Reilly unveils revised designs for Lakeshore East

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

Published August 30, 2018

More green space and three towers are planned for sites IJKL in Lakeshore East.

A year after the initial proposal was unveiled for Lakeshore East development, Alderman Brendan Reilly and developers met Wednesday with the New Eastside Association of Residents for an informal discussion of revisions and updates on the project.

A rendering of planned green space with meandering path on the IJKL lots in Lakeshore East. Rendering courtesy of bKL.

The project will develop land parcels I, J, K and L, located from 197 to 302 North Harbor Drive and from 452 to 500 East Waterside Drive. Representatives of the Lendlease Development Inc. development team and the Lakeshore East LLC development team were present Wednesday evening.

The big takeaway Wednesday was residents can expect to see a larger park area developed and one less tower. Initially the master plan called for four towers, and hotel space. Now the hotel is scrapped in favor of condominium space.

Tom Weeks, a representative for the development team, said he believes the new plan is an improvement.

“I think we have a better plan tonight,” he said. “Had you asked me that a year ago, I would have been skeptical of that. Hopefully you agree, and if not, you can talk to me tonight.”

The plan includes 127 percent more green space and the elimination of a grand staircase, replaced with a meandering path. Developers said the plan is currently about half green space and that should improve pedestrian and bike traffic through the area. The green space will be developed and maintained by private developers but it will be a public park, similar to Lake Shore East Park.

“We wanted it to be universal access. We wanted it to be universal to all,” said Tom Kerwin, an architect from bKL.

For the most part, residents’ concerns and complaints on Wednesday were focused on traffic and safety, both of which Alderman Reilly said the development group would continue to address.

Upon news of the larger green space, several residents complained of drug use and homelessness in nearby parks. Reilly suggested residents call 911 and be willing to make an official complaint if they see illegal activity in parks. The proposed green space will have a camera system and a funnel to direct pedestrians through surveillance areas, he said.

“You’ll be able to get eyes east and west,” Reilly said. “We will know who’s going through the neighborhood.”

Last summer Reilly introduced construction plans to the NEAR group and since then, his office has been receiving feedback.

Reilly has not signed off on the project and Wednesday’s meeting was intended to show how resident feedback has been incorporated into the designs.

“Negotiation have been many, many, many hours long,” Reilly told the audience at the start of the meeting. Those negotiations, Reilly said, stemmed from community concerns.


A rendering of the IJKL development in Lakeshore East. Rendering courtesy of bKL.

“I don’t know if you’ve read, but there’s a story about the municipal race and it’s suggested there’s a habit that I drive developers crazy,” Reilly said. “And while I cringed a little bit, I realized it’s part of doing my job.”

Reilly told the audience he must also work for business interests.

“If we have to say no, I’ve failed in my job because I’ve failed to find the middle ground and move the project forward,” he said.

One objection he would not entertain was that of residents who complained the new development would block views.

“I can’t protect your view,” Reilly told a woman. “That’s not the role of an alderman and that’s not how development works in a big city. If you want me to protect your view, I’m not your guy.”

Another concern involved pedway development. Several residents on Wednesday asked about forcing developers to build an underground pedestrian walkway but Reilly said that wasn’t going to happen.

“I don’t have the jurisdiction to assign a $10 million dollar obligation for a pedway system,” he said.

Following the meeting, Reilly said he thought the discussion went well and while he does not expect to have any more public meetings on the development, his office is still taking resident concerns.

Reilly can be contacted through his website,


Grant Park Advisory Council gets new leadership

By Jesse Wright

Published August 2, 2018

Those hoping to find out why former Grant Park Advisory Council (GPAC) President Bob O’Neill was suspended from the board earlier this year didn’t find out at the recent GPAC meeting, hosted by the Chicago Park District July 10.


A lawyer for the Chicago Park District refused to talk about O’Neill, who was not in attendance, except to say he is threatening a lawsuit. “The party is represented by counsel and they are considering litigation,” said Park District attorney Dorothy Carroll.


GPAC is a public body, consisting of a group of elected officials overseeing the park. The group helps determine infrastructure initiatives and programing in Grant Park. O’Neill told New Eastside News he began serving as president of GPAC around 1998, but Carroll made it clear at the meeting that as far as the Park District is concerned, he is history.


Carroll said GPAC would survive without O’Neill. The Chicago Park District plans to hold public elections to elect a new president and council later this fall. “Bob [O’Neill] isn’t the council. The president is not the council,” she said.


When reached by phone, O’Neill said he isn’t going anywhere just yet and claims the park council is violating the GPAC bylaws by seizing de facto power. He and other GPAC members had already held a meeting July 9 at a South Loop condo, attended by about 30 people. They plan to convene another meeting in early August and to eventually hold their own election.


“I am still the president,” O’Neill insisted in an interview. “They came and said I was removed from GPAC. Well, that violates our bylaws and our guidelines.” O’Neill said the ostensible reasons for his ouster—a lack of insurance for a roller hockey program—were made up. He said he had insurance and offered proof several times to the park district, and alleges they ignored it. O’Neill blames a small group of people who strongly opposed his work as the culprits who caused his suspension, though he did not name them.


O’Neill’s GPAC had at least one defender from another park advisory council. At

the July 10 meeting in the Maggie Daley Fieldhouse, Bob Ziegler, a board member

of the Lincoln Park Advisory Council, also said he believes the Park District ignored

GPAC bylaws. Carroll repeated that the park district had the law on its side. This didn’t satisfy Ziegler, who at one point walked in front of the Park District’s table and tried to address the whole room. “You can’t pick and choose which bylaws you want to follow. You need to follow the process,” he told the room.


Two aldermen who represent the area, Ald. Sophia King (4th) and Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), were present at the meeting and spoke on other topics. Toward the end of the meeting, the Park District authorities announced an election to be held in a few months time. The next meeting is set for September, though an exact date has yet to be determined. It’s not clear who will run for the new GPAC committee.

The local group Keep Grant Green, which is assisting with the election of new officials, accuses O’Neill on its website of ruining the park for locals by allowing the park to host too many big, commercial events which prevent locals from using the park in the way they would like.

One such event is Lollapalooza. O’Neill said he is instrumental in negotiating and supervising reforestation efforts by the organizers of the City’s  revenue-generating music festival, raising questions of whether his suspension would affect the post-festival cleanup.


Chicago Park District spokesperson Jessica Maxey-Faulkner downplayed any relationship between C3, the Lollapalooza promoter and GPAC. “As a good steward of the parks, I believe that C3 has partnered with GPAC on initiatives in the past, but the Advisory Council standing does not impact the permit or operations in any way,” she wrote in an email.


That show will go on, and Grant Park will be cleaned up and restored, GPAC or no GPAC. Anyone who has been to at least two GPAC meetings this year may run for office and vote for a new president and council. Assuming those same constituents show up at the next meeting, they may well be able to vote in a new council and president who align more with the views of Keep Grant Green, the Park District and the aldermen.

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,

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

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,

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


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, or by texting 274637 (CRIMES). CPD will be monitoring Nextdoor infrequently and any other issues or questions should be directed to the CAPS office 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.

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