Crain’s Opines For LaSalle Street “Moonshot”
Crain’s warns that “The downtown office market’s pain is certainly not isolated to… the LaSalle Street corridor, but it’s clear the disruption is most intense there… What new uses might there be for a stretch of grand but outdated urban real estate steadily losing office tenants to the glass-and-steel towers of the West Loop and beyond? … Hotels? Condos? Rehabbing these spaces with smaller floor plates into tech hubs and co-working joints? All have merit here and there, but what’s… very much needed is a comprehensive plan. Chicago needs to think big about what the old financial district can and should be next. And it’s a question that shouldn’t be left to landlords and their lenders… Everyone in the city has an interest in keeping the core of the downtown business district busy and relevant… We need a moonshot-style idea for LaSalle Street…. The Lightfoot administration has rightly focused much of its economic development effort on the West and South sides via its Invest South/West program. But her team can and should also look right outside City Hall’s doorstep and recognize the need to give the Loop a shot of life.”
Northwestern Hospital Buys Streeterville Hotel
In a “weak hospitality market… the purchase of Hyatt Centric Chicago Magnificent Mile gives the hospital control of a prominent property on its growing campus,” reports Crain’s.
DINING & DRINKING
Frontera Grill Highlights Afro-Mestizo Cuisine
“When Javauneeka Jacobs, a sous chef at Frontera Grill… heard about the Afro-Mestizo culture in Mexico—the approximately two percent of the population descended from enslaved West Africans—her curiosity was piqued,” reports Eater Chicago. “Frontera [has] a cookbook library in its kitchen. With the encouragement of her boss Richard James, Frontera’s chef de cuisine, Jacobs [did] research. And now patrons of Frontera can taste that research in the form of a special Black History Month menu… Afro-Mestizo cuisine contains a lot of strong flavors, Jacobs learned, especially garlic, epazote, guajillo chiles, and peanuts. It has a wider influence than the size of the Afro-Mestizo population would suggest.”
Greektown Restaurant Week Returns
Greektown Chicago brings back Greektown Restaurant Week for a second year, March 1-7, featuring special offers and dishes from restaurants throughout the neighborhood. All specials are valid for dine-in only and must mention “Greektown Restaurant Week” when ordering. Participating Restaurant Week businesses include legacy Greek restaurants Artopolis Bakery and Café (twenty percent off café menu, excluding coffee, bakery and Agora); Athena Restaurant (free saganaki with any entrée); Greek Islands Restaurant (fifty percent off bottles of wine and beer); and Spectrum Bar & Grill (a glass of Greek wine for $1 with the purchase of any entrée). Spectrum Bar & Grill is also offering a signature Ouzo Blue cocktail during the entire month. Contact restaurants for their latest offers here.
Andersonville Restaurant Week Is Back
The Andersonville Chamber of Commerce hosts its sixth annual Restaurant Week, a ten-day long salute to Andersonville’s dining scene, from February 18-27. The event returns for dine-in service with more than fifteen restaurants and bars offering brunch, lunch and dinner prix-fixe menus, drinks specials and desserts ranging from $10-$30. Restaurant Week is not ticketed and reservations, where accepted, are welcome and encouraged. A list of participating restaurants is here.
New York City Joins Wave Of Nationwide Starbucks Union Drive
From Buffalo to Chicago and beyond: “Workers at three New York City Starbucks locations have launched efforts to unionize, two months after a store in Buffalo became the first of the chain’s U.S. outposts to vote in favor of a union,” reports NY1. Employees at stores in Astor Place, Chelsea and Brooklyn filed for union recognition with Workers United NY/NJ Regional Joint Board. Eater files an “explainer” on the wave at over sixty Starbucks locations so far. Baristas at Starbucks’ flagship location in hometown Seattle have filed to form a union; a 15,000-square-foot Reserve Roastery that employs ninety workers. Baristas are now organizing at eighty-seven locations, reports A More Perfect Union.
Import Of Avocados From Mexico Halted After Phone Threat To U.S. Inspector
“Threats to an American agricultural inspector in the Mexican state of Michoacán caused the U.S. to suspend imports of avocados from its neighbor, officials said, disrupting a $2.4 billion industry during one of its busiest times of the year,” reports The Guardian. “Mexico’s department of agriculture said in a statement that the inspector received a threatening message on his cellphone, prompting the ban on avocado exports to the U.S. until further notice.”
FILM & TELEVISION
Weigel Broadcasting Launches Story Television As Its Sixth Network
Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting Co., the home of MeTV and four other national television brands, will launch a sixth, Story Television Network, featuring programming from A&E, History Channel and other cable networks, reports Robert Feder. “The latest offering from the creative team headed by Weigel Broadcasting vice chairman Neal Sabin will launch nationwide March 28 on stations owned by Weigel, Hearst Television, Marquee Broadcasting and Maranatha Broadcasting, among other affiliates.”
Chinese-American Immigrant “Dragonwings” Latest Tennessee Target
“One middle school is removing ‘Dragonwings’ (1976) from sixth grade classes as a group presses to have Blount County Schools pull the historical novel about Chinese immigrants’ experience districtwide,” reports Blount County’s The Daily Times. A review of the book “was prompted by a parent complaint that it is inappropriate. Students will move ahead to materials usually read in the fourth nine weeks.” The complainant, David Coleman: “For me this is a philosophical stance, for me it was bigger than just my daughter.” “Coleman said if a line is not drawn in the sand, ‘We’re going to continue down the woke CRT agenda.'” The Authors Guild has an online tool to make it easy to write to local officials in opposition to book bans, including a finder for representatives and sample letters to adapt here.
New State Laws Make Schools, Teachers Fearful
Could self-censorship be the desired result of legal threats about teaching in the U.S.? “In thirteen states, new laws or directives govern how race can be taught in schools, in some cases creating reporting systems for complaints. The result, teachers and principals say, is a climate of fear around how to comply with rules they often do not understand,” reports the Washington Post. “Outside pressure is likely to persist. At least twenty-seven states are considering legislation this year that would limit how race and, in some cases gender, can be taught in schools. Republicans see this issue as a winning one and are campaigning across the country against a basket of race-related policies they label as critical race theory. Interviews with teachers and principals across the country reveal that educators are changing the way they teach about race in response to the new laws, sometimes in subtle ways.”
MSNBC: Banning Books Is Bad And Creates A “Stupid Society”
Ali Velshi at MSNBC: “In recent weeks, hundreds of books have either been challenged, barred, or face proposals to get pulled from schools, curricula, and libraries across the country. They’ve been deemed ‘controversial’… Some say they contain ‘objectionable language,’ they’re ‘too sexually explicit,’ or they fall falsely accused of being about Critical Race Theory. In some cases, the problem with these books is that their contents just might make a young reader or, more likely their parents, uncomfortable. There are a host of arguments made against the books–some are simply prudish, but several are clearly racist or homophobic or transphobic, and most of it is anti-intellectual: the same sort that gets us climate deniers and anti-vaxxers. Simply put, banning books is bad… Banning books is going to make us into a stupid society, vulnerable to misinformation and manipulation.”
Library E-Book Laws On Tap In Illinois And Other States
Use-limited licenses of e-books to libraries are under fire nationwide. “Tennessee and Missouri are the latest states to introduce library e-book laws,” reports Publishers Weekly. “Despite continued opposition from the Association of American Publishers, a library e-book bill recently introduced in Illinois has unanimously passed out of the Committee on Consumer Protection and is now headed to the General Assembly. The bills in Tennessee and Missouri, which have bipartisan support, are similar to e-book bills already passed or advancing in other states. In Missouri, the bill requires publishers that offer e-book licenses to the public to also offer to license to libraries on ‘reasonably similar terms as those offered to the public.’ In Tennessee, the bill requires an offer to libraries on ‘reasonable’ terms. Library e-book bills are now pending in five state legislatures, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Illinois, Tennessee and Missouri, and such bills have already passed unanimously in Maryland and New York.”
Checking In With “Maus”‘ Art Spiegelman
“Today, at age 73, Art Spiegelman has made peace with being an accidental educator and is leaning into—if not embracing—his abrupt return to the public eye,” writes Abraham Riesman in a vigorous profile at Vulture. “He has just been recruited to do a live webinar with residents of McMinn County who want to ask him questions. (‘I agreed to talk to anybody if I could do it by Zoom,’ he says, ‘and not have to worry about getting shot at the same time.’) Lately, he has been feeling apocalyptic about society, and he has been using his platform to talk up the artist Nora Krug’s recent illustrated adaptation of Timothy Snyder’s anti-authoritarian monograph ‘On Tyranny.’ ‘I would suggest that would be the book more relevant for right now than ‘Maus.'”
Details on Reader Ownership Battle Revealed
“The Chicago Reader has been through enough and its latest existential threat is a shitshow created by a co-owner,” media gadfly Dan Sinker posts on Twitter, pointing to the Sun-Times coverage. “Chicago’s leading alternative newspaper for decades faces extinction as its board members split over the leadership of the Reader’s co-publisher and president, Tracy Baim,” reports David Roeder at the Sun-Times. “The board controversy is preventing the Reader’s transition to nonprofit ownership—a critical financial lifeline. The Reader’s two owners—criminal defense attorney Leonard Goodman and real estate investor Elzie Higginbottom—and their board members are split over the leadership” of Baim. “I am being targeted, and it didn’t start until after the dispute over that column [November 24’s “Vaxxing our kids: Why I’m not rushing to get my six-year-old the COVID-19 vaccine”],” Baim told Roeder. “I feel the future of the Reader is at stake.” With ad revenue and donor support, the paper likely has cash on hand to last through March. The battle over the definition of “censorship” is at issue: “When staff raised concerns post-publication about whether statements in the column were accurate, Baim said she wanted it fact-checked, with a revision or editor’s note attached to it online, but Goodman objected. The column [is] unchanged and is still… on the Reader’s website… As for keeping the Reader alive, Goodman, perhaps best known as the attorney who represented former Governor Rod Blagojevich during the appeals and clemency process, said, ‘That’s our hope, that we’ll settle it.'” Allowing Goodman to “dabble” in opinion columns was “a singularly bad [business] decision,” writes Robert Feder. “Our primary concerns right now are the true independence of the nonprofit board, and the editorial independence for our editors,” Baim tells Feder. “I am truly grateful for the support that both Elzie Higginbottom and Leonard C. Goodman have provided in saving the Reader these past three-plus years. We would not be here today without both of them. I am saddened this took a horrible detour just before the sale was to occur, but I am hopeful we can break this impasse soon. They saved the Reader once. I hope they can agree to terms that can save the Reader again.” The Chicago Reader editorial union’s letter is here: “All the owners need to do is transfer ownership.”
Friends And Colleagues Remember Richard Christiansen
Mark Larson (“Ensemble: An Oral History Of Chicago Theater”) provides a chorus of oral history at the Reader for critic Richard Christiansen: “It’s sort of a cliché, but it really is true. Richard was the right person at the right place at the right time.” … “The director Peter Sellars [once] exclaimed to me, with genuine awe, ‘You were in Chicago in the 70s?’ ‘Yes,’ I half-joked, ‘and we didn’t even know it.’ In retrospect, somehow, I think Richard knew it before it was altogether true—and became a historic force in making it happen.” … “He was always bringing up all these dirty, funky places, talking about sitting in chairs with gum and shit on them. Having the time of his life. He really got off on that.”
Behind The Secret Effort To Free Journalist Danny Fenster From Myanmar Junta
“Autocrats, not terrorists, are increasingly taking Americans hostage,” reports Joel Simon at The New Yorker. “The effort to free Danny Fenster, a journalist imprisoned by Myanmar’s junta, shows a new threat to U.S. citizens worldwide.” Part of the extended narrative about the Columbia College-trained journalist and his misfortune: “Bryan Fenster, Danny’s brother, learned about the arrest in a string of text messages from Silva, who remained in Myanmar. Bryan stopped working for six months and became the public face of the Fensters’ response in the U.S… The family, like those of many hostages, tried to generate public support through media interviews and posts online. The family adopted #BringDannyHome as a hashtag after deciding that their first choice, #FreeFenster, was too confrontational for thin-skinned members of the Myanmar junta. Bryan, along with his parents—Rose, a nurse, and Buddy, who had recently retired from his job as a healthcare worker—also sought the help of press-freedom organizations… The generals holding Fenster again responded with silence. ‘We were drowning and looking for debris to hold onto,’ Bryan recalled.”
Riccardo Muti Returns To CSO To Lead Works By Beethoven And Glass
Music Director Riccardo Muti returns to Chicago to lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) in works by Beethoven and Philip Glass during two weeks of subscription concerts. Pianist Mitsuko Uchida joins Muti and the CSO to perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 on a program (February 17-19) that opens with the composer’s “Overture to The Ruins of Athens” and closes with the CSO’s first performances of the “Symphony No. 11” by American composer Philip Glass, who recently celebrated his eighty-fifth birthday. In partnership with the Gene Siskel Film Center, four films with musical scores by Glass are screened through February 20. More information about the “Scored by Glass” series is here. CSO details and tickets here.
Buddy Guy Headlines Blues on The Fox
Downtown Aurora’s twenty-fourth annual Blues on the Fox Festival announces a line-up of live blues on the banks of the Fox River, Friday and Saturday, June 17-18 at Thomas J. Weisner RiverEdge Park. Friday night’s opener Shemekia Copeland kicks off suburban Chicago’s largest summer blues festival, followed by headliner Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Chicago blues legend Buddy Guy is Saturday’s main attraction, with Billy Branch, Mindi Abair and The Boneshakers, and Melody Angel. RiverEdge Park is located at 360 North Broadway in downtown Aurora. Tickets are $15 per day through May 31; $25 per day starting June 1 and on-site. All tickets are general admission. More here.
Remembering Stage Stalwart Mary Ann Thebus
“Though she didn’t start acting until she was around 45 years old, she appeared in plays at many Chicago theaters and taught acting at the Artistic Home Theater,” writes Maureen O’Donnell at the Sun-Times. “Mary Ann Thebus became one of Chicago’s most respected, versatile and commanding actors after starting her professional stage career at around forty-five… Thebus was nominated about a dozen times for a Jeff award, played the mother in the movie ‘Rudy’ and mentored generations of actors in the classes she taught. She appeared in productions at American Blues Theater, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the Court Theatre, the Gift Theatre, the Goodman Theatre, Marriott Theatre, Next Theater, Northlight Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre and Victory Gardens Theater.”
ARTS & CULTURE
Bronzeville Not Hot On Proposed Casino Next Door
“Bronzeville leaders are pushing back against the prospect of having the city’s first casino as a neighbor,” reports Block Club Chicago. “Ald. Sophia King (4th) long has opposed a casino anywhere on the South Side, previously saying it would be like ‘putting a casino in Harlem’… The city unveiled five potential casino sites in November. Four are clustered in the Near South Side, including one at the McCormick Place Marshalling Yards at 31st Street and DuSable Lake Shore Drive, near the old Michael Reese Hospital… King and others are particularly alarmed by the site that’s been proposed near the $3.8 billion Bronzeville Lakefront megadevelopment on the Michael Reese site—a project King has insisted would not include a casino.”
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