Chicago Architecture Center announces new neighborhoods, buildings to be featured in annual open house

(Published Sept. 10, 2019)

The Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) announced on Sept. 10 the full roster of neighborhoods and sites participating in Open House Chicago 2019—now in its ninth year and one of the largest architecture festivals in the world. This free two-day public event, taking place over the weekend of Oct. 19 and 20. It offers behind-the-scenes access to almost 350 sites in 37 neighborhoods, many rarely open to the public, including repurposed mansions, stunning skyscrapers, opulent theaters, exclusive private clubs, industrial facilities, cutting-edge offices and breathtaking sacred spaces. 

The new offerings in 2019 include a trail of dozens of theater venues and related sites, literally from A (Adventure Stage Chicago) to Z (Zap Props), celebrating the City’s 2019 Year of Chicago Theatre; an expansion into the Northwest side with the addition of Irving Park, Portage Park, and Jefferson Park joining communities highlighted in previous years of Open House Chicago; and an open invitation to visit the CAC at 111 E. Wacker Dr. throughout Open House Chicago weekend, free of charge, for an informative overview of Chicago’s rich architectural legacy.  

“The ninth annual Open House Chicago is our gift to this city. We’re excited for all Chicagoans to ‘choose their own adventure’ and explore new communities and experience the rich diversity that lies within the 37 neighborhoods included in OHC 2019,” said Lynn Osmond, president and CEO of the CAC. “We’re also inviting people to discover the new  galleries at the Chicago Architecture Center for free on October 19 and 20. Chicago’s intrepid urban explorers who love our annual celebration of Chicago neighborhoods will discover that same authentic Chicago experience in our Chicago Gallery, home to the famous Chicago Model and skyscraper exhibits.”

Also new in 2019, Open House Chicago expands its presence on the Northwest Side with the addition of sites in the Irving Park, Portage Park, and Jefferson Park neighborhoods.  Highlights in the area include Irving Park’s Irish American Heritage Center, a former public school with a restored auditorium, private club room and Celtic art throughout; Jefferson Park’s Copernicus Center in the former Gateway Theater, an atmospheric 1930s movie palace transformed into a vibrant concert and theatrical venue; and Eris Brewery & Cider House, the award-winning adaptive reuse of an imposing former Masonic temple as home to a producer of distinctive ciders and beers.

For a complete list of participating sites, visit openhousechicago.org. Most Open House Chicago sites are free and do not require a reservation, but participants are encouraged to sign up to receive event e-newsletters and last-minute announcements. Get the latest news and fun facts about Open House Chicago by following the Chicago Architecture Center on Twitter (@chiarchitecture) and Facebook (facebook.com/chiarchitecture). In addition to free access, Open House Chicago offers activities at various sites all weekend long, including cultural performances, family festivals and more. Information about these programs will be added to the website later in September.

Select Open House Chicago sites require advance registration (usually due to security or capacity constraints) and will not accept drop-in visitors. TodayTix will charge a modest processing fee for most RSVP-only site bookings. Registration for these sites and lotteries opens on Sept. 10, and full information is available on the Open House Chicago website. 

Lake Shore Drive and Roosevelt Road bridges closed for repairs Sept. 11

(Published Sept. 9, 2019)

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) announced a full closure of the Lake Shore Drive Bridge over the Chicago River on Sept. 11 from 11 p.m. to Sept. 12 at 5 a.m. The full closure is required for the maintenance of the Lake Shore Drive Bridge. 

Northbound Upper-level and Lower-level Lake Shore Drive will be detoured to Mid-level Wacker Drive, to Northbound Columbus Drive, to Eastbound Illinois Street, and back to Northbound Lake Shore Drive. Southbound Upper-level and Lower-level Lake Shore Drive will be detoured to Westbound Grand Avenue, to Southbound Columbus Drive, to Eastbound Randolph Street, and back to Southbound Lake Shore Drive. 

Though upper building delayed, GEMS grows academically

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

While the new GEMS World Academy’s new upper school building will not be ready by the start of school, GEMS head Tom Cangiano said plenty of other new classes and programs will debut this school year.

The new building will add classes and gym space for students. Initially, the school planned to open the new facility this fall, in time for the 2019/2020 year, but Cangiano said the space will instead open later over the winter, in early 2020.

Nevertheless, the school’s high school program is getting underway with 40 students registered. While the building nears competition, GEMS students are attending courses in the Gleacher Center, at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, across the river.

With the high school program underway, the private school is on the cusp of achieving its International Baccalaureate certification as an IB World School, meaning the school will be able to offer a diploma program, the first private school in the state to offer such a program.

Matt Arado, the associate director of communications for GEMS, said the program encourages student creativity and collaboration and, increasingly, an IB diploma is seen as a boon among universities.

“More and more colleges look very well on IB diploma graduates as opposed to other non-IB kids of programs,” he said.

Cangiano said GEMS is also strengthening its curriculum. The school has always encouraged courses and students to explore the city and now he said those lessons are being formalized.

“Our whole idea is we talk a lot about global citizenship,” Cangiano said. “We’re trying to make sure our kids really understand the region of Chicago, its environmental concerns, the economy and how the city government works.”

The program will incorporate lessons from pre-kindergarten through the high school level and cover six topic areas.

“I hope students understand an urban system and all its complexity and I think that’s politics demographics, environmental concerns and other nominal issues like infrastructure, and that they have a good understanding of that,” Cangiano explained.

He added that by the time the students graduate, he expects they will understand the various challenges facing a city as well as some solutions for those challenges.

This year the school is on track to meet its goal of 450 students. By late August, Cangiano said the school had enrolled around 410 students, with several weeks to go before the year started. This is an increase over last year’s goal of 365 students.

The school is welcoming 15 new faculty to the campus and, this year, even Cangiano is teaching a course. Cangiano’s background is English, and he’ll be teaching ninth grade English this year.

Among the books on his reading list are standards like Romeo and Juliet, Antigone and the Odyssey, though he is also including “Trumbull Park,” a fictionalized account of the racial strife facing black people in Chicago during housing integration. Cangiano said the book choice is part of the school’s effort to teach Chicago.

The school is currently accepting applications for all grades through 12th grade for the 2020-2021 school year and there are limited seats available for the current year. The school’s public open house will be Oct. 26 and for more information, visit info.gemsworldacademy-chicago.com.

New Eastside Doorperson of the Month: Jerome Bell, Park Shore

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

For the last 21 years Jerome Bell has worked at the Park Shore as doorman and he said he has no plans to go anywhere anytime soon.

“It’s a great building,” Bell said. “The residents are great, it’s a classy building, it’s luxury and it’s an all-around great place to work.”

Bell said the building helps inspire him to deliver great service.

“First of all for me, I try to offer a type of service I would want if I lived in a building like this,” he said. “I try to stay professional at all times. You just have to offer good service. Service is key.”

Bell said he started at the building shortly after it became a fully condominium building. When he arrived, he said the residents were mostly on the older side, though these days he said there’s a mix of older and younger residents.

Park Shore is off North Harbor Drive, a quiet street without through traffic, so most of Bell’s day is spent looking after residents and not policing the area.

“It’s pretty quiet,” Bell admits. “It’s not as busy as it would it if it were out on a main street. It’s kind of hidden.”

Not that Bell is complaining. The building boasts some of the best Lake Michigan views in New Eastside, and most of the building’s 480 or so units are filled, meaning Bell and the other doorpeople stay busy looking after residents and their guests.

“You have to multi task” Bell said. “With it being busy, if I’m at the desk, you gotta watch the doors and answer the phones you gotta hand out keys and you gotta know who belongs here and who doesn’t belong here. So you gotta be very observant.”

While the street may be quiet, Bell said the building does get the occasional foot traffic from visitors who are looking to get to the Navy Pier.

“You gotta let people know its private property and there are no access points to Navy Pier,” he said. “You gotta tell them how to get there from Harbor Drive.”

When not at work, Bell said he enjoys spending time with his family, riding his bicycle and watching television. He loves sports—go Cubs, he says—and he has high hopes for this year’s Bears outfit.

“I think the Bears could make the Superbowl this year, if we could stay healthy,” Bell said. “We just gotta get Mitch (Trubisky) a little more accurate and if we can do that, We’ll be OK. This team has more weapons than the U.S. military.”

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.

New Eastside CAPS meeting draws noise complaints

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright 

Chicago police assured New Eastside residents city officials are working on a legislative solution to noise caused by street performers.

One resident said he couldn’t talk inside a Starbucks at Adams and Michigan because of the noise from sidewalk performers beating on buckets while asking for money. He said when police asked the drummers to leave, one of the street musicians swore at the officer.

“It aggravated the heck out of me,” the man said.

A representative from Alderman Brendan Reilly’s office said the alderman is reviewing legislation to crack down on street performers.

“He’s working to make sure it’s good, clear legislation,” she said.

CAPS Sgt. Anthony Dombrowski added that sometimes people do not respect the police. He said on one evening in early August, a team of officers went to close the skate part at 9 p.m. but a teenage boy and a homeless person declined to leave.

“They didn’t care, they said, ‘we’re not leaving,’” Dombrowski said. This degenerated into a physical confrontation and the 15 year old hit the officer with a skateboard. The boy and a 30-year-old man who “appeared to be homeless” were both arrested. Both people pushed and spit on officers, Dombrowski said.

“Nobody was seriously hurt, two individuals were arrested including the 15 year old,” he said. “The point is, people don’t listen to us even when it’s clear. There was a sign right there that said the park closes at 9 p.m. … They presented a united front even though I don’t believe they knew each other.”

Dombrowski said protesters recently blocked Lake Shore Drive, and he said the protests could get more frequent as the 2020 federal election draws closer.

In addition, a woman who identified herself as a census employee said the coming 2020 census is still looking for workers, and she asked residents to check out job listings online at 2020census.gov/jobs.

The next CAPS meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 12 at 400 E. Randolph.

Get to know a CEO: Joanne Smith, CEO of Shirley Ryan AbilityLab

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Q: To start with, could you tell me a little bit about your background? I know you went to undergrad in Michigan; did you grow up there? When did medicine begin to interest you and at what point did you decide to focus on rehabilitation? I noticed by the time you did your residency, you were already practicing in the field of rehabilitation, and I’m curious what professional challenges appealed to you in the field.

A: Yes, I grew up in Michigan and went to undergrad and medical school there. My sister was a nurse, and I considered that path, but ultimately decided to become a doctor. Nursing is highly structured, and I needed to interact with patients in a way that was less process-based and more discovery-based. So I went to med school. I’ll never forget assisting an orthopedic surgeon on a visit to a free clinic during my elective rotation in physical medicine and rehabilitation (PMR). Patients there gifted me with insight — I realized they didn’t want conformist solutions, they wanted better outcomes. They want to live their best, happiest and most independent lives. This insight would drive my calling and my career.

Q: Did you immediately notice the problems with rehabilitation medicine—the ones you would later come to address through Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, or did your opinions and views change over time?

As someone with a scientist’s drive for solving problems, early on I saw a lack of research advancing this field. However, now we are living in a time of momentous, rapid convergence of the sciences, technology, biologics and engineering. As leaders, it is incumbent upon us at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab to harness this synergy. Thus, my vision was born to structurally and philosophically compel collaboration between medicine and science. Our success, which is already apparent in helping patients achieve better outcomes, is not only raising the bar for our field, but also for the practice of medicine.

Q: What inspired you to get an MBA? Being a physician is notoriously time consuming and stressful and it’s a passion for most doctors. Why get into the business side of things? More specifically, what interested you in being a CEO?

A: I didn’t plan to earn my MBA, but when I was a young physician at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), my mentor asked me to serve as a medical consultant for the University of Chicago Hospitals. There, I got a bird’s-eye view of the business and operations side of medicine. I observed that leading physicians in acute “cure-based” medicine did not always understand the rehabilitation work of the post-acute sector. This experience led me to the MBA program at University of Chicago Booth School of Business. As a physician, I loved treating my patients, but as CEO of Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, I know that I can have a much greater impact, not only for our patients, but also for the people who need us all over the world.

Q: In addition to being a CEO, I understand you’re still on the medical faculty at Northwestern’s school of medicine. Where do you find the time to do all of this? What keeps you in academia? I would assume there’s more than enough to fill the days as CEO of the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab?

A: We are doing what no one else is doing, and thus have a responsibility to be a resource to the world. It’s a privilege to share our ever-growing expertise and discovery, and that’s why I speak frequently nationally and internationally before thought leaders in healthcare and beyond.  

Q: The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab has long been noted as one of the world’s leading providers of rehabilitation services due, in no small part, to your view that medical providers should dismiss the prefix dis- in disability and focus instead on helping the patient function in a way that makes sense to them as opposed to forcing patients to conform to expectations/social preferences of those around them. This seems nothing short of a radical idea, considering until very recently, people with severe disabilities were literally hidden away from public view in various way, though often with the best of intentions. Is this indeed as radical as it seems?

A: Yes, it’s a radical idea. Even more radical is our model that integrates doctors and therapists together with researchers in the same space so that “cross-pollination” can lead to greater innovation. Shirley Ryan AbilityLab is the first-ever translational research hospital in which clinicians and scientists collaborate side by side with patients 24/7. In our revolutionary model, we have shifted the focus from the process of rehabilitation to the outcome — ability. The result? Better, faster recoveries for the patients we serve.

Q: Of course, this was the topic of your Aspen Ideas Festival essay and you mentioned changing the vernacular in medicine and in treatment settings (and I understand that’s why the lab was renamed the AbilityLab, as opposed to the former Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago) but this issue seems bigger than a CEO or a physician or even a research hospital. It seems like you’re trying to change public opinion, or the opinion of everyone who isn’t or has never been through rehabilitation. Is this indeed the goal?

A: Our biggest goal is advancing human ability. Ability is function. That’s why we’ve invested so significantly in speeding discovery and innovation — all focused solely on helping patients achieve better outcomes, faster. The world is watching and taking note.

Q: If so, that seems perhaps a bit Sisyphean and maybe even more ambitious than leading one of the world’s best research hospitals, though I’m guessing you wouldn’t agree with that?

A: Patients and families don’t come to us for the status quo. They expect more from us, and everyone here — from clinicians, scientists and staff to executives — is passionate about helping others by solving big problems. I’ve never shied away from a challenge, and that attitude is part of our culture. It’s no accident that we invented the world’s first thought-controlled bionic arm, among many other advancements and innovations. Every one of our scientists works on projects that will directly benefit one (or more) of our patient populations.

Q: I ask because from an outside perspective it seems like public option of people with disabilities seems almost regressive at time. Last year the House passed the ADA Education and Reform Act, which would have significantly weakened the ADA and made it harder for people with disabilities to get access to public facilities and to sue violators. What did that mean for you? What does that say about public opinion of people with disabilities?

A: I keep a quote by Goethe close at hand: “The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.” We need a new vernacular. Our language evolves as our society grows more informed, compassionate and inclusive. We are not waiting for that change to happen, we are driving it. Actually, our patients are driving it.

Q: How would you suggest doctors and other advocates change public perception and public opinion?

A: Focus on what people can do, not what they can’t. At Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, we’re harnessing the power of science and best-in-class clinical care to advance human ability.

Q: Finally, getting back to the day to day at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab and maybe ending on a more positive note, is there any new research that looks promising you’d like to share? What do we have to look forward to?

A: Two years into our novel experiment of embedding science into the clinical environment, we’re taking advantage of a convergence of disciplines and discovery to leapfrog our understanding of the human brain. We are using multiple modalities to exploit the brain’s potential. By focusing on outcomes, we’re getting closer to finding cures for today’s most vexing brain injuries and diseases.

Filini introduces lobby sushi as part of plan to revamp its kitchen

(Published 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Longtime fans of Filini Bar and Restaurant may have noticed some recent changes.

Since April, Filini, 221 N. Columbus Drive, has been helmed by executive chef Leonard Ventura, a veteran chef with experience in Texas and California.

Ventura added a sushi station to the Radisson lobby and introduced dollar oysters on Friday and Saturday with half-off martinis as well as a sundae cart during the summer months.

The sushi bar moved into the lobby in July and Ventura said it’s been a hit with visitors who enjoy watching the proverbial sausage get made.

“It’s something I always did at different hotels,” Ventura said. “I saw it was always successful.”

The sushi bar has something for everyone and Ventura said he’s not through tweaking the menu. He plans to add new breakfast items and he’s making an effort to source more local produce.

“We’re always looking for more local and sustainable food,” he said.

This can be hard in the Midwest, with long, cold winter months, but Ventura said he’s sourcing what he can from nearby farms.

“Towards winter I do more pickling and add more heavier items,” he said. Ventura is also looking into local meats, and said he plans to add a smoker in January.

“We want to get beef and different types of meat like lamb,” he said. “I’d like to start to make my own sausage as well. In Texas, I did my own bacon and sausage and smoked hams.”

Ventura is looking to beef up the craft beer selection. In the coming months, he said the restaurant will unveil a 20-tap craft beer selection featuring 18 local beers in addition to standbys like Budweiser and one signature beer.

“We have a company that’s brewing a craft beer for us now that will be featured here,” Ventura said. “Brickstone Brewing will make the beer.”

Ventura said he’d also like to get a rotisserie oven in the kitchen and he has plans to hire a baker, so all the breads will be done in-house.

These are long term plans, but in the months since Ventura has taken over, changes to the menu have drawn more diners.

“Since last year we’ve more than doubled our reservations,” Ventura said.

For more information, visit Filini online at filinichicago.com. 

You’re move: Residents have fun at board game night

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

A group of New Eastside—and nearby—residents have come together to form a board game night. The group meets monthly in the party room at The Tides, 360 E. South Water St.

New Eastside resident Ishmeet Lamda started the game night by reaching out to neighbors on the social media application NextDoor. She was excited to discover many people in the neighborhood like to play board games.

“I’m an extrovert who likes to socialize and also love to play board games,” Lamda said. 

New Eastside resident Jeffrey Molsen regularly attends. 

“The neighborhood board game night is great because it allows me to meet new people through sharing some of my favorite games and getting the opportunity to try out new ones,” he said.

A typical board game night includes a warm-up game to account for any latecomers. Short games, such as Uno or Iota, are played. 

“We then either split into groups and play, or we all come together and play cooperative games which are super engaging,” Lamda said. Those games, like Pandemic and Avalon, are more strategic and take a longer time.

Lamda’s favorites to play at game night are Stone Age, Iota, Hanabi, Uno, and Code Names.

Molsen said his favorite is Fluxx. 

“The rules start simple, and you just have to do what the cards say after that,” he said. “However, it can quickly devolve into delightful mayhem.”

The board game club welcomes all new members.

“It is a pretty flexible and happy-go-lucky group,” Lambda said. 

Plans are put together on NextDoor. Lamda posts information about meetings. The next planned meeting is 6 p.m. on Sept. 6. Lamda asks interested parties to RSVP on NextDoor.

[Board Game Night members rounding out the night with Uff-Da and free massages from (name) photo by Stephanie Racine]

Portion of Navy Pier Flyover to temporarily close

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

According to Alderman Brendan Reilly’s office, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) will temporarily close the new section of the Navy Pier Flyover that opened last December on Sept. 3. 

The flyover will re-open in late September.


The closure is required in order to connect the completed segment to the second phase of the project, which is nearing completion. The closure was delayed until after Labor Day to avoid the height of biking season. 

During this closure, pedestrians and bicyclists will be directed with signage to use the old route of the Lakefront Trail at street level across Illinois and Grand on Lower Lake Shore Drive. 


When the trail reopens, the two portions of the trail will connect a temporary bridge to the east sidewalk of the Lake Shore Drive Bridge. A ramp from the Flyover down to Navy Pier and Illinois Street will also be open at that time.


Work will continue through the fall on Phase 3 of the Navy Pier Flyover. It involves retrofitting the existing LSD Bridge with a cantilever structure on the east side of the span that will allow for widening the trail to eliminate the existing bottlenecks users encounter. 

Some friendly (and not so friendly) reminders for watching the Air and Water Show

(Published July 31, 2019)

By Jon Cohn

One of the Midwest’s great summer events descends upon the city as the Chicago Air and Water Show rears it’s noisy, but exciting, head on Aug. 17 and 18. 

Huge crowds are expected and the Chicago beachfront will be packed, which could present some interesting challenges. So, as a long-time veteran of the spectator wars at the Air and Water Show, we present some crucial “don’t forgets.”

  • Don’t forget to get there early. More than two million people attended last year, so there will be battles for prime viewing locations. For an up close and personal experience, North Avenue Beach is perfect, but prepare to be squished in among a throng of fellow viewers.

Great viewing locations exist along Oak Street, Ohio Street and Fullerton Avenue beaches. My secret spot is the long line of elevated steps between Ohio and Oak streets, offering a great view and it’s a little less crowded.

  • Don’t forget sunscreen. If it’s a hot day and you forgot your SPF 30 you will cook like a Fourth of July hot dog on a grill. A hat with a flap is also recommended.
  • Don’t forget to bring fluids (preferably water). Bring snacks, too, if you don’t want to wait in long lines for food.
  • Speaking of long lines, don’t forget to go to the bathroom before you head out. Washrooms are available along the route, but you might as well bring a book as the wait can be excruciating.

Don’t forget to bring a camera and binoculars. The up-close looks can be spectacular.

Don’t forget to keep an eye on your dog. The loud noises can freak out even the calmest of pets.

Don’t forget Friday is practice day. Many a downtowner has panicked thinking air raids or worse when the planes do their runs.

Don’t forget to duck when the Blue Angels or The Thunderbirds head your way in a screeching, loud, downward spiral. It’s a natural reaction, we all do it.

Finally, don’t forget to enjoy the show.

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