New Eastside News news briefs

Staff reports

Sweetwater to be open in time for St. Patrick’s Day

Sweetwater Tavern and Grill, 225 N. Michigan Ave., a popular local eatery, will be open in time for March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day, according to the restaurant’s website.

The bar and grill has been closed since Dec. 23 for extensive renovations.

“It’s exciting to be able to take what we have learned from our more than 15 restaurants over the years and apply it to one of our most successful restaurants on Michigan Avenue,” Angela Zoiss, Vice President of Marketing for Bottleneck Management, said in a press release. “Sweetwater’s renovation will breathe new life into the space and kick off our 10th anniversary as a Chicago hot spot with a fresh new look.”

Bottleneck Management has added an additional 10 years to Sweetwater’s lease, for a total of 15 years in the dynamic space in the heart of Michigan Avenue.

New Eastsiders can now shop at a brick-and-mortar Amazon store

In February Amazon opened a brick-and-mortar store Amazon Go at 111 E. Wacker.

The cashier-less store is the first Amazon store in the New Eastside, but it joins several other locations around the city.

Besides not having cashiers, the store is cashless, too, and customers pay by scanning items with their cellphones via an app. There are no lines and the store offers a variety of food and snack items.

New 311 app easier to use than phone system

In December the city launched a 311 app—a phone application allowing users to more easily report on small issues such as potholes and graffiti in their areas. The app upgraded the previous system, launched in 1999, that depended on a telephone call and paperwork.

Since the system launched, it’s garnered national attention, with Wired Magazine calling it “a huge win for public works.”

Closer to home, the system is also receiving praise. Neighborhood leader Richard Ward said in February the new system is helpful, easy to use and provides added benefits to New Eastside residents.

“The home page of the website has an overview of the program and nine broad categories of service request areas such as seniors, health and animals. ‘View-all’ presents nearly one hundred specific issue topics like graffiti, lights out and potholes,” he wrote in an email.

Ward said the New Eastside is nearly graffiti-free because of eagle-eyed residents calling the previous system. Now, residents can use the new app to report graffiti or other maintenance issues.

To find out more about the app or download, visit 311.chicago.gov.

Ad seems to indicate a new residential building is coming

A magazine advertisement by CA Ventures could indicate a new, large residential building is coming to the New Eastside.

In January, Real Estate Alert, a real estate trade magazine, ran an ad from developers CA Ventures featuring a large building at Lake and Stetson, the 40,600-square-foot lot that was supposed to be the home of the Mandarin Oriental hotel and luxury condominiums before that plan failed two years ago.

However, CA Ventures won’t say what the ad means and whether they will develop the property.

“We don’t have anything to share at this time,” said Mimi Simon, a spokesperson for CA Ventures with Taylor Johnson Public Relations.

The ad includes other existing properties developed by CA Ventures around the country.

New WTTW11 program to highlight Midwest history

Take a nostalgic family road trip throughout the Midwest when “Chicago on Vacation with Geoffrey Baer” premieres on WTTW11, Chicago’s PBS station, and online at wttw.com/vacation at 7:30 p.m. on March 5.

Inspired by his family adventures, Baer sets out in a 1973 Chevrolet Impala station wagon (the same car his family drove) to visit favorite tourist destinations and discover hidden history throughout the Midwest. Stunning archival film and home movies take viewers back to a time when road trips were routine for families looking for an affordable, drivable getaway.

Highlights of Geoffrey’s 2,000-mile road trip include:

  • Touring Lake Geneva with two teenagers that deliver mail by jumping off a moving boat
  • Meeting an all-female ice-fishing group from Wisconsin’s Northwoods
  • Discovering a renewed interest in the “Black Eden” of Idlewild, Mich., a popular spot for African Americans when segregation during the Jim Crow era limited vacation options
  • Visiting the once-booming Jewish resorts in South Haven, Mich., previously called the “Catskills of the Midwest”

Local news drives newspaper readership, study finds

A large study by Medill’s Local News Initiative discovered in February that local news still matters to readers and it may save newspapers.

The study analyzed subscriber data from three metropolitan news websites in an attempt to see what content most attracted readers. The intention is to provide newspapers with a guide to improving community service and to shore up financial sustainability as the media landscape changes.

The study showed that rather than viral stories, readers want quality local content.

“This research illustrates a sea change in the relationship between local news organizations and their readers,” Tim Franklin said in a news release.

Franklin, a senior associate dean at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, heads the Medill Local News Initiative, a project that includes this study and other research to help local journalism overcome the industry’s loss of readers and revenue. Medill partnered with three news organizations — the Chicago Tribune, The Indianapolis Star and the San Francisco Chronicle — that provided 13 terabytes of anonymous reader data for the study.

Hidden New Eastside spots you need to know

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

Bockwinkel’s

While Mariano’s might dominate the market scene of New Eastside, the area is actually home to three grocery stores. The Bockwinkel’s at the corner of Stetson and South Water St. is a favorite of many residents and office workers. The grocery chain has another location in the lower level of 155 N. Harbor Drive. You don’t need to be a resident to shop at this location, it’s accessible to the public and ultra-convenient.  

Need to mail something?

Descend to into the Pedway and visit the post office in the lower level of the Aon Center or ship via UPS in Swissotel or FedEx in One Pru.

Get same day passports

Fancy packing up and flying overseas tomorrow? Don’t let an expired passport slow you down. In New Eastside, you can get expedited passport services at Sameday Passport and Visa located at 180 N. Stetson Ave.

Swim Schools

Learning to swim in New Eastside is easy with a swim schools operated out of some righrise pools. Local instructors, like olympic qualifier Kathy Kelly of Swim with Kathy Chicago, teaches students in the Radisson Blu Hotel pool. The British Swim School holds lessons at 175 N. Harbor Drive. Both offer small group and private classes. For more information, visit britishswimschool.com or swkchicago.com

Shortcuts

New Eastside is full of quick and simple shortcuts. To skip the hustle and bustle of Michigan Avenue while traveling to Grant Park, take the stairs, located along Randolph, down to Columbus heading south. Try walking south via Columbus to get to the northern edge of Grant Park and Monroe Street. If the wind tunnel of Randolph is too much walking to Michigan Avenue, try cutting through the Aon Center courtyard between Stetson and Columbus—the buildings block the breeze.

Tavern at the Park to close in March

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

After nearly 12 years as a New Eastside staple, the Tavern at the Park will close.

Owners of the popular restaurant, 130 E. Randolph St., completed the deal with Sterling Bay in December. The restaurant is expected to close in March, though partner Peter de Castro said he’s not sure when the last day will be—they have to be off the property by March 29.

“It’s kind of a moving target for the closing date. It depends on how much staff is left,” he said. “As soon as we decide we don’t have the staff to do things to our standards as we’ve always done them, we’ll make that decision and close it from there.”

De Castro said he and the other partners hadn’t planned to sell but Sterling Bay, the group that owns Prudential Plaza, approached the partners and made an offer. De Castro had mixed emotions about closing up shop.

“The decision was tough for staff because we had to give them 60-days notice, and so you want to make sure you take care of them,” he said. But from the financial side, it was an easy choice.

“A 12-year-run is a long run for a restaurant. At that point you have to talk about major remodeling anyway to stay fresh, and that shuts you down,” he said.

The news was especially tough on some longtime customers.

Robert Ogonovich said he’s been visiting the restaurant for years—practically since it opened—when he visits his daughter, who works downtown.

“I always pop in for a drink, when it’s convenient,” he explained.

This month he will have to look elsewhere, and said he is open to exploring the neighborhood.

“I’ll just have to find another place close to here,” Ogonovich said. “I’ll have to survey the neighborhood.”

Looking ahead, de Castro said he doesn’t know what he will do next. He has owned restaurants since 1987, but he said the industry is tough right now. A low unemployment rate is driving up wages for staff, and the city’s minimum wage is scheduled to increase to $13 an hour this July.

“I don’t know what will happen next,” he said. “There aren’t plans to do anything yet, but that could change tomorrow. I think we’re going to take a log off the fire and sit back.”

Kids focus on Ferris wheels at CAC’s Engineering Fest

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

(Published on Feb. 23)

Melissa Degroot had not visited the Chicago Architecture Center before Saturday, Feb. 23.

But she picked a good day to go with her four kids—all weekend long the center is hosting the seventh annual engineering festival.

It’s a festival aimed at teaching kids how and why the manmade world in Chicago works the way it does

“These kids love building things,” Degroot said, as she watched her kids build model Ferris wheels.

The theme of the engineering fest focused on the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, so kids could design Ferris wheels, play with staff—the building material used to cover the exposition’s temporary buildings—and learn about trusses and arches, among other things.

Sophia Monroy and Gabriel Monroy work on a Ferris wheel at the Chicago Architecture Center. Photo by Jesse Wright

By noon Saturday, hundreds of parents and kids had visited the festival and hundreds more are expected through the end of the weekend.

Angela Esposita, the senior manager of education for the CAC said the festival started as a way to end national engineering week and as a way to get kids interested in the built world and focusing this year’s festival on the 1893 exposition made sense.

“We’re celebrating the 125th anniversary of the fair,” she said. “Well, actually, that was last year but the exposition opened a year late, too, so we’re right on time.”

Organizers had planned the exposition to mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage to the New World in 1492.

Besides building materials, kids had access to professional critics.

“After they build Ferris wheels, the kids have structural engineers test the strength of their wheels and give feedback,” Esposita said. “Access to experts is what we’re all about.”

Besides hands on crafts, kids also got tours of the CAC and outdoor tours had been planned, though the rain cancelled those plans. Still, Esposita said the event is a great way to get parents in the door to see what the center can offer throughout the year.

“This is a small sample of what we do all year long,” she explained. “This is a good way for parents to get a taste of what the Chicago Architecture Center does.”

The event is free for members and $6 for non-members and kids under 14 get in free.

In May kids will compete in the Newhouse Architecture and Design Competition and the registration deadline is April 18. The CAC also offers family build time Sundays, 10-11:30 a.m.

The center is located at 111 W. Wacker Dr. For more information, visit their website at architecture.org.

Anonymous wedding proposal written into New Eastside Snow

An anonymous person on Feb. 19 shoveled a proposal in Maggie Daley Park's snow. Photo by Jesse Wright

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

(Published Feb. 19, 2019)

Although Valentine’s Day is in the rearview, love is still in the air in the New Eastside.

Shortly around noon Tuesday, Feb. 19, a person began shoveling snow in Maggie Daley Park, eventually spelling out a wedding proposal.

The proposal is visible from the 51st floor of the Aon Center at the New Eastside News’ new Carr Workplaces offices.

It’s not clear who shoveled the message, but by 5 p.m., no one had shoveled a reply.

Joffrey Ballet stuns audiences with ‘Anna Karenina’

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

The Joffrey Ballet brought to life Leo Tolstoy’s tragic love story “Anna Karenina” on Feb. 12 in an all-star production.

The ballet will run through Feb. 24.

Choreographed by Yuri Possokhov and composed by Ilya Demutsky, the Chicago Philharmonic performed the score, while Lindsay Metzger accompanied on vocals throughout the production.

The ballet begins with a man being run over by a train. The set design dazzled with a mix of projected media and ornate physical sets, reflecting Tsarist Russia. Anna and Vronsky meet for the first time at the Moscow train station and their immediate attraction palpable. Kitty is introduced at her home, in shades of pink, as Levin and other gentleman vie for her attention, but she is only interested in Vronsky’s impending arrival. Later, the company dances around Kitty as she fights for Vronsky’s attention, with dancers’ multicolored skirts brightening the stage. Anna, in an intricate black bedazzled dress, scandalously dances with Vronsky, dashing Kitty’s hope of a proposal from him.

The stately Karenin, Anna’s husband, is accompanied by robust brass instruments, as he meets his wife at the train station in St. Petersberg. Anna is reunited with her son at home, but domestic tranquility will not last as Anna rushes to Vronsky and their passionate affair begins with a languid and fervent pas de deux.

Anna and Vronsky run away together, but their affair soon sours. Heartbroken, Anna returns to her son and Karenin, but he banishes her forever, in an intricate dance between the three of them. Anna is distraught and undone, performing a frenetic and haunting solo before ultimately taking her life on the train tracks. The production ends, however, on a different note, with Kitty and Levin, now married, frolicking happily together in the countryside, surrounded by blue skies and yellow fields.

The performance is two hours long and runs Thursday through Sunday. For tickets and other information, visit the Joffrey Ballet online at joffrey.org/anna.

With temporary fix, north Lake Shore Drive open again

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

(Published Feb. 12, 2019)

According to the City of Chicago, the northbound lanes of traffic are now open on Lake Shore Drive.

The lanes were closed mid-day Monday after Chicago Department of Transportation employees noticed two cracked girders on Lake Shore Drive and another cracked girder on a ramp from Wacker to south Lake Shore Drive. The closure lasted just over a day. Since the problem was discovered, CDOT workers worked nonstop to repair the street.

Susan Hofer, a CDOT spokesperson, said the work went well over the 24-hour period.

“We made good progress through the night,” she said in an email Tuesday. “We re-opened The Wacker to southbound Lake Shore Drive ramp last night.”

At an on-site press conference with CDOT Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld, she explained the cracked beams were bolstered with four shoring towers.

“This will allow us to make repairs,” she explained. “We expect permanent repairs will be done over the next several weeks.”

The shoring towers can withstand a total of 300,000 pounds of pressure each.

The total cost of the temporary and permanent fix isn’t yet known.

Hofer added that CDOT is still not sure what exactly led to the cracks, though the polar vortex might have been a factor.

“We think the extreme temp variations might be part of the problem,” she said. “We’re still working on determining the causes. 

CDOT engineers are continuing to inspect other girders throughout the road system for cracks.

Ida B. Wells honored with downtown street name

Civil rights activist Ida B. Wells was honored Monday morning when city and state leaders officially unveiled new street signs for Ida B. Wells Drive.

The 1.2-mile downtown street was formerly known as Congress Parkway and aldermen Sophia King (Fourth Ward) and Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward) co-sponsored and passed the ordinance to rename the street in July 2018. This is the first downtown street named after an African American woman.

“She was an original boss,” King said. “She spoke truth to power and … changed the landscape of Chicago and the world.”

Wells was born into slavery in 1862 in Mississippi, but it was her pioneering work as a Memphis publisher and journalist where she first gained widespread attention. In 1891 Wells, who was also a public school teacher, began reporting on unequal conditions in black schools. Those articles got her fired from her teaching job.

A year later, in 1892, she began work on a series of articles on lynching that showed the practice, far from being a legitimate form of law enforcement, was a means of terrorizing African Americans to keep them powerless and scared. Her stories used data analysis and extensive investigative techniques that were new in journalism.

The stories so upset white Memphians, a mob burned her offices, destroyed her printing press and forced her to flee the South, though the series got national distribution in black papers. After a speaking tour in Europe, she settled in Chicago where she continued to civil rights work for African Americans and for women’s issues until her death in 1931.

“I believe this honor is long overdue,” said Reilly. “I believe it is wrong that until this day no street in downtown Chicago has ever been named for an African American woman. It’s wrong. But I can’t think of a better or more deserving individual than Ida B. Wells to right that wrong today.”

The mayor and Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton also praised Wells’ legacy and Michelle Duster, a great-granddaughter of Wells, said she hopes the street is an inspiration.

“Ida B. Wells Drive will remind everyone, no matter where they start in life, that it is possible to make their voice heard,” Duster said.

Chaz Ebert, the keynote speaker for the event, said public memorials to people of color are important, especially for children of color.

“As a little girl I used to wonder, did we really matter? As a little girl I had never seen a black fireman or a black nun,” she said. “And I would wonder, did we matter?

“Buckminster Fuller, when he used to greet people who said ‘hello’ to him, he would say, ‘I see you is see you.’ Because we all have a universal need to be seen, to be heard, to be loved and to know that we matter and that the footprint we leave on this earth will be observed by someone. And that’s what’s happening this morning.”

North Lake Shore Drive closed for ’emergency’

Just before noon on Monday, the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communication announced northbound lanes on Lake Shore Drive are closed to Grand Avenue because of a “structural emergency.”

According to the Chicago Department of Transportation, a beam is cracked at an on-ramp and the beam was not repaired in time for Tuesday’s morning traffic

It’s not clear when the beam cracked.

This story will be updated as new details emerge.

Chinese New Year kicks off in New Eastside

On Saturday, Feb. 9, New Eastside residents kicked off Chinese New Year with a celebratory lantern procession followed by lion dancing and skating demonstrations.

The celebrations started at 5 p.m. and wrapped at 7:30 p.m.

This is the Year of the Pig and more events are planned Feb. 16 at the Navy Pier.

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