Bridgehouse Museum prepares for cruise fundraiser

(Published June 19, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Though the main Riverwalk entrance to the McCormick Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum is shuttered as city workers renovate that space, the museum is open and busy planning for an upcoming cruise fundraiser.

The cruise is June 26 and the boat ride offers a unique voyage on the Chicago River.

“It’s unlike any other tour,” Coles said. “We go places where other tours typically don’t go. We go all the way to Damon Avenue on the south branch.”

The Bridgehouse Museum celebrates the history of Chicago’s bridgehouses—the small offices once used to manually raise and lower the city’s drawbridges—as well as the history of the Chicago River. Aside from the museum, many of the bridgehouses are now closed and unused.

The museum, at the northern corner of Columbus Drive and upper Wacker, is only open during the spring, summer and early fall. Museum director Josh Coles said, despite the construction, he’s happy with attendance so far this year. He even praised the work on the Riverwalk, which he said will improve the exterior space.

“They are expanding the plaza space,” he said. “They’re going to add two large long planters full of native plants. It should be good.”

Inside the museum, Coles said the organization continues to welcome locals and tourists with a robust schedule of river-related events through the summer.

“In July and August we do a speaker series,” he said.

The free series will kick off July 8 and run from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. xperts will talk on a variety of topics, from the history of the area to the ecology of the river.

“We have all kinds of great people who know a lot about river-related issues,” Coles said. “Also, in late June, we have our annual fundraiser for the museum and it’s a summer cruise.”

Tickets are $85 for a single or $155 for two tickets, available online at

In September, the Bridgehouse Museum will offer a temporary exhibit, The Tender House project, which imagines the potential use of the other bridgehouses in Chicago.

The Bridgehouse Museum is open Fridays through Mondays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Thursday from noon to 7 p.m. The museum is closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

State Rep. Kam Buckner to host ‘coffee talk’ at Dollop June 22

(Published June 13, 2019)

State Rep. Kam Buckner, D-Chicago, is asking residents to join him for a “Coffee Talk” on Saturday, June 22 from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Dollop, located at 345 E. Ohio St. in Streeterville, to provide an update about the progress that has been made in Springfield during the legislative session.

“Over the past six months, the Illinois legislature made unprecedented strides toward progress for the people of Illinois,” Buckner said. “We implemented a balanced budget that invests more in schools and healthcare, passed a capital plan that will fund improvements to our crumbling infrastructure and ensured that women’s reproductive rights will be protected no matter what happens in Washington. I’m looking forward to discussing what all of this means for our community and hearing feedback about what needs to be done next session.”

Buckner’s 26th District contains all or parts of Bronzeville, Gold Coast, Grand Boulevard, Greater Grand Crossing, Hyde Park, Kenwood, Oakland, South Chicago, South Loop, South Shore, Streeterville and Woodlawn.

Build a Bear offers a ‘pay your age’ promotion

(Published June 11, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Build a Bear Workshop, a popular retailer that allows customers to design their own teddy bears, is hosting a limited time “pay your age” promotion.

The chain has a retail outlet at the Navy Pier and through June 16, customers can enter to win a birthday party and a new bear.

“More than 200,000 Guests around the world are expected to receive a Pay Your Age limited ticket,” the Build a Bear website says. “With their ticket, Guests will be able to visit a Build-A-Bear Workshop during one of two redemption periods in the week of June 24 through June 28 and make one furry friend per child present, limit two furry friends per ticket. Additionally, ten Guests will win the Count Your Candles Sweepstakes grand prize of a birthday party experience to use any time in the next twelve months valued up to $250.”

Customers must be Bonus Club members (it’s free to join) and anyone can sign up online at

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

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

Urban Growers turn Chicago’s front yard into a garden

(Published on May 30, 2019)

By Elisa Shoenberger, staff writer

It’s a farm on the front yard of Chicago.

That’s how Erika Allen, co-founder of Urban Growers Collective (UGC), explains Art on the Farm, located in Grant Park at the intersection of Congress and Columbus.

This urban farm grows over 150 varieties of edible flowers and vegetables, including swiss chard, leeks, edible pansies, celery, tiny peppers, sunflowers, and more. The produce is then loaded onto their Fresh Moves Mobile Market, city buses doubling as mobile farmers markets and sold around the city.

Besides farming, the UGC offer agriculture-related educational programs for high schoolers and Art on the Farm hosts afterschool and six-week summer programs for teenagers to work on the urban garden.

“It’s public land that we are using a portion of the city’s landscape budget to grow food,” Allen said. She pointed out that by being in the proverbial front yard of the city, the program signals to the world the importance of the garden program.

Residents and tourists stop by the farm and talk to UGC volunteers and staff and UGC offers tours. The farm is also visited by birds. Allen noted a regular visitor to the farm, a Kirtland’s Warbler, was making waves amongst Chicago’s birding community for its rarity.

Allen founded Art on the Farm in 2005 through her organization, Growing Power. Adam Schwerner, the past Director for the Department of Cultural and Natural Resources at the Chicago Park District, was instrumental in helping Allen make the project happen. When Growing Power closed in 2017, Allen and co-founder Laurell Sims opened Urban Growers Collective in 2017.

Allen said one challenge has been balancing the farm’s productivity with its beauty. The farm started with straight beds, though now the beds are arranged in various shapes and Allen said the best view is probably from above.

For more information about UGC, their tours, products and other programming, visit their website,

Streeterville residents get safety update at May meeting

(Published May 30, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

The Streeterville Organization of Active Residents (SOAR) held a safety forum in May that allowed nearly a hundred residents to get information from safety and security experts.

The forum included police commander Daniel O’Shea, computer security expert Andy Jaw and John Graeber, director of security at Navy Pier.

Residents mostly expressed concerns about  crime. Two women in the audience told O’Shea they or their families had been recent victims of violent crime. Others expressed concern over perceived crime in the area, including flash mobs, wherein large groups of young people have spilled out of the red line and onto Streeterville streets to wreak havoc and, in some cases, assault pedestrians.

O’Shea said police are handling those incidents.

“For large groups of kids that come down, we have a plan in place,” he said.

O’Shea said officers monitor social media looking for plans for a mob gathering, and then police will swarm downtown. In addition, O’Shea said if cameras catch a large group of young people jumping turnstiles to get on public transportation, the trains will stop and the police will order the group off.

“We’ll have that train stopped at the next station and have them all taken off,” he said.

O’Shea added that public school students get public transportation passes and some use those on the weekends to go downtown. And, he said, police do not want to profile people by age.

“We don’t want to arrest a bunch of kids,” O’Shea said. “We want them to come down and enjoy downtown just like everybody else. But we’re not going to allow criminal activity.”

O’Shea urged residents to remain alert when they’re in public and to report crime and file a complaint, if they are the victims. O’Shea said some robbers use weapons specifically because many retail stores have policies that forbid engagement with strong-arm robbers, meaning that store personnel won’t physically stop a thief with a weapon.

“The store employees will approach them to stop them and then they’ll pull out mace and it’s become a strong-arm robbery,” said O’Shea.

The commander encouraged residents to get involved with the CAPS program to stay abreast on local police issues and join the court advocacy program through CAPS.

Doorperson of the month: Lavelle Barnett, 850 N. Lake Shore Drive

(Published on May 30, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Lavelle Barnett has been the doorperson since 1996 and at 850 N. Lake Shore Drive since 2013. He said he particularly likes 850 Lake Shore Drive because of its storied past. Once known as the Lake Shore Athletic Club, it was built in 1927 though by 2005 it sat empty and faced demolition until developers turned it into luxury apartments.

Barnett works first shift, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and he’s the head doorperson, overseeing five other staff members.

“It’s hard work, but we get it done; we’re a team,” Barnett said. “And everybody around here treats each other with respect.”

Barnett said the building has about 240 residents who make up a small community he is happy to be a part of. For most of his career, he’s worked in the Gold Coast and Streeterville areas and he said he’s learned a lot from watching residents.

“I can say this community raised me,” he said. “I learned a lot just watching the way the people I worked for, how they would raise their children. It taught me what makes a good school and how my child can take a test to see how far her academics can go. They taught me life lessons, to save money, be grateful and be good to people who are good to you and all of those little things.”

Barnett said it’s important for the doorperson—especially the first shift doorperson—to set the tone for residents in the morning by being cheerful and helpful. He said he likes that part of the job.

“It gives me pleasure,” Barnett said. “I think I was bred for service. I love providing service, I do.”

Barnett said the work isn’t for everyone, because being a doorman means not thinking about personal issues and not bringing frustration, anger or even pain into work. He recently lost a child, but when he was at work, he focused on the residents.

“You can’t bring it in here,” he said. “I’m speaking from experience. You can’t take it in. You got a lot of people depending on you and you have people who have already had a bad morning and when they come past, they have to see you in good spirits to let them know everything is going to be alright.”

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.

Several options available for fresh, local vegetables

(Published May 30, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

With summer comes fresh, local produce.

In Streeterville, this means the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents’ (SOAR) annual farmer’s market which will return June 4 and continue through the end of October, opening every Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s front plaza.

But, even if Tuesday’s are inconvenient, residents can now get fresh, home-delivered produce thanks to a new and customizable straight-from-the-farm delivery service, courtesy of Angelic Organics. That service will begin June 24.

John Peterson is a farmer who owns Angelic Organics, one of the very earliest community supported agriculture (CSA) farms in the area. The farm is located in Caledonia, two hours outside of Chicago.

Angelic Organics relies on “shareholders” to sign up for weekly fresh produce boxes and Peterson said he’s happy to pack and substitute whatever clients want.

“We’re now doing customized boxes,” Peterson said. “People choose ahead of time the vegetables they like and they don’t like and they don’t get what they don’t want. That’s a breakthrough for community agriculture.”

Peterson said his boxes are filled with the same range of vegetables available at a farmer’s market.

Peterson hopes to  begin June 24. Shareholders get 20 weekly deliveries or 10 bi-weekly deliveries of a ¾ bushel box, which Peterson said is about 1.5 paper grocery bags filied with vegetables. Each deliver is $40, though there is an extra $12 for home delivery service.

There are no pickup sites in Streeterville or New Eastside, though the delivery service does deliver to the neighborhoods.

To find out more, visit the website,

In the meantime, if residents can’t wait until the end of June to get fresh veggies, SOAR president Deborah Gershbein said all the vendors from last year are returning to this year’s market.

“We have about 45 tents out on the plaza with a variety of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables and herbs and baked goods and prepared foods and beautiful flowers,” Gershbein said.

Gershbein said as the months continue into fall, the produce will change so residents should check out the market each week.

“As the season warms up then we get asparagus, onions and those types of things, and then we get into strawberries,” she said.  

This year will also feature chef demonstrations. On June 25 the chef from SPACE 519 will prepare a dish made of market ingredients. While the market will open the first Tuesday of the month, a season opening ceremony for the market’s fifth season is set for noon, June 18.

“We will celebrate with a huge Eli’s Cheesecake, topped with fresh locally grown strawberries,” Gershbein said.

Headache Foundation honors Nobel laureate neurobiologist Eric Kandel

(Published May 30, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

The Chicago-based National Headache Foundation honored pioneering neurobiologist Eric Kandel in May as part of their annual gala fundraiser.

Kandel won a Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2000 for his work showing how memories can physically alter the brain. Kandel will be 90 in November, and in an exclusive interview with the News, he talked about his current research.

“I’m studying age-related memory loss,” he said.

Through experiments he has shown older adults can offset memory loss and improve memory through the release of osteocalcin, a hormone released from the bones. The best way to get it is by exercise and movement. Kandel said his discovery changed his life.  

“I walk everywhere,” he said. “I now walk to work, and I walk back (from)work, and I walk more than I used to.”

While Kandel said he personally hasn’t done extensive research in headaches, early in his career he studied spreading depression, which is thought to be the underlying cause of migraines.

“Headaches are a universal problem,” he said.

Among migraine sufferers is his granddaughter. During the awards ceremony, Kandel said might have changed his research if he was aware of  her condition earlier in his career.

“Had I known one of my grandchildren would develop migraine headaches, I would have continued to study migraines,” he said. “But, I’m still relatively young.”

Headache Foundation Executive Chairman Seymour Diamond praised Kandel’s work before awarding him the Lifetime Achievement Award.

“His work has contributed in so many ways to understanding headaches,” Diamond said.

The evening raised $225,000 for headache research.

Grilling guac: Why not grill the dip?

(Published May 30, 2019)

Guacamole is a popular side at any barbecue. While it’s usually cooked with raw ingredients, grilling the avocado, onion, pepper, garlic and tomatoes can add a complex, smoky flavor that improves the end result.


1 medium red onion, skinned, cut in half

2 small tomatoes, halved

1 jalapeno pepper, halved (seeded, if you don’t want a lot of heat)

2 large ripe avocados, halved and pitted

1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

1-2 large cloves of garlic not skinned

The juice from one line (or ½ depending on taste)

Cumin to taste

Salt to taste

Chop up the cilantro and set it aside in a bowl. Add a dash of cumin and some salt.

On a grill over medium heat, place the avocados face down, so the flesh is exposed to the heat. Toss the rest of the vegetables—including the limes—face down to the heat. The avocados and onion will take 3-5 minutes to char, but the tomatoes, garlic, and jalapeno should be turned regularly, exposing all sides to the heat. The lime should be checked and, once it begins to char, taken off the grill.

Once all vegetables have been charred, scoop the avocado flesh from the rind into the bowl with the cilantro. Remove the garlic skin (after it’s cooled) and add that to the bowl. The garlic should be soft, but if not, mince it first. Mince the onion and add that to the bowl. Squeeze half the lime into the bowl. Chop up the jalapeno and add that to the bowl. Roughly chop up the tomatoes, add that to the bowl.

Mix everything together by hand with a large spoon or fork or a pestle. Taste; add more lime juice, salt, cumin as needed.

Serve immediately with chips.

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