan Ave. The location is currently home to the Agora art installation by Magdalena Abakanowicz. The art would not be affected by any changes to the surrounding area.

Wong focused on keeping the area connected to its historical roots, while creating more accessibility through updates.

The changes would have “more connection to nature,” Wong said. The new design includes naturalistic plantings, water installations, and soft materials used. 

Attendees liked the design, but wondered if it was too contemporary, or took away green space from the park. Wong assured he was willing to work with GPAC on their feedback and that his presentation was only a preliminary discussion.

Pam Foscia, the Dog-Friendly Committee President, suggested more funding to fix the infrastructure of the dog-friendly area of Grant Park. The dog-friendly area of Grant Park, located between 9th and Balbo, needs updating. It was added to the park thirteen years ago and has since become dilapidated. There is a lack of lighting, and visitors often feel unsafe in the area, she said.

Communities are built by people who own dogs,” Foscia said. The updating of the dog park would not only be for the dogs, but for the owners as well.

GPAC President Leslie Recht assured meeting-goers that she and other members of the committee were lobbying the Park District about funding for a variety of improvements. The lobbying will also include asking for more instructors to teach fitness classes at Maggie Daley, as more classes are a common request of the park.

Meetings will be held on the third Wednesday of each month (except December) at 6:30 p.m. in the Maggie Daley Field House. The next meeting will be Sept. 18.

Shedd welcomes new whale

(Published July 31, 2019)

The Shedd Aquarium announced Mauyak (MY-yak), a 38-year-old beluga whale, gave birth to a healthy calf on July 3. The entire birth, from the emergence of the baby’s flukes to complete delivery, took 33 minutes. Both mother and calf are progressing well and will remain under 24-hour observation by Shedd’s animal care team for several months. 

Shortly after the birth, the calf swam to the surface and took its first breath, assisted and supported by an attentive Mauyak. The two then began to swim together and bond as Mauyak guided the new arrival around its home. The sex of the calf has yet to be determined. Animal care staff members estimate the calf to be approximately five feet long and weigh about 150 pounds.

Primark fashion opens first Midwest store in Chicago 

Primark is planning to bring its “Amazing Fashion at Amazing Prices” to the Midwest for the first time. 

International retailer Primark in July announced it will open its first store in the Midwest in Chicago. Primark has signed a lease with The Georgetown Company for 35 N. State St., the largest lease on State Street since 2014. 

The company has not announced an opening date yet. The location is a former GAP store. 

Primark will take over the entire 45,000-square-foot building and trade from 36,200 square feet of retail space over three levels. Before an opening date is announced the iconic property is undergoing a complete renovation tailored to fit Primark’s specific needs, including modernization of the exterior and complete interior remodeling. 

Located at the intersection of State and Washington Streets, the location is home to an eclectic mix of restaurants, entertainment options, cultural institutions and world- famous landmarks. The neighborhood has long been known as one of the top shopping destinations in the United States.

“Primark has been searching for a Midwest location as part of the company’s continued expansion into the United States,” said Tom Meager, Property Director for Primark. “We are fortunate to have found and secured such an impressive location in the heart of the vibrant Chicago market.”

“We recognized an amazing opportunity with the State Street corridor as one of the most sought after retail destinations in the country,” said Adam Flatto from Georgetown. “As one of the fastest growing retailers in the United States, Primark is a perfect fit for the building and will be a welcome addition to a popular list of neighboring businesses in the Loop.” 

Founded in 1969, Primark is a leading fashion retailer headquartered in Ireland. Primark offers a diverse range of the latest trends in women’s, men’s and children’s wear, homeware, accessories and beauty products.

Chicago police report string of thefts in Michigan Ave. stores

According to a warning police issued in July, several groups of young people are targeting Michigan Ave. retail stores for thefts. 

The thefts began in early June, spanned through early July, and were committed in stores in the 400 block of Michigan Ave. According to a news release, in each incident, multiple offenders entered retail stores, loaded merchandise into bags, and exited the store. The offenders fled on foot. In all eight incidents, the thieves worked in the afternoon or evening and the thefts occurred on weekends and on weekdays. 

The police have made no arrests, though the suspects include one-to-six African American adults, ages 18-25 and one-to-three African American women, ages unknown.  

Chicago police urge store owners to keep records of property serial numbers and call police immediately if they are victims of theft and to give officers good descriptions of the thieves. 

Woman sexually assaulted following theft on Randolph Street

A woman had her phone snatched and was then sexually assaulted on Randolph St. between 3 and 3:40 a.m. on July 9.

According to Chicago police, a 27-year-old female was waiting at a Red Line platform at State and Lake when an unknown black male took her phone and started running. 

She chased him down the street and eventually to the 100 block of East Randolph at which point the offender ran into an underground parking garage stairwell. The victim followed and the offender sexually assaulted the victim in the stairwell, and then fled on foot.

No one is in custody, though police describe the suspect as black man, 25-35 years old, wearing long black dreads and, at the time, a red or black hat, a black t-shirt, black pants, black shoes and a dark, multi colored backpack.The victim was transported to Northwestern in stable condition. 

Police are investigating the incident and meanwhile urge residents to remain aware of their surroundings and if confronted by an assailant to remain calm and never pursue a fleeing assailant. 

Carr Workplaces raising funds for education

Carr Workplaces, 200 E Randolph St. 5100, a New Eastside short-term shared workspace, is raising money to help disadvantaged students. 

According to a news release, Oliver Carr Jr., founder of Carr Workplaces, has long sought to address poverty through education. In 2012, Carr created Rising Stars, a private foundation that raises money for schools who provide superior education to children with difficult backgrounds. 

The company’s annual backpack drive raises funds for Rising Stars and all donations are donated to schools to help cover the cost of tuition for a child of limited means.

Through August, anyone can donate to risingstars.org to help pay for someone’s education. 

Three people assaulted on Washington St. 

According to the Chicago Police Department, two people were stabbed and another person was hit July 6 at 11:25 in the 100 block of E. Washington St. 

According to a police report, one black man and one black woman approached three victims, talked with them and then stabbed two and hit the other person. The offenders then ran off. 

The police are seeking the public’s help in identifying the attackers. The male is about 6-foot or 6-foot-one-inch tall and has dreads while the female wears her hair in a braid. 

If anyone is a victim, police recommend calling 911 immediately and if anyone has information about this incident they should call the bureau of detectives at 312-747-8380.

Cirrus releases new interior renderings, expects to break ground in Sept. 

In late July, Cirrus developers began to stage the construction site for the proposed 47-story condo unit. This included installing barricades and fencing, though the groundbreaking is not scheduled until September. 

At present, pedestrian traffic will be diverted, though the project will not yet impact vehicular traffic. 

Even so, LendLease, one of the developers, released some new interior renderings showcasing the views from several of the planned 363 units. 

The units will range from 650 to 3,000 square feet and will be priced anywhere from $400,000 to $4 million and will include one-to-four bedroom plans and two townhome residences at ground level and 15 penthouse units on the top floors. 

Pre-sale for the 211 N. Harbor Drive units started in April, and according to LendLease, sales have been healthy. The Cirrus development will later be joined by two other units. All three buildings are designed by New Eastside’s bKL Architecture.

City council passes stricter drag racing, drifting penalties 

In the last week of July, the Chicago City Council passed Alderman Brendan Reilly’s drag racing and drifting ordinance, which will increase the fines for drag racing and drifting to at least $5,000 to no more than $10,000 per offense.

The ordinance also establishes a $500 fine for operating a motor vehicle with an altered muffler within the City of Chicago. 

Reilly has been working with the Chicago Police Department and the Chicago Department of Transportation to combat the issue of dangerous drag racing and drifting on Lower Wacker Drive.

According to a press release, Reilly believes that his new ordinance will help deter drivers from partaking in this illegal behavior, and will assist the Chicago Police Department in combating this issue. 

The ordinance will take effect on Sept. 28.

Grant Park Music Festival to close with Mahler’s ‘Resurrection Symphony’

The 85th season of the Grant Park Music Festival, led by conductor Carlos Kalmar with chorus director Christopher Bell, concludes in Aug. 17 at Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion. The season closes with Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, featuring the award-winning Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus with guest soloists.

Until then, all concerts take place on Wednesday and Friday evenings at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. Concerts on Aug. 2 and 3 move indoors to the Harris Theater during Lollapolooza. The complete Grant Park Music Festival schedule is available at gpmf.org.

Kalmar conducts the final weeks of the festival beginning with Mozart’s Prague Symphony (Aug. 2-3) featuring violin soloist Vadim Gluzman in a performance of Bernstein’s Serenade.

The Grant Park Orchestra returns to the Pritzker Pavilion with The Mambo Kings, known for their explosive blend of Afro-Cuban rhythms and jazz improvisation, for Hot Latin Nights (Aug. 7). The week concludes with the rarely performed A Mass of Life (Aug. 9-10) by Frederick Delius featuring soprano Melody Moore, mezzo-soprano Ewa Plonka, tenor Andrew Staples, and bass-baritone Nathan Berg.  

The final week at the Grant Park Music Festival includes Rimsky-Korsakov’s famed Flight of the Bumblebee, Aug. 14, from his opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan, Amy Beach’s Variations on a Balkan Theme, and Morton Gould’s Cowboy Rhapsody.

Patrons can order one night member passes for reserved seats, starting at $26, by calling 312.742.7647 or going online gpmf.org. and select a seat down front in the member section of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Membership support helps to keep the Festival free for all. For every Grant Park Music Festival concert, there are seats that are free and open to the public in Millennium Park’s Seating Bowl and on the Great Lawn, available on a first-come, first-served basis.

CPD: Woman sexually assaulted following theft on Randolph Street

(Published July 9, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

A woman had her phone snatched and was sexually assaulted on Randolph Street between 3 and 3:40 a.m. July 9.

According to Chicago police, a 27-year-old female was waiting at a Red Line platform at State and Lake when an unknown black male took her phone and started running. 

She chased him into the street and eventually to the 100 block of East Randolph, at which point the offender sexually assaulted the victim, police said. The offender fled the scene.

No one is in custody, police said. The victim was transported to Northwestern in stable condition. Area Central detectives are investigating.

Chicago PD: New Eastside June festivals go off without incident

(Published June 30, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Chicago police officers gave New Eastside residents some good news at the monthly CAPS meeting.

Police sergeant Anthony Dombrowski reported June events,  Blues Festival and Gospel Festival, saw few problems, despite drawing large crowds to Millennium Park.

“Things went pretty well in those two events. We had challenges last weekend because there wasn’t just the Blues Festival, there was also a Formula One event at Soldier Field,” Dombrowski said.

In addition, he said the police continue to crack down on people who trespass at Vista Tower. The tower is nearing completion, and Dombrowski said the Vista, which will be one of the tallest buildings in the city, continues to draw explorers.

“We had some incidents at the Wanda Tower” he said, referring to the project by its former name. “We’ve had some young rascals that want to challenge the height of the building. We’ve had people parasail off the building, successfully.”

He said police are arresting people who trespass on the property.

“We had two guys who were intoxicated and decided to climb up the tower,” Dombrowski said. “People in the community started Facebooking this live on their community pages. They did it during the day where it was pretty obvious they were doing it. We arrested both gentlemen who are suburbanites.”

With warmer months, police are also seeing an uptick in drag racing on Lower Wacker Drive. Historically the phenomenon has been a problem and Dombrowski admitted the perpetrators are a challenge for police.

“Frankly, we’re overwhelmed,” he said. “It’s hundreds and hundreds and it’s not the same group every weekend, its different car clubs.”

The drag racing is dangerous for the drivers and for other drivers and it creates noise issues, but Dombrowski said the police have a new strategy to stop the problem before it starts. He told residents that many of the drivers meet in private parking lots prior to drag racing and, if the businesses are closed when they meet, Chicago police are arresting drivers for trespassing. In early June, officers made nine arrests.

“Hopefully it sends a message,” he said. “These aren’t bad kids. These are kids who are into cars and they want to live that lifestyle.”

Dombrowski reminded residents to report any crimes they see or hear. He pointed to some gang graffiti recently removed due to quick reporting from a New Eastside resident.

“If you do see graffiti,” Dombrowski said, “if you can take a picture of it and send it to the alderman’s office and send it to our office and we’ll get rid of it.”

The next CAPS meeting is 6:30 p.m. July 8 at 400 E. Randolph St.

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.

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