April News

Chicago Police mission attempts to dial down neighborhood noise

Cracking down on incidents of neighborhood noise on Lower Wacker and Lower Columbus Dr., the Chicago Police Department conducted a “mission” to punish volume-violating motorists over the first weekend in March.

“There were several citations,” an officer reported during a CAPS meeting at 400 E. Randolph on March 13. “I don’t know the exact number, but I heard it was a lot.”     

People at the meeting appeared to welcome the department’s effort, but still offered a handful of their own suggestions for maintaining peace and quiet.

One attendee recommended that the police use heat-measuring devices to identify vehicles with warm engines and then determine if the temperature resulted from illegal activity.

In response, another attendee remarked that it’s not illegal to have a warm engine. He then cited a law in Title 9 of the Chicago Code that has been referenced at previous CAPS meetings.

Unofficially translated, Section 9-76-140 requires all motor vehicles on public roadways to “be equipped with a muffler in good working order” and operated only if the exhaust system is “labeled in accordance” with a federal regulation that specifies “noise emission requirements.”

The officers reiterated their commitment to neighborhood noise reduction and encouraged residents to report alleged violators to the department.

— Daniel Patton

Mezcalina announces remodeling 

In April, Mezcalina restaurant replaced its signage, website and voicemail with messages about a plan to temporarily close and work on a “new look” that will be unveiled during a Grand Opening celebration on Cinco de Mayo.

Explaining that, “we’ve heard great ideas that were shared by (our customers) and our peers,” the popular Benton Place eatery expressed its commitment to “take Mezcalina to the next level” while continuing to offer “delicous and authentic” food.

Further details will be reported on New Eastside News’ website — www.neatside.com — when they become available.

— Daniel Patton

Studio Gang Architects Presents Aqua Shared Space Renovations

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Aqua lobby conversion concept by Studio Gang

Studio Gang Architects presented design concepts for planned interior renovations to common spaces at the Aqua Condominium. The scope comprises the condo lobby, third-floor club rooms, and upstairs corridors.

Unlike the current angular configurations in these areas, the proposal calls for “light, fluid, textural, and translucent,” design elements to match the exterior’s undulating balconies.

Objectives of the project include imparting an open and airy feel to shared spaces; delineating between the condo and apartment lobbies; modifying finishes; and emphasizing verticality.

Hosted by the Aqua’s Board of Directors, the presentation gave owners a chance to see conceptual notions for the renovation at varying levels of architectural involvement and at corresponding price points.

The plans are a starting point for conversation among the building’s constituents and still require Board approval.

— Shanti Nagarkatti

Maggie Daley Park tennis courts open

On April 1, the tennis courts at Maggie Daley Park opened to the public.

Although the courts are available “for walkup use at no charge,” according to the park’s website, permits to reserve courts for three or more dates are also available for the following fees:

  • Monday – Friday 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. — $15 / hour
  • Monday – Friday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. — $20 per hour
  • Saturday – Sunday 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. — $20 per hour

— Daniel Patton

GEMS World Academy students launch newspaper and newscast   

Middle School students at GEMS World Academy launched a newspaper and video newscast in March. Featured coverage includes classroom activities,  “Teacher of the Week,” and creative writing.

Besides presenting the information, students also handle much of the writing, editing and photography behind the scenes.

In related news, GEMS World Academy will host an open house on April 30. For more information, visit www.gemsworldacademy-chicago.com/

— Daniel Patton

New Starbucks to open in Mila Tower 

The street-level retail space in the Mila Tower at 200 N. Michigan recently displayed a sign indicating that a new Starbucks is moving in.

The nationwide coffery appears to be the first retail tenant in the apartment building on the corner of Michigan Ave and Lake St.

Designed by bKL Architecture and Design, the 41-story Mila Tower unveiled floor plans in late 2015 and is expected to begin accepting tenants in the summer of 2016.

— Daniel Patton

Chicago’s 2016 Draft Town will include a Ferris Wheel 

TOWN0003The football-centric village to be temporarily erected in Grant Park as part of Chicago’s Draft Town from April 20 -30 will add a Ferris wheel to its offerings in 2016.

Supporting the city’s role as the official home of the NFL’s 2016 pro draft, the ride will join a midway of team tents and athletic activities that helped draw more than 200,000 fans to the event last year.

The world’s first Ferris wheel debuted at Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition in Hyde Park.

For more information about Draft Town 2016, click here.

— Daniel Patton

Chicago Park District opens registration for summer camp 

Maggie Daley Park will begin registering children ages six to twelve for field trips, explorations, crafts and more in April. The online process opens April 5 at www.chicagoparkdistrict.com. The in-person process opens April 9 at 337 E. Randolph.

The six-week day camp begins on July 5 and runs through August 12. Additional programs begin on June 20 and continue until August 22.

— Daniel Patton

“Floating resort” idea approaches the Chicago shoreline

BREAK001awebBreakwater Chicago’s proposal to anchor a “unique entertainment & hospitality destination” off the shores of Lake Michigan sailed closer to the Windy City when the company released new renderings of the concept in March.

Images of a boardwalk-bordered “party barge” containing semi-futuristic recreational dwellings and a water park were accompanied by messages asking “can you imagine dining and swimming on top of Lake Michigan?” that cruised across several social media channels on the internet.

Launched in 2014, the idea has since generated more than $60,000 from an online Kickstarter campaign.

— Daniel Patton

Temporary parking restrictions for street sweeping take effect

Beginning April 1, several temporary parking restrictions will take effect on streets surrounding the New Eastside as the city beautifies its roadways.

In a memorandum from Alderman Reilly’s office, drivers are reminded to “be mindful of all temporary and permanent street sweeping parking restriction signage.”

Although none of the scheduled maintenance is scheduled for the streets that border Lake Shore East Park, a number of those directly outside the neighborhood will be effected.

For more information, including an interactive map and cleaning schedule, visit www.ward42chicago.com/ or call (312) 642.4242.

— Daniel Patton

Tower occupancy surges in Maggie Daley Park

IMG_9381webThe Lighthouse in Maggie Daley Park appeared to experience a notable increase in tenancy during a weekend of unseasonably warm weather in March.

Nestled within an 8,500 square-foot area known as “The Sea” that also contains a Whale and a scale-model ship, the Lighthouse is equipped with “kid-powered light generation, talking tubes, viewing scopes, and a spiral exit slide,” according to the Maggie Daley Park website.

It is part of an even larger section of Maggie Daley park known as the “Play Garden,” which was specifically designed for kids and is open from 6 a.m to 11 p.m.

— Daniel Patton

March news

GEMS World Academy announces new head of school

Kim Wargo, a 20-year veteran of the independent school world who has led private institutions in Dallas, San Francisco, and New Orleans, will assume the helm of GEMS’ Academy’s Chicago campuses in July, the school announced this month.

Before joining the independent, international educational organization that boasts two Chicago campuses, Ms. Wargo served as Eugene McDermott Headmistress of The Hockaday School, a PK-12 boarding school in Dallas, TX.

According to a press release, she will transition into her new post this month by holding “the first of what is expected to be a series of meetings with GEMS families and teachers.”

She replaces Geoff Jones, GEMS Academy’s founding Head of School, who is retiring. Mr. Jones is credited with being among the visionaries who helped to shape GEMS’ respected reputation.

The GEMS organization educates children aged kindergarten through 12th grade in 83 schools spanning 14 countries.

Lucas Museum may not be built in Chicago

The George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, after announcing plans to locate in Chicago next year, may not be coming to the Windy City after all.

The Friends of the Park — a not-for-profit citizens’ organization with a mission to “preserve, protect, improve and promote the use of parks and open spaces throughout Chicago” — sued the museum last year on grounds that its Chicago intentions do not represent the public interest.

The museum almost immediately filed a motion to dismiss, but it was denied by Chicago U.S. District Judge John last month.

According to some reports, the city of Oakland, located much closer to Lucas’ hometown and production company, is currently preparing a bid for the alleged $700 million dollar institution.

IMG_9165gNeighborhood maintenance

S&J Construction replaced the pin and links that connect the large sections of Upper Wacker Drive north of Columbus Dr. The process required workers to remove the old bolts by melting them with a welding torch.

Early Voting

From now through March 12, residents can participate in early voting for the upcoming March 15 primary in two nearby locations:

· Museum of Broadcast Communications, 360 N. State Street

· Board of Elections, 69 W. Washington Street

March CAPS beat meeting

The next monthly meeting to cover issues within police beats in and around Chicago’s 1st District will take place on March 10 from 7 to 8 p.m. at 400 E. Randolph. The 1st District extends from the Chicago River to 31st Street, and from Lake Michigan to Des Plaines. There are eleven beats within the area including the 14th, which is dedicated to the New Eastside.

Chicago Public Schools cuts jobs

Citing an $85 million budget cut, CPS Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool on February 29 announced that 62 employees, including 17 teachers, were to be laid off.

Although he referred to the move as “painful,” he said it was necessary “to secure fair funding for our students, bring Illinois up from last in the country for education funding and work with Springfield to start treating students in poverty fairly, so our students get the education they deserve.”

— Daniel Patton | Staff Writer

February News

By Daniel Patton | Staff Writer

GEMS Academy preschool program

GEMS World Academy will launch an Early Childhood unit for 3-year-olds beginning next Fall. The full-day, five-days-a-week program will educate young students in the Lower School, where the existing pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes are located. Enrollment is open to children who will turn 3 by December 31, 2016. For more information, contact GEMS admissions office at (312) 809-8910.

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2016 Halloween Parade announced

The Chicago Cultural Mile will host this year’s creative and family-friendly Halloween celebration on October 22, 2016. The event will begin as an afternoon festival from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Sir George Solti Garden in Millennium Park and then transmogrify into a spectacle parade along Columbus Dr. from Balbo St. to Monroe St. The occasion is designed to thrill both kids and adults by celebrating Halloween as an “artist’s holiday” that will include “craft and dance workshops, live performances and a kids’ costume procession.” Participating institutions include the Field Museum and The Art Institute of Chicago; artists and organizations include Louder Than a Bomb and Silent Theatre Company. Visit www.chicagoculturalmile.org for more information.

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1st District issues theft / robbery alert

The Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) issued on January 28 an alert notifying taxicab and uber drivers in the 1st Central District that an increased amount of theft and robbery has been reported during the month of January. The incidents frequently involve perpetrators working in groups, the report notes, on both sides of the vehicle. While a “ruse” distracts the driver (such as someone “handing out flyers”), accomplices on the opposite side of the car “open the front passenger door and take the driver’s phone.” Citizens who wish to report additional information should call the Bureau of Detectives at (312) 747-8384.

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Commissioner of Streets & Sanitation addresses concerns

Charles L. Williams, Commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Streets & Sanitation, toured the New Eastside with resident David Sudler to investigate the neighborhood’s infrastructure on Wednesday, January 28.

“David is an extremely knowledgeable individual,” said the Commissioner, who also reviewed several of Sudler’s photographs of “drainpipes on Wacker Drive that are supposed to be transporting water away from the streets.”

Although he discovered that many of the issues fall under the responsibility of other departments like CDOT, the Commissioner told New Eastside News that “We’re going to connect him to the right department and get the job done.” He also may contact building owners to initiate additional repairs for which they are responsible.

“We try very hard in the city of Chicago to be proactive,” he explained. “But if a citizen sees something, he or she is welcome encourage he or she to reach out to 311.”

Sudler, the neighborhood’s unofficial gardener and builder of the Wacker Drive igloo that created a sensation in January, enthusiastically reported that CDOT had begun repairing some of the drainage pipes within two days.

“They were true to their word,” he said.

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CAPS Wrap

The January CAPS meeting concluded with residents expressing concerns about drag racing on Lower Wacker Drive and marijuana use within high-rise condominiums. Below is a summary of their comments:

  1. · The sound of “cars doing donuts” still emanates from the lower streets despite city efforts to deter the illegal automobile activity;
  2. · The affects of marijuana smoke that seeps into residential hallways is not only illegal but also a health risk.

CPD officers indicated that they can patrol the lower streets more strictly but encouraged residents to contact their building associations about marijuana smoke because the time and expense required to obtain proper search warrants is frequently unavailable.

January News

By Daniel Patton | Staff Writer
SPACER03-01 Neighborhood maintenance

The passageway between the southwest corner of Lake Shore Drive Bridge and the New Eastside received a makeover to increase its appearance and safety. In addition to installing handrails for pedestrians, CDOT removed graffiti and applied a fresh coat of white paint.

Catch basins, manholes, water valves and inlets on East Randolph St. from Stetson Ave. to Field Blvd. were temporarily removed and adjusted to make way for the street resurfacing project completed in December.

The traffic lights at the intersection of Randolph St. and Columbus Dr. were modified to include right-turn arrows that allow automobiles an exclusive time phase to turn southbound and westbound.

Alderman Reilly initiated the change on behalf of residents who expressed concern about the congestion caused by busy pedestrian activity combined with a “no turn on red” sign that made it impossible for any more than “two or three” vehicles to turn during a typical light change, according to Reilly’s office. At his request, CDOT conducted a study and determined that the sign should remain and the light should be modified to include turn arrows.
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Skating ribbon open for the season

The Skating Ribbon in Maggie Daley Park is open every weekday from noon to 8 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Hourly closures for ice resurfacing will occur Monday through Saturday at noon, 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Skate rentals are available up to 30 minutes prior to closing time.
SPACER03-01 Christmas tree recycling in Chicago
Chicago’s Christmas Tree Recycling Program runs until January 17 and includes two drop-off corrals within proximity of the New Eastside:

  1. The intersection of Cannon Dr. and Fullerton Ave. in Lincoln Park;
    2. 900 S. Columbus Dr. in Grant Park.

The partnership between the Chicago Park District and the Chicago Department of Streets & Sanitation helped residents recycle 10,000 trees last Christmas.
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Winter overnight parking ban in effect

Chicago’s winter overnight parking ban is in effect until April 1. Designed to make way for snowplows by preventing and removing automobiles from parking on 107 miles of the city’s “critical arterial streets” between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m., the ban includes a $150 towing fee, a $60 ticket and a $20 daily storage fee for owners of vehicles who violate it, according to Alderman Reilly’s office. Although an online map of priority arterial routes and overnight parking restrictions provided by the Department of Streets & Sanitation does not appear to designate any roadway within the New Eastside as “critical”, neighborhood drivers are nevertheless cautioned to read all signs posted near parking spots before leaving their vehicles.
SPACER03-01 CPS credit rating downgraded … again

The bond rating of the Chicago Public Schools was downgraded from Baa3 to B1, also known as “Junk,” by Moody’s Investment Service on December 21st. With a $5.5 billion outstanding tab compounded by a $480 million budget gap and a partisan fiscal standoff in Springfield, CPS’ creditworthiness may plunge deeper during the next three months. According to Crain’s Chicago, Moody’s cited the school system’s “precarious liquidity position” and “high credit risk” among the factors currently forcing it to remain “under review.”
SPACER03-01 Head sculpture removed from Millennium Park

Jaume Plensa’s Looking Into My Dreams, Awilda — the giant sculpture of a head that has graced Millennium Park since it was installed to honor the park’s 10th anniversary in 2014 — was removed during the first week of the New Year. Presumably, it will continue it’s international tour, but its next location has not been released.

Local neighborhood Target serves beer and wine

By Shanti Nagarkatti | Community Contributor

Filling a basket or cart with groceries and sundries is a key component of any Target run. Relaxing in the store with a glass of wine does not enter into the experience, until now, with the opening of a new, 24,000-square-foot Target Express at 401 E. Illinois Street.

The small format Target, housed in the space formerly occupied by upscale grocer Fox & Obel, features an edited selection of merchandise shoppers often seek on a quick errand run. The new location is Target’s first store to serve alcohol on site, in a Starbucks. Customers can purchase wine and beer at this Starbucks beginning at 2 p.m. on weekdays (Monday-Friday) and 12 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Alcoholic drinks must be consumed only within the café and may not be taken to any other part of the store. The “Starbucks Evenings” menu features wine and craft beers as well as a selection of small plates, with items like bacon-wrapped dates, truffle mac and cheese, flatbreads, and a cheese plate.

Although this Target is scaled down compared to traditional locations, it is a convenient addition to the neighborhood, serving tourists, workers, and condo and apartment dwellers.

A recent Sunday afternoon saw several guests seated in the café, taking in the sun coming through ample windows and enjoying an unobstructed view of the Chicago River. Exposed-brick walls and open rafter ceilings lend industrial chic character to the space and make visitors forget that they are in a shrunken big-box store.

Target’s in-store bar is part of a growing trend of traditionally “dry” retailers testing the waters of allowing their clientele to imbibe. In Chicago, Mariano’s and Whole Foods serve food and alcohol inside their stores. A Taco Bell Cantina in Wicker Park has wine, beer, and boozy freezes on the menu, while the Mag Mile Nordstrom has added to its second floor Habitant, a casual lounge featuring light fare, wine, and handcrafted cocktails. At the 101-year-old Three Arts Club building in the Gold Coast, a new, swanky Restoration Hardware flagship has set up shop, unveiling six floors of furniture and home décor. The store’s Arts Club Café, on the first-floor atrium, includes a coffee shop, wine bar, and restaurant for thirsty and hungry shoppers. These establishments and the prospect of more new entrants promise to promote an interesting local shopping and sipping scene.

Target Express, 401 East Illinois Street, (312) 894-1764, open 7 a.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday.

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