Streeterville restaurant launches signature beer

(Published July 31, 2019)

The Signature Room, the restaurant located on the 95th floor of the former John Hancock Center, announced in July the launch of its first exclusive beer label, Top View Brew. The beer is a result of a partnership with suburban brewery Crystal Lake Brewing, currently offered exclusively at The Signature Room.

“We have been fans of Crystal Lake Brewing for quite some time—and their Beach Blonde has been a top seller for years—so partnering with them on a custom beer was a no-brainer,” said The Signature Room’s VP of Sales and Marketing, Tricia Bryant. “We hope Top View Brew will be a beverage that guests want to enjoy not just during the summer, but all year-round.

Top View Brew is a golden wheat ale with smooth malt sweetness, low bitterness and a bright lemon aroma at 4.5 percent alcohol by volume. The brew pairs well with salads, along with light fish and chicken dishes and can handle spicy foods and cut through heavier dishes. 

Fire station gets Ritz-Carlton heron statue

Streeterville’s Engine Co. 98, 202 E Chicago Ave., added an historic heron statue to their Chicago Fire Department Garden in June. 

The statue was donated after an extensive renovation by the Ritz-Carlton. The sculpture of two blue herons was previously part of the lobby fountain. Ritz-Carlton’s general manager Peter Simoncelli said the sculpture has been seen in wedding and anniversary photos dating back to 1975. The heron statue was removed during renovations to the Ritz-Carlton in 2017. 

New restaurant to open in Northwestern Memorial Hospital

The New York City-based Craveable Hospitality Group will open a new restaurant on the 18th floor of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, 251 E. Huron later this year.

GreenRiver formerly occupied the space, but closed in 2018.

Craveable declined to offer any details on the new venture, but as of mid-July, the group had posted hiring notices for a head chef and staff. 

According to the hiring notice, “The property will be 200 seats with an upscale American a la carte menu, plus a large catering kitchen and events space, on the outpatient pavilion of Northwestern Memorial Hospital.“

Mayor Lightfoot, Superintendent Johnson welcome nearly 300 new, promoted officers in Navy Pier ceremony   

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Police Department (CPD) Superintendent Eddie Johnson congratulated the newest class of 196 Police Officers and 98 newly promoted chiefs, deputy chiefs, commanders, lieutenants, sergeants and evidence technicians in a July 9 ceremony at Navy Pier. 

“Today, with their graduation or promotion, our officers are not only joining or renewing their commitment to a proud community of brothers and sisters, but they’re also fulfilling a sense of duty to the city we all love,” Lightfoot said. “As they embark or continue on this journey, I want all of Chicago’s officers to know that your city will be with you every step of the way.”

The 196 new police officers graduating includes 68 percent from minority backgrounds, with 44 percent identifying as Hispanic, 16 percent African-American and 8 percent Asian-American. In addition, 31 percent of graduates are female. 

Approximately 36 percent of the officers graduated from Chicago Public Schools and 13 percent are military veterans. 

Before graduating, police recruits spent six months at the police academy and they will now begin their one-year probationary period, which includes three months of training with a field training officer and district patrol functions.

Streeterville residents celebrate Cap Streeter anniversary

In July, dozens of Streeterville residents gathered at Streeterville Pizzeria and Tap for a Run A’Ground party to celebrate the anniversary of ‘Cap’ Streeter running aground in the area. 

On July 10, 1866, Captain George Streeter ran his boat aground in Lake Michigan, in what is now Streeterville. Over the next fear years, Streeter encouraged developers and residents to dump debris in the shallow water and eventually he developed the real estate. 

Gail Spreen, a realtor with Streeterville Properties, hosted the event, and she called July 10 a neighborhood holiday. Sculptor Dennis Downes, the artist behind the Streeter statue on Grand Avenue was on hand as was Alderman Brian Hopkins, who dressed as Streeter and channeled the neighborhood founder. 

“Many fine things happened on this day,” Hopkins said. “A future alderman’s mother was born on this day.”

Navy Pier breaks ground on first pier hotel 

Developers broke ground in mid-July on the first hotel on Navy Pier. ACRON, a real estate investment firm; Maverick Hotels & Restaurants, a hotel management and development company and Navy Pier are developing the project. 

The property, scheduled to open spring 2020, will operate under the exclusive Curio Collection by Hilton, which includes more than 50 independent hotels around the world.

The new hotel will be located adjacent to Festival Hall at the eastern end of the complex. The hotel will offer 222 guest rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows that showcase views of the city’s famed skyline, Lake Michigan and the Pier. The hotel will also offer a first floor restaurant, a fitness center and a 30,000-square-foot rooftop restaurant, bar and event space.

Officials said the hotel development has already led to 600 construction jobs and is expected to create 300 permanent positions.

A Dallas Ferris wheel operator aims to break Navy Pier ride record

According to the Dallas Observer, the operator of a Dallas-based Ferris wheel aims to break the world record for longest Ferris wheel ride. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the record for the longest ride is currently held by Clinton Shepherd, a park operations manager at Navy Pier, who, in 2014, rode the Pier’s Ferris wheel for two days, eight minutes and 25 seconds. 

Now, Ferris Wheelers Backyard and BBQ in Dallas is seeking applications for anyone willing to take a longer ride. 

“We’ve put some feelers out there to see if we could get the public interested in breaking the record,” said Phillip Schanbaum, in the Dallas Observer. Schanbaum is the co-owner of Ferris Wheelers Backyard and BBQ. “We want to give ourselves a bit of a cushion on the time, so we’re going for 72 hours. We need to do a little bit more research on some of the stipulations for Guinness, but to our knowledge, there is a five-minute break per hour.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Navy Pier, Payal Patel, wished the Dallas operater all the best. 

“While Clinton Shepherd is no longer an employee at Navy Pier, we are still very proud of the world record he set on the Pier’s behalf in 2014,” Patel said. “Navy Pier extends its best wishes to the individual in Dallas seeking to set a new record for the longest ride on an amusement park attraction.”

In June the Pier got its second Guiness Book of World Records entry after its rooftop deck, Offshore opened. The size of a football field, the deck is—so far—the biggest deck in the world. 

Chicago’s Art Cows returned home in July

Two decades after Chicago’s Cows on Parade exhibit launched the international Cow Parade craze in the United States, the city’s decorative fiberglass cows were rounded up for July and set on display at Jane M. Byrne Plaza, next to the Chicago Water Tower. 

The cows were decorated by area artists and auctioned off for charity, and the parade set off a trend of copycat cities across the United States. Today, the cows are owned by various businesses and art collectors across the region, but for the 20th anniversary of the project, the Magnificent Mile Association reached out to a handful of owners who agreed to let the cows out on loan for a month as part of the “Cows Come Home” seasonal art project.  Adam Skaf, a spokesperson for the association, said August marks the 150th anniversary of the Chicago Water Tower, so pedestrians can expect to discover more than 25 five-foot models of the tower along Michigan Avenue all month long. 

Navigating drone laws may be tricky for operators in Chicago

(Published July 31, 2019)
By Elisa Shoenberger, Staff writer

It may be tempting to fly a drone downtown whether to get a bird’s eye view on the Lollapalooza crowds or to get a unique shot of the skyline, it may be impossible to do so legally. 

Chicago’s laws allow drone operators to fly their craft with a permit, but according to afficionados, getting a permit is near impossible thanks to confusing, byzantine rules. 

“All drones are restricted unless given a permit for flying,” said Anthony Guglielmi, Chief Communications Officer of Chicago Police Department. 

In addition to a permit, operators have to get permission from the property owner and in the case of Grant Park, that would be the Chicago Parks District. Without that permission and without a permit, operators face citations. 

Jeffrey Antonelli is a drone enthusiast and also a lawyer, and he believes the city’s laws wouldn’t stand up in court. Antonelli points out that since the Federal Aviation Administration regulates air space and not the city, Chicago’s air regulations would probably be thrown out if someone challenged them in court. Nevertheless, Antonelli said he doesn’t fly drones in the city.

Alan Perlman, CEO of UAV Coach, a drone training company, said the FAA classified Grant Park airspace as Class G, meaning it is uncontrolled airspace, so recreational drone pilots should be able to fly there under federal law. 

Even so, getting a permit is hard. 

Antonelli said some people have tried getting a permit from the park district and while he’s heard some success stories, he’s been unable to get one. 

“The city doesn’t have a uniform answer,” Antonelli said. 

A spokesperson for the parks district could not explain how to get a permit. 

The FAA mandates that people cannot fly drones over people or cars for safety concerns and pilots must be able to see their drone at all times and they cannot fly higher than 400 feet.

Perlman said people should first learn how to use their drone. 

“You are bringing a flying lawnmower into the air. It’s really important to have intimate understanding of how the aircraft works.” 

CPD: Gang taunts led to Navy Pier stabbings

(Published July 8, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson on Monday said two stabbings that happened shortly after 10 p.m. July 4 at Navy Pier were gang-related and the suspects are still at large. The victims have not been cooperating with police, Johnson said.

“The stabbings resulted from some gang-affiliated people taunting each other,” he said. “We have ideas of who the individuals were, but the victims were very uncooperative.”

A 14-year-old boy, a 15-year-old boy and a 30-year-old man were stabbed and police continue searching for two suspects. The victims were not involved in a fight that happened outside the security check, Johnson said.

Johnson was speaking at a news conference covering the violence across the city over the Independence Day holiday, from July 3 through July 7. Johnson said during that period officers picked up 199 illegally-owned guns, there were 42 shooting incidents and six murders. Englewood had the most shootings.

Johnson added police arrested 84 people for weapons violations. He reminded the public there is no reason to own an illegal weapon.

“There’s no excuse for carrying illegal guns in the city,” he said. “We can’t let gangs and guns overpower the community and the city of Chicago.”

Westchester boy a superhero is Streeterville

(Published June 30, 2019)

Finnegan Kuzniar, 6, of Westchester saved Chicago from evil villains with help from Make-A-Wish Illinois volunteers and the Chicago Police Department. Kuzniar was diagnosed with a life-threatening auto-immune disease and even a common cold can send him to the hospital for a long stay.

In June, the Make-A-Wish Illinois chapter allowed Kuzniar to live out his dream to become his superhero alter-ego Galacto in Streeterville.

This included a ride-along in a police roll call, a helicopter ride and a pursuit of bad guys and with capture at Navy Pier. Following that, there was a press conference wherein the Chicago Police Department praised Kuzniar for his heroic efforts.

For Kuzniar’s wish, the Chicago Police Department, Columbia College Chicago costume team and Costumers With a Cause have all volunteered their time and talent to craft this remarkable experience.

Make-a-Wish believes that fulfilling children’s wishes helps kids look past their limitations, helps families overcome anxiety and helps entire communities experience joy. Since its local founding in 1985, the chapter has granted more than 15,000 wishes. A child does not necessarily have to have a terminal diagnosis to qualify. For information visit: illinois.wish.org.

Navy Pier launches ‘Piertastic Tuesday’ discount program

In June, the Navy Pier announced a weekly discount program available to all guests. 

Dubbed “Piertastic Tuesday,” the program will run through September 3 and visitors will have the opportunity to take advantage of special Pier-wide deals and promotions from on-site attractions, dining establishments, entertainment options, retail shops and more. Visitors can  mention Piertastic Tuesday at any participating establishments to redeem discounts.

Piertastic Tuesday offers include buy-one-get-one-free Play the Park Passes to Pier Park attractions and $20 parking passes for up to 12 hours. Pier Park attractions include the iconic Centennial Wheel, Pepsi Wave Swinger, carousel and more. Parking can be validated with a sticker from the Pier Park Box Office or the Navy Pier Guest Services Desk, located in the Fifth Third Bank Family Pavilion.

Aster Hall offers new space for happy hour

Hogsalt’s latest concept, Aster Hall, located on the 5th & 6th floors of the 900 North Michigan Shops, debuted its first happy hour menu in June. Available Monday through Friday from 4:30-6:30 p.m., guests can enjoy the happy hour specials in the food hall’s upstairs Bar & Study area.

Aster Hall’s spacious upstairs Bar & Study invites guests to experience the new happy hour menu while taking in views of Michigan Avenue and the lake.  Specials include signature drinks Dark & Stormy, a tiki classic with rum and ginger beer; Gold Rush, a refreshing bourbon drink with honey; and the Gimlet, a vibrant cocktail that can be made with vodka or gin.  All happy hour specials are available for $8.

Guests can also choose from a collection of curated beverages and other specialty spirits available on the full Bar & Study menu. In addition to the happy hour cocktails, the bar also hosts a selection of all day specials, including $5 wine and beer and $9 highballs.

Purple Pig gets a new home

The Purple Pig, the popular Michigan Avenue dinner and drinks spot, moved from 500 N. Michigan Ave. to 444 N. Michigan Ave. in June. 

The Purple Pig features a James Bear Award-winning chef and partner Jimmy Bannos Jr., who explained the restaurant needed more space for the 10-year-old restaurant. 

“The time was right to pursue a larger space more uniquely suited to the needs of our business, which continues to grow year after year,” said Bannos.. “Our team is proud to call The Magnificent Mile home, and we feel very fortunate to have landed this exciting space.”

The 4,657 square foot restaurant will feature 120 dining room seats and will include a 20-seat semi- private dining room ideal for small groups for all occasions.

Lightfoot sworn into office, brings message of optimism

Published May 20, 2019

On May 20, US District Judge Susan Cox swore in Lori Lightfoot as Chicago’s mayor at a ceremony attended by thousands at the Wintrust Arena.

Lightfoot is the city’s first openly gay and African American female mayor, and the significance was not lost of Lightfoot.

“I can’t help but feel the spirit of the late great mayor, Harold Washington,” she said.  Washington was the city’s first African American mayor and he stepped into office in 1983 and left in 1987. Lightfoot’s mention of Washington drew a standing ovation.

But it was a historic day for others, too, as Lightfoot noted. Besides Lightfoot, Melissa Conyears-Ervin was sworn in as city treasurer and Anna Valencia was sworn in as the city clerk. All are African American women and this is the first time voters elected African American females to all three citywide positions.

The city’s aldermen were also sworn in.

For her first speech as mayor, Lightfoot’s message was an optimistic and firm promise to unite the city, and work for the betterment of those who need help. In addition, she promised to end aldermanic privilege after the inauguration ceremony.

“I’m looking ahead to a city of safe streets and strong schools for every child regardless of neighborhood or zip code,” she said. “A city where people want to grow old and not flee. A city of sanctuary against fear where no one must hide in the shadows. A city that is affordable for families and seniors and where every job pays a living wage. A city of fairness and hope and prosperity for the many, not just for the few, a city that holds equity and inclusion as our guiding principles.”

She made reference to recent anti-abortion laws passed in Alabama, and she promised that Chicago would fight for women’s rights.

“We must stand with women all across our country who fear for their basic rights and feel powerless in the face of the hateful legislation designed to control our bodies, our choices,” she said. “We cannot go back – not in Chicago, not as a nation.  We will join together and we will fight.”

This, too, drew thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

She also looked inward, at the problems within City Hall, an institution plagued by a history of corruption and she promised reform. She told the audience after the inauguration, she would sign an executive order ending aldermanic privilege, a tradition that allows aldermen to pass or block city government actions that could hurt or benefit their wards. Critics have charged the system allows for corruption, favoritism and inconsistent application of ordinances around the city.

“It means this,” she said. “It means ending their unilateral and unchecked control over every single thing that goes on in their wards. Aldermen will have a voice but not a veto. This is the time of for a new era of trust.”

This promise drew some of the loudest, most sustained applause.

Following the ceremony, City Hall hosted an open house for the public.

New Montessori School open in Streeterville

By Jesse Wright|May 1, 2019

Guidepost Montessori, 226 E. Illinois St., opened its doors in April. The new school has programs for kids from 12 months to 6 years old.

Head of School Sarah Silverman said enrollment has been going well with 49 kids signed up so far. Silverman explained that the Guidepost Montessori schools encourage kids to learn through play, so the rooms are filled with practical toys like sinks and dishes, where the kids develop motor skills and they also learn how the household works.

“It’s high choice and it’s high structure,” Silverman said.

Silverman said every class has two teachers in it, and there is also a Spanish immersion program.

At an open house for parents in early April, Jezail Jackson, a mother of two said her husband was educated at Montessori schools and wants to get their children enrolled.

“I believe the value is that  they provide a space for kids to be taught from the very start,” she said. “And in Montessori, they teach in a way that allows the kids to lead themselves. It’s really amazing.”

Max Chen blows on a pinwheel with a balloon animal at the Guidepost Montessori open house in April. Photo by Jesse Wright

State police urge protesting truckers to obey traffic laws when they are downtown

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

(Published April 12, 2019)

Illinois State Police have warned a group of truckers that have planned a “slow roll” protest in downtown Chicago they may face legal consequences if their protest breaks the law.

The protest is scheduled for late morning and afternoon April 12 in front of the Trump Hotel.

The protest is helmed by a trucking rights group known as Black Smoke Matters and the group has been organizing slow roll protests—protests that snarl traffic—in communities across the country.

The group is calling the event a “trucker’s shutdown” and they posted on Twitter a list of their requested changes in federal trucking law. Among other things the group is demanding better education for drivers, work flexibility and repealing the mandated use of electronic logging devices.

However, the Illinois State Police are noting that traffic congestion and backups are a cause of car crashes.

“The Illinois State Police urges all motorists to abide by traffic laws for the safety of all. Traffic backups are a significant contributing cause of traffic crashes, which lead to property damage, personal injury, and possibly death,” ISP District 15 Acting Captain Dominic Chiappini said in a press release. “Though the Illinois State Police respects the rights of citizens to express their opinions in a lawful manner, any planned event designed to intentionally impede normal traffic flow is dangerous to the innocent motoring public. Violators who choose to endanger the public by participating in events that violate Illinois law, could potentially be held liable for traffic crashes occurring as a result of their actions, and will be subject to the enforcement of applicable laws.”

Riverwalk to re-emerge with new look


(Published April 1, 2019)

By Jesse Wright, staff writer

As the weather turns warm and the streets of the city begin to go from brown to green, the Riverwalk, too, is reemerging after months of extensive renovations.

In mid-December, the city closed the thin, serpentine ribbon of land hugging Wacker Dr., from about Michigan Avenue, and excavators scraped the landscape bare. But finally, later this month, the Riverwalk will re-open, fresh and newly developed, though landscaping will continue through the end of Spring, according to a city spokesperson.

The 1.2-mile development project is focused on some of the oldest parts of the Riverwalk, according to a news release and the spokesperson said the renovation is intended to accommodate more visitors and businesses.

The Riverwalk is a hotspot for dining, drinking and boating recreation as well as bicyclists, joggers and walkers. Urban Kayaks, Island Party Hut, The Northman, and Chicago’s First Lady operate businesses along this portion of the Riverwalk though more will be coming.

“Vendors in the Esplanade section are also making improvements to their locations,” said the spokesperson. “A portion of the Civic District will be getting a new community marketplace. Eight new Riverwalk vendors will be in operation beginning in June.”

There is not an exact date for the re-opening, the spokesperson said it would likely be at the end of April.

“A new path is being installed along with new lighting, seating, landscaping and a railing along the dockwall,” the spokesperson explained. “A new Community Marketplace is also being constructed between Wabash and Michigan Avenues. Portions of the ramp have been removed to create the market which will feature local minority- and women-owned businesses. An elevator is also being installed in this area.”

In addition to commercial improvements, the city will invest heavily in native plants.

“More than 100 new trees are included in the landscaping, which will provide a diverse variety of species,” the spokesperson said. “The new seating areas will be available to the public and guests of the businesses in that area to enjoy a picnic or beverage.”

The project is expected to cost $10 million, according to a city news release issued last year. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the project will boost the city’s economy.

“The riverfront investments we are making will make the entire 1.25-mile stretch inviting to residents and visitors, increase recreational opportunities and continue to promote economic growth,” he said.

The work is being done by Fleet and Facility Management, the city department that oversees the Riverwalk.

(Snag the before/after images from P. 14/15). Caption: The Riverwalk project will bring more venders to the popular walking area and it will also add more greenery and more space for pedestrians. Photo and artist’s rendering courtesy the City of Chicago

While the Riverwalk was still nowhere near finished in late March, the city expects to have the area finished in late April. Photo by Jesse Wright

North Lake Shore open with temporary fix

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

(Published Feb. 12, 2019)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CDOT hopeful Lake Shore Drive could be fixed by Tuesday evening rush hour

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

(Published Feb. 12, 2019)

Some ramps to Lake Shore Drive are open Tuesday after a Chicago Department of Transportation employees noticed two broken beams on Lake Shore Drive Monday morning.

However, by noon on Tuesday, traffic remained congested as northbound Lake Shore Drive remained closed. Since the problem was discovered just prior to noon, CDOT workers have been working nonstop to repair the street and a CDOT spokesperson said she’s hopeful repairs could open Lake Shore Drive by evening rush hour.

Susan Hofer, a CDOT spokesperson, said the work is going well.

“We made good progress through the night,” she said in an email. “We re-opened The Wacker to southbound Lake Shore Drive ramp last night. The shoring towers under northbound Lake Shore Drive are in place and we are starting to jack them up around (Tuesday morning). The goal is to re-open before the evening rush. However once the road is raised up, it will take additional time to salt and clear ice off the roadway. Safety is the top priority.”

Hofer said updates will continue throughout the day.  

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