Curiosity boxes on Navy Pier to promote ‘Carnival Row’

(Published Aug. 16, 2018)

Amazon promoters will install curiosity boxes along the the Polk Bros. Park promenade on Navy Pier to promote the Prime Original series “Carnival Row.”

The show, starring Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne, will premiere Aug. 31. Polk Bros. Park is at 600 Grand Ave.

The experience is free and will be live Aug. 31 through Sept. 2, coinciding with the show’s debut.

The large curiosity boxes will introduce pedestrians to some of the show’s mythical creatures. Centaurs, faeries and more will be on display as guests interact with the surprises each box has in store. In addition to plenty of photo moments and show-themed gifts will also be available for visitors after exploring the pop-ups. 

Set in a Victorian fantasy world filled with mythological immigrant creatures, “Carnival Row” explores how this growing population struggles to coexist with humans — forbidden to live, love, or fly with freedom. But even in darkness, hope lives, as a human detective, Rycroft Philostrate (Orlando Bloom), and a refugee faerie named Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevingne) rekindle a dangerous affair despite an increasingly intolerant society.

Chicago’s WWII medical professionals to be honored

(Published Aug. 9, 2019)

A free lunchtime public event will honor the World War II 12th General Hospital Unit, which was comprised of Northwestern University Medical School physicians and dentists, Chicago-area nurses, dieticians and physical therapists, and enlisted men who treated nearly 30,000 patients during the war. 

The event, from noon to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, August 14, will launch a physical and digital exhibit featuring the 12th General Hospital Collection. The event will take place in Baldwin Auditorium, 303 E. Superior St., on Northwestern’s Chicago campus.  

The event is hosted by Northwestern’s Galter Health Sciences Library & Learning Center.

Dr. Sanders Marble, senior historian for the U.S. Army Office of Medical History, will speak about surgery and recovery during World War II. 

The 12th General Hospital Unit was officially activated on January 28, 1942. Following nearly a year of military and medical training, the unit was deployed first to the Algerian seaside resort, Ain-el-Turck, and then to Naples, Rome and Leghorn in Italy until the unit was deactivated on September 15, 1945. 

Along with performing emergency surgeries, the staff treated outbreaks of infectious diseases like typhus and malaria, and the high prevalence of venereal disease among American troops. Several members of the group were individually recognized for their service and the unit as a whole was awarded the Meritorious Plaque. 

Gabrielle Barr, a research associate at Galter, curated the exhibit. “What struck me most as I went through the papers was how deeply the medical personnel believed in their mission, how they overcame adversity, the tight-knit nature of their unit and the fond memories they had of their World War II service,” she said. 

Both the digital exhibit and its companion traveling iteration, which are predominately drawn from the papers of Michael L. Mason and James A. Conner, highlight the recruitment, training and medical experiences of those in the 12th General Hospital. The exhibits also provide a window into the types of leisurely activities that bonded such a diverse group of people together and touch on how these servicemen and women, many of whom had never ventured far from their hometowns, explored their surroundings while abroad.  

Born in 1895, Mason attended undergrad, graduate and medical school at Northwestern. In World War I, he served as a sergeant, first class in charge of the operating theatre in France and tended to patients in Austria. Before assuming his role as the chief of surgical service for the 12th General Hospital division during World War II, Mason was an attending surgeon at Passavant Memorial Hospital, specializing in hand surgery, and an associate professor of surgery at Northwestern University Medical School. Mason passed away in 1963.

Conner, born in 1903, received his medical degree from Northwestern in 1933. Before being called to join the Armed Forces, Conner was a part of Northwestern’s pediatrics department and an instructor of contagious diseases. He was promoted to be part of the senior staff of Wesley Memorial Hospital in 1948, where he treated patients for many years. Conner passed away in 2001.

High rise gardens can offer healthy benefits

(Published July 13, 2019)

By Angela Gagnon

Staff Writer

Starting a garden in a high-rise building might seem a little daunting, but it doesn’t take much to enjoy the fruits of the labor, literally or aesthetically. Plants are also a natural air purifier, adding the benefit of cleaner air inside your home. 

Even a very small space can be outfitted with vertical or stacking planters, or small pots can be placed on windowsills or out on the balcony. Plants essentially need sunlight and water, so that is a good place to start. 

“First, figure out what type of lighting you have and which direction your windows face,” said Juan Quezada, co-owner of Plant Shop Chicago. For most plants, you’ll want to choose the sunniest, best windowsill in the house, ideally with southern or eastern exposure. 

“Plants are living things that require care and commitment, so you’ll also want to consider your schedule when building your garden,” Quezada said. 

If you often travel or don’t spend much time at home, you’ll want to choose plants that can survive without daily watering. Cacti and succulents are beginner-friendly plants that don’t require much water and are a great choice for a low maintenance garden. They also take up very little space. 

According to Quezada, ferns are easy to care for because they don’t need direct sunlight but need to be watered frequently. Snake plants do well in the sunlight, but are drought tolerant and don’t require much water.

For edible plants, an herb garden can also do well indoors and provide a useful nutritional component for anyone with a penchant for cooking. Choose a long planter and add herbs such as chives, thyme, mint or lemon verbena, which do well in the sunlight. 

Seek out a local garden center or nursery to help getting started. Christy Webber Farm and Garden offers in-home consultations with designers who come to your home for a fee and help with the process. They encourage residents to bring in photos of the windowsill area so in-store consultants can help create the perfect garden.

Navy Pier breaks ground on first pier hotel

(Published July 31, 2019)

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.

Downtown cancer survivor runs to raise funds

(Published July 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

New Eastside resident Alan Goldman remembers what it was like when he got the news he had prostate cancer 12 years ago. It was during a routine physical.

“My first thought was, this is the first time I was exposed to something so severe, that could affect my entire life,” he said. “I wanted to fight it aggressively, and I wanted it out of my body ASAP. I wanted it done swifty and I wanted a finality so I wouldn’t have to fight this my entire life.”

The prostate is a small gland useful for reproduction found only in men. It is also a common source of cancer—after skin cancer it is the second-most common form of cancer in men. 

Goldman made it through OK. He said his brother in law had prostate cancer, so he had a support network in his family and these days, he is fit and healthy. 

“The surgery was very successful,” he said. “I’m very healthy. I’m one of the lucky ones I guess.”

But he is not done fighting—if not for himself, then for other men across the nation. 

For the past three years, Goldman has been raising money and running in SEA Blue Chicago Prostate Cancer Walk and Run. This year’s run is Sept. 9 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Lincoln Park. 

The walk and run is Chicago’s oldest prostate cancer fundraiser and it raises money for Us TOO International, a nonprofit that supports men who are dealing with prostate cancer and their families.

“I wanted to get involved in something that’s had a big impact on my life,” he said. 

Goldman did more than get involved. He is now on the board of Us TOO, and he is co-chair of the SEA Blue walk and run. Goldman’s charity work helps hundreds, if not thousands of people. 

“The money goes to support groups around the United States and we have over 200 support groups,” he said. 

Goldman explained that prostate cancer is a disease that afflicts men, but it affects the family—even after the patient beats the disease. One of the side effects of removing the prostate, for example, is erectile dysfunction and that alone can cause trauma. 

“That could be devastating to a person’s psyche,” he said. 

Goldman also suggested men over 50 get a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test every year. This blood test can screen for prostate cancer and it can save lives. 

“Most men don’t go in for an annual PSA test,” Goldman said. “Men think they’re fine if they feel fine. But you could have a cancer growing in your prostate and you can feel fine.”

To sign up for the charity walk and run, visit 

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.”

Some friendly (and not so friendly) reminders for the Air and Water Show

(Published July 31, 2019)

By Jon Cohn

One of the Midwest’s great summer events descends upon the city as the Chicago Air and Water Show rears it’s noisy, but exciting, head on Aug. 17 and 18. 

Huge crowds are expected and the Chicago beachfront will be packed, which could present some interesting challenges. So, as a long-time veteran of the spectator wars at the Air and Water Show, we present some crucial “don’t forgets.”

  • Don’t forget to get there early. More than two million people attended last year, so there will be battles for prime viewing locations. For an up close and personal experience, North Avenue Beach is perfect, but prepare to be squished in among a throng of fellow viewers.

Great viewing locations exist along Oak Street, Ohio Street and Fullerton Avenue beaches. My secret spot is the long line of elevated steps between Ohio and Oak streets, offering a great view and it’s a little less crowded.

  • Don’t forget sunscreen. If it’s a hot day and you forgot your SPF 30 you will cook like a Fourth of July hot dog on a grill. A hat with a flap is also recommended.
  • Don’t forget to bring fluids (preferably water). Bring snacks, too, if you don’t want to wait in long lines for food.
  • Speaking of long lines, don’t forget to go to the bathroom before you head out. Washrooms are available along the route, but you might as well bring a book as the wait can be excruciating.

Don’t forget to bring a camera and binoculars. The up-close looks can be spectacular.

Don’t forget to keep an eye on your dog. The loud noises can freak out even the calmest of pets.

Don’t forget Friday is practice day. Many a downtowner has panicked thinking air raids or worse when the planes do their runs.

Don’t forget to duck when the Blue Angels or The Thunderbirds head your way in a screeching, loud, downward spiral. It’s a natural reaction, we all do it.

Finally, don’t forget to enjoy the show.

Streeterville Doorperson of the Month: Kahari “KJ” Jones at North Water Apartments

(Published July 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Kahari Jones has been working at the North Water Apartments for nearly two years and he’s already made an impression. He was nominated by two separate residents.

This isn’t his first building as a door person though. Years ago, he started at 510 W. Erie on the Lake and he was there for four years, until his mother died. It was a hard time and he said it about wrecked him.

“If you’d have saw me when it happened, you’d have said he’s not going to make it,” Jones said. “But time is the cure for most things. But by the time I was whole again they had another person who was pretty good and they brought me over here.”

Jones said he enjoys the building, and its mix of young and older residents.

“If you’re leaning too much to one side or another, it takes away from the balance of the building, “Jones explained. “I’ve had people who have come here from some other buildings who have said it was just too young over there, it was a college atmosphere. We’ve got people return here who have come back because of that.”

The building is about 427 units and while it is at the end of a cul-de-sac with very little traffic, Jones said it can get busy at times. On the day of the interview, the garage elevator was down, which was frustrating for residents and Jones.

“That can really cripple the building,” he explained.

Jones went to college in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and while there, he fell in love with New Orleans, a one-hour-and-20-minute drive east.

“I love the state of Louisiana,” he said. “I always say this about Louisiana and New Orleans specifically, that the eating is comparable to here in Chicago.”

Like the rest of America, Jones watched in horror after the levees breeched following Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. Jones went down to New Orleans following the storm and volunteered to clean out houses and do what he could for the city he loved.

“It was very humbling because what you saw on TV, it did nothing. That was nothing,” Jones said. “When I touched down and then drove into the city, for miles and miles the trees were mangled at their tops and they were always pointed in the same direction, hanging, facing the same direction. Then, when we came into the city, hundreds of cars were flipped over. The stuff I saw on TV versus the stuff I saw when I got there, it was drastically different.”

Jones volunteered with a couple of cleanup crews. He worked long summer days, tearing out drywall and mucking out houses for residents who were very much depending on the kindness of strangers. It was hard, hot work, but Jones said it changed him for the better.

“It was one of the best things for me,” he said. “It reinvented my disposition. What I can say is, I feel as though I will never really work again after that.” 
To nominate your favorite doorperson, email with the door person’s name and why you think they should be the doorperson of the month. Each winner will receive a $25 gift card to Mariano’s.

Streeterville Best Buy to close Nov. 2

(Published July 31, 2019)

In late July, the home electronics chain Best Buy announced they would not renew their lease at 875 N Michigan Ave. Best Buy has occupied the space since 2008 and the two-story store is the chain’s flagship location. The chain will not close its 31 remaining stores in Chicagoland. 

The Michigan Avenue store is 35,000 sq. feet. Large retail outlets have struggled in recent years. In 2018 Crate and Barrel left their 646 N. Michigan Ave. location, though a Starbucks roastery is still expected to open later this year. 

A spokesperson for the chain, Mathew Smith, said the downtown location had high rent and proved not to be as popular as other locations in the city. 

This location has one of the highest rents in our portfolio, even higher than most of our Manhattan stores,” said Smith. “Additionally, we’ve seen that most of our customers prefer to shop at one of our nearby stores like South Loop, North Avenue or Bucktown since parking is easier for big items like TVs and appliances.”

The store employs 35 people and management has said they hope to transfer those workers to other stores.  

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. 

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