The top Chicago openings for 2019

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

The New Year will bring new developments to the city. Here are the top new developments residents can look forward to this year.

Hotels

1.     Actor and New York developer Robert DeNiro is coming to Chicago. DeNiro’s development team is opening the Nobu Hotel in December 2019 along Restaurant Row. In addition to luxury hotel rooms, the property will boast a street level Japanese restaurant and a rooftop lounge.

2.     The Hotel Essex has been working on its Michigan Avenue property for a while now, and it’s expected to open in May of 2019. Located at 800 S. Michigan Ave., across from Grant Park, the hotel will be in the heart of the city and offer 254 rooms.

4.     The Hilton brand will open another Homewood Suites in downtown Chicago in May. This one will be across from Grant Park at 1101 S. Wabash Ave., within easy walking distance to the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium.

Restaurants

1.     Some of the top names in Korean food are coming to the city. Dave Park and Jennifer Tran operated Hanbun in Westmont until early 2018, and now they’re looking to open Jeong at 1460 W. Chicago Ave. Park offers a modern take on Korean food in a fine-dining space, and Jeong will hold about 40 people.

2. James Beard Award-winning chef Zach Engel’s Israeli restaurant Galit is nothing if not ambitious. Engel will serve up the usual pita and hummus, but he will also feature Midwestern produce to combine the familiar with the foreign against a formal dining background. Galit will open in Lincoln Park at 2429 N. Lincoln Ave.

Residencies

1.   New for the New Eastside, the Vista Tower project is expected to wrap up this year. At 1,191 feet, the tower has 101 floors and at floor 47, there is an outdoor pool, a reservable kitchen and a wine-tasting room.

2.    Nema, at 1200 S. Indiana Ave., will be completed this year. The building will offer 76 floors and 800 units and stands 887 feet tall and the luxury apartments are sure to make a mark on the South Loop.

3.    In Streeterville, the One Bennett Park building at 514 N Peshtigo Court is already open, but on the top floors of the luxury apartments, the work continues. However, the 70-story building will be completed in 2019 after the final condominiums are finished.

Young Professionals Streeterville mixes services with mingling

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

This November saw the start of something in Streeterville when the first meeting of Young Professionals Streeterville kicked off.

The group is in part the brainchild of Mario Hollemans, an attorney, who was installed as president of the group, though he is far from the only young professional eager to kick off a networking group in Streeterville for the under-40 set.

Vice President Casey Doherty said he’s lived in the area since graduating from college in 2017. These days he is in law school and hopes the organization will give young people an opportunity to socialize and volunteer in the neighborhood.

“There is a strong young demographic in the neighborhood that wants to give back. We wanted to showcase the talents of young people and we wanted to create a vibrant community of young professionals in the neighborhood.”

Doherty said that while the group is a younger demographic, it is professionally diverse. Another member, Dr. Valerie Mayuga, is a physician who is also in charge of the group’s philanthropic efforts, and Doherty said it’s just nice to know people who share common interests and hobbies.

“It’s nice to have strong community connections,” he said.

Hollemans said he did little to plan the group; the whole organization sprung more or less fully formed by the membership who wanted to formalize something. That said, the group will hold monthly mixers to attract more members and to network—but also to do more for the neighborhood.

“There are a lot of young professionals in the neighborhood looking to give back,” said Doherty. “I think young people have always wanted to get involved and give back to their communities, and recent times have shown how important that really is.”

Anyone looking to get involved with the group can email Hollemans at ypstreeterville@gmail.com or check out their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/YPStreeterville.

 

[The Young Professionals of Streeterville meet monthly, as they did at this gathering in Nomber, to socialize and plan events for neighborhood improvement and development. Photo by Jesse Wright]

Parcel O’s a go as plan commission OK’s design

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

The Chicago Plan Commission approved plans for a high-rise building at 193 North Columbus Drive, also known as Parcel O.

The new building will be about  610 feet tall and contain space for residential units and hotels. There are also plans for a green roof that will allow the building to become LED Silver certified.

During the hearing, an attendee asked about how many jobs the new structure will create and the number of affordable housing units, and another person expressed concern about the large number of parking spaces created with the construction of this building.

Alderman Brendan Reilly listed aspects of the project that he believed would be beneficial to the surrounding neighborhood. Reilly announced these improvements in late September, they include numerous traffic changes and improved lighting, as well as:

– A pedway connection through Village Market and Blue Cross/Blue Shield to the greater pedway network.

– A new traffic signal at Upper Columbus Drive and East South Water Street.

– Public elevators connecting the upper level of Columbus Drive to intermediate lower and park levels.

– At the intersection of Upper Columbus Drive and South Water Street, a curb bump-out on the southwest corner to narrow the roadway and pedestrian crossing distance on Columbus Drive.

 

Treasure Island grocery chain to close all stores

Treasure Island, the 55-year-old Chicago grocery, announced it is closing.

By Jesse Wright |

Staff Reporter

 

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago grocery chain Treasure Island announced to employees in late September every store will close.

The Streeterville store is located in the 680 North Lake Shore Drive building.

“Me personally, I’m really sad to see it go. It kind of, I felt like we were a little family here. I bonded with some of the employees there so I’m sad to see it go,” said Joi Taylor the manager at the Ace Hardware in 680 North Lake Shore.

Employees did not answer the phone or return a comment by press deadline and a company spokesperson said, “I am sorry I have no comment on that, before hanging up the phone.

It’s not yet clear what will replace Treasure Island inside 680 North Lakeshore Drive and Marc Killips, the general manager of the building, did not return a comment by press deadline.

According to a story in the Chicago Business Journal, the chain has six locations around Chicago and began in the city 55 years ago.

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

By Elizabeth Czapski | Staff Writer

Published September 4, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

truCrowd connects companies and investors in city’s startup scene

By Elizabeth Czapski | Community Contributor

Published July 31, 2018

Crowdfunding can be used to raise money for anything from financing a film or helping people in need. Now, one company, truCrowd Illinois, figured out how crowdfunding can launch startups.

“The easiest way to describe it is if you’ve heard of Kickstarter [or] Indiegogo where you can put money in a project and maybe get a thing, a t-shirt or a hat or some experience or even a product,” said Florence Hardy, 36, CEO of truCrowd Illinois and COO of the national platform. “What we do instead of that, is that if you [invest in] a business…in return you get ownership in that business.”

Located at 222 Merchandise Mart Plaza, truCrowd, which also has branches in Florida and Texas as well as a national platform, requires startups to complete an application process to be listed on the site. Companies that make the cut need to be “willing to take on debt or sell equity,” not just look for donations, Hardy said. They also need to have a goal of at least $50,000 and have a solid management team.

The startup scene in Chicago is small, but vibrant and dynamic, Hardy said. truCrowd accepts all kinds of startups and Hardy described the platform as “industry agnostic” with companies ranging from entertainment to transportation to finance. She explained the most successful companies tend to be ones that are, “looking for consumers as their end user and not other businesses.”

One thing the companies do have in common though is size. truCrowd specializes in pairing smaller companies with investors whom Hardy said are, usually individuals who are used to investing, but they never had the opportunity to invest in small businesses before.”

The main goal of the platform is to “democratize the investment landscape” and to “introduce investment opportunities to the masses” because “investing in private companies was once something that was only for the very, very rich,” Hardy said. truCrowd also wants to help startups get funding when they might be denied by banks or other institutions.

Published July 31, 2018

Joffrey Ballet dances its way to new attendance records, ticket revenue

By Julie Whitehair | Community Contributor

Published July 4, 2018 

The Joffrey Ballet’s 2017-18 season was its highest-grossing season in the Chicago-based dance company’s 62 years, with attendance for the season also reaching a record high, according to a press release.

More than 100,000 people were in attendance for the 2017-18 season. The Joffrey—which is based at 10 E. Randolph St. but also tours—earned more than $7.7 million in ticket revenue, showing an 11 percent increase compared to the year prior.

“I am incredibly proud of the Joffrey dancers and staff for producing art of the highest quality,” Artistic Director Ashley Wheater wrote in the press release. “One of our goals is to engage people through diverse programming, whether it be a classic like ‘Giselle’ or a wild adventure like ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ There is much more to come in the seasons ahead.”

The company attributes its feats largely to the successes of Lola de Ávila’s “Giselle” and Alexander Ekman’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The productions grossed more than $2.3 million combined and earned spots in the Joffrey’s top five best-selling productions, excluding “The Nutcracker.”

Executive Director Greg Cameron said in the press release that the Joffrey is remaining loyal to its founder, Robert Joffrey, by honoring both the classics and the new.

“The numbers tell a story of success, though I assure you that our work is far from finished,” Cameron said. “Focused planning will keep the Joffrey at the forefront of the local, national and international world of dance.”

Earlier this year, the Alphawood Foundation awarded the Joffrey a one million dollar grant to fund a three-year project focused on expanding and sustaining its audience as the company grows.

Completing the 2017-18 season was Christopher Wheeldon’s production of the winter favorite “The Nutcracker”—which exceeded $4.6 million in ticket sales—and “Modern Masters,” the Joffrey’s program of various modern works.

St. Jane Chicago Hotel opens

By Stephanie Racine | Staff Writer

Published July 4, 2018

The St. Jane Chicago Hotel opened July 1 in the famed Carbide & Carbon skyscraper, 230 N. Michigan Ave., in the former home of the Hard Rock Hotel. The hotel includes 33 floors with 365 guest rooms, 33 of which are higher-end suites.

According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, the number of rooms was reduced from 381. Becker Ventures retained ownership of the hotel and, together with
the Aparium Hotel Group, they rebranded the hotel as the St. Jane Chicago Hotel.

“Chicago deserves this beauty, and the Carbide & Carbon building deserves to be as impressive on the inside as much as it’s inspiring on the outside,” said Carrie Meghie, principal at Becker Ventures, in a press release.

According to Kevin Robertson, the co-founder and CEO of Aparium Hotel Group, The St. Jane hopes to be a destination for tourists and residents alike with its amenities, restaurants and event spaces setting it apart from other Chicago hotels.

“The hotel will be home to Free Rein, a contemporary American brasserie from Michelin-starred chef Aaron Lirette, a 24th floor lounge, market cafe and 11,000 square feet of meeting space,” said Jordon Aluise, the hotel’s public relations director.

Free Rein will be a New American all-day dining facility, with French influences. It will feature locally sourced food and drink, like Chicago-based Dark Matter Coffee and Arize Imperial Kombucha.

The St. Jane will also give back to the community. “The 365-key hotel will embrace the arts and culture that define Chicago through local partnerships with Marwen, educating and inspiring young people from under-resourced communities through the visual arts,” Aluise said.

According to their press release, they plan on hosting many charity events in their event spaces.

For more information, call the hotel at (312) 345-1000 or visit their website, Stjanehotel.com.

Grown-up games entertain adults

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

When you’re young, your weekends are all about one thing–fun. Days are filled with arcades, amusement parks and sports.

As you get older, those opportunities to “play” seem fewer and farther between. Our schedules get bogged down with chores and responsibilities and our nights out are typically spent at restaurants and bars.

We set out to find genuinely fun activities for adults here in Chicago that bring back the childhood spirit of letting loose and having a good old fashioned fun time.

FTW Chicago, or For The Win, is basically a Chuck-E-Cheese for grown ups.

Located in Streeterville, it brings back a flood of childhood memories for anyone who ever spent a weekend eating pizza and playing air hockey.With neon lights, flashing game screens, and the sounds of laughter, pinballs dinging and skee-balls rolling, FTW is a great destination for all ages.

Storm Racer 6 at FTW.
Contributor photo.

Kids are allowed and little ones can enjoy the simpler, smaller games, but FTW is definitely geared toward adults. It has a restaurant and full bar, so you can sip on a craft beer or cocktail while you browse the entertainment.

You might want to put your drinks down for active games like the classic Dance Dance Revolution. This 2000s flashback will certainly make you work up a sweat as you stomp on an arrow-labeled foot pad in time with the fast-paced beats. Test out your NBA skills shooting hoops on the Bulls game or play your best piece on a giant, light-up piano.

A Kung Fu Panda-themed game gets you moving, too. As Po, the panda starring in
the Dreamworks animation, tries to master his kung fu moves, your reflexes will have
to be fast as you try to chop different foods and items that pop up on screen.

For movie fans, don’t miss the Jurassic Park simulator that puts you in the driver’s seat of a Jeep as you race off from pterodactyls and velociraptors; the immersive, spaceship style star wars pod; or the Alien shooter game.

For fans of more iconic, retro games, there are larger-than-life versions of Pac-man, Connect Four and Wheel of Fortune. The arcade also has two special features—a virtual reality activity and a full mini-golf course. The VR game requires a few extra game tickets to play in comparison to other options, but the experience is worth it. Step into the VR section by the entrance of the arcade and slip on the mask to be guided into an immersive
gaming experience.

The mini-golf course is great for tourists and locals alike. The course is set up like a tour through the city, with iconic buildings and sights like the Bean and the Art Institute lions. FTW is especially great for a date night or family night out, because the building it’s set in, at 322 E. Illinois St., is a destination in itself.

Situated on the floor below an AMC theater, FTW is also right across from Lucky Strike bowling.At Lucky Strike, also at 322 E. Illinois St., guests can reserve individual lanes or host parties and enjoy pub-style fare and craft cocktails while they play.The venue has 18 bowling lanes, 11 billiard tables, quite a few flat screen TVs and three ping pong tables, so there’s plenty of entertainment to go around.

Safehouse, 60 E. Ontario St., is a spy- themed restaurant and bar on the Near North Side. It’s quite possible you’ve passed this spot a few times without even noticing, because it’s not marked. It is a safehouse, afterall. While the unmarked door is hardly visible, those who know where to look see the entry point into a very James Bond-like night.

When you walk in, you’re asked for a password. If you haven’t done your homework to get it, you and all the other guests standing in the entryway will have to answer a few questions and perform some sort of slightly embarrassing task to get in.

Here’s a hint—you’re on camera. Everyone in the restaurant and bar below can see you doing to YMCA on a giant screen by the bar.

Once you pass the test, a secret door opens and you’re led down a staircase to another secret door, where you’ll get your “Agent ID.” From then on, you’ll be treated like a spy. You’ll be called an agent for the rest of the night, and your bill is referred to as your “damage report” for the evening. The menu offers themed foods, like Fried C4 Cheese Curds, Blacklisted Chicken Tenders, The Spyburger, Spyghetti and Operation Hangover Recovery. An impressive cocktail list includes specials like the tropical Spy’s Demise and the chilled Cold War.

Make sure you check out the photobooth that transports you to destinations around the globe via green screen, and touch all the buttons and switches around the dining
area that say “don’t touch.”

Gadgets and replica spy gear decorate the bars. Don’t miss the comical posters and photos in the bathroom—make sure you read all the signs carefully on your way in and out.

It wasn’t easy to get in to the Safehouse, so don’t expect an easy exit. You’ll need a secret code and will have to sneak your way through a laser maze to make it back to Chicago.

For a totally unique experience that’s becoming quite the trend in cities across the country, take a risk at Bad Axe Throwing, 165 N. Loomis St., in the West Loop where their mission is “to bring the thrill of a traditional Canadian backyard pastime to
urban communities.”

This place is pretty much self explanatory—you throw axes. If that makes you a bit nervous—it probably should—here’s the gist.

Pick up your provided axe with a firm grip, like you would a baseball bat. Make sure the blade of your axe is aiming straight forward, toward the bullseye target and raise the axe up behind your head and lean back and, in one swift motion, bring your axe forward and let it loose.

This is an experience unlike any other. The world’s largest axe throwing club, Bad Axe Throwing was founded in Ontario in 2014 by CEO Mario Zelaya and now has locations in 23 cities in the U.S. and Canada, including Indianapolis, Denver, Minneapolis, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Brooklyn. Guests that walk-in will use a common area for axe throwing with any other participants that have joined the walk- in session.

Walk-ins cost about $20, or you can register for group visits with a private lane online in advance, prices vary from $35.00–44.25.

Published June 5, 2018

Field Museum unwraps history of mummies

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

The Field Museum is, quite literally, unwrapping history with its new exhibit—Mummies.

The museum’s latest special exhibit is digging into the history of ancient Egypt and Peru by bringing visitors back thousands of years as they tour an immersive and interactive display of mummies, ancient human remains and amulets, totems and gifts given to the mummified dead.

Visitors start the Mummies experience by catching a glimpse of human remains, once mummified, that were unwrapped for scientific study. This startling sight may not be for the faint of heart, but offers a peek inside the mummy wraps and coffins seen throughout the rest of the exhibit. Moving forward, guests learn about new technologies that allow scientists and curators to keep mummified remains in tact while learning about the lives and deaths of the individuals wrapped inside.

By using CT scans and 3D imaging to study mummies, scientists can explore remains non-invasively. “Before, you would have to unwrap the mummy, or even cut it open, to learn more about it. Now we can use non-destructive methods to learn so much more about
the past,” explained exhibit curator Bill Parkinson. “This exhibition allows visitors to see how we use modern technologies to learn about the lives of ancient peoples and cultures.” 

While most of us have some knowledge of mummification in Egypt, the exhibit also digs into how the practice started in Peru. Peruvians had perfected mummification years before it began in Egypt, and continued for years after Roman influence halted the tradition for Egyptians.

Exhibit curator Ryan Williams added that the Peruvian mummies in the exhibit predate the Egyptian ones. “One of the unique things about this exhibition is the inclusion of the Peruvian mummification traditions, which started much earlier than in Egypt and lasted until the Spanish conquest 500 years ago,” he said. “That 7,000- year history of Andean mummification is something most people have never heard of previously.”

Artifacts on display include two-and-a-half-foot tall Peruvian beer jars—once shown at Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair—and masks made by the Chinchorro people
of Peru which covered the faces of the wrapped remains.

Egyptian mummies of different animals, including cats, chimpanzees and baby croodiles can be seen on display and explored through a series of x-ray images.

Recreation of a Peruvian tomb. Photo by Taylor Hartz.

Life-size displays show what a Peruvian tomb looked like—an underground room with mummified family members propped up like living people. The mummies were wrapped in clothes and wore masks with faces painted on them, and were surrounded by items like jugs, drinks and food. Egyptian hieroglyphics show messages that translate to requests like, “When I’m dead, bring me beer.”

The exhibition, created by the Field Museum, opened on March 16 and will
be available to visitors with the purchase of a Discovery or All-Access pass until
April 2019.

Published on May 2.

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