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

John Echevarria transforms a condo into a home. Courtesy photo

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

To nominate your favorite doorperson, email info@neweastsidecommunity.com with the door person’s name and why you think they should be the doorperson of the month. Each winner will receive a $25 gift card to Mariano’s.

All alone on Turkey Day with so much to do

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

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Reilly announces updates to Parcel O plans

Staff report

In late September, Alderman Brendan Reilly announced that Magellan Development agreed to work a number of public improvements into their project at 193 North Columbus Drive, commonly known as Parcel O.

The public improvements came from a public meeting held with the New Eastside Association of Residents (NEAR) in July. Reilly pointed out that the development group did not need to agree to any public improvements by law, but they agreed to build the improvements after extensive negotiations with Reilly. In a recent newsletter, Reilly credited the public support for the public improvements with the success of the negotiations.

Magellan will pay for the improvements, which are expected to aid pedestrian and traffic safety.

The proposed improvements include a pedway connection through Village Market and Blue Cross/Blue Shield to the greater pedway, improved lighting, public elevators servicing the 3 levels of Columbus Dr., as well as numerous improvements for pedestrians and vehicles.

Some of those improvements include:
•    A new traffic signal will be installed at Upper Columbus and East South Water Street.
•    At the intersection of Upper Columbus Drive and South Water Street, the crosswalk will be realigned on the south leg of the intersection. The east end of the crosswalk will move to the corner next to the Aqua building rather than the corner next to the fire station.
•    At the intersection of Upper Columbus Drive and South Water Street, a curb bump-out on the southwest corner will be installed to narrow the roadway and pedestrian crossing distance on Columbus Drive.

Reilly said the project must get Lakefront Protection Approval from the Chicago Plan Commission, and when that vote occurs, Reilly will announce it in his newsletter.

Shopping carts wreak havoc at condos

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

The carts keep coming.

And, at the Tides, that’s a problem.

On any given day, New Eastside residents leave as many as 10 to 15 empty Mariano’s shopping carts outside the door of the 360 E. South Water St. apartment building, according to Tides doorman John King.

“They have them all over the place, making the place look cheap,” King said.

King isn’t alone in his criticism. “I’ve seen them accumulated outside our building—it just looks horrible, to be honest,” said Tina Moutzouros, the assistant business manager at the Tides.

Some residents want to take the carts even further. “Sometimes they want to bring the whole cart upstairs as well, which is definitely not acceptable,” she said. “We have our own carts and if they need help they can ask for them.”

Moutzouros said the Tides’ sister building, the Shoreham, has the same problem.

The two buildings sit opposite Mariano’s, separated by Lake Shore East Park, an easy distance on foot. “It’s a convenience for residents,” Moutzouros said. “But if they take them they should be taking them back, which isn’t happening.”

While Mariano’s displays signs asking customers to keep the carts on site, shoppers of the Lakeshore East location seem to ignore the signs. Moutzouros said the Tides does not have a policy explicitly banning carts from the front of the building, but she wants the grocery store to send its employees to collect the carts more often.

Amanda Puck, a spokesperson for Mariano’s, said the store is willing to help out and the store has given phone numbers to all the door people at nearby apartments.

“We love being part of the community and we try to be proactive in getting the carts back to the store,” Puck said. “If anyone needs us to do that, they are welcome to give us a call.”

Puck explained that during slow hours, stores will send employees out to retrieve carts, even the ones left in front of apartments. But Moutzouros said this isn’t happening as often as it needs to.

“Craig, one of our concierges, he has been in contact with one of the managers. He said he was sending somebody from Mariano’s to go around and collect the carts,” she said. “But it doesn’t seem to be happening as often as it should.”

Published August 1, 2018

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

Best places to view fireworks in Chicago

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

Published July 4, 2018

The Fourth of July is upon us and Chicago is about to light up the sky for a grand celebration of America’s birthday. Here are the best spots to catch the shows.

Navy Pier

The fireworks display at Navy Pier is a must-see. Head to the Pier and visit Chicago classics like Harry Carry’s Tavern, or fun-themed places like Bubba Gump Shrimp Company or Margaritaville. Nearby beaches are also great places to take in the view. The free show starts at 9:30 p.m.

Rooftops

For a more adult scene, check out the J. Parker on the rooftop of the Hotel Lincoln at 1816 N. Clark St. The rooftop has views of North Avenue Beach, Lincoln Park and the fireworks show.

On the water

For an active experience, head over to Urban Kayaks on the Riverwalk. They offer a Fourth of July Fireworks Show with a 90-minute tour of the river while a guide gives a history lesson. For more water options, check out one of the cruises.

Odyssey Cruises offers three to four cruises throughout the holiday weekend
with brunch, lunch and dinner options from $56.90. On July 4, take in the fire- works on a two-hour dinner cruise with an on-board DJ and dance floor for $189. This 21+ event offers an open bar and din- ner. Boarding begins at 6:30 p.m. and the cruise goes from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. For more information, visit the website odysseycruises.com

Shoreline Sightseeing offers two-and-a-half hour Red White and Brew Cruise. The cruise features craft beer from Revolution Brewing. This 21+ birthday celebration will also feature food, a live DJ and a view of the fireworks for $119. Cruises will depart from the northeast corner of the Michigan Avenue Bridge alongside Pioneer Court at 401 N. Michigan Ave. at
8 p.m. and will return at 10:30 p.m. For more information, go to shorelinesightseeing.com

Spirit of Chicago, which also launches from Navy Pier, has a dinner cruise on July 4 with an open bar, music and dancing for $149.90. This three-hour cruise which takes off at 7:30 p.m. For more information, go to spiritcruises.com

To keep the celebration alive, check out fireworks at Navy Pier all summer. Through Labor Day, the Pier has shows Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 10:15 p.m.

Setting the stage for selling success

By Urban Real Estate

Published July 4, 2018 

This New Eastside home for sale was not picture-perfect overnight. For many, the idea of getting a home this ready can seem overwhelming. The reality is, with the right broker, it isn’t hard — but it is important.

In 2017, the National Association of Realtors said 90 percent of home searches began online. Photos, videos, and virtual tours are the first impression. The 360 E. Randolph unit 2705-06 has been making great first impressions. In fact, it was recently featured as the Chicago Tribune Home of the Week. But its real story is the staging behind its glory.

“We continue to market each and every one of our clients’
properties with pride, and tell their best story possible.”
– Michael Emery

Michael Emery, senior partner, Urban Real Estate, shares his philosophy when
marketing a listing.

“It’s not that a home may not be elegant or lovely — it’s often cluttered or filled with too many personal items that do not allow a buyer the ability to envision their own life in the space,” says Emery. “This is where a stager comes in and creates a picture-perfect home ready for market. Our client leaves everything to us. We work with our team, their vast selection of furnishings and details and revamp the home to show-
case the space.”

Industry-acclaimed stager David Cieslak, with Signature Chicago, is brought in by Urban for projects like 360 E. Randolph to make a home look like a masterpiece.

If someone is contemplating selling, Cieslak said, it’s time to think about cleaning house.

“It’s a great time to purge items you’ve been meaning to part ways with,” Cieslak
said. “There are several organizations throughout Chicago that appreciate dona-
tions. Consider moving to a new home a fresh start.”

Cieslak also notes that when cleaning shelves, remove at least 50 percent of the
items. This will create more room and give the illusion of more space—a plus to buyers looking to experience all the space has to offer.

“There are properties that are special and it shows. They get media attention because they are unique—because they have a story to tell,” Emery added. “We continue to market each and every one of our clients’ properties with pride, and tell their best story possible.”

Contact a local Urban brokers at Urban-RealEstate.com or (312) 528-9200.

Meet Maximo, the Field’s newest—and biggest—beast

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

Published July 5, 2018

After a 100 million year absence, the titanosaur is back. The dinosaur made his debut at the Field Museum in June and he is quite the sight.

The skeletal cast of the titanosaur has replaced Sue as the main attraction in the museum’s entrance hall. The change is big—more like colossal—as Maximo is the largest dinosaur ever discovered.

Maximo reaches 122 feet across Stanley Field Hall on the museum’s main floor and stands 28-feet-tall at his head, which pokes over a second floor balcony. His friendly face can be seen from below and by guests upstairs, who can pose for a selfie with the
photobombing dino.

Maximo peaks over the second floor balcony | Photo by Taylor Hartz

Downstairs, guests are welcome to walk underneath Maximo and gaze up at his massive ribs and long neck. For an up-close-and-personal experience, guests are welcome to touch his red-tinted cast.

Also on the main floor is a collection of real titanosaur fossils, including bones that are bigger than most of the humans
looking at them.

Sues new habitat is still under construction | Photo by Taylor Hartz

Compared to Sue’s 40-foot frame, Maximo’s 122 feet reach across the hall is expansive at just under twice the size of the bean, or “Cloud Gate,” in Millennium Park, and some 75 feet longer than a CTA bus.

Sue, a favorite of museum visitors and a major tourist attraction since 2000, has been moved to the second floor. Fans can spot her through the window in her new home, which is currently under construction.

Her permanent display will re-create what scientists think a T. rex habitat would have looked like.

Running the river with Urban Kayaks

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

Get up, get out and get active with Urban Kayaks, a water sports rental company that has something for everyone.

With two locations, the company offers rentals that allow patrons to cruise the river on their own or join a guided tour. In addition to the Riverwalk location, last month Urban Kayaks added a lakeside location at 111 N. Lake Shore Drive.

The company is open daily, 9 a.m. through 7 p.m., and Urban Kayaks has many tour options, including sunset cruises, the Navy Pier fireworks display and the historical Chicago sights and architecture.

Urban Kayak tours offer great views of downtown architecture | Photo by Taylor Hartz

Novices can start with the Riverwalk Introductory Paddle Tour, a one-hour experience for $45 per person.

Paddlers of every age and level are welcome. “Urban Kayaks has infant life vests available that can allow the littlest members of your family to join you safely on the water,” said manager Eric Schwartz. Schwartz said he takes his eight month old out with him regularly.

If you have older parents or grandparents who would like to check out Chicago from the water but fear they aren’t fit enough to keep up – tandem kayaks are a great option. Older kayakers can take the front seat while all the paddling is done from the back.

At the new location, the company offers paddle boards and sit-on-top kayaks.

“The sit-on-kayaks are a bit easier to get back on if you fall off,” Schwartz said.
Paddlers can sit or stand on paddle boards and Schwartz said they’re not difficult to master.

Those new to paddle-boarding can try out the Intro to Paddle Board Tour—a one-hour class. Meanwhile, for the masters, there is a paddle board yoga class starting in July.

A kayaker enjoys a paddle on the Chicago River with Urban Kayaks. Photo by Taylor Hartz

No matter the tour, arrive a bit early for a safety lesson. In their pre-launch safety video, Urban Kayaks explains that “The Chicago River works exactly like a city street” and makes sure kayakers are prepared to hit the road – or, river.

On the water, kayakers are encouraged to think of large tour boats like CTA buses, smaller, private boats as cars, and themselves as bikers with their own safe lane.

The company is offering a season pass. The pass includes unlimited kayak and paddle board rentals seven days a week and 25 percent off for guests during the week. If members rent a tandem kayak, they can bring a guest for free every time.

“The memberships are good for people who live around here and want to use it a lot,” Schwartz said. The next season pass is for the fall months, called “Fall You Can Kay-
ak,” for $100.

Go like a pro to Millennium Park’s summer events

By Julie Whitehair | Community Contributor

Published July 4, 2018

Millennium Park is a hub of summer entertainment for tourists and Chicago- ans alike. From free movies to ticketed concerts, Millennium—and its Jay Pritzker Pavilion—often draws a crowd. Here’s how to enjoy the park’s performances like a pro.

Get there early

Make sure to get to Millennium Park well before the performance starts—the general admission lawn fills up fast for the park’s most hyped shows. Definitely don’t arrive
late, or you might end up sitting on the hard concrete ground for the rest of the night. Keep an eye on the park’s Twitter account @Millennium_Park for updates, incase the crowd reaches capacity.

Bring refreshments—but check if alcohol is allowed at your event

Food and non-alcoholic beverages are always allowed at Jay Pritzker Pavilion, but a few events prohibit any outdoor alcohol. You can check which days alcohol is prohibited at the City of Chicago’s website and expect officials to check bags at the entrance—the city’s placing a new security perimeter and bag check for all events at the pavilion this summer.

As for food, some visitors pick up sandwiches for a snack, while others bring a full-on spread—tiny tables, gourmet cheese platters and all. Just make sure any coolers are smaller than 26 inches long, 15 inches wide and 15 inches in height and avoid bringing metal knives or cutlery in order to adhere to the park’s guidelines listed on
their website.

Pick a spot to meet ahead of
time

Meeting up with friends can be difficult when they’re giving vague directions to where they’re sitting. Avoid this by meeting outside the park or designating a spot near a notable location ahead of time—don’t be the person obnoxiously standing and waving in the crowd right before a show begins.

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