Open for business: Downtown Chicago hotels booming

The Hotel Julian includes a new eatery, About Last Knife. Courtesy photo.

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

 

Downtown Chicago is booming for hotels. In the last month, the Hotel Julian opened in the New Eastside while in the Streeterville area, Aloft opened a new hotel and the Red Roof Inn opened the St. Clair Hotel.

These properties offer hundreds of new rooms for city visitors, along with luxury and easy access to all the downtown amenities.

The Hotel Julian, which opened Oct. 1 at 168 N. Michigan Ave., the corner of Michigan and Randolph, features 218 rooms, with millennium kings and double rooms.

“St. Julian is the patron saint of hospitality, so that is where the name comes from,” said George Jordan, Executive VP with Oxford Hotels and Resorts, the owners and operators of Hotel Julian.

The name of the hotel’s restaurant, About Last Knife, offers an all-day menu.

“You can get an omelet in the morning or at night, or beef Wellington by the slice in the morning or at night,” Jordan said. The hotel pays tribute to the building’s original proprietors Benjamin Marshall and Charles Fox of the eponymous Marshall and Fox architectural firm, with Marshall’s image on the restaurant’s wall.

In Streeterville, Aloft Chicago Mag Mile opened Oct. 1, at 243 E. Ontario St.

Aloft is a Marriott Hotel brand, and Tishman is the developer, owner and manager. There are 337 guest rooms and a restaurant, according to their website. The hotel takes inspiration from the site’s former occupant, the Chicago Contemporary Museum of Art.

Additionally, the Red Roof Inn opened the St. Clair Hotel on Oct. 1, at 162 E. Ontario, as a part of their upscale Red Collection hotels.

 

For more information about the Hotel Julian, call 312-346-1200 or visit www.hoteljulianchicago.com/

 

For more information about Aloft Chicago Mag Mile, call 312-429-6600 or visit

www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/chiaa-aloft-chicago-mag-mile/

 

For more information about the St. Clair Hotel, call 312-787-3580 or visit www.redroof.com/property/il/chicago/RRI281

New Eastside Doorperson of the Month: John Echevarria transforms a condo into a home

John Echevarria transforms a condo into a home. Courtesy photo

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

 

John Echevarria, doorperson at the 340 E. Randolph St. Condos, is a people person.

He would have to be —  he’s been at the Randolph St. residence since April 2010, and has been a  doorman for more than a decade.

“The 340 condos are, by far, the best condos I’ve ever been in,” Echevarria said. “The staff, the residents and my boss in particular, she is such a great leader. I’ve learned quite a bit from her in the five or six years she’s been at the building. My growth has [been] multiplied in the powers of ten. My knowledge has exponentially gone up since she’s been here.”

Echevarria said the most important thing he’s learned is leadership skills. He hopes to continue in the service industry as a leader and he is learning how to do that on the job. His role there is nothing short of professional development.

“I’ve learned a lot of leadership qualities,” Echevarria said. “I’m the head doorman here and my boss, she’s showed me how to be a leader, how to train the staff to better themselves and how to provide better customer service for the residents. My ultimate goal is to go into management and she’s given me a lot of management tasks. All of that has helped me prepare to go into management.”

The job-training aside, Echevarria said he residents who motivate him to go to work each day – this love for human interaction is what got Echevarria nominated for Doorperson of the Month and why he excels at his job.

“You have to be customer-service oriented,” he said. “You need to love working with people. You want to be customer- and security-oriented. You want to feel, when you come to work, that it’s also your home.”

A good doorperson has to treat the resident families like part of his or her own family and the property as an extension of the doorperson’s own residence, Echevarria explained. A good doorperson can’t let in just anyone, but they can’t act like a bouncer, either.

“You want to screen people who come in, politely,” Echevarria said. “Your job is to know how to treat this like it’s your home.”

Residents, he said, notice this and it makes them feel more at home in the condo.

“When you have confidence in your door staff, that makes your living environment that much more enjoyable,” Echevarria said.

As Echevarria makes the condos more of a home and treats residents like family, they, too, get to know him and make him almost a part of their family.

As a doorperson, Echevarria watches children grow up and families get larger — and he loves it.

“A lot of these residents have watched me grow and become a father,” Echevarria said. He became a father in 2013 and now has two daughters.

Between being a service industry professional, a husband and the father of two girls, Echevarria said he’s got his hands full of families.

“I’ve got two girls now,” he said. “One’s going to be 5 and one’s going to be a year and I have a beautiful, wonderful wife who takes care of the kids when I am at work. I get a few date nights here and there, but it’s all about work and family right now.”

 

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.

Disability Summit focuses on benefits from disabled workers

Ben Lumicao, a senior attorney with Allstate, talks with Jill Houghton at the Fourth Annual Disability Inclusion Opportunity Summit.

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

 

Business leaders from across the city met in October for the fourth annual Disability Inclusion Opportunity Summit, a daylong meeting of breakout panels and discussions on how to better include disabled workers into the workplace.

The Chicagoland Business Leadership Network and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce presented the summit, bringing together hiring professionals to discuss things like mental health in the workplace, online accessibility and best practices for disability recruitment.

Rob Hitchcock, the president of government and consumer solutions for the Health Care Service Corporation welcomed attendees and said there are ample opportunities for disabled workers.

“We’re struggling to fill open positions,” Hitchcock said. “We view this as a wonderful opportunity to recruit and get talent into our organizations, and I know many of you feel the same way.”

The summit did more than focus on employers and their needs. At one point, the conversation turned to the disabled employees themselves.

“We’re going to talk about the power of owning your identity and the power of the beauty that exists within us.” said Jill Houghton, president and CEO of Disability: IN. “One in five of us have a disability. And it’s cool.”

Houghton said disabilities have workarounds and disabled people don’t need to be labeled as differently abled or special because there is nothing wrong with being disabled.

Suhail Tariq, one of the panelists, echoed this sentiment with his own experiences at work. He said he can compete with coworkers who are not disabled because he is willing to work hard.

“I am no different than any of you guys,” Tariq said. “We’re no different than anyone else. It’s just hard work. I like my mantra to my executive committee, which is, ‘You may through a certain way get to the end goal, but I’ll get to the end goal too, the way I am comfortable doing it, and if I need any help because of my disability, then I will raise my hand.’”

Panelist Ben Lumicao, an attorney for Allstate, said open dialog about abilities is welcome because the days of ignoring a disability are over—and that’s a good thing.

Another panelist, Shannon Maher, a recruiting programs specialist with Exelon, said the challenge is two-sided, as disabled workers need to own their disability and recognize it, just as much as employers do.

“We bring many talents to the table because of our disabilities,” she said.

All alone on Turkey Day with so much to do

In Chicago there is plenty to do on Thanksgiving, even if you are alone. Between the parade, the games, the shopping and movies, there is a full day of activities waiting.

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

At one time, Thanksgiving was a day for families to come together over food and enjoy each other’s company. These days, that’s not necessarily true for everyone. The holiday can be fun for the solo celebrant because Thanksgiving Day is as much a public holiday as it is a private holiday.

 

If you are alone, Thanksgiving could be a great opportunity to spend time catching up on reading, binging TV shows, going for a nature walk or doing whatever else you might want to do by yourself. But, for those who want company, you don’t have to spend the holiday alone.  These days, plenty of restaurants, bars, movie theaters and retail stores take advantage of the holiday and open their doors, so you will really only be as alone as you want to be.

 

First, if you have friends you know will be free, pick up the phone and call them. Don’t be afraid to set up a day for you and all your friends who couldn’t—or didn’t want to— leave the city to see their families.

 

Or don’t. Feel free to pamper yourself with a solo self care day; it is, after all, a holiday.

 

If you’re the athletic sort, join the flock and do the Turkey Trot, Chicago’s annual five or eight kilometer race. To avoid late fees, register as soon as possible www.turkeytrotchicago.com.

 

If standing still is more your style, don’t miss the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade. The parade winds its way along State Street from Congress to Randolph. If you plan to see it live, get there before 7 a.m. to find a good spot and expect to stay through 11 a.m. if you want to catch the whole thing.

 

Once the parade ends, you will have several options for turkey day fun.

 

If you’re a sports fan (well, a football fan to be precise) then you have one goal—catch the game. There’s no need to sit at home and watch television,  as plenty of bars will be available for the Bears versus Lions game at 11:30 p.m. ET. In the afternoon, stick around for the Cowboys versus Redskins, and if you want to make a whole day of it, don’t miss the Falcons versus Saints, kickoff scheduled for 7:20 p.m.

 

Not a sports fan? Entertain yourself by dining out. Plenty of restaurants will be open the day of Thanksgiving, so if you don’t feel like cooking for yourself, don’t sweat it. For a full listing of what is available, check out the website www.opentable.com.

 

By the time the afternoon rolls around, you might be feeling ready to relax. Good news! Hollywood typically releases some of its most anticipated offerings in late November, and this year is no exception.

 

Opening the week of Thanksgiving, get ready for Creed II, Ralph Breaks the Internet or Robin Hood, an action movie based on the famous legend of English folklore. Want something a little subtler than a big blockbuster? How about The Front Runner, Jason Reitman’s chronicle of Gary Hart’s doomed presidential campaign, or Peter Farrelly’s The Green Book, the highly anticipated period drama set in the Jim Crow-era South. Finally, if Thanksgiving kicks off your Christmas spirit, check out The Christmas Chronicles, the first Christmas film of the season, opening Thanksgiving Day.

 

And of course,there is always retail therapy. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or for someone else, there are plenty of opportunities Thanksgiving Day. Want something traditional? Check out the Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza, open Thanksgiving Day from 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Grab a glass of Gühwein and browse handmade wonders from around the world. Want something a little more name-brand? Wander down the Mag Mile and enjoy early Black Friday sales on your favorite merchandise.

 

If service is more your speed, there are homeless shelters and food pantries all over the city that need volunteers. Go online, find a nearby venue and spend your turkey day doing good.

Innovation Awards highlight local tech talent

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

 

On Monday evening, Chicago Innovation recognized a host of Midwestern ideas at the 17th annual Innovation Awards.

Among the recipients, the Bra Lab won people’s choice for designing better brassieres, the Adler Planetarium won the collaboration award for their work with high school students and Ballot Ready won the Social Innovator award for their work on an elections app.

Besides the specialty awards, general Chicago Innovation Awards went to Abbott, Advanced Valve Technologies, Cameo, Ensono, Farmer’s Fridge, the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, Sterling, UPshow, Sittercity and Molex. Neighborhood awards went to Above and Beyond Family Recovery Center, Aspire and Lakeview Pantry. Up and comer awards went to Catalytic, Codeverse, Esquify, ExerciseBuddy, GuardianVets, Jlobit, Parker Dewey, PanaceaNano, Truss and Unanimous AI.

The event, at the Harris Theater in the New Eastside, was a chance to celebrate some of the people behind innovative ideas and inventive companies.

The evening was kicked off by Mayor Rahm Emanuel who praised the city as itself an up and comer for technology firms.

“We have more women innovators than any other city,” Emanuel “But that’s only the beginning of where we need to go.”

The mayor explained that Chicago businesses should recruit young talent from the city’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) schools programs in order to encourage kids and to keep talent local.

“If we do that, then to Berlin, Beijing, Tokyo and London I have one word, watch out. Chicago is coming for you,” Emanuel said.

Transit Tees launches LOOP: The Elevated Card Game, an urban adventure game

Staff reports

 

Chicago-based Transit Tees, an official manufacturer of Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) products announces the debut of LOOP: The Elevated Card Game, an adventure game based on the elevated commuter train.

 

The game is designed to capture the commuter experience on Chicago’s train system in an engaging way for two to seven plays, any age from 9 and up. The object of the game is for the player to discard all the cards in hand while navigating the L train system.

 

Along the way players—as riders—must negotiate buskers, train preachers, manspreading commuters, rush hour crowds and other everyday train hassles like forgotten fare cards, falling asleep on the train, sitting in a weird puddle or going to the wrong airport.

 

“Chicago transit riders are true urban warriors,” said Transit Tees owner and founder, Tim Gillengerten. “They encounter and deal with many obstacles in their daily commute and, in our opinion, have an ‘elevated’ ability to navigate our train system. We would joke around the studio about all the hilarious, and not so hilarious, things that happened to us on the ‘L’ and came up with the brilliant idea to merge art, design and all that’s irreverent about living in and getting around a big city in creating Loop: The Elevated Card Game.”

 

Just in time for the holidays, Loop: The Elevated Card Game will be available Nov. 15 online and at both Transit Tees locations in Wicker Park, 1371 N. Milwaukee Ave. or in Andersonville at 5226 N. Clark St. The game will sell for $20.

 

A free public launch event will be held Nov. 15 from 6-9 p.m. in conjunction with the sixth Anniversary of Transit Tees’ Wicker Park location. Guests will be the first to play the new LOOP card game, preview other holiday gift ideas, and enjoy light bites and refreshments from Antique Taco and Revolution Brewery. No RSVP is required.

Conceived and designed at the Transit Tees design studio in Wicker Park, LOOP: The Elevated Card Game is the first game created by the locally owned and operated company that designs and produces more than 100 original local and transit-themed apparel, housewares and accessory products each year. In fact, the LOOP game and ‘L’ Stop Cards are based on the design of Transit Tees’ popular Transit Magnets, which now include all 185 unique ‘L’ stops in the transit system represented in square magnet form.

“The transit system’s signage, maps, and colors are the epitome of contemporary artwork and remind us of game play action.” said artist Tom LaPlante, who spearheaded this project at Transit Tees’ in-house design studio. “The graphic look of the LOOP game is inspired by the look, shape, colors, and icons of the Chicago’s ‘L’ system.”

Transit geeks will especially appreciate LOOP’s technical authenticity: all the Transfers are accurate, and all Stops include the precise coordinates on Chicago’s grid. Each deck also includes an iconic ‘L’ Map Card with interesting facts about the train system and its history. Now, daily commuters, tourists and Chicago buffs alike can learn how to navigate and ride the CTA through playing the LOOP game.

For more information, visit www.transittees.com or call 773-227-1810.

Swan Lake enchants at the Auditorium Theater

By Elizabeth Czapski | staff writer

The Joffrey Ballet’s opening performance of Swan Lake at the Auditorium Theater in October offered Christopher Wheeldon’s elegant and thought-provoking reimagining Peter Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet.

Wheeldon’s Swan Lake first premiered with the Joffrey in Chicago in 2014 and became one of the Joffrey’s best-selling productions, according to a press release from the ballet company. Now the production has returned to Chicago.

According to the press release, Wheeldon’s vision was influenced by the paintings of Edgar Degas, who was a contemporary of Tchaikovsky and painted ballerinas at the Paris Opera. The program explains Degas also painted ballet patrons, who were assumed to be interested in ballerinas beyond their careers.

Wheeldon’s Swan Lake is set in 19th-century Paris and presents a ballet-within-a-ballet; the Paris Opera is putting on a production of Swan Lake, and a wealthy patron enters the picture, chatting with some of the ballerinas. The principal dancer, who plays Siegfried in the opera’s production, becomes suspicious of the patron’s intentions. Eventually, the principal dancer is consumed by the dances he is rehearsing—fantasy and reality blend together—and he becomes Siegfried, and the story of Swan Lake begins.

The suspicious patron in Wheeldon’s Swan Lake becomes the evil sorcerer Von Rothbart in the principal dancer’s fantasy, creating another remarkable connection to Degas’ artistic themes.

The dancers deliver the story with passion, grace, precision and stunning athleticism, transitioning flawlessly from scene to scene, emotion to emotion. Sorrow turns to love, turns to playfulness with incredible expression. A can-can and strip tease from cabaret dancers provides a light-hearted moment in Act III. The Chicago Philharmonic, conducted by Scott Speck, pulls the audience into the story through the score.

The costumes and set design are nothing short of magical and recall Degas’ paintings.

The Joffrey’s Swan Lake is an outstanding ballet that is not to be missed. The show runs Oct. 17-28 at the Auditorium Theater of Roosevelt University at 50 E. Congress Parkway. More information at joffrey.org.

James Gruca, North Harbor Tower

By Elizabeth, Staff Writer

Published October 2, 2018

Enter North Harbor Tower at 175 N. Harbor Drive, and visitors probably encounter James Gruca, the doorman. Cheerful and dressed to the nines, he high-fives children and slips dogs treats as they pass in and out of the building.

 

Gruca said he refers to all of his residents as “friends” because he sees them so often. He’s been greeting them when they walk in the door for eight years, but he’s been in the service industry since he got his first job as a waiter after he finished eighth grade, he said.

 

Trained as a chef, Gruca said he worked in the Walnut Room kitchen and taught cooking classes at Sur La Table before making the switch to his current position. And with 600 units and about 2,000 residents in the Tower, his normal day is “hectic,” he said.

 

Going out of his way to help residents, he once walked one woman’s dog when she broke her ankle, and fed another resident’s parrot for three weeks when they went on vacation, he said.

 

Gruca’s hard work has paid off. He’s won the People’s Choice Award in his building twice; the residents choose the winner by naming their favorite employee, he said. “I was really flattered that they think that much of me,” he said.

 

“I do my best; I look my best every day because when you walk in the building, I am the face of North Harbor Tower and the first person you see, and I have to be on my game all the time,” Gruca said. “You only have one chance to make a first impression.”

 

Gruca recalled a time when a friend introduced him to an acquaintance with, “’This is James; he makes my life better.’”

 

“I was so flattered to hear that,” he said. “That’s what I always keep in mind: I’m here to make people’s lives better. And whether it be, you know, opening the door for them, getting groceries if they’re sick, or whatever I can do to make their stay here more enjoyable, that’s what I’m here for. No job too small.”

 

Gotten great service lately? Let us know and nominate your door person at info@neweastsidecommunity.com. If they’re profiled, they could win a $25 gift card.

 

Haunting haunts: The scariest places in town

By Taylor Hartz, Staff Writer

Fort Dearborn at Wacker Drive and Michigan Avenue

The site once known as Fort Dearborn is said to be the oldest haunted spot in Chicago.

During the war of 1812, the intersection of Wacker Drive and Michigan Avenue was filled with American soldiers when the Pottawatomie attacked—killing 148 people, including 12 children.

Legend has it that people can photograph ghostly beings at the spot, so be sure to snap a few and look closely.

The Chicago River near Clark Street Bridge

The Chicago River may be haunted by the souls of more than 800 men, women and children who lost their lives aboard the sunken Eastland steamship in 1915.

One of Chicago’s most infamous tragedies happened on July 24, when 2,500 employees of Western Electric, their families and friends boarded the S.S. Eastland for the company’s fifth annual employee picnic.

Shortly after families boarded the ship, it rolled over into the water between Clark Street and LaSalle Street – 844 people, including 22 entire families, never made it out of the water alive. In the century since, many have reported seeing apparitions in the area.

Congress Plaza Hotel

Last year, Travel & Leisure named New Eastside’s Congress Plaza Hotel the most haunted spot in Illinois.

One of the hotels most notorious guests was gangster Al Capone and some say he may have never left as reports say he can still be seen strolling the halls.

Capone isn’t alone. The ghost of a murdered homeless man, “Peg Leg Johnny,” is said to reside in the Congress as well and is fond of playing with light switches to spook guests.

Another man’s ghost is said to roam the hotel’s eighth floor, reports say, where the elevator often stops even when no one—at least no one visible—has pushed the button.

Finally, a woman is said to haunt room 441, where multiple guests have reported seeing a shadowy outline of her body.

Chicago Water Tower

Streeterville’s iconic Chicago Water Tower is most famous for its breathtaking architecture, and for surviving the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. But the structure may have been the site of a man’s death, too.

According to legend, one employee of the water tower stayed behind to operate water pumps as the Chicago Fire raged closer. To save himself from burning to death, the man is said to have hung himself on the top floor of the tower. Many have spotted the silhouette of his body hanging in the window above the Magnificent Mile.

Published October 2, 2018

Theft, bucket boys come up at CAPS Meeting

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

Published October 2, 2018

Theft, ridesharing and street performers were topics of discussion at the September Community Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) meeting in the 1st District.

 

Theft made up more than half of the district’s crime from Aug. 10 to Sept. 13, and pickpockets account for a lot of those thefts, according to Sgt. Anthony Dombrowski.

 

Dombrowski said pickpockets are attracted to crowded locations, like restaurants, where people aren’t as focused on their personal safety.

 

Thieves also target people whose valuable items are visible.

 

“You should try to be as circumspect as possible with your personal possessions,” Dombrowski said. “I would say 50 percent of our robberies are because people are exposing their cell phone.”

 

Another concern was brought up by a resident, who asked about fake Uber and Lyft drivers in the city.

 

Dombrowski said fake drivers are most often out late at night and early in the morning, looking for intoxicated people to victimize. During the day, actual Uber and Lyft drivers are victimized when they open their car doors and people come into the car to steal items, he added.

 

Dombrowski said he doesn’t think fake Uber and Lyft drivers are a safety issue as long as passenger are taking common sense precautions. Passengers should verify the driver’s identity before getting into the car, he said.

 

Another resident raised concerns about the bucket boys downtown. Using a meter, they measured 100 decibels near the bucket boys, which the resident said could harm hearing.

 

Dombrowski said dealing with this issue is challenging.

 

“The municipal code is very clumsy and very difficult to enforce,” he said. The noise is irritating to many who live and work in the area, but the bucket boys receive a lot of monetary support from people downtown, he said.

 

Dombrowski said people who are not bothered by loud street performances think it’s “charming.”

 

He said the solution is unclear, but being able to quantify the noise level is “wonderful” and suggested the resident contact the Environmental Protection Agency.

 

“These different lifestyles, these different activities are clashing with people that want to live a normal life in downtown Chicago,” he said. “Where’s the balance in that? I don’t know.”

 

1 2 3 4 5