Mister Rogers documentary to air on PBS in February

Staff reports

(Published Jan. 16)

Fans of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood will get a treat Feb. 9.

That Saturday, WTTW11, Chicago’s public broadcasting station, will air “Won’t you be my Neighbor,” a hit documentary film about Fred Rogers, the host of the hit childrens television show.

The film highlights Rogers’ pioneering contributions to public television and children’s programming, namely promoting kindness and tolerance. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year and has been nominated for numerous awards.

 The show aired on PBS stations around the country for decades and generations of adults watched the show as kids.

Old is OK in Skyline Village Chicago

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

At 76, Phyllis Mitzen is — in her words — an old woman. Others might use words such as elderly or mature but Mitzen does not.

Old is OK, she says, and so is aging, provided people have the right resources and this is where Skyline Village Chicago comes in.

As president of Skyline Village Chicago, an organization for older adults, Mitzen spends a lot of time thinking about aging. According to Village to Village Network, the concept of a “Virtual Village” is simple—an organization for older adults that provides access to services, fosters community relationships and does “anything [its] members need to age safely and successfully in their own homes.”

The Village model began in Boston over 15 years ago and has been spreading since. These organizations not only connect to other villages, but also connect members to each other.

Skyline Village Chicago is open to residents of Streeterville, the Gold Coast, River North and New Eastside. Mitzen said other villages in the Chicago area focus on providing access to services and transportation, the neighborhoods that Skyline Village covers tend to be “resource-rich,” meaning they have resources for the elderly.

Because of this, the Village focuses on socialization, so neighbors can get to know each other, Mitzen said. Through Skyline Village’s newsletter, residents find out about local news, event dates and life updates from members.

Mitzen’s favorite village event is the Women’s Salon, which meets monthly to talk about “what it means to grow old in our society.” She said it’s not a therapy group, but a place to share information, talk about ageism and come to an “active understanding of our aging selves.”

The village also has an advocacy group, Mitzen said, which advocates for senior issues. For instance, the group is working with the park district to discuss installing equipment for all ages in the city’s playgrounds, Mitzen said.

She added that “owning old” is something that comes up often in the Women’s Salon and something she tries to do every day.

“There are frailties, and people do become disabled when they grow older, but it shouldn’t mean that their voices aren’t as strong,” she said. “I’m happy to be able to do what I’m doing at age 76, and if I can’t do it when I’m age 80, I’ll still be an old woman who deserves respect.”

The top Chicago openings for 2019

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

The New Year will bring new developments to the city. Here are the top new developments residents can look forward to this year.

Hotels

1.     Actor and New York developer Robert DeNiro is coming to Chicago. DeNiro’s development team is opening the Nobu Hotel in December 2019 along Restaurant Row. In addition to luxury hotel rooms, the property will boast a street level Japanese restaurant and a rooftop lounge.

2.     The Hotel Essex has been working on its Michigan Avenue property for a while now, and it’s expected to open in May of 2019. Located at 800 S. Michigan Ave., across from Grant Park, the hotel will be in the heart of the city and offer 254 rooms.

4.     The Hilton brand will open another Homewood Suites in downtown Chicago in May. This one will be across from Grant Park at 1101 S. Wabash Ave., within easy walking distance to the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium.

Restaurants

1.     Some of the top names in Korean food are coming to the city. Dave Park and Jennifer Tran operated Hanbun in Westmont until early 2018, and now they’re looking to open Jeong at 1460 W. Chicago Ave. Park offers a modern take on Korean food in a fine-dining space, and Jeong will hold about 40 people.

2. James Beard Award-winning chef Zach Engel’s Israeli restaurant Galit is nothing if not ambitious. Engel will serve up the usual pita and hummus, but he will also feature Midwestern produce to combine the familiar with the foreign against a formal dining background. Galit will open in Lincoln Park at 2429 N. Lincoln Ave.

Residencies

1.   New for the New Eastside, the Vista Tower project is expected to wrap up this year. At 1,191 feet, the tower has 101 floors and at floor 47, there is an outdoor pool, a reservable kitchen and a wine-tasting room.

2.    Nema, at 1200 S. Indiana Ave., will be completed this year. The building will offer 76 floors and 800 units and stands 887 feet tall and the luxury apartments are sure to make a mark on the South Loop.

3.    In Streeterville, the One Bennett Park building at 514 N Peshtigo Court is already open, but on the top floors of the luxury apartments, the work continues. However, the 70-story building will be completed in 2019 after the final condominiums are finished.

New Eastside doorperson of the month, Gail Rogers

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

Gail Rogers is the doorperson at the Park Millennium building at 222 N. Columbus Drive in the New Eastside.

But she’s more than a doorperson.

When she is not helping residents, Rogers said she enjoys bowling. “I’m a bowler and I’ve been doing it for years,” she said.

Rogers said on a good night she can get to 150 or 165, but no matter what her score, she said just being on the lanes is stress free. “I started bowling when I was 17,” Rogers said. “I liked it because I was able to do it. I could actually bowl. I had never did it before and my family said, ‘well, come on try it.’”

She’s also an avid pool player.

“I love it,” she said. “My two favorite sports are bowling and shooting pool.”

When she’s not bowling or shooting pool though, Rogers is at work. She has been at her current residency since 2005. The Park Millennium building is a high-traffic area, so much so that Rogers said it’s probably one of the busiest condos in the downtown area.

Besides liking people, Rogers said a good door person has to be patient because all those people have individual personalities and needs. “You definitely have got to be patient, and you got to like what you do,” she said. Rogers said doorpeople who don’t love the job typically leave the work because dealing with people can be tough. “You got to love people and constant interaction,” she said. “You really do. And then everyone is happy and they smile a lot.”

Not every interaction begins with a smile. Rogers said sometimes people can be in a bad mood or they can be frustrated, and those moods aren’t overcome with a smile. For that, she said, a good doorperson should use their ear. “I listen a lot. I am a very good listener,” Rogers said. “A lot of people come at you and they’re very angry and a lot of times you just have to listen. If they vent, you’re able to help them even more, but just be patient with them. Let them vent.”

Rogers is a born-and-raised Chicagoan and, while she currently lives in the suburbs, she said she has an affinity for working in the downtown area.

“This area here is so convenient,” she said. “I take the Metra (to work). And we have a pedway system, so I can go to the pedway system and get on the Metra and I don’t have to go outside. I think that’s great this time of year.”

To nominate your favorite doorperson, email info@neweastsidecommunity.com with the door person’s name and why you think they should be the doorperson of the month. Each winner will receive a $25 gift card to Mariano’s.

Streeterville activism might make Chicago a little quieter in 2019

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

The New Year—and every year thereafter—should be a bit quieter for Chicago residents due to a noise ordinance that goes into effect Jan. 1.

In August 2018, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law a noise ordinance allowing ambulance drivers to use their sirens only when necessary to warn pedestrians and drivers or in the case of medical emergencies. The law only applies to Illinois cities with populations greater than one million, so it applies in no other cities outside Chicago.

Before the new law went into effect, ambulances drivers were required to use sirens on the way to and from calls, regardless of traffic or pedestrians or whether it was a medical emergency. The law passed because of the efforts of Streeterville residents and Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago), who sponsored the bill.

The representative said the law is a win for residents. “This bill is a critical measure addressing quality of life and safety for downtown residents, where excessive siren noise can cause erratic driving patterns and permanent hearing loss,” Mitchell said in an email. “The new law allows first responders the discretion to turn off their sirens on occasions when the patient or situation has stabilized.”

Residents, too, are excited. Debby Gershbein, president of the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents, said the law is the result of SOAR activism. While she praised Northwestern as a world-class medical institution and for a time the only level-one trauma center in Chicago, she said the medical facility also led to a lot of noise. “The ambulance drivers were putting their sirens on even if it wasn’t an emergency and we decided we really had to do something about it,” she said. “We worked with the government and the fire department, and SOAR did surveys with other neighborhoods, and we found that the number one problem with noise for residents was sirens.”

Gershbein said the problem was near constant. “This is a quality of life issue where people were being interrupted 24 hours a day with the siren noise,” she said. “I think we’ve come to a good solution with the new law.”

Gershbein praised Mitchell as well as neighborhood aldermen Brian Hopkins and Brendan Reilly for their support. She said noise is more than a nuisance, and excessive noise can damage health.“There are physical impacts that occur when you’re exposed to loud sirens all the time. It wakes people up, and disturbed sleep is a really big health problem,” she said.

Gershbein said the SOAR group will continue to work for quality of life improvements, such as an ongoing greening effort, to improve the health of trees in the neighborhood. “In an urban environment it’s important to make sure we have as many trees as possible,” she said.

For more information, visit the group at soarchicago.org.

Chicago in winter is hot, hot, hot for tourists

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

Winter in Chicago means one thing—cold. Chicago might not be Miami, but Chicago gets visitors even in the depths of winter.

The reasons are as varied as the visitors. Some come for conferences and others come for vacation, but one no matter what, the city seeks to welcome all winter tourists with warm smiles and plenty to do.

“People think of the city as being very cold and unfriendly, but actually the weather in Chicago can be great in the winter time, and there are great things to do,” Erik Grazetti, director of sales and marketing at the Loews Chicago Hotel, 455 N. Park Drive.

He explained that the city has done a good job of marketing itself as a destination for people in surrounding states who want to break out of winter’s “cabin fever” by offering a variety of activities like the Chicago Auto Show, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, sporting events and concerts.

Colleen Sweitzer, marketing manager at the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park, said in addition to events for the holidays, so much of Chicago’s culture involves “great indoor fun,” including museum exhibits, theater and music.

Once visitors do get there, there will always be a personal, smiling face at the ready. No matter what the reason or the season, Choose Chicago, the official marketing organization for the city, said their Chicago Greeter program pairs volunteer city greeters with individuals who may want a local to show them around.

The service is available all year long, except on major holidays and it could come in handy for those visitors who come to the city at the last minute and don’t have a set itinerary. This sort of a visit is more common in the winter time than some might expect. “Seventy or 80 percent of our business on the [winter] weekends comes from within about a four hour drive of the hotel,” Grazetti said. Local travelers, he said, can plan a trip more last-minute than someone who wants to plan a five or six-day trip. “Those types of people tend to go to the warm-weather destinations.”

“In the Midwest, we kind of hunker down, so a trip to Chicago is a nice change of pace and a fun getaway in the winter rather than hibernating until spring,” Sweitzer said. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts is based in Canada, and Sweitzer said the hotel sees many Canadian tourists in the winter as well.

“We’re warm here compared to a lot of places in Canada in the winter,” she said.

Still, fewer people are staying at Chicago hotels in the winter. Grazetti said from January to mid-March, the Loews sees a 60 percent room occupancy rate, compared to a 90 percent average during the warmer months. That’s good news for winter travelers as fewer people in the hotels means generally cheaper rooms. Grazetti added, however, that occupancy is up, even in the winter time, compared with eight or nine years ago.

Grazetti praised Choose Chicago, which has “done a really good job, particularly I’d say over the last five years or so, in really promoting Chicago as a winter destination, and we’ve definitely seen the impact of that,” he said.

Besides discounts and cabin fever, there’s something else that brings people to Chicago in the winter: conventions. Grazetti called Chicago a “conference town.”

“The hotel market in the city really kind of thrives on the convention business that is brought into McCormick place and some of the larger venues here,” he said.

Grazetti said conventions bring in about 1.2 million people per year, with about 15 percent of those people during the winter months. Despite lower hotel prices, organizations tend to avoid booking conferences in colder months when bad weather could shut down an airport, he said.

The American Student Dental Association took that risk and held its national leadership conference in Chicago in mid-November. Tatum Newbill, Matthew McLeod and Chantol Peterkin, dental students from Howard University in Washington, D.C. attended the conference.

Peterkin said she had been to Chicago during the winter and wasn’t worried about the weather. “If you have the time now, why not?” she said.

McLeod said the students discussed preparing for the weather the week before the conference. “I’m wearing layers right now,” he said. “I hear it’s nicer in the summer.”

Other winter conferences this year included the Radiological Society of North America’s (RSNA) which attracted tens of thousands of guests and the Muslim American Society’s annual national convention at the end of December, hosted about 12,000 attendees. Both conferences were set for McCormick Place.

Bob and Gretchen Montgomery, along with four travel companions, made the trek to Chicago from Dallas and Denver and were taking photos in Millennium Park on a snowy November day.


“We love Chicago,” Bob Montgomery said, adding the group had come to celebrate a birthday and an anniversary and to see Hamilton.

The weather in Chicago, they said, wasn’t much different from the weather in their home cities. “Weather shouldn’t be a hindrance to going somewhere, to have fun,” Gretchen Montgomery said.

To find out more about the Chicago Greeter program, call (312) 945-4231 or visit their website at www.chicagogreeter.com or visit the Choose Chicago website at www.choosechicago.com

It’s a new year – Is the time right for a second home?

By Urban Real Estate

Each year, we set out a list of resolutions and goals — things to achieve in the new year — but some goals are more important than others.

One important goal is understanding what your real estate aims are and deciding where you want to go and how you want to get there.

“The beginning of the new year is the ideal time to map out your short and long-term real estate dreams,” says Michael Emery, senior partner, Urban Real Estate. “Buying a second home is both rewarding and can generate revenue until you are ready to enjoy it. Think about recreational climates, cities where the opportunity of short-term rental services are welcome and where they make sense.”

According to the National Association of Realtors, 45 percent of investment buyers bought their investment property to generate income through renting the property. Of those surveyed, 24 percent of those with investment properties rented the property in 2017 as a short-term rental.

Urban Real Estate agents work with clients and help them consider not only their investment buying options in Chicago but in other cities as well. Whether a buyer is considering cottages in Michigan, homes on golf courses in Florida or a chalet in Vail, being able to set yourself up for making that dream a reality doesn’t need to seem out of reach.

“We have a network of brokers across the country we work with to help identify just what might work for you, and the lifestyle markers you hope to realize with its immediate purchase,” Emery says.

Jumbo loan products paired with ways to generate income for the investor can make the dream of second-home ownership a more attainable reality. “Vacation rental services can help you cover many of the costs related to a turn-key or fixer-upper purchase in an attractive community which welcomes short-term rentals. The key is working with a trusted broker to help you identify property that is valuable and worth the investment if the home isn’t one you’ll be using often for yourself,” adds Emery.

Explore your second home dreams with the Urban Real Estate team of brokers. Contact us at (312) 528-9200 for your second-home or other real estate needs.

A Starbucks roastery could could offer a better brew of retail on Mag Mile


By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

On Michigan Avenue, the old cliché is true: the only constant is change.

As online stores continue to hurt brick and mortar retailers, churn on Mag Mile is near constant, with Tommy Bahama and Forever 21 being only the most recent announced closings.

In December, the Chicago Architecture Center hosted an evening conversation with a panel of Chicago retail experts to discuss the continuing promise of the Magnificent Mile and how, even in a virtual world, creativity could save the day—and the bottom line—of brick and mortar stores.

Much of the conversation centered on Starbucks’ plan to this year transform the old four-story Crate and Barrel store into a massive roastery, a high-end coffee space that is poised to be a café with major cache. It’s a gamble designers hope will pay off with a new type of store that’s as much an experience as it is a selling space.

“Things change, nothing is permanent, and if something is genuinely out of place on this street it will get replaced,” explained David Stone, a landlord and tenant representative in the downtown area.

Stone said the whole of the street reflects changing trends—and that’s a good thing, as it keeps the area relevant and vital. One trend, Stone said, is windows. Over the last few decades, more retailers have transformed building facades with windows, giving the shopping district a more open, airy feel.

One building that typifies this is the Crate and Barrel outlet.

After 27 years, the retailer shuttered its Michigan Avenue flagship store in January 2018. Still, whatever retail trends ended a home décor store haven’t touched the aesthetic appeal of the store’s face—a massive, bright and open façade featuring more windows than brick and mortar.

Jay Longo, principal designer at the firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz, said the new roastery on Michigan Avenue will be as daring as a four-story, glass-paneled home décor store was in 1990. He expects it will keep the area relevant to a new generation of shoppers who are as prone to shop online as they are in any brick and mortar space.

Longo pointed out that the Crate and Barrel store’s design on Michigan Avenue was unique in 1990, and that is still an asset.

“It set a lot of trends that other buildings on Michigan Avenue have followed,” he said.  

He pointed out it’s not a virtual space; it is a space for people, and that means it’s a space for experiences. Longo said a roastery is a manufacturing facility as much as a café, and the combination is an experience shoppers can’t get anywhere else.

“The idea that brick and mortar is more of an experience than simply retail is definitely what the roastery is all about,” he said.

“Retailers are trying to build brand loyalty and that’s hard to do in cyberspace,” Stone said. “That’s the biggest attraction to brick and mortar.”

Program moderator Cheryl Durst, executive vice-president and CEO of the International Interior Design Association, put it in simple terms. No matter the age and no matter the trends, humans want to be wowed.

“Human beings need to be captivated,” she said.

Season of the soup: Local chefs give up the secrets of the best broth

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

Cold months call for warm meals, and a bowl of hot soup fits the bill. Takeout soups can be cumbersome and can come with unhealthy amounts of sodium, heavy fats and starches, but when soup is made at home, it can be healthy—and be perfectly delicious. Local professional and amateur chefs shared their tips for a delectable—and healthy—homemade soup.

Karl Bader of Karl’s Kraft Soups focuses on vegan and vegetarian soups. When Bader makes his vegetable stock—the base of many of his soups—he roasts his vegetables first in the oven at a high heat. “I blast them at around 550 degrees, then I throw them into the pot with water,” Bader said.

Roasting them at such a high heat makes the vegetables delicate, so he only keeps the stock on the stove for about a half hour. “I generally wait until the very end to season things with salt,” he said.

Adding salt over time is unnecessary for flavor, and makes the soup more unhealthy, according to Bader. Other herbs go in at the end of the process, but that mainly comes down to flavor. “If you cook fresh herbs a long time, they just completely lose their punch and vitality,” he said. Bader recommends using potatoes as a thickener in lieu of flour or cream.

New Eastside resident Sue Carrel also uses this method, and recommends adding raw cashews. Carrel suggests blending cooked veggies in a broth, cashews and a pre-cooked potato in a blender. “Heat and you have a delicious cream soup,” she said.

Streeterville resident Kitty Kurth adds whatever frozen vegetables are on hand to her soup bases. She recommends adding chopped kale or spinach to soups like split pea, for an extra serving of vegetables. “After I strain the broth, the boiled down veggie scraps go into the compost,” she said.

Karl’s Kraft Soups are available at the SOAR Farmer’s Market in Streeterville in the summer. In the winter, his soups are available at any Foxtrot Market. He is also at the Indoor Hyde Park Farmer’s Market on Saturdays and at Logan Square on Sundays.
For more information, visit karlscraftsoup.com

Best places to stay active inside

By Angela Gagnon, Staff Writer

During the cold, dark winter months, it can be easy to stay sedentary. Getting motivated to move outdoors requires lots of clothes and a tolerance for low temperatures. Never fear—plenty of businesses specialize in indoor activities, offering a variety of opportunities for fitness.  

Ice skating

The McFetridge Sports Center, 3843 N. California Ave., offers indoor ice skating, tennis and yoga. Open skate costs $5 per person during select hours and tennis costs $25 per hour. Try a drop-in yoga class for $12. For more information, visit mcfetridgesportscenter.com

Rock climbing

Go indoor rock climbing at Brooklyn Boulders, 100 S. Morgan St. Try an Intro to Climbing class to learn the basics of climbing under the guidance of expert instructors. The 60-minute class takes place on both ropes and boulders and includes gear rental. $25 for members and $49 for non-members. For more information, visit brooklynboulders.com/gowanus/

Ping pong

Hone your ping pong skills at SPIN Chicago, 344 N. State St., in a fun and energizing social environment. Taking aim at that tiny white ball will get your heart pumping. $25 per hour during off-peak hours / $39 during peak hours. Stop by for $10 ping pong on Sundays from 5-8 p.m. For more information, visit wearespin.com/location/chicago/

Bumper cars

WhirlyBall, 1825 W. Webster, offers fitness-forward and fun activities to get visitors moving. WhirlyBall is not only the name of the business, but also a game where players sit in souped-up bumper cars armed with a hand scoop and fling a wiffle ball around with friends. There’s also bowling, laser tag, pool tables and a climbing wall. Walk ins are  $15 for a 30-minute session with a four-player minimum. For more information, visit whirlyball.com

Bowling

Pinstripes, 435 E. Illinois, features bowling and bocce ball games in a social setting with game-side food and drink. Bowling is $8-18 per hour per person, depending on the hours. Shoes can be rented for $5. Bocce ball is $5-12 per person per hour. Reservations are recommended. For more information, visit pinstripes.com/chicago-illinois/

Indoor golf

Play18 offers an ultimate indoor golf experience in a relaxed country club atmosphere. Play18 features PGA Tour simulators and personal driving bays along with a locker room, full bar and lounge. Reserve online. $50 per hour. For more information, visit play18chicago.com

Air workout

AIR®, a boutique fitness lab, offers classes that incorporate aerial exercises on hammocks for a unique twist on the average fitness regimen. The 50-minute Air Foundation class fuses elements of conditioning, pilates, ballet and HIIT (high intensity interval training) on aerial hammocks. There are two locations to choose from: River North, 357 W. Erie St., and South Loop, 1317 S. Michigan Ave. $30 per class or $10 for community classes. For more information, visit airfitnow.com

Basketball

Check out Swish House for basketball fitness classes that makes working out fun. The high intensity interval training classes provide a unique team-based environment that engages the competitive spirit. Classes are $25 and are held at The Mercy Home for Boys and Girls at 1140 W. Jackson Blvd. For more information, visit swishhouse.com

Take a walk

Take a walk through the beautiful Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave., or Lincoln Park Conservatory, 2391 N. Stockton Drive, to get your heart rate up while enjoying warm lush gardens and a brief respite from the cold. Free admission to both.

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