Police want to keep Streeterville residents safe

by Stephanie Racine

Streeterville police want to work with residents to help keep them safe.

After a slew of violent muggings and surprise carjackings in Streeterville at the end of December and beginning of January, 18th district police held a community meeting on January 11 to discuss safety tips, plus the efforts being made to combat crime in the area.  

Officer Theresa Kelly led the talk, with help from Detective Colin O’Shea. They both emphasized the notion of being aware. 

“Maintain awareness of the people and circumstances around you,” said Kelly. 

A gut feeling of feeling in danger is oftentimes a sign of fear, according to Kelly, and trusting that gut feeling is often wise.

Detective O’Shea noted that using a phone while you walk can be dangerous and unsafe in several ways. 

“Stealing a phone is an instant $100 to $200,” said O’Shea. 

Paying too much attention can also make you unaware and make you look like an easy target. Shoulders are hunched, attention is on the phone and hands are occupied. 

O’Shea and Kelly also warned residents to be wary of any solicited donations—it can be a sleight of hand trick to steal something. If you want to help the community, research what official charities are in the area, and donate or volunteer there. 

“Carry as little on you as possible,” said Kelly. 

Kelly and O’Shea recommended carrying portable alarm systems that make a loud noise when pressed. They are available for under $10 on Amazon, but Kelly reminded the crowd to keep the alarm in your hand—not in your bag or pocket—so it can be easily accessed. 

Keeping a purse or bag on your weaker shoulder is advised by Kelly and O’Shea. Having your stronger hand free is recommended. Cross-body bags should only be worn under coats—thieves will take victims down in their attempts to steal purses. 

Many residents were grateful for the advice, but wanted to know how the police are going to respond to these attacks.

Commander Daniel O’Shea was also present and he assured the attendees that they had asked for more resources from the city, including more officers, both uniformed and plain-clothed. 

Alderman Brian Hopkins said he was working with police to make sure they would get those resources. Hopkins said he had received a phone call from the Mayor’s office approving extra police resources in Streeterville during the meeting. 

Police reminded the crowd to always call 911 if they see anything suspicious. They also reminded residents to attend CAPS meetings to further discuss ongoing crime in the area. 

The next CAPS meeting for Streeterville is on at 6 p.m., March 5, at Access Living, 115 W. Chicago Ave.

The crust is crucial: l’Aventino brings next-generation Roman pizza to Streeterville

by Doug Rapp

When Adam Weisell would return to Rome after growing up there with his United Nations-employed parents,  he often heard about a new style of pizza. 

People would tell the budding chef about pinsa (pro- nounced “peen-sa”). 

“I’d go eat it and think, ‘This is delicious,’” Weisell said. He was used to the wide, thin-crust Roman pizzas but pinsa had a different crust—a crispy exterior with an airy texture, moist and fragrant inside.

Weisell loves pinsa so much that after nearly two decades cooking for others, including Mario Batali, he’s opened his own restaurant, L’Aventino Forno Romano, 355 E. Ohio St., featuring this “modern play on a very traditional Roman pizza.”

“Chicago is such a pizza town and yet there’s a style that’s vastly underrepresented here,” said Weisell, who has cooked in mostly Italian restaurants in New York City, San Francisco and Chicago, including Eataly.

“Pinsa hasn’t come across the U.S. in a big way and I’m hoping to be part of that,” Weisell added, noting that oval flatbread pizzas are popular throughout Italy and Europe. 

Open since late November, l’Aventino has three levels that seat 48, a full-service bar and patio that will open for warmer weather.

“It’s a little funky,” Weisell said. “It reminds me a lot of a Roman restaurant.”   

The menu features several pinsas, with a variety of top- pings and vegetarian-friendly options. Weisell said the crust  is made of soy, wheat and rice  ours and takes 48 hours to ferment, which increases its  flavor and digestibility.

“The reception has been overwhelmingly positive,” Weisell said. “Once people are in the door and eat it, I think most people are hooked.”

Weisell said l’Aventino, named after one of the seven hills ancient Rome was built on, has gotten a lot of foot traffic from people coming in out of curiosity.

“One of the appeals of the location is that people are going to be constantly walking by on their way to the (Northwestern Memorial) hospital or their way home from work,” he said.

Weisell said he’s pleased with how his  first restaurant is going.

“At the end of the day, this is dough with sauce and cheese on it, so it is not that different,” he said. “It’s just a slightly different style.”  

Local charities left short-handed after season of giving

by Jacqueline Covey

The Chicago Help Initiative gives free meals to guests who are in need. During the holidays, there is no shortage of volunteers, but post giving-season, this organization, like many non-profits in the area, becomes short-handed.

Executive Director of Chicago Help Initiative Doug Fraser sees an increase in volunteerism around Christmas each year, but he said that’s not when it’s needed. Between now and February, he’s calling on Christmas-time aides to  re-sign up with the organization. New volunteers are  always welcome, too. 

Every Wednesday, volunteers provide sit-down dinners to 130 guests and 70  take out meals as part of the Chicago Help Initiative free meals program. The idea is that providing a dignified experience fulfills a sense of place for participants. Before dinner, some guests take advantage of classes in  technology, creative writing and art facilitated by  Catholic Charities at their community center located at 721 N. LaSalle St.

“We are all a community, we all have each other,” said Sandra Dillion, a student in the knitting group. “We  share our ideas and our thoughts. If we get stuck, we are here to help each other out.”

The first dinner was in  2001 when Catholic Charities opened their space for  a weekly gathering with food donated from local restaurants. A speaker  mini-series was added,  then social and health services were brought in and  over the years relationships have been built between long time volunteers and guests.

“We have volunteers of all ages and backgrounds, some of whom have been  coming for years,” said Brigid Murphy of Catholic Charities. “There are lovely  relationships that have developed among volunteers  and supper guests.”

The organization has created a space built on  respect where social stigmas are broken down. For  a couple hours, guests can  enjoy the simple joy of having a warm meal in a warm  place with friends.

“What we’ve learned is  that if you treat a home- less person with respect…  we can get them off the  streets,” founder and president Jacqueline Hayes said.  “Efforts to help are good, but we fill them up with  such good feelings about themselves.”

As a Chicago real estate broker specializing in retail  leasing along the Magnificent Mile and Oak Street,  Hayes sought ways to  help the homeless population that congregated at  storefronts.

Now, 20 years after the  group began, the organization is still growing largely  as a result of a robust volunteer community.

For more information or to volunteer, contact the Chicago Help Initiative, 440 N Wells St., Suite 440, Chicago, (312) 448-0045  or visit chicagohelpinitiative.org  

Local doctor finds freedom, uses real medical innovation to kill in fiction novel

By Mat Cohen

In the last scene of the 1977 film “Annie Hall,” Woody Allen jokes most people can’t break from a rut if they need the means it’s providing.

Dr. Michael Young, a Streeterville resident, had a private urology practice from 1991 to 2017 and is thankful he wasn’t dependent on a proverbial chicken providing him eggs. This led Young to break free of the medical industry and write his two books, The Illness of Medicine and Consequence of Murder.

“If you are stuck, but you don’t have any options and you need the eggs, you’re still stuck,” Young said. “I had an opportunity to say goodbye—I financially was secure and was able to cut that chain. I have other interests, other abilities and the means to pursue them.

“So I took advantage of that.”

Young’s other interests include medical innovation, underwater photography, teaching, riding his bike along Lake Michigan and writing. At the peak of his game, as the head of two departments and with a private practice, Young stepped away for those interests.

“I just got fatigued with where medicine was going,” he said. “It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, I just don’t enjoy the environment in which we have to practice.”

Currently, he is the director of the division of innovation in the Department of Urology at the University of Illinois Chicago and has been on radio shows discussing the state of the medical industry.

His first book, Illness of Medicine, published February 2018, recounts his 33 years of experience in the medical field.

“I wanted patients to understand what physicians are going through and I wanted physicians to understand what patients are going through,” he said. “I wanted both to see the other side of the table.”

Consequence of Murder, a fictional story published in June, uses a HydroGel to kill evil. The gel, which Young developed in real life for about a year, changes its state based on temperature. Its original purpose was to hold kidney stones still for doctors to break them down easier. But when the Office of Technology Management found other work in that area, the HydroGel was used to fictitiously take away lives instead.

“I’ve done all this work and now I can’t do anything with it,” he said. “What do you do when you get upset? Well you say, ‘I’m going to kill somebody,’ figuratively. So I decided I was going to use this stuff to kill somebody. It was my venting.

“So, that’s the process of murder. It’s a little warped, I know, but this is how I think.”

Christian Luciano, Ph.D., is a colleague of Young’s at UIC was impressed Young was able to turn the book into a mystery.

“It’s amazing how this involved a mystery novel,” he said. “It’s an extraordinary complex thing and he makes it understandable. The perfect balance between facts and details, but while still keeping the essence of what it is.”

Young said fictional writing is more challenging than nonfiction. He is currently writing his third book with many of the same characters overlapping from his second. 
For more information, visit https://michaeljyoungmd.com/.

Streeterville CAPS meeting brings complaints of homelessness

At the Sept. 5 CAPS meeting in Streeterville, Residents complained of homeless people living in Streeterville parks and sleeping outside on Michigan Avenue and Chicago Avenue.

Officer Ramona Stovall said people couldn’t legally sleep in parks as they close at 9 p.m. and generally people can’t sleep on the sidewalks either.

“The public walkway is not supposed to be impeded,” she said. Officers can ask homeless people who are sleeping to “move on,” if they’re breaking a law.

Sgt. Christopher Schenck pointed out that being homeless isn’t against the law. Police can refer homeless people to social services, but police can’t compel anyone to go to a shelter.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” he said. “If they’re not going to impede the sidewalk and if they refuse our services, I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

At this point, a person alleged some homeless people use children to beg for money. Stovall said this could be illegal, depending on the circumstances.

“I’ve taken children away from parents,” she said. Stovall told residents to call the police if they believe children are being exploited.

Schenck said the police will take the kids and have them checked out at the hospital.

The next meeting will be 6 p.m. on Nov. 7 at Access Living, 115 W Chicago Ave.

Preservation Chicago aims to save the fabric of Streeterville


(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Elisa Shoenberger

Preservation Chicago champions Chicago’s legendary architecture and is working to preserve the character of neighborhoods. The nonprofit is behind recent efforts to landmark 15 post-fire mansions in Streeterville and River North. These buildings include 42 and 44-46 E. Superior Street and the building that houses restaurant Les Nomades (222 E. Ontario).

Ward Miller, Executive Director of Preservation Chicago, explains that “the proposed Near North landmark district has received preliminary landmark status. It has received a report from the Department of Planning and Development Preservation Division.” The process can take more than a year but sometimes “a demolition permit is expedited by three months.” 

The three buildings on Superior had an active demolition permit, which helped precipitate these landmarking efforts. To be eligible, the buildings have to meet at least two designation criteria as well as integrity criteria; in this case, there was enough historic significance to help make the case for landmarking efforts.

Part of the landmarking process requires consent of the building’s owners who have 45 days or of no more than 120 days with an extension to make a decision in accordance with the Chicago Landmarks Ordinance.  That period ends on November 4th, according to Peter Strazzabosco, Deputy Commissioner, Chicago Department of Planning and Development. If any owners reject the proposal, there will be a public hearing.

Founded in 2001, Preservation Chicago has had their share of wins and loses; Prentice Women’s Hospital, located at 333 E. Superior, was demolished in 2013 despite efforts of advocates like Preservation Chicago. The building had been built by Bertrand Goldberg, who was also behind Marina City. 

But Miller explains that the loss of the building “did force Northwestern and the city to have robust discussion about protecting the historic buildings that form that Chicago Avenue wall” including the Montgomery Ward Memorial Building, Wieboldt Hall, and the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. However, Miller explains that the nonprofit is not against development but wants to “encourage sensitive development.” 

“We want to see buildings preserved and to avoid bigger taller buildings that have an impact on the quality of life,” Miller explains. These smaller buildings help keep the character of the neighborhood and provide homes for local businesses. 

“These buildings give a sense of neighborhood from another age and add to the charm and vision of Michigan Avenue,” Miller says. Miller questions: “Are we killing the golden goose? by overdeveloping Streeterville and River North.

Preservation Chicago will continue in its work to help preserve the character of Chicago in Streeterville and all the other neighborhoods in Chicago.

Streeterville park offers green oasis due, in part, to innovative deception

(Published July 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

As residents move into the newly-opened One Bennett Park luxury skyscraper, the building’s flagship amenity—the two-acre Bennett Park—prepares to open Aug. 6.

By all expectations, the park is shaping up to be equal in its design and ambition as the skyscraper next door. The park, designed by landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the firm behind Maggie Daley Park in New Eastside, seems to offer something for everyone.

“Bennett Park includes an inspired children’s play bowl with innovative playground equipment, two dog runs, a lawn bowl for gathering and a shady grove and meandering pathways with native plantings, flowering trees and design elements such as stone formations,” said Annie McDonell, the director of marketing for project developer Related Midwest. 

“[The park is] open space that serves as a respite within the city for all generations,” McDonell said. She added that the park, “enriches the neighborhood, builds community, and enhances the health and wellness of those living at One Bennett Park.”

But the beauty belies the brains behind the project because the park is as every bit as modern as its namesake luxury skyscraper and this oasis owes more to engineering than mother nature. 

Constrained on one side by Illinois Street and on all other sides by a high rise, the landscape architects relied on design to turn the rectangular plot into a park.

“The undulating topography and earthen mounds not only serve as a strong contrast to the flatness of the public streets and sidewalks, they add dimension to the space,” explained McDonnell. “This dimensional element of the design incorporates abundant plantings and rolling topography along the edges of every pathway and around the central lawn bowl, giving the park a lush and spacious feel.”

The rolling landscape covered by prairie grasses and bushes are also something of a design trick. Dig down deep enough and there’s a parking garage. What appears at first as green prairie is actually a garage roof, meaning developers had to create a lightweight prairie facsimile. The small, rolling hills? They’re fake. 

“To make the undulating topography that gives the park its character, horticultural soil was piled atop lightweight styrofoam structures, which are eco-friendly and very durable,” McDonell said. “By using lightweight foam as the underlying structure to create rolling topography, we kept the soil limits low, allowing more bandwidth to add plantings and trees and still stay under the weight limits of what the garage structure can support.”

Cookie DŌ pop up comes to Navy Pier

(Published June 30, 2019)

By Angela Gagnon – Staff Writer

New York’s popular edible cookie dough has come to Chicago. 

Cookie DŌ Confections set up a small stand at the base of the Navy Pier Ferris wheel so Chicagoans and visitors can enjoy edible cookie dough treats through Labor Day. 

Ryan Manley, a filmmaker from Atlanta, wanted to check out the trending treat in New York, and he was pleasantly surprised to find the pop up Cookie DŌ kiosk at Navy Pier while visiting Chicago to see “Hamilton.” 

“It’s really good,” Manley said. “I thought it would be small, but it’s very filling. I’m glad I got to try it here.”

The abbreviated menu features the raw Cookie DŌ, cookie dough ice cream, cookie sandwiches and ice cream “SanDos.” 

“We use a pasteurized egg product and a heat-treated ready-to-eat flour which make all of our desserts safe to consume just as they are—unbaked,” founder Kristen Tomlan said. 

Cookie DŌ ships nationwide. To purchase  flavors outside of what is served at the pop up, visit cookiedonyc.com. 

The Cookie DŌ pop up at Navy Pier is open Sundays-Thursdays from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-midnight, weather permitting.

Navy Pier’s free wellness series, Summer Fitness returns to Navy Pier

(Published May 30, 2019)

For the third consecutive year, Navy Pier visitors will have the opportunity to participate in the Pier’s popular outdoor wellness series, Summer Fitness Supported by LifeStart, featuring free workout sessions and yoga classes every Tuesday evening from June 4 through Aug. 20 on the Polk Bros Park Performance Lawn. Led by certified instructors, the series offers fun, action-packed cardio, strength and conditioning exercises during Rush Hour Workouts, followed by stress-reducing poses to calm the mind and energize the spirit during Sunset Yoga.

Rush Hour Workouts include high-energy Werq and Zumba exercises, and are held from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., followed by Sunset Yoga’s Vinyasa Flow classes from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., set to the zenful backdrop of the Chicago skyline at sunset. Guests are encouraged to bring their own mats to the guided yoga sessions, which string postures together and use breathing techniques to create seamless, flowing movement.

For a complete listing of workouts, visit navypier.org.

Northwestern University police to patrol in Streeterville

Northwestern University Police have agreed to expand their scope of operations in Streeterville after talks with aldermen Brendan Reilly and Brian Hopkins.

The officers agreed to patrol the area bounded by East Chestnut Street, East Ontario Street, North Michigan Avenue and North Lake Shore Drive. There are approximately five officers and two patrol cars dispatched throughout Northwest University’s patrol boundaries 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

As part of the agreement, the campus police will act as first responders to 911 calls for incidents on the public right of way. Additionally, university police will now be issuing traffic citations within their boundaries.

“Downtown Chicago, and Streeterville in particular, is home to thousands of businesses and residents, as well as some of the world’s most iconic cultural attractions,” said Second Ward alderman Hopkins. “It’s crucial that we collectively work to ensure their safety and security. I’m proud to join Alderman Reilly, CPD and NUP to develop collaborative, creative solutions that will ultimately lead to enhanced safety measures in the Streeterville community.”

New rooftop lounge, Offshore, opens at Navy Pier

A new, 36,000 square feet rooftop lounge called Offshore opened at Navy Pier in May. Developers say the deck is the largest rooftop lounge in the country. It is on the third floor of the Pier’s Festival Hall and it will be open all year long.

The deck is glass-enclosed in parts and offers firepits and areas for viewing Lake Michigan and the city. A kitchen serves American cuisine and is led by chef MIchael Shrader.

Acron Group developed the rooftop lounge and they plan to add a four-star hotel at the Pier and a deck.

Shedd Aquarium, Lincoln Park Zoo seeking volunteers to care for animals, the earth


Join the Shedd Aquarium, Lincoln Park Zoo, and the Brookfield Zoo for Party for the Planet Spring into Action, going on now through June 8  (World Oceans Day). Sponsored by the Disney Conservation Fund, in partnership with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the series of events will provide local communities with opportunities to volunteer and take action for animals and our planet.

The Shedd Aquarium and local Zoos will host a series of volunteer stewardship events, called Family Volunteer Days, throughout the Chicagoland area where volunteers can come together to remove litter from Chicago’s Lake Michigan and Chicago River coastlines, plant native plant species, remove invasive plants, and help collect data through citizen science projects.

Volunteers will receive special prizes for participating, such as reusable water bottles, and tickets to visit the zoos or aquarium and more.  

Dates and locations for the Family Volunteer Days are at sheddaquarium.org.

A look at the numbers behind the Navy Pier fireworks


(Published April 29, 2019)

By Elisa Shoenberger, Staff Writer

With the warmer weather comes Navy Pier fireworks.

May 25 is the start of the annual Navy Pier fireworks and Melrose Pyrotechnics will again produce the weekly displays, just as they have for the past 15 years.

For the audience, it’s 10 minutes of fun filled with fire, smoke and dazzling colors all set to music. But the behind the scenes is real work and somebody has to do it. One of those somebodies is Jonathan Gesse, a soundtrack producer with Melrose Pyrotechnics.

Gesse said “a minimum of 30-hours preparation goes into each Navy Pier display, which includes everything from soundtrack design, choreography, labeling, packaging, setup, product testing and transportation.”

The day of the show, five technicians set up about 10 hours beforehand, including monitoring the equipment in advance of the show.

Each show is a “unique pyromusical experience,” Gesse said. “Our team of choreographers uses industry software to ‘script’ each display according to the musical soundtrack by listening to the music and building scenes of light and color.” Once the show is ready to start, Melrose sends a “coded radio signal from Navy Pier to the fireworks crew, which the firing computer receives and synchronizes itself to the music that plays through the speakers at Navy Pier.”

Melrose gets fireworks from all over the world including China, Italy and Spain. They use 500 new products each year and more than 1,400 feet of XLR cable for the shows.

Gesse said the heights achieved by fireworks depends on the diameter of the shell. Three- and four-inch shells will generally explode from about 300 to 400 feet in the sky, and 10 inch shells will rise to well over 10,000 feet in the air before they break.

“At Navy Pier, we use aerial shells ranging from two-and-a-half inches up to 10 inches in diameter,” Gesse said.

This year, there will be 31 firework performances, each Wednesday and Saturday from May 25 to Aug. 31 with additional shows July 4 and New Year’s Eve. Wednesday fireworks are at 9:30 p.m. and Saturdays are at 10:15 p.m., weather dependent.

The displays last 10 minutes while the July 4 and New Year’s Eve displays last 15 minutes. Last year, CBS reported that nearly 100,000 people attended the July 4 celebration and that the fireworks performance had 2,000 firework shells go off with “300 different effects.”

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