Shedd welcomes new whale

(Published July 31, 2019)

The Shedd Aquarium announced Mauyak (MY-yak), a 38-year-old beluga whale, gave birth to a healthy calf on July 3. The entire birth, from the emergence of the baby’s flukes to complete delivery, took 33 minutes. Both mother and calf are progressing well and will remain under 24-hour observation by Shedd’s animal care team for several months. 

Shortly after the birth, the calf swam to the surface and took its first breath, assisted and supported by an attentive Mauyak. The two then began to swim together and bond as Mauyak guided the new arrival around its home. The sex of the calf has yet to be determined. Animal care staff members estimate the calf to be approximately five feet long and weigh about 150 pounds.

Primark fashion opens first Midwest store in Chicago 

Primark is planning to bring its “Amazing Fashion at Amazing Prices” to the Midwest for the first time. 

International retailer Primark in July announced it will open its first store in the Midwest in Chicago. Primark has signed a lease with The Georgetown Company for 35 N. State St., the largest lease on State Street since 2014. 

The company has not announced an opening date yet. The location is a former GAP store. 

Primark will take over the entire 45,000-square-foot building and trade from 36,200 square feet of retail space over three levels. Before an opening date is announced the iconic property is undergoing a complete renovation tailored to fit Primark’s specific needs, including modernization of the exterior and complete interior remodeling. 

Located at the intersection of State and Washington Streets, the location is home to an eclectic mix of restaurants, entertainment options, cultural institutions and world- famous landmarks. The neighborhood has long been known as one of the top shopping destinations in the United States.

“Primark has been searching for a Midwest location as part of the company’s continued expansion into the United States,” said Tom Meager, Property Director for Primark. “We are fortunate to have found and secured such an impressive location in the heart of the vibrant Chicago market.”

“We recognized an amazing opportunity with the State Street corridor as one of the most sought after retail destinations in the country,” said Adam Flatto from Georgetown. “As one of the fastest growing retailers in the United States, Primark is a perfect fit for the building and will be a welcome addition to a popular list of neighboring businesses in the Loop.” 

Founded in 1969, Primark is a leading fashion retailer headquartered in Ireland. Primark offers a diverse range of the latest trends in women’s, men’s and children’s wear, homeware, accessories and beauty products.

Chicago police report string of thefts in Michigan Ave. stores

According to a warning police issued in July, several groups of young people are targeting Michigan Ave. retail stores for thefts. 

The thefts began in early June, spanned through early July, and were committed in stores in the 400 block of Michigan Ave. According to a news release, in each incident, multiple offenders entered retail stores, loaded merchandise into bags, and exited the store. The offenders fled on foot. In all eight incidents, the thieves worked in the afternoon or evening and the thefts occurred on weekends and on weekdays. 

The police have made no arrests, though the suspects include one-to-six African American adults, ages 18-25 and one-to-three African American women, ages unknown.  

Chicago police urge store owners to keep records of property serial numbers and call police immediately if they are victims of theft and to give officers good descriptions of the thieves. 

Woman sexually assaulted following theft on Randolph Street

A woman had her phone snatched and was then sexually assaulted on Randolph St. between 3 and 3:40 a.m. on July 9.

According to Chicago police, a 27-year-old female was waiting at a Red Line platform at State and Lake when an unknown black male took her phone and started running. 

She chased him down the street and eventually to the 100 block of East Randolph at which point the offender ran into an underground parking garage stairwell. The victim followed and the offender sexually assaulted the victim in the stairwell, and then fled on foot.

No one is in custody, though police describe the suspect as black man, 25-35 years old, wearing long black dreads and, at the time, a red or black hat, a black t-shirt, black pants, black shoes and a dark, multi colored backpack.The victim was transported to Northwestern in stable condition. 

Police are investigating the incident and meanwhile urge residents to remain aware of their surroundings and if confronted by an assailant to remain calm and never pursue a fleeing assailant. 

Carr Workplaces raising funds for education

Carr Workplaces, 200 E Randolph St. 5100, a New Eastside short-term shared workspace, is raising money to help disadvantaged students. 

According to a news release, Oliver Carr Jr., founder of Carr Workplaces, has long sought to address poverty through education. In 2012, Carr created Rising Stars, a private foundation that raises money for schools who provide superior education to children with difficult backgrounds. 

The company’s annual backpack drive raises funds for Rising Stars and all donations are donated to schools to help cover the cost of tuition for a child of limited means.

Through August, anyone can donate to risingstars.org to help pay for someone’s education. 

Three people assaulted on Washington St. 

According to the Chicago Police Department, two people were stabbed and another person was hit July 6 at 11:25 in the 100 block of E. Washington St. 

According to a police report, one black man and one black woman approached three victims, talked with them and then stabbed two and hit the other person. The offenders then ran off. 

The police are seeking the public’s help in identifying the attackers. The male is about 6-foot or 6-foot-one-inch tall and has dreads while the female wears her hair in a braid. 

If anyone is a victim, police recommend calling 911 immediately and if anyone has information about this incident they should call the bureau of detectives at 312-747-8380.

Cirrus releases new interior renderings, expects to break ground in Sept. 

In late July, Cirrus developers began to stage the construction site for the proposed 47-story condo unit. This included installing barricades and fencing, though the groundbreaking is not scheduled until September. 

At present, pedestrian traffic will be diverted, though the project will not yet impact vehicular traffic. 

Even so, LendLease, one of the developers, released some new interior renderings showcasing the views from several of the planned 363 units. 

The units will range from 650 to 3,000 square feet and will be priced anywhere from $400,000 to $4 million and will include one-to-four bedroom plans and two townhome residences at ground level and 15 penthouse units on the top floors. 

Pre-sale for the 211 N. Harbor Drive units started in April, and according to LendLease, sales have been healthy. The Cirrus development will later be joined by two other units. All three buildings are designed by New Eastside’s bKL Architecture.

City council passes stricter drag racing, drifting penalties 

In the last week of July, the Chicago City Council passed Alderman Brendan Reilly’s drag racing and drifting ordinance, which will increase the fines for drag racing and drifting to at least $5,000 to no more than $10,000 per offense.

The ordinance also establishes a $500 fine for operating a motor vehicle with an altered muffler within the City of Chicago. 

Reilly has been working with the Chicago Police Department and the Chicago Department of Transportation to combat the issue of dangerous drag racing and drifting on Lower Wacker Drive.

According to a press release, Reilly believes that his new ordinance will help deter drivers from partaking in this illegal behavior, and will assist the Chicago Police Department in combating this issue. 

The ordinance will take effect on Sept. 28.

Grant Park Music Festival to close with Mahler’s ‘Resurrection Symphony’

The 85th season of the Grant Park Music Festival, led by conductor Carlos Kalmar with chorus director Christopher Bell, concludes in Aug. 17 at Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion. The season closes with Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, featuring the award-winning Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus with guest soloists.

Until then, all concerts take place on Wednesday and Friday evenings at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. Concerts on Aug. 2 and 3 move indoors to the Harris Theater during Lollapolooza. The complete Grant Park Music Festival schedule is available at gpmf.org.

Kalmar conducts the final weeks of the festival beginning with Mozart’s Prague Symphony (Aug. 2-3) featuring violin soloist Vadim Gluzman in a performance of Bernstein’s Serenade.

The Grant Park Orchestra returns to the Pritzker Pavilion with The Mambo Kings, known for their explosive blend of Afro-Cuban rhythms and jazz improvisation, for Hot Latin Nights (Aug. 7). The week concludes with the rarely performed A Mass of Life (Aug. 9-10) by Frederick Delius featuring soprano Melody Moore, mezzo-soprano Ewa Plonka, tenor Andrew Staples, and bass-baritone Nathan Berg.  

The final week at the Grant Park Music Festival includes Rimsky-Korsakov’s famed Flight of the Bumblebee, Aug. 14, from his opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan, Amy Beach’s Variations on a Balkan Theme, and Morton Gould’s Cowboy Rhapsody.

Patrons can order one night member passes for reserved seats, starting at $26, by calling 312.742.7647 or going online gpmf.org. and select a seat down front in the member section of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Membership support helps to keep the Festival free for all. For every Grant Park Music Festival concert, there are seats that are free and open to the public in Millennium Park’s Seating Bowl and on the Great Lawn, available on a first-come, first-served basis.

At the draw of a window blind, BCBS gets the word out

(Published July 30, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

When Blue Cross Blue Shield wants to send a message, they don’t buy a billboard or send out emails—they light up the night sky along the building’s south-facing tower in letters that stretch several stories.

Blue Cross Blue Shield recently honored nurses with a We Love Nurses display. Recently the company honored the United States with a patriotic Fourth of July message in red, white and blue and prior to that they celebrated Pride month in June. 

The lettering is familiar to New Eastsiders, but the story behind the lights may not be.

BCBS spokesperson Colleen Miller said it’s not a high-tech operation.

“It’s just our internal lights that are left on [and] the blinds are left open to show messages,” she said. “It’s very low tech. It’s literally people going and opening blinds.”

In all, it takes a team of five people to control the window coverings based on a design created in an Excel program. It’s an approach that hasn’t changed much since the tradition began 20 years ago. 

The tradition dates to November 1999 when Bears great Walter Payton died. To honor him, Blue Cross Blue Shield displayed a memorial along the south tower. Blue Cross Blue Shield employee Chris Gillott had the idea to write 34, Payton’s jersey number, along the south tower to honor the football star. From there, a tradition was born.

Miller said the company has used the wall to promote public health.

“We look at it as an asset,” she said, “to send a message to promote community health.”

Other community groups can request a message, though Miller said there are guidelines on what Blue Cross Blue Shield will promote.

“We vet the requests so they’re aligned with our messages,” Miller said. “We don’t do personal messages. It’s not for personal billboarding or that sort of thing.”

When Gillott died in 2013, the company offered “Thanks, Chris” as a farewell to the man who started the New Eastside tradition.

Although the side of the building isn’t visible to many people, Miller said the company will post pictures of the messages to social media and some of those go viral.

“Talk about low tech, high impact,” she said.

Sports messages are among the most shared. Miller said popular posts were when the Cubs and Blackhawks won championships.

“We get great feedback,” she said. “It’s really about civic pride.”

Golden Knights, Blue Angels headline 61st annual event by the lake

(Published July 30, 2019

By Elisa Shoenberger, Staff Writer

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels, the U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights and the U.S. Navy Parachute Team Leap Frogs will headline the 61st annual Chicago Air and Water Show, set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 17-18.

Last year’s show drew an estimated 1 million people, said Mary May, Marketing and Communications, Public Relations Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events for the City of Chicago.

The show will also feature the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team The Red Arrows from the United Kingdom. Nineteen other groups will be performing with nine military demonstrations and ten civilian teams. 

This year’s special guests, the RAF Red Arrows have performed nearly 5,000 times in 57 countries since 1965, according to a City of Chicago news release. The Red Arrows will perform in more than 20 displays in the U.S. and Canada on its first North American tour in 11 years, according to the Red Arrows website. 

To get the Red Arrows’ Hawk T1 jets to North America, they will be flown over three days, the tour website said. They will have 12 Hawk aircrafts and 1 Atlas A400M RAF transport aircraft. The tour will include 108 people, “including pilots, engineers and support staff.”

A regular of the Air and Water Show, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels includes 16 officers. The Commanding Officer, known as the “Boss” who flies the number 1 jet, is required to “have at least 3,000 tactical jet flight-hours and have commanded a tactical jet squadron,” according to the Blue Angels website. Officers in jets 2 through 8 must “have an aircraft carrier qualification and a minimum of 1,250 tactical jet flight-hours.” 

The U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights was founded in 1959 but received its name in 1962 due to all the gold medals the Knights had won, according to the Golden Knights website.

“The team has earned the U.S. Army 2,148 gold, 1,117 silver, and 693 bronze medals in national and international competition,” the site said. “Team members have also broken 348 world records.” The Golden Knights currently have nearly 95 men and women, including four parachute units and five aircrafts, according to their website. They perform annually in over 100 events.

Not Your Average Mother’s Day

(Published April 30, 2019)

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

Treat mom to a unique Mother’s Day experience that goes beyond brunch.

Family Game Night Out

Does mom love family game night, but is often stressed playing host? Try Family Game Night Out in Lakeview, which takes the pressure off mom. Invite the whole family, from 6-24 guests, to play familiar party games in a private room that includes a host. Family Game Night Out is BYOB and welcomes guests to bring snacks. $45 per person for a 2-3 hour experience, depending on the number of guests. Make reservations in advance. Recommended for game players 18 and up.

gamenightout.com

2828 N Clark St., Chicago

312-448-724

Donut Tour

If mom is a pastry fan, then the Chicago Donut tour will be a treat. The Underground Donut Tour has two Chicago-based tours, one of which covers downtown, the other covers Wicker Park. The downtown tour encompasses two miles and each donut shop stop includes samples. Tours run Thursday to Sunday and begin at 9 a.m. The downtown tour is $35 for adults and $15 for children.

undergrounddonuttour.com

Freeze and Float

For a relaxing Mother’s Day, take mom to River North’s Freeze and Float, a recently opened spa specializing in cryotherapy treatments, infrared saunas and flotation therapy. Cryotherapy hyper-cools the body for three minutes, with temperatures in the chambers reaching -184F. According to the Freeze and Float website, Cryotherapy has rejuvenating effects, similar to the benefits of icing inflamed muscles. Infrared saunas improve circulation and help with injury recovery. Floatation therapy in Epsom-salt filled water is a meditative experience. They also offer classic massages, facials, and beauty treatments. For pricing and more information, visit Freeze and Float’s website, or call them.

freezefloatspa.com

371 W Ontario St.

312 809-7008

Windy Kitty

For the cat-lover mom, Windy Kitty is the place to go. Windy Kitty is a cat cafe in Wicker Park, where mom can hang out with some rescue cats, while having a snack or coffee. Cats at the cafe are available for adoption, but enjoy being visited too. Windy Kitty also features a kitten nursery, available to visit for those over 10. Windy Kitty strongly suggests reservations. Admission is $14 per person per hour. For parties of five people or more, Windy Kitty recommends a private party reservation. They often have fun events, such as Yoga with Cats or Painting with Cats. For more information, visit their website, or email them. w

1746 W North Ave

Let it Out

Moms often are subject to a lot of stress. To give mom a way to let go of that stress, take her to The Rage Room, in River North’s Escapades Escape Room. For those over 18, the Rage Room allows visitors to break as many items, such as televisions, crockery, and computer equipment, as they desire. The Rage Room provides safety wear to go along with a baseball bat, crowbar or golf club. The room can be shared with up to 15 people in a party, but only one person goes in at a time. Experiences can last up to 2 hours, or can be as little as 15 minutes. Prices vary. Online reservations required. Visit their website for more information.

www.escapadesescapegames.com

153 W. Ohio

312-526-3072

Learn Something New

For the jack-of-all-trades mom, check out Dabble, which has classes available in a variety of subjects. Pasta making, archery, glassblowing and soap making are just a few available on Dabble in the upcoming weeks. They also have food tours, architecture tours and drinking tours. Prices, locations, and times vary. Dabble’s website has a list of classes and is constantly updating new times, dates, and experiences.

dabble.co/chicago/

Peregrine falcons find a home in Chicago

(Published April 30, 2019

Abhinanda Datta, Staff Writer

If you spot a mid-sized raptor swoop in at incredible speed and catch another bird in flight, don’t be surprised—it is just a peregrine falcon.

Found throughout the world, these birds have found a home in the Midwest, with more than 20 American peregrine falcons in the Chicagoland area.

With a body length of 15 – 20 inches, the peregrines can attain a speed of 200 mph when diving on their prey.

According to Mary Hennen, collections assistant in the Bird Division at the Field Museum, an estimated 400-500 pairs of Peregrines once nested in the Midwest and eastern United States. But by the 1960s, the species had been wiped out regionally.

“The primary cause was the buildup of DDT and its byproducts in the birds,” she said. “These accumulated chemicals caused abnormal reproductive behavior in adults and thinning of shells, which led to egg breakage.”

The Chicago Peregrine Program began in 1985 as a cooperative effort between the Chicago Academy of Sciences, Lincoln Park Zoo, Illinois Department of Conservation and the Illinois Audubon Society, with the aim of restoring the population.

From a single breeding pair at a Chicago-Wacker site in 1988, Illinois had 12 breeding pairs in over 23 different territories by 2011.

“Although Peregrines still remain endangered in some states, in Illinois, the population has rebounded. In fact, our Peregrine status has been upgraded from endangered to threatened,” Hennen said.

In May, eggs that were laid during March-April, are incubated for about 30-32 days. The male and the female take turns looking after the eggs. Hatching begins in mid-May or around Mother’s Day.

“This is also the time period where the adults are most defensive of the nest site. Males will spend most of their time hunting in order to feed the female and chicks,” Hennen said.

In the coming months, especially around mid-June to July, people can see the peregrine fledglings’ first flight as they glide down from the nest site. People can also observe the birds through the Illinois Peregrine Webcams found on the Field Museum website. For more information, visit fieldmuseum.com.

A peregrine falcon from a 2018 webcam in Rockford. Photo courtesy the Field Museum

Learning to cook; kids can hone their culinary skills at Sur La Table

(Published March 31)

By Angela Gagnon – Staff Writer

Kids can get busy in the kitchen at Sur La Table and experience some hands-on cooking fun this summer and learn to make delicious classic summer eats from scratch.

Sur La Table, located at 900 North Michigan Ave., offers three- and five-day cooking classes for kids 8-12 and teens 13-17. The classes start in July, last about two hours each and are limited to 16 students.

“All of our classes are taught by classically trained culinary professionals,” said Adam Leach, resident chef at Sur La Table.

Sur La Table will offer two camps this summer. One incorporates different themes each day like backyard BBQ or pizza parties and will include about four different recipes per day. The other camp will focus on teaching different techniques, like working with pasta and pizza dough, learning knife skills or grilling or BBQ techniques.

“There will also be a bakery and pastry component this year, which will take place one day as an all encompassing experience in the five day camp,” added Leach.

Kids get to eat what they make and even compete in a friendly mystery box competition at the end of each series similar to the TV show, Chopped wherein chefs must create a meal with a box of mystery ingredients.  

“Teams get a menu together, curated through the instructor, but created by the kids. They use what skills they’ve learned the previous days to put it all together for a final menu,” said Leach.

The chef picks a mystery ingredient to be used somewhere in the menu, and kids are encouraged to use a kitchen gadget they haven’t used before. “The winning team gets a prize,” said Leach.

“I look at my job here as inspiring people to cook more at home and build confidence in the kitchen,” said Leach. “I like people to leave the class wanting to cook more!”
In addition to gaining culinary skills, kids will take home a packet of recipes and a Sur La Table apron. Register for the classes at surlatable.com.

Sweetwater Tavern and Grill reopens after repairs

(Published March 14)

By Jesse Wright

After being closed for months for repairs, Sweetwater Tavern and Grill reopened its doors on March 8.

The popular New Eastside bar and grill, at 225 N. Michigan Ave., was packed by 5 p.m. that day and longtime fans said they were happy to have their favorite spot back.

“I had come here about a dozen times before it reopened,” customer Ken Goncharoff said.

In the two months since the restaurant closed, construction crews added stainless steel accents, more seating options, including more bar seats, and an updated ceiling.

But Goncharoff said he didn’t notice most of it because his favorite parts of the bar are unchanged.

“To be honest, it looks the same,” he said. “The bar looks different and the ceiling looks different, but I love the atmosphere here. That’s why I come here, and that hasn’t changed. I liked it before and I like it now.”

Sweetwater is gearing up for a massive St. Patrick’s Day patio party March 16.

The bar and grill will open at 9 a.m. and will offer green beer, bagpipes and Irish food, including corned beef Reuben, shepherd’s pie and corned beef poutine.

For more information, visit sweetwatertavernandgrille.com.

Mega companies coming to downtown Chicago leads to opportunities in housing market

By Urban Real Estate

A new year has brought a wait-and-see attitude as the national climate, interest rates and a major local mayoral election bring some pause to buyers and sellers looking to make their next move. Chicago City Hall, the future of the city’s pension plan and property tax proposals all have people watching to see what the next Chicago will look like.

Multinational companies, however, have bigger bets set on the Windy City and that might be the key difference to our future over any other market.

Matt Farrell, managing broker of Urban Real Estate, sees this as the opportunity that makes downtown neighborhoods desirable even when the national and local climate may differ.

“Each of these companies has hundreds of employees who are also making their move into the city. Some are renters, others are prospective buyers. They all need a place to live, and there are few communities like the New Eastside that offer an immense level of convenience, privacy and beauty, all within steps of the hustle and bustle of the city.”

Chicago has a great deal to offer, both to companies and residents.

“There is really no surprise as to why this city continues to draw investors and businesses from across the globe,” Farrell added. “We may have our winters, but the access to public transportation, universities, museums, medical systems, an unrivaled lakefront setting, paired with O’Hare’s planned expansion, make Chicago the perfect fit.”

“The best advice we can give our seller clients is to do everything they can to make their homes look as pristine as possible. Beautiful, updated homes will always do better than a home that hasn’t been tended to. Consider your own personal and financial goals, and plan whether this may be the time to sell your home or to seek a second home at a great price,” Farrell said. “The market pace may have stabilized, but Chicago has and will continue to find its way to continued growth.”

GEMS students get lessons in fashion, music and literature

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

Sixth graders strutted their stuff on Jan. 17 at the annual GEMS World Academy fashion show.

The show is in its fifth year. The students wrote music and then designed a clothing ensemble and wrote a poem based on that music.

The interdisciplinary exercise was the brainchild of Elysia Sheehan, the school’s art and design teacher. The project is a fun way to kick off the school year and it also combines several subjects into a participatory, interactive learning assignment.

“It started from a conversation I had with a new student in our first year while we were doing some team building activities during the first week of school,” she explained. “She was expressing that at the time she felt more nervous than excited about starting at a new school. We began talking about what we could do to help ease her transition into GEMS and about the things she enjoys most. She spoke about how much she enjoys drawing and making fashion designs. The whole idea evolved from there with input from students and teachers who were excited to build out our curriculum for the year.”

The project starts with a design. This year, students had to pick a genre of music and design an outfit that would represent that. To build their wardrobe, students are given $10 and taken to a thrift store.

“Students learn to sew, have weekly visits with a fashion designer, keep a process journal to document their personal growth and goals, and build on their foundation for constructing fashion,” said Sheehan.

Besides designing and sewing original clothing, the students also got a musical education. Music teacher Chris Roebuck and language and literature teacher Melissa Cuclich helped students discover new genres of music and understand poetry, respectively.

“In previous years, their fashions have reflected technology, humanities inquiries, science, et cetera,” said Sheehan. “After designing the garments, the students model them on the ‘runway’ during a fashion show event in our gym.”

Parents, teachers and other students packed the place in support of the sixth graders who walked, strutted and, in one case, skateboarded down the aisle.

GEMS sixth grade student Max Robertson skates his way down the runway for a fashion show in January. Photo by Jesse Wright

GEMS World Academy is a private school in the New Eastside. To find out more about the school, visit them online at gemsworldacademy-chicago.com.

Mister Rogers documentary to air on PBS in February

Staff reports

(Published Jan. 16)

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

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

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

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

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