Reilly seeks feedback on Aon project

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

Alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward) is looking for feedback on the redevelopment of the highest floor of the Aon Center into an observatory and restaurant.

The project will turn the highest floor of the Aon Center—in the heart of New Eastside at 200 E. Randolph St.—into an attraction projected to draw more than two million visitors annually.

The proposed space will be accessible by a glass-enclosed external elevator on the Northwest corner.

Reilly co-hosted a community meeting with the Chicago Loop Alliance earlier this year at The Mid-America Club to discuss plans with residents. More than 100 community members attended.

“Neighbors raised concerns related to increased vehicular and pedestrian traffic, privacy and safety,” Reilly said in an emailed statement.

Upgrades coming to Lakeshore East Park

By Angela Gagnon | Staff Writer

Published September 4, 2018

After complaints of graffiti, vandalism and general wear and tear at Lakeshore East Park, repairs are finally coming.

According to a letter from the Office of Alderman Brendan Reilly, Magellan Development Group, the park’s developer, have long term improvements planned. These include replacing the play area surface material in the tot lot and new playground equipment that will offer more activities for children of all ages.

Gabby Hart, the director of planning and development for Reilly’s office, confirmed the plans. “Plans are in place for full replacement of the playground surface and upgrades to the playground equipment are planned as well,” Hart said.

Hart said the tot lot will be closed when repairs are being made, but will otherwise remain open throughout the project.

Repairs to the surface area are already underway. The other improvements are expected to take place over the next few months and be completed by the end of the year.

SOAR serving lunch to first responders, Streeterville

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

September 4, 2018

Once again, the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents (SOAR) is preparing for its annual First Responders Appreciation Day. The event will be held Sept. 13, from 11 a.m.–2 p.m. at the Chicago Fire Department Engine Company 98, 202 E. Chicago Ave.

Bob Johnson, chairman of the safety and sound management taskforce for SOAR, said the event is a way to give back to the men and women who keep the neighborhood safe.

“The organization wanted to give thanks to our firefighters and our police officers and our paramedics who serve the community,” he explained. “We think they do a terrific job.”

In addition to the public luncheon, SOAR will deliver sandwiches from Timothy O’Toole’s Pub to the 18th Precinct District at 10 p.m. to recognize the overnight shift workers.

This year, the event moved from the Lakeshore Field House to a fire station two blocks west. Johnson said in prior years, getting the firefighters to go to an offsite location and then sit down for a meal could be tricky, especially if a fire broke out.

“The firefighters never got a chance to attend the event because they’d walk in, get a bite of food and then get called out,” he said.

However, Johnson said the event is for the community and not just for first responders.“Just show up,” he said. “Come as you are.”

Johnson said that while a local alderman or congressman might stop in, the lunch is less a political event as it is a way to build community.

“We just think it would be nice for our first responders to get to know our people and for our people to get to know them.”

Johnson said the lunch has been an event for years, and is something of a tradition in Streeterville.

“I think it was done shortly after the 9/11 [ceremonies], as a way to remember the 343 firefighters killed in 9/11,” he said. “It’s a time of year we think of them more so than during the rest of the year.”

For more information, visit the SOAR website, soarchicago.org.

The Palmer House gives guests a glimpse into historic Chicago

By Elizabeth Czapski | Staff Writer

Published September 4, 2018

One of the oldest hotels in America sits right outside of New Eastside, at 17 E. Monroe St.

The historic Palmer House | Photo by Elizabeth Czapski

The Palmer House Hilton was intended as a wedding gift from Potter Palmer, an innovative businessman and the hotel’s namesake, to his new, much younger wife, Bertha, an educated socialite who was a champion for women and the arts.

The hotel first opened in 1871, but was destroyed by the Great Chicago Fire just two weeks later. It was rebuilt across the street, re-opening in 1873, according to the Palmer House’s director of publicity and resident historian Ken Price.

Price has been with the Palmer House since 1983 and leads a guided tour of the hotel called “History is Hot!” Participants eat lunch in the hotel’s Lockwood Restaurant & Bar, and visit the Palmer House’s one-room museum, which opened in 2010.

The one room Palmer House museum. Photo by Elizabeth Czapski

The history Price teaches doesn’t rely
on timelines and dry facts. Rather, he takes names and dates and weaves them
into enthralling narratives, giving life to historical figures.

The Palmer House became a social
hotspot over the years, attracting famous
guests from all over the world including
many U.S. presidents, Charles Dickens and
Buffalo Bill. Musicians like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Liberace have performed in the hotel’s Empire Room.

An original recipe brownie served at the Palmer House. Photo by Elizabeth Czapski

The hotel was advertised as the first fire-proof hotel in the world, and the first to installlighting and telephones. Potter Palmer also invented an early version of the elevator, Price said. Perhaps most importantly, one of the most popular sweet treats in America was invented at the Palmer House—the brownie.

The kitchen still serves brownies made with the original Palmer House recipe.

It isn’t necessary to stay at the Palmer House to experience its historic beauty. Just pop in the lobby for a drink to experience the Grecian frescos on the ceiling, 24-karat gold chandeliers and bronze angel statues.

Haute Dogs to help Canine Companions

By Elizabeth Czapski | Staff Writer

Published September 4, 2018

A different breed of fashion show is coming to Chicago on Sept. 20 at the Peninsula Chicago Hotel, 108 E. Superior St.

Haute Dog, a fashion show wherein both human and canine models walk the runway, will support Canine Companions for Independence, an organization that provides assistance dogs free of charge to adults, children and veterans with disabilities.

A woman and dog on the runway at a Haute Dog event. Photo by Marcin Cymer

Haute Dog began as a costume contest in Los Angeles, but three years ago, Canine Companions expanded to Chicago andchanged the format, according to Molly Schulz, the public relations and marketing coordinator for Canine Companions.

“We really wanted to find a way to combine the fashion industry and that fantastic … culture of Chicago with Canine Companions,” Schulz said.

A Haute Dog fashion show took place in Columbus, Ohio earlier this year.

This year’s models include Ravi Baichwal from ABC 7 Chicago and Natalie Bomke from Fox 32 Chicago, among other notable names. The human models will be accompanied on the runway by their own dogs or by a puppy from Canine Companions.

Members of the Greater Chicagoland Chapter of Canine Companions will volunteer at the event, assisting dog recipients and their canines. Shultz said the volunteers will be there to “mingle and talk to people so they can really hear about our mission firsthand from the people that we serve.”

A woman and service dog at a Haute Dog event. Photo by Marcin Cymer

Tails in the City, 1 E. Delaware Place, a luxury pet boutique, will provide all of the hound-some clothing for the dog models, Schulz said. Designers for the humans include Alice + Olivia, Contessa Bottega, Vince and Burdi.

All proceeds from the event will benefit Canine Companions for Independence.

In addition to the fashion show, cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and a silent auction will be available for guests, making for a paw-si-tively un-fur-gettable event.

Chicago Gourmet gets set to sizzle

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

Published September 4, 2018

With September comes Chicago Gourmet, a multi-day celebration of food, the city and, new this year, music.

This year’s event, set for Sept. 26–30 and themed Rock the Fork, is pairing music with the food, said Sam Toia, president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, and founding producer of the event.

“What goes better with food than music?” Toia asked.

Chicago Gourmet will offer the usual days of cooking demonstrations and tastings, all of which will be set to the sounds of DJs, blues, jazz, rock and other musicians.

“From blues to rock to you name it, we’re going to have it,” Toia said.

But, of course, front and center will be the food.

Toia said he expects Chicago Gourmet to again be the premier food and wine show
in the country.

Toia said Chicago Gourmet has gotten bigger each year since its start 11 years ago.

“When we originally started it was kind of a smaller event, and each year it keeps getting bigger and bigger, with more ancillary events,” he said.

Typically, Chicago Gourmet draws more than 16,000 people.

Toia said, “We’re just very happy.”

The event this year will feature 250 restaurants and chefs, along with premier wines. Area restaurants to be represented include III Forks, The Columbus Tap and Mariano’s.

Much of the action will be outside, in and around Millennium Park, and Toia said the setting is what makes the event popular.

“That’s one of the reasons we chose the last weekend in September, because historically it’s a very, very nice weekend,” he said.

For information about food, the events and tickets, go to chicagogourmet.org.

The place to go when you want to put a lid on it

By Elizabeth Czapski | Staff Writer

Published September 4, 2018

Wherever there are sports teams, there is passion—and for the passionate, there are
hats. For New Eastside sports fans, Lids, 175 N. Michigan Ave., is the place to go.

Based in Indianapolis, Lids sells hats in more than 1,000 locations throughout the U.S. and Canada.

The clientele at this Lids location is diverse, said assistant manager Justin Gordon. “We get a lot of international shoppers, and then we have a lot of residents from the South Side and West Side of Chicago,” Gordon said. He added it’s also a favorite of locals.

Lids, 175 N. Michigan Ave. Photo by Elizabeth Czapski

Gordon said there’s often a morning rush, with a line outside a half hour before the store opens. He said the most popular items are fitted Cubs and Sox hats. “People love those. Those always are flying off the racks, and we always have to replenish them,” he said. With fall just around the corner, Gordon said customers have been looking for bucket hats and beanies.

When the Cubs won the World Series in 2016, demand for Cubs gear soared sky-high.

“This store got really good numbers off the Cubs,” Gordon said. “Any place that was selling Cubs anything was packed. It was crazy.”

Lids also offers custom embroidery with anything from Chicago stars to a favorite player’s name and number, Gordon said.

Lids can also add kingpins to the hats, with numerous design options available.

A White Sox and Bears fan himself, Gordon said he has about 300 hats from Lids. Ryan Kaul, from Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, was visiting Chicago with his family and bought a Durham Bulls hat to add to his collection. His younger brother J.T. bought a Brewers hat.

“I collect hats, and it’s an easy, good way to bring something back to Wisconsin from Chicago not Cubs-related,” Kaul said.

Yvonne Fernandes, who is from Australia and lives in the U.K., was in Chicago because her husband was attending a conference.

“I was sent by my children to go look for hats, for Cubs hats, apparently,” she said as she searched through the Lids displays for the perfect hat to take home.

When asked if the Cubs are popular in the U.K., Fernandes said, “I have no idea. I just do as I’m told.”

Meet the new head of GEMS school

By Tom Conroy | Staff Writer

Tom Cangiano began in July as the newest head of school for GEMS World Academy Chicago.

Cangiano is the fourth head since the school opened in September 2014, but said he will stay a while. “I don’t take a job if I’m not completely committed to it,” said Cangiano, who has over 25 years of combined experience as an educator and leader.

“It is crucial to have leadership stability at a newer school and the only way to get things done is to stay long-term.”

Prior to arriving at GEMS, Cangiano led the Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh for eight years. That experience will serve him well as GEMS prepares to add more high school classes and new facilities in its Upper School building by the 2019–2020 academic year.

Cangiano said he and his wife were happy to move to Chicago. Cangiano, a native of Massachusetts, said he enjoys living in the city and the school’s proximity to everything in New Eastside. He has two children in high school and a third in college.

Cangiano has lived overseas, teaching in Budapest and serving as the president of the American College of Sofia in Bulgaria. He said his international experience fits with GEMS and its global network of schools as well as its International Baccalaureate curriculum.

“The school is both inward and outward looking, as we encourage students to understand what is going on not just around the world, but also here in Chicago.”
– Tom Cangiano

“GEMS’ genuine commitment to global citizenship attracted me,” he explained. “The school is both inward and outward looking, as we encourage students to un- derstand what is going on not just around the world, but also here in Chicago.” He added that the school teaches students to explore and research Chicago.”

“The history person in me comes out when I encourage the kids to be part of the community so they can understand the context of what they are learning,” said Cangiano, who has a background in the humanities. Cangiano added that he hopes to strengthen the school’s global network.

He recently attended strategic planning meetings in Dubai and hopes to increase the number of joint service programs and exchanges, allowing students to collaborate with their peers at other GEMS schools.

Domestically, he will work toward growing enrollment to 100 students per grade level for a total enrolment of 1,500 students.

GEMS World Academy Chicago
350 E. South Water St.
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 809-8900
gemsworldacademy-chicago.com

Published August 1, 2018

Visitors have a hoot with Wings and Talons

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

Published July 31, 2018

For the most part, unless you go out at night,  you’ll miss the raptors on patrol downtown, swooping down to catch prey right in Chicago’s front yard.

But, a few times each summer, the team at Wings and Talons brings a few rehabilitated birds to Lurie Garden for free daytime shows they call Raptors! wherein garden visitors can learn about the habits of these birds.

Wings and Talons is a non-profit based in the northwest suburbs that provides care and shelter for raptors that can’t survive on their own. The group also supports education, wildlife stewardship and conservation. The organization, which calls these birds “nature’s fighter jets,” was founded in 2016 by a group of volunteers who share a passion for educating the public about birds of prey.

Currently in their care are a male and female red-tailed hawk, an eastern screech owl, a great horned owl, a barred owl, an American kestrel, a broad-winged hawk and a turkey vulture. 

This barred owl was on hand to wow crowds at the July Raptors! event in Lurie Garden. The group Wings and Talons will return Aug. 14. Photo by Taylor Hartz.

On July 10, Wings and Talons brought the male red-tailed hawk, the eastern screech owl, the barred owl, and the broad-winged hawk to Lurie Garden and set up shop.

With the skyline towering above, volunteers stood in a grassy area with the birds perched on their hands, ready to educate folks who wandered through the garden and those who came specifically to check out the birds.

For these events, there is no sign-up, no ticketing and no formal talk. Rather, visitors simply walk up to the volunteers and ask whatever questions they like.

“We like educating people because the more they know about these birds the more they know about what’s living right around their neighborhoods,” said volunteer Larry Devera, with a red-tailed hawk perched on his arm. “These could be living right in your backyard.”

Red-tailed hawks live in our area, but others, like the broad winged hawk, made quite the journey to end up in Illinois.

This bird migrates in flocks known as kettles all the way to South America each year, preying on frogs, toads and small rodents, or even other birds, invertebrates and bigger reptiles.

The female hawk at Lurie Garden came to Wings and Talons from the Carolina Raptor Center due to a wing injury.

Coming up on her second birthday, the red-tailed hawk came to Wings and Talons after suffering head trauma from hitting a window in 2016. She injured her eye and can no longer hunt but if she could, Illinois would provide the perfect environment.

“In the Midwest it’s very common for them to swell in forests or by the water,” said volunteer Christine Richtor-Duff,  “We just don’t see them much because they come out at night.”

But even though these birds are adapted to live in the urban environment, they did not start off that way.

“There are a lot of theories about what they evolved from,” said Richtor-Duff. The most common theory is they evolved from dinosaurs.

“There are so many similarities in talons and bone structure to dinosaurs like velociraptors,” said Richtor Duff.

Other birds, like owls and vultures, have been in their present form for quite some time, without adapting or changing much over the course of human history.

Guests were able to get a close-up look at a black-eyed barred owl. The 11-year-old bird was not injured, but imprinted on humans at a young age, and was therefore unable to return to the wild.

Also on hand was a small eastern screech owl on a perch near the group’s information table. This little bird, standing about five inches high, isn’t native to the area, but is nearly identical to the western screech owl, which can be found throughout Illinois.

Lakeshore East Regatta resident Bill Evans came to check out the birds with his 9-year-old daughter, Brielle Evans.

Brielle, a fourth-grader at Ogden International School, is a huge fan of owls. She was even carrying a colorful owl shaped purse as she checked out the birds.

Her love of the birds is in part due to her school — the mascot at Ogden is the owl. The Evans family are also members of the nearby University Club, which also uses the owl as its mascot.

Bill thought the display from Wings and Talons was a great way to bring nature and wildlife into the heart of the city.

“I think it’s wonderful to have such an educational thing here in the city,” said Evans, “Especially for kids who don’t have access to the wild; it creates an awareness for them.”

Wings and Talons will return to the Lurie Garden for another session of Raptors! On Aug. 14 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

 

Annual funny fest features female talent

By Matthew Reiss | Staff Writer

August marks the return of the Chicago Women’s Funny Festival and Chicago comedian Amy  Leuenberger is a name to watch this year.

Leuenberger, who also works in New Eastside as both a paralegal and yoga instructor,  jokingly notes that her comedy career has been born out of out of rejection — and she’s okay with that. For years, Leuenberger performed as part of a popular sketch comedy group. Over time, cast members left the group for other pursuits and Leuenberger continued with a solo career. 

Amy Leuenberger. Photo courtesy of Chicago Women’s Funny Festival

After training at Second City, Leuenberger immersed herself in performance, making appearances at several clubs throughout Chicago. Her comedy is based on life experience, with an absurd twist that comes from her sketch writing days.

Over the past six years, the CWFF has become a venue catering to all genders and all types of comedy, including stand-up, improv, sketch, musical comedy, burlesque and forms yet to be categorized.

In addition, Leuenberger said she estimates only about 10 percent of Chicago stand-up comedians are women, meaning that CWFF is a rare opportunity for women to perform new material, network with other performers and appreciate each other’s work in a positive, accepting environment.

This year, 400 performers will perform 70 shows beginning Aug. 23 and running through Aug. 26. Leuenberger will perform a stand-up set at 10 p.m., Aug. 25, and then emcee for the rest of the hour.

Here are four other acts audiences shouldn’t miss at the CWFF:

  • Off Off Broadzway — A Chicago-based burlesque parody act that has been getting rave reviews for a decade.
  • Harpreet Sehmbi — a Toronto based stand-up comedian and improviser, graduate of Second City’s Conservatory, host of the Darjeelings of Comedy.
  • Anarchy: An Improvised Rock Opera – Exactly what the name suggests, a Chicago group of comedians who are also supremely talented musicians.
  • Salma Hindy — Received a Master’s in Biomedical Engineering, then hit the road from Toronto, touring North America as a stand-up comedian.

Published July 31, 2018

Updated August 3, 2018

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