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.

Mashtini a smash in a glass at Shoreham

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer


They’re fun, they’re popular, they’re served in a martini glass—and they won’t get you drunk.

They’re mashtinis, boutique mashed potatoes and in late November residents of the Shoreham at Lakeshore East gathered for a mashtini mixer set to holiday music. Chelsea McMurry, the marketing coordinator for the Shoreham’s property management group, said the mixer is part of a series of regular events offered to residents.

“It’s something we wanted to do to improve moral and retention,” McMurry said. She added that the Shoreham as well as the Tides, a sister property at the Lakeshore East, are part of a community and regular social mixers can help foster that feeling.

“We’re looking forward to having more of these events,” McMurry said. “It’s nice to do something to say thank you and keep our residents here longer.”

For December, the Shoreham will offer a holiday mixer Dec. 20 featuring appetizers, skewers, a beer and wine bar, deserts and a DJ. The event will begin at 5:30 p.m.

With dozens of residents filtering in and out, grabbing martini glasses filled with either mashed white potatoes or sweet potatoes, McMurry called the evening a success.

Two residents, Sophia Arteaga and Frank Arteaga, praised the mixer. The Arteagas said they attend Shoreham events regularly.

“We’ve been to a few other events that were here and we generally loved them,” said Frank.

Parcel O’s a go as plan commission OK’s design

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

The Chicago Plan Commission approved plans for a high-rise building at 193 North Columbus Drive, also known as Parcel O.

The new building will be about  610 feet tall and contain space for residential units and hotels. There are also plans for a green roof that will allow the building to become LED Silver certified.

During the hearing, an attendee asked about how many jobs the new structure will create and the number of affordable housing units, and another person expressed concern about the large number of parking spaces created with the construction of this building.

Alderman Brendan Reilly listed aspects of the project that he believed would be beneficial to the surrounding neighborhood. Reilly announced these improvements in late September, they include numerous traffic changes and improved lighting, as well as:

– A pedway connection through Village Market and Blue Cross/Blue Shield to the greater pedway network.

– A new traffic signal at Upper Columbus Drive and East South Water Street.

– Public elevators connecting the upper level of Columbus Drive to intermediate lower and park levels.

– At the intersection of Upper Columbus Drive and South Water Street, a curb bump-out on the southwest corner to narrow the roadway and pedestrian crossing distance on Columbus Drive.


Homeless issues dominate West Loops CAPS meeting

By Jesse Wright | staff writer


Most of the complaints at the October West Loop CAPS meeting were given regarding issues of homelessness.


Parked for the Night

Residents first complained about the homeless living in neighborhood parks. Sgt. Anthony Dombrowski said he had heard a mattress in the park had been removed, and a woman

corrected him and said two couch cushions had been in Harrison Park and they had been used for sleeping, but she’d removed them herself.

“I won’t be doing that again,” she said. “But I bagged them and disposed of them.”

Dombrowski said being homeless isn’t a crime in and of itself, so the police have a hard time addressing the issue.

“We don’t want to have people sleeping in the parks, but there are some systemic homeless issues in our district and people need a place to sleep,” he said. “It’s a challenge as a police department because we don’t want to criminalize homelessness.”

Another woman said she’d spoken with some of the homeless people and they seemed to have no desire to find other accommodations. She said one “young man” said he got a mattress from Presidential Towers, an apartment complex in the West Loop.

“I went to their dumpster and found it empty except for a nice mattress,” she said.

“I’d rather sleep on a mattress than the ground,” Dombrowski said.


Mental Mess

A man in the crowd said he’s from State Place Condominiums. Roughly a couple of dozen people then raised their hands and said they, too, were from State Place.

“We have a problem with people with mental health issues going into our lobby [and] smearing feces around. What can we do to help you solve this problem or make it a little more livable?” the man asked the police officers.

A woman who identified herself as the property manager said one woman in particular visits a public lobby on the premises, and if she is asked to leave, she will urinate on the ground or smear feces on the wall.

Officer Necole Bryson said officers did investigate the situation but, as with homelessness, the issue is more of a social welfare issue than a policing issue.

“Locking an individual like that up and putting her in jail for two or six hours isn’t going to fix the issue,” Dombrowski said.

He said just because a person is mentally ill doesn’t mean the person belongs in jail.

“We can’t arrest a person who is mentally ill,” he said. “We will take them to the hospital. … We have certain entities within the city that might be better able to address that. Mental illness is a complex issue and we don’t have the tools to address it.”

Dombrowski said even if the woman were arrested, she’d be out in a few hours anyway.

“We can remove her, but then what happens? She comes back,” Dombrowski said.

Bryson said the police would give the property more no trespassing signs and Dombrowski said 7-Eleven has been known to play music to keep the homeless away.

“Especially if it’s the same loop over and over again. People get annoyed,” he said. “There are also certain lights—and we don’t recommend using them because it’s akin to torture—but they take away all color so all you see is grays. And that’s very uncomfortable for people.”

Bryson also suggested starting a block club to increase safety.

“Maybe start a walking club,” she said. “Identify things in the community that could be different and that you can work with us on.”

Another woman asked who residents could call to help the mentally ill woman.

“The fire department, if it’s a medical emergency,” Dombrowski said.

“Mental health services are very limited in the state of Illinois,” Bryson said. “A lot of funding has been cut. … As it is now, Cook County Jail is probably the largest provider of mental health treatment in Chicago and maybe in Illinois.”

One woman in the audience suggested calling Thresholds, a nonprofit provider of mental health services.

“They have a nurse and other health care professionals that will go out and assess a person’s needs,” she said. But, she added, she talked to people living under a underpass and they told her they don’t want help.

“They have to want to be helped. A doctor can’t force it. A police officer can’t help. They have to want help,” Dombrowski said.

On the Near West Side, the Pacific Guard Mission on Canal Street is the closest shelter, but Bryson said if the person has caused problems in the past, they’re banned and not allowed back.

“A lot of the homeless, they don’t want to obey rules. They want freedom,” Dombowski said.



Toward the end of the meeting, residents asked about a shooting inside a car on Sept. 30 that killed two people and injured two more. Dombowski said the car was passing through the area, had nothing to do with residents in the area and didn’t wound any area residents.

There were five people in the car, and just prior to midnight, they got into an argument and then someone in the car began shooting.

“With the availability of guns, that’s what happens,” Dombrowski said.

The next meeting is Nov. 14 at 6:30 p.m. at 525 S State St.


Shopping carts wreak havoc at condos

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

The carts keep coming.

And, at the Tides, that’s a problem.

On any given day, New Eastside residents leave as many as 10 to 15 empty Mariano’s shopping carts outside the door of the 360 E. South Water St. apartment building, according to Tides doorman John King.

“They have them all over the place, making the place look cheap,” King said.

King isn’t alone in his criticism. “I’ve seen them accumulated outside our building—it just looks horrible, to be honest,” said Tina Moutzouros, the assistant business manager at the Tides.

Some residents want to take the carts even further. “Sometimes they want to bring the whole cart upstairs as well, which is definitely not acceptable,” she said. “We have our own carts and if they need help they can ask for them.”

Moutzouros said the Tides’ sister building, the Shoreham, has the same problem.

The two buildings sit opposite Mariano’s, separated by Lake Shore East Park, an easy distance on foot. “It’s a convenience for residents,” Moutzouros said. “But if they take them they should be taking them back, which isn’t happening.”

While Mariano’s displays signs asking customers to keep the carts on site, shoppers of the Lakeshore East location seem to ignore the signs. Moutzouros said the Tides does not have a policy explicitly banning carts from the front of the building, but she wants the grocery store to send its employees to collect the carts more often.

Amanda Puck, a spokesperson for Mariano’s, said the store is willing to help out and the store has given phone numbers to all the door people at nearby apartments.

“We love being part of the community and we try to be proactive in getting the carts back to the store,” Puck said. “If anyone needs us to do that, they are welcome to give us a call.”

Puck explained that during slow hours, stores will send employees out to retrieve carts, even the ones left in front of apartments. But Moutzouros said this isn’t happening as often as it needs to.

“Craig, one of our concierges, he has been in contact with one of the managers. He said he was sending somebody from Mariano’s to go around and collect the carts,” she said. “But it doesn’t seem to be happening as often as it should.”

Published August 1, 2018

Annual funny fest features female talent

By Matthew Reiss | Staff Writer

August marks the return of the Chicago Women’s Funny Festival and Chicago comedian Amy  Leuenberger is a name to watch this year.

Leuenberger, who also works in New Eastside as both a paralegal and yoga instructor,  jokingly notes that her comedy career has been born out of out of rejection — and she’s okay with that. For years, Leuenberger performed as part of a popular sketch comedy group. Over time, cast members left the group for other pursuits and Leuenberger continued with a solo career. 

Amy Leuenberger. Photo courtesy of Chicago Women’s Funny Festival

After training at Second City, Leuenberger immersed herself in performance, making appearances at several clubs throughout Chicago. Her comedy is based on life experience, with an absurd twist that comes from her sketch writing days.

Over the past six years, the CWFF has become a venue catering to all genders and all types of comedy, including stand-up, improv, sketch, musical comedy, burlesque and forms yet to be categorized.

In addition, Leuenberger said she estimates only about 10 percent of Chicago stand-up comedians are women, meaning that CWFF is a rare opportunity for women to perform new material, network with other performers and appreciate each other’s work in a positive, accepting environment.

This year, 400 performers will perform 70 shows beginning Aug. 23 and running through Aug. 26. Leuenberger will perform a stand-up set at 10 p.m., Aug. 25, and then emcee for the rest of the hour.

Here are four other acts audiences shouldn’t miss at the CWFF:

  • Off Off Broadzway — A Chicago-based burlesque parody act that has been getting rave reviews for a decade.
  • Harpreet Sehmbi — a Toronto based stand-up comedian and improviser, graduate of Second City’s Conservatory, host of the Darjeelings of Comedy.
  • Anarchy: An Improvised Rock Opera – Exactly what the name suggests, a Chicago group of comedians who are also supremely talented musicians.
  • Salma Hindy — Received a Master’s in Biomedical Engineering, then hit the road from Toronto, touring North America as a stand-up comedian.

Published July 31, 2018

Updated August 3, 2018

Best places to view fireworks in Chicago

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

Published July 4, 2018

The Fourth of July is upon us and Chicago is about to light up the sky for a grand celebration of America’s birthday. Here are the best spots to catch the shows.

Navy Pier

The fireworks display at Navy Pier is a must-see. Head to the Pier and visit Chicago classics like Harry Carry’s Tavern, or fun-themed places like Bubba Gump Shrimp Company or Margaritaville. Nearby beaches are also great places to take in the view. The free show starts at 9:30 p.m.


For a more adult scene, check out the J. Parker on the rooftop of the Hotel Lincoln at 1816 N. Clark St. The rooftop has views of North Avenue Beach, Lincoln Park and the fireworks show.

On the water

For an active experience, head over to Urban Kayaks on the Riverwalk. They offer a Fourth of July Fireworks Show with a 90-minute tour of the river while a guide gives a history lesson. For more water options, check out one of the cruises.

Odyssey Cruises offers three to four cruises throughout the holiday weekend
with brunch, lunch and dinner options from $56.90. On July 4, take in the fire- works on a two-hour dinner cruise with an on-board DJ and dance floor for $189. This 21+ event offers an open bar and din- ner. Boarding begins at 6:30 p.m. and the cruise goes from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. For more information, visit the website

Shoreline Sightseeing offers two-and-a-half hour Red White and Brew Cruise. The cruise features craft beer from Revolution Brewing. This 21+ birthday celebration will also feature food, a live DJ and a view of the fireworks for $119. Cruises will depart from the northeast corner of the Michigan Avenue Bridge alongside Pioneer Court at 401 N. Michigan Ave. at
8 p.m. and will return at 10:30 p.m. For more information, go to

Spirit of Chicago, which also launches from Navy Pier, has a dinner cruise on July 4 with an open bar, music and dancing for $149.90. This three-hour cruise which takes off at 7:30 p.m. For more information, go to

To keep the celebration alive, check out fireworks at Navy Pier all summer. Through Labor Day, the Pier has shows Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 10:15 p.m.

Setting the stage for selling success

By Urban Real Estate

Published July 4, 2018 

This New Eastside home for sale was not picture-perfect overnight. For many, the idea of getting a home this ready can seem overwhelming. The reality is, with the right broker, it isn’t hard — but it is important.

In 2017, the National Association of Realtors said 90 percent of home searches began online. Photos, videos, and virtual tours are the first impression. The 360 E. Randolph unit 2705-06 has been making great first impressions. In fact, it was recently featured as the Chicago Tribune Home of the Week. But its real story is the staging behind its glory.

“We continue to market each and every one of our clients’
properties with pride, and tell their best story possible.”
– Michael Emery

Michael Emery, senior partner, Urban Real Estate, shares his philosophy when
marketing a listing.

“It’s not that a home may not be elegant or lovely — it’s often cluttered or filled with too many personal items that do not allow a buyer the ability to envision their own life in the space,” says Emery. “This is where a stager comes in and creates a picture-perfect home ready for market. Our client leaves everything to us. We work with our team, their vast selection of furnishings and details and revamp the home to show-
case the space.”

Industry-acclaimed stager David Cieslak, with Signature Chicago, is brought in by Urban for projects like 360 E. Randolph to make a home look like a masterpiece.

If someone is contemplating selling, Cieslak said, it’s time to think about cleaning house.

“It’s a great time to purge items you’ve been meaning to part ways with,” Cieslak
said. “There are several organizations throughout Chicago that appreciate dona-
tions. Consider moving to a new home a fresh start.”

Cieslak also notes that when cleaning shelves, remove at least 50 percent of the
items. This will create more room and give the illusion of more space—a plus to buyers looking to experience all the space has to offer.

“There are properties that are special and it shows. They get media attention because they are unique—because they have a story to tell,” Emery added. “We continue to market each and every one of our clients’ properties with pride, and tell their best story possible.”

Contact a local Urban brokers at or (312) 528-9200.

Meet Maximo, the Field’s newest—and biggest—beast

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

Published July 5, 2018

After a 100 million year absence, the titanosaur is back. The dinosaur made his debut at the Field Museum in June and he is quite the sight.

The skeletal cast of the titanosaur has replaced Sue as the main attraction in the museum’s entrance hall. The change is big—more like colossal—as Maximo is the largest dinosaur ever discovered.

Maximo reaches 122 feet across Stanley Field Hall on the museum’s main floor and stands 28-feet-tall at his head, which pokes over a second floor balcony. His friendly face can be seen from below and by guests upstairs, who can pose for a selfie with the
photobombing dino.

Maximo peaks over the second floor balcony | Photo by Taylor Hartz

Downstairs, guests are welcome to walk underneath Maximo and gaze up at his massive ribs and long neck. For an up-close-and-personal experience, guests are welcome to touch his red-tinted cast.

Also on the main floor is a collection of real titanosaur fossils, including bones that are bigger than most of the humans
looking at them.

Sues new habitat is still under construction | Photo by Taylor Hartz

Compared to Sue’s 40-foot frame, Maximo’s 122 feet reach across the hall is expansive at just under twice the size of the bean, or “Cloud Gate,” in Millennium Park, and some 75 feet longer than a CTA bus.

Sue, a favorite of museum visitors and a major tourist attraction since 2000, has been moved to the second floor. Fans can spot her through the window in her new home, which is currently under construction.

Her permanent display will re-create what scientists think a T. rex habitat would have looked like.

Running the river with Urban Kayaks

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

Get up, get out and get active with Urban Kayaks, a water sports rental company that has something for everyone.

With two locations, the company offers rentals that allow patrons to cruise the river on their own or join a guided tour. In addition to the Riverwalk location, last month Urban Kayaks added a lakeside location at 111 N. Lake Shore Drive.

The company is open daily, 9 a.m. through 7 p.m., and Urban Kayaks has many tour options, including sunset cruises, the Navy Pier fireworks display and the historical Chicago sights and architecture.

Urban Kayak tours offer great views of downtown architecture | Photo by Taylor Hartz

Novices can start with the Riverwalk Introductory Paddle Tour, a one-hour experience for $45 per person.

Paddlers of every age and level are welcome. “Urban Kayaks has infant life vests available that can allow the littlest members of your family to join you safely on the water,” said manager Eric Schwartz. Schwartz said he takes his eight month old out with him regularly.

If you have older parents or grandparents who would like to check out Chicago from the water but fear they aren’t fit enough to keep up – tandem kayaks are a great option. Older kayakers can take the front seat while all the paddling is done from the back.

At the new location, the company offers paddle boards and sit-on-top kayaks.

“The sit-on-kayaks are a bit easier to get back on if you fall off,” Schwartz said.
Paddlers can sit or stand on paddle boards and Schwartz said they’re not difficult to master.

Those new to paddle-boarding can try out the Intro to Paddle Board Tour—a one-hour class. Meanwhile, for the masters, there is a paddle board yoga class starting in July.

A kayaker enjoys a paddle on the Chicago River with Urban Kayaks. Photo by Taylor Hartz

No matter the tour, arrive a bit early for a safety lesson. In their pre-launch safety video, Urban Kayaks explains that “The Chicago River works exactly like a city street” and makes sure kayakers are prepared to hit the road – or, river.

On the water, kayakers are encouraged to think of large tour boats like CTA buses, smaller, private boats as cars, and themselves as bikers with their own safe lane.

The company is offering a season pass. The pass includes unlimited kayak and paddle board rentals seven days a week and 25 percent off for guests during the week. If members rent a tandem kayak, they can bring a guest for free every time.

“The memberships are good for people who live around here and want to use it a lot,” Schwartz said. The next season pass is for the fall months, called “Fall You Can Kay-
ak,” for $100.

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