Peregrine falcons find a home in Chicago

(Published April 29, 2019)

Abhinanda Datta, Staff Writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sweetwater Tavern and Grill reopens after repairs

By Jesse Wright

(Published March 14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, visit sweetwatertavernandgrille.com.

Tough and hearty, the tradition of tulips along Michigan Avenue celebrate the city’s spirit, history

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

All along Michigan Avenue, flower boxes sit, topped with a layer of pine boughs and inches of snow, ice and street salt.

They are as gray as winter skies.

But, buried within the boxes are bulbs—thousands of tulips and hyacinth bulbs—ready to erupt into a riot of color just as soon as the mercury allows.

The seasonal routine began in the early 1990s, an initiative of Mayor Richard M. Daley and business leaders on Michigan Avenue as a way to spruce up the busy thoroughfare. In the decades since, the flowers have become nothing short of a national phenomenon.

In 2016, the American Society of Landscape Architects awarded the city and the Michigan Avenue Streetscape Association its Landmark Award for 20 years of Magnificent Mile blooms.

Chicago Department of Transportation spokesperson Mike Claffey said the flowers have found fans in cities far and wide. CDOT is now in charge of the planting program.

“Many cities have reached out to CDOT for background on how to launch a similar planting program—including New York City and San Francisco,” Claffey said in an email. “When Gavin Newsom (now governor of California) was mayor of San Francisco, he asked for and was given a tour of Chicago’s tulips on Michigan Avenue and he asked a number of detailed questions about the program.”

Maintaining the 2.3 miles of Michigan Avenue included in the program is a big job.

Claffey said each November the city plants 110,000 bulbs on Michigan from Roosevelt Road to Oak and the southern section where the planters are bigger, from Roosevelt to the river, includes 78,000 grape hyacinth.

Over eight days in November, a 10-person crew of A Safe Haven workers plant the bulbs. A Safe Haven Foundation employs at-risk youth, veterans and people recovering from substance abuse. This year’s tulip varieties are show winner, margarita, orange emperor, double negrita, apricot impression and pretty princess. Later, the beds are covered with pine boughs to protect the bulbs from extreme cold.

The flowers must be chosen carefully, as not too much can survive Chicago’s winters which can be downright arctic, even without polar vortices. But, Claffey said, when the bulbs bloom, usually in early April, it’s a treat for Chicagoans.

“They represent the spirit of Chicago,” Claffey said, adding that the city’s motto is urbs in horto, Latin for city in a garden.

“It’s a way to celebrate another winter is over in Chicago and the toughness of the city,” he said.

By May, however, it is over and the city replants the planters with summer selections. But the bulbs live on.  

“They’re transported to the Garfield Park Conservatory where each year the public is invited to pick up a bag of tulip bulbs in late May for the low, low price of zero dollars,” Claffey said.

Spark joy with organizing tips from Chicago’s experts

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

With spring warmth just around the corner, it’s time to clean house and local pros have some advice.

Monica Friel, president and founder of Chaos to Order, a Chicago-based organizing company, recommends decluttering the house twice a year, in the fall and in the spring, to keep on top of the clutter.

Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method of tidying emphasizes discarding anything that doesn’t “spark joy.” The method suggests going through items by category (books, clothes and so on) and touching each one. If it sparks joy, keep it—then, once you’ve gotten rid of the things you don’t want, you can organize the rest.

Friel said Kondo’s Netflix show has resulted in an uptick in her business.

“I think it’s great that Marie Kondo has inspired us to declutter and get rid of things that don’t bring us joy.”

While Kondo’s methods don’t work for everyone, Friel said getting rid of excess baggage is healthy. “I believe that the clutter that accumulates in and around our homes really weighs us down, and it’s kind of a burden that you carry,” Friel said.

Terri Albert of The Chicago Organizer said the KonMari Method doesn’t tend to work well for her clients because they often need more hands-on coaching.

Instead of “sparking joy,” Albert uses three words with her clients: need, use and love. Items that you need in your life, use regularly, and have a strong attachment to can stay. Everything else can be thrown away or donated.

The time it takes for someone to go through their entire house varies, so Albert suggests setting a timer and working for 15 or 30 minutes at a time. “People will be very amazed that they can get a lot more done if they really focus,” she said.

As for staying organized, Albert said it’s necessary to have a realistic “baseline,” or vision of what your ideal space looks like.

Albert said changing habits is hard but can be done by taking baby steps.

“A good one is to open up your mail every single day, immediately recycle the junk mail, immediately enter important event dates in your calendar, and if you can’t get to the rest of it, attend to the rest of it as soon as you can,” she said.

First we learn to crawl, then we learn … to drink?

By Jon Cohn

I’m not sure how the great tradition of the “pub crawl” started.

I’m not even sure that Chicago is the home for these particular events, but based on the number of them coming up we might as well be.

For those not familiar with this unique concept, let’s loosely call it a form of recreation, socialization, physical exercise (remember, there is walking involved!), and of course drinking. The basic idea—and there have been many takes on this—is for groups of people to meet with a common theme and wander to various drinking establishment in the assigned area. One drink per location. A rule, not surprisingly, that is broken early and often.

As you can see from the description, the concept isn’t very complicated. The beauty in its simplicity.

Here’s the good part: Whether you are a veteran pub crawler or a novice looking for a new experience, there are plenty of opportunities to get in on the fun coming up later this month.

St. Patrick’s Day alone offers several opportunities.

Among your selections would be the Irish Stroll Pub Crawl in River North, the Wicker Park Bar Crawl, the Lincoln Park Bar Crawl, the Division Street Bar crawl, the Logan Square Bar crawl, and the Shamrock Crawl in Wrigleyville—again, all on St. Patrick’s Day. There’s no lack of opportunity to “get your crawl on” if you so desire.

Can’t make it St. Patrick’s Day but the idea still interest you? No worries. There are many more to come, such as the Cultural Crawl (drink and explore new neighborhoods) on April 13, The Office Trivia Bar crawl April 6, and the Cover Your Bases bar crawl in Wrigleyville on May 18.  September, October and Halloween bring on another barrage of potential pub crawl experiences.

Check out eventbrite.com/d/il–chicago/pub-crawl for more complete listings.

Final note: These pub crawls often start at 8 a.m.— yes a.m. — not a typo.  Pub crawls are apparently not for the faint of heart (or liver).

Restaurant Week extended for one week

For the News

Choose Chicago and its partner restaurants announced today that Chicago Restaurant Week has been extended through Feb. 12. 

More than 235 restaurants will participate in the extension, which will continue to offer specially designed prix fixe menus, starting at $24 for brunch and lunch, and $36 and/or

$48 for dinner (excluding beverages, tax and gratuity).

“We are excited to offer locals and visitors an extra five days of dining deals at some of the city’s best restaurants,” said David Whitaker, Choose Chicago President & CEO. “There’s no better time to get out and enjoy some incredible meals at equally incredible prices and catch a show or two during Theatre Week.”

Chicago Restaurant Week’s extension coincides with the 7th Annual Chicago Theatre Week which kicks off on February 7 and runs through February 17, allowing diners to combine an amazing culinary experience with a night out at the theatre.

Presented by the League of Chicago Theatres in partnership with Choose Chicago, the 7th annual Chicago Theatre Week will again provide visitors and residents the opportunity to choose from more than 120 productions and sample the extraordinary range of theatrical offerings in Chicago.

“This year, Chicago Theatre Week kicks off The Year of Chicago Theatre, reminding people of the rich theatre tradition in Chicago. Certainly, in this city of innovators, risk-takers and big hearts, the standard of excellence by both the theatre and restaurant scenes set Chicago apart from other cities,” said Deb Clapp, Executive Director of the League of Chicago Theatres. “With the overlap of Theatre Week and Restaurant Week, audiences will once again be able to take advantage of both of these great deals to create a quintessential Chicago experience.”

For a listing of restaurants participating in the extension, visit EatItUpChicago.com. To learn more about Chicago Theatre Week shows, tickets and venues, visit ChicagoTheatreWeek.com

Streeterville CAPS meeting focuses on mob violence

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

The first Streeterville CAPS meeting of the year focused on a flash mob attack in late December that injured bystanders and destroyed property.

At the Jan. 3 CAPS meeting, officers announced one boy, reported to be 15 years old, had been arrested in connection with the flash mob incident. The day after the arrest, police announced the arrest of a second teen, 16. Both have been charged with felony counts of aggravated battery and mob action.

Police have security camera images showing six youths.

Officer Thomas Baker said police are continuing to investigate the mob violence and are planning to distribute images in hopes of getting names.

“Myself and Al, along with the sergeant, we’ve been out passing out these flyers, trying to get more identifiers on these youths,” Baker said. “One has been taken into custody. He’s a juvenile, so we can’t give too much detail because it’s an ongoing investigation. Hopefully this kid will turn on his friends so we can stop this from happening.”

In May 2018, a flash mob of teenagers attacked random people in the Streeterville area and put one man in intensive care, according to media reports.

Sergeant Chris Schenk urged residents to call police if they see the suspects, and he reminded the public not to attempt a citizen’s arrest.

“We don’t want you to take the law into your hands,” he said.

A representative for McDonald’s security and a man from the YMCA said they recognize some of the youths. The McDonald’s security representative said some of the youths are banned from the store.

Schenk said if any of the suspects show up and refuse to leave, security personnel should call 911.

“We don’t want you to get hurt,” Schenk said. “They’re wanted for aggravated battery, and it’s not your simple battery. It’s that they literally jumped on the person or beat the person. It escalated and it’s more or less a felony.”

Following that, officer A. Robinson reminded residents to not leave their cars running because car thefts increase in the wintertime.

“In the wintertime when it gets cold outside, a lot of people leave their cars running with their keys inside,” Robinson said. “If you see someone doing this who lives in your building, try to say something to them. People want to warm the car up, but that’s an opportunity for someone to take it.”

Robinson also told attendees that if they call to report someone to 911, give the dispatcher a description of the suspect’s shoes. He said people can take off a coat or jacket, but people don’t generally get rid of their shoes after a crime.

The next Streeterville CAPS meeting will be March 7 at 6 p.m. at the Access Living building, 115 Chicago Ave. Residents can follow the 18th district on Twitter, or call them at 312-742-5870 and email them at CAPS018district@chicagopolice.org.

[Sergeant Chris Schenk speaks with a Streeterville CAPS meeting attendee. Photo by Jesse Wright]

First dates in the digital age mean shutting down the phone

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

As times change so, too, does dating.

Chicago matchmaker and dating coach Stef Safra, who operates the dating company Stef and the City, said young people have more college debt than older generations. Some still live at home, and many young people work well into the evening. These factors affect dating today.  

Stef Safran is a Chicago dating and relationship coach. Photo by Jason Kalish.

The traditional weekday drinks or dinner for a first date has become more challenging because of cell phones—it’s hard for people to put them down and focus on the present, Safra said. “People with cell phones are still doing work. They haven’t detached themselves for a date during the week.”

She suggests people meet on the weekend for brunch when their minds are more relaxed, and she urges those about to embark on a first date to decompress for 20 minutes prior to the date.

Also, Safran pointed out, a first date dinner is a bad idea because if the date doesn’t go well, it could be a long and uncomfortable meal.

Safran also suggests treating the first date like an informal interview—don’t take it so seriously.

“It takes three dates for the person to get comfortable and think you’ll stick around,” she said. “It takes time for people to get comfortable with you and let down their guard.”

Even with the many dating apps that exist today, professional matchmaking services are still thriving because digital apps require time to navigate, and even then, matches may not pan out or, worse, the match could be a catfish scam.

“Matchmaking becomes much more necessary [now] and a lot of men actually ask for it, which is surprising because men don’t always like to ask for directions,” she said.

To find out more about Safran’s services, visit stefandthecity.com.

[Dating coach Stef Safran operates Stef and the City. Photo by Jason Kalish]

Streeterville, Gold Coast residents hear plans for new Pisor project

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

In January, Streeterville and Gold Coast residents got a peek at a proposed 22-story, 12-unit building David Pisor plans to build at 12 W. Maple St.

Pisor, a longtime Chicago developer, said the project will look unique and fashionable and offer a private club and an Italian restaurant, among other amenities. He also projected that the building would bring 500 jobs into the area once complete.

The new tower is set to stand 330 feet tall, and each residence will occupy an entire floor, with an expansive penthouse on the top floor. Designed to be slender—just 50 feet wide—on one side, but long on the other, the facade will be lined with vertical plates of glass to give passersby a streamlined view. “Optically, it’s going to be a very special-looking building. It will be something you’ve never seen before,” Pisor said.

Residents raised concerns about the building’s height and whether it would cast shadows on Mariano Park. While Pisor did concede his building will be tall, he said the building will not cast shadows on the park.

“Of all the things that could be put there, this is incredibly beautiful,” he said.

Curfew enforced at Water Tower Place to mitigate youth ‘disruptive behavior’

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

In response to a flash mob attack in December on Chicago Avenue in Streeterville, Water Tower Place issued a notice Jan. 3 that it will no longer allow anyone under 18 to be on the property without the presence of a parent or an adult over 21 on Fridays and Saturdays after 4 p.m.

“In an effort to eliminate disruptive behavior by unsupervised youth, we made the difficult decision to implement a curfew program at Water Tower Place,” said Mitch Feldman, senior general manager of Water Tower Place, in a press release. “The PGR program is intended to help provide a safe, peaceful experience at our shopping center. All are welcome at Water Tower Place and at any time. We simply require that during certain weekend hours, families shop together and guests under 18 are accompanied by an adult.”

Police have posted security camera still images of those involved in the flash mob attack across social media. Hopkins said if anyone has any information about the suspects or the attacks, they should call the police at (312) 747-8380 with reference case JB-571818.

Dave and Busters, Watertower deal is dead

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

A plan to open a Dave and Busters sports bar franchise inside Water Tower Place is dead after Streeterville residents expressed outrage at the proposal. The company had already signed a lease with the owners of Water Tower Place, according to Water Tower Place spokespeople.

On Jan. 14, Alderman Brian Hopkins said that due to mounting public pressure, he would not support the company’s plans and that Dave and Busters management agreed to relinquish the lease on  Water Tower Place. Hopkins added that the company had not submitted an application or a plan proposal to the city.

At a community meeting in December 2018, residents complained of the noise they feared Dave and Busters would bring, as well as the potential for rowdy or drunken incidents.

According to a spokesperson for the company that owns Water Tower Place, they are still seeking tenants for the space.

“While disappointed with the outcome, we remain committed to evolving Water Tower Place into an all-encompassing destination offering the best in shopping, dining and entertainment,” said Lindsay Kahn, a senior manager of public relations at Brookfield Properties. “Our community deserves an amazing experience at our shopping center, and we are currently exploring different uses that would fit well in the available space. We look forward to sharing more information soon.

The Oriental Theater gets new name

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

Chicago’s Oriental Theatre opened May 8, 1926, and 93 years later it’s undergoing a name change. After Feb. 12 the theatre will be known as the James M. Nederlander Theatre. The transformation includes the construction of a new marquee, Curbed Chicago reported.

The Nederlander family is known for owning theaters across the country, including the CIBC Theatre at 18 W. Monroe St., according to the Chicago Tribune. New York has its own Nederlander Theatre, named by James M. Nederlander to honor his father, David T. Nederlander. James, who died in 2016 at the age of 94, will be honored by his son, organization president James L. Nederlander, by the renaming of the Oriental Theatre at 24 W. Randolph St.

Lyric Opera releases 2019/2020 season lineup

Staff reports

The Lyric Opera of Chicago released their 2019-2020 lineup which includes a mix of drama, comedy and of course music.

The season will highlight a complete Ring cycle in April with package purchases now available to all members.

The Ring, the ambitious series of four epic operas by Richard Wagner, is considered one of the most significant works in the Western canon. The story revolves around a magic ring which grants power to rule the world which characters based loosely on Norse sagas and a German epic poem. It will be conceded by Sir Andrew Davis and directed by David Poutner.

Besides the Ring, the Lyric will also stage Verdi’s Luisa Miller as part of a multi-season showcase of Giuseppe Verdi’s work. Other familiar operas will include The Barber of Seville, Don Giovanni and Madama Butterfly.

Besides the classics, Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking will make its Lyric premiere. The opera is based on the book by Sister Helen Prejean with a libretto by Terrence McNally.
This year’s Broadway musical will be the Lyric debut of 42nd Street.

Lyric regulars will note Sondra Radvanovsky will return this season in main stage performances of The Queen of Spaces and the concert The Three Queens.

Another beloved artist, Welsh bass-baritone Sir Bryn Terfel will return to the Lyric stage for the first time in 15 years for a recital.

For more information about any of the performances, visit lyricopera.org or call (312) 827-5600.

Snow superstars clear the way at the Aon Center

By Stephanie Racine | Staff Writer

It’s a big building, in a big city, so it’s no surprise that when winter comes, it’s a big job keeping the Aon Center’s perimeter free of snow and ice.

How do they do it? With people and preparation.

Every winter, the Aon Center employs Harvard Maintenance to keep the property dry and safe during even the worst weather. It starts with a plan. Each shift leader decides who and what is needed for the job, depending on the weather.

“Lakeside buildings generally receive more snow than properties inland, so we communicate forecasts and keep our response dynamic in case additional resources or manpower are needed if a storm worsens beyond what was estimated,” said Harvard Maintenance senior director Karen Camerano.

Project manager Kate Krolicki said security at the Aon Center reaches out when the snow begins to fall downtown and a crew is assembled to salt, scoop and dry off the paths using a squeegee.

It’s no easy feat to keep feet dry, and it takes a toll on even the most experienced workers. “Our employees have to be in the cold for long periods of time, so we educate them on frostbite, exhaustion and other potential health concerns,” Camerano said.

Pro-tips:

For those who like a walkway as immaculate as the Aon Center’s—but can’t afford employees to do it for them—Camerano emphasizes readiness. She recommends putting down salt immediately and shoveling before the end of a snowfall. “We aim to never let the snow accumulate to a level where shoveling or lifting the snow becomes too arduous,” Camerano said.  


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