Get daily culture news sent to your inbox every weekday morning. Subscribe to Newcity Today here.
Carol Ross Barney On Riverwalk Correcting “Quite Despicable” River
“It took fifteen years to complete the Riverwalk. Part of it was the lack of maintenance on Lower Wacker and part of it was the water,” architect Carol Ross Barney tells Chicago magazine. “The old dock wall was five feet above the river. We wanted to rebuild the riverbank so when you walked along the water, you felt more in touch with it. And the city was so afraid of having people fall in. I was born in the city, and the river was quite despicable in my childhood. People didn’t go near it. It was smelly, a sewer. But by the time that we got to phase two, the actual design, everybody loved the river. They were using the Wabash Plaza for lunch. One of the things that made the Riverwalk successful is that the city simultaneously became more solicitous of the water quality of the river.”
Forest Park Blue Line Getting First Upgrades Since 1958
“The Clinton, UIC-Halsted and Racine stations will close in stages from late July through early October,” reports the Tribune. “The CTA will undertake a $268 million project to rebuild the track and upgrade the power system. The agency will also begin to completely rebuild the Racine station… It’s the only section of track that hasn’t had major improvements to it since it was constructed.”
$70 Million Talks For 150 North Michigan
“Chicago real estate firm R2 is negotiating a deal to buy a Michigan Avenue office tower for forty-two-percent less than it sold for six years ago,” reports Crain’s. “R2 is in talks to pay around $70 million for the forty-one-story office building at 150 North Michigan… A sale at that price would not only be far below the $121 million that a venture of New York-based CBRE Investment Management paid for the tower in 2017, but it would also deeply undercut the $87 million mortgage that CBRE IM took out to finance that acquisition.”
Aurora Okays Hollywood Casino Move; Pens Letter To Bears
“The City of Aurora finalized plans Tuesday to move the Hollywood Casino from its longtime location on the Fox River to a spot near the Premium Outlets Mall,” reports CBS 2. “The plan calls for the Hollywood Casino Aurora to move from its location on the Fox River downtown–where it has been located since it opened thirty years ago–to the new site closer to the Reagan Memorial Tollway.” Aurora also sent a letter to the Bears, expressing interest in the team’s relocation.
Congestion Pricing For Midtown Manhattan
Transit solutions are sought nationwide: “Congestion pricing in New York City cleared its final federal hurdle, all but ensuring that the first program in the U.S. will begin next year, in an effort to reduce traffic and pollution in Manhattan and fund improvements to mass transit,” reports the New York Times. “The program, which could begin next year, would charge drivers to enter Midtown Manhattan.” The program could begin next spring, reports AP (via the Sun-Times), “bringing New York City into line with places like London, Singapore and Stockholm that have implemented similar tolling programs for highly congested business districts… Drivers could be charged as much as $23 a day to enter Manhattan south of 60th Street, with the exact amount still to be decided by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is overseeing the long-stalled plan.”
The MTA, reports Gothamist, is debilitated by carrying a $48 billion debt load which if it were repaid, could demolish the transit system. For the last four decades, “the MTA has taken out loans to help pay for new tracks, stations, trains and buses—and maintain the ones it already owns. Money from fares, tolls and taxes pays back the lenders, plus interest… That business model worked until the pandemic sent ridership plummeting. This year, the payments on the debt are slated to exceed $3 billion–a 600 percent increase from $425 million in 1993.”
DINING & DRINKING
Shuttered John’s Pizzeria Could Relocate
Thin-crust haven John’s Pizzeria, 2104 North Western, which opened on the Bucktown-Logan Square border in 1957, could reopen elsewhere, reports Block Club. From Facebook: “As we navigate this challenging time, we remain hopeful for the future of John’s. While John’s Pizzeria as is is closed for now, we are exploring options to potentially reopen and continue serving you our delicious pizzas once again.” Writes Block Club, “Owner Larry Imburgia told WBBM that his sister owns the building and is in the process of selling the property. There are no hard feelings, Imburgia said.”
DoorDash To Offer Hourly Pay
DoorDash will “begin giving its delivery drivers the option to be paid an hourly minimum wage, instead of earning money for each delivery,” reports The New York Times. This could “add an incentive for drivers to pick up smaller orders that don’t pay as well and that they would typically avoid… The hourly rate includes only active time, meaning time between accepting and dropping off an order, and does not include the period when drivers are waiting for the next order.”
Oak Park Declared Book Sanctuary Community
“The Village of Oak Park, in partnership with the Oak Park Public Library, unanimously adopted the ALA’s ‘Freedom to Read’ statement, cementing its status as a community that protects individuals’ right to intellectual freedom amid increased calls for literary censorship,” reports Wednesday Journal. “It’s to support democracy and protect the freedom to read,” Joslyn Bowling Dixon, executive director of Oak Park’s public library system, said at the June 20 village board meeting.
City Bureau Hiring Editorial Director
“We’re searching for an experienced, multiplatform editor who is deeply committed to racial equity and community engagement,” lists City Bureau, with applications accepted until July 23.
WGN-TV Takes Flak For Saying Youth “Destroyed” Belmont Avenue
“Hundreds of teens takeover [sic] Lakeview, destroying neighborhood,” WGN-TV tweeted about its report on a convergence of teenagers and vandalism on Belmont, the link to which has an updated headline: “‘Terrifying’: Hundreds of teens takeover Lakeview, damage property.” “‘They were jumping on cars, breaking glass, throwing things,'” WGN reports from a witness “who did not wish to be identified”: “I know my personal automobile was used as a bar for people.” “The resident shared video with WGN News that shows kids surrounding a police car, with some even jumping on the vehicle.” Online commenters scoffed. Journalist Frank Sennett about the history of the Clark and Belmont neighborhood: “A lot of people are saying this headline is exaggerating, but I checked and both Punkin Donuts and Dennis’ Place for Games are completely gone.” (Leor Galil wrote in 2020 at the Reader about the history of the area for teen assemblies in “The Saga Of Punkin’ Donuts.”) Steve Albini: “‘Takeover (sic),’ ‘destroying,’ wtf did a lawn write this?” Reader music editor Philip Montoro: “It’d be nice if mainstream news outlets would avoid racist fearmongering just because it’s the right thing to do, but at least shame still works.”
National Geographic Cuts Staff Writers
Several now-former employees have posted, including science writer Michael Greshko, that the Walt Disney Company’s National Geographic magazine has fired its staff writers: “Today is my last day at National Geographic. The magazine is parting ways with its staff writers, including me.” Senior writer Craig Welch: “My new National Geographic just arrived, which includes my latest feature—my 16th, and my last as a senior writer. NatGeo is laying off all of its staff writers. I’ve been so lucky. I got to work w/incredible journalists and tell important, global stories. It’s been an honor.” In a further cost-cutting move, “copies of the famous bright-yellow-bordered print publication will no longer be sold on newsstands in the United States starting next year,” reports the Washington Post.
Suit Against Former Radio Personality Eric Ferguson Dropped
“The woman who claimed she was forced into sex acts by former Chicago radio host Eric Ferguson has dropped her lawsuit,” reports CBS 2. “This ends a two-year battle for Ferguson, who stepped away from his popular show on The Mix 101.9, WTMX-FM, in October 2021. Ferguson’s former assistant producer, Cynthia DeNicolo, also said in the lawsuit that station owners retaliated by blocking promotions–and ultimately used COVID-19 to terminate her.” Ferguson denies the allegations.
Hyde Park Jazz Sets Back Alley Jazz
The Hyde Park Jazz Festival has announced the sixth Back Alley Jazz program, inspired by the jazz alley jams that took place on the South Side in the 1960s and 1970s. Back Alley Jazz continues as a collaborative neighborhood initiative but in an extended format. The model for 2023 shifts its approach to include July-September pop-up performances across South Shore that connect to existing block club and other events in the area. Neighborhood groups will host and provide the performance location. The Hyde Park Jazz Festival will provide a stage, sound equipment, tech support as well as curate performances. Details here.
Delmark Celebrates Seventy
“Seventy years before the late Bob Koester founded Delmar (later Delmark) Records and released his first record in 1953, many now-iconic figures in blues and jazz were everyday working musicians,” the label muses. “Seventy years on, Delmark, the oldest independent jazz and blues record label in the world, boasts a catalog with over 12,000 recordings by a who’s-who of jazz and blues. Delmark has released over thirty albums in the past five years, made digitally available over 12,000 songs and continues its mission of seeking out and documenting new talent. To celebrate the seventieth anniversary, Delmark raided the vaults for an anthology, out July 21 on CD, LP and digital.”
“From Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Magic Sam, Otis Rush, Dinah Washington, T-Bone Walker, Little Walter and Muddy Waters to Memphis Slim and Jimmy Johnson, the seventieth anniversary compilation is a snapshot of the incredible vault of classic blues Delmark has released over the years. On Saturday, August 26, Delmark will host their third annual Rockwell Blues & Jazz stroll, with music, food and fun at the studios and with area businesses. Evanston’s SPACE will host another celebration on September 20, in which Dave Specter leads an all-star band of Delmark Players.”
Freak Temperature Inversion Carried Fall Out Boy Miles From Wrigley
“Wednesday saw a temperature inversion with colder air near the surface and warmer weather just above it,” reports Block Club. “Sound waves travel farther in cold weather and faster in warm weather. The temperature inversion—combined with the wind coming from the northeast—focused the sound waves in a way that allowed them to travel farther and louder… Alders said they received a ‘pattern of noise complaints’ surrounding Fall Out Boy’s hometown show at Wrigley Field last week, but Cubs officials say the boisterous show was amplified by a rare occurrence of atmospheric conditions that carried the sound waves farther than usual.”
HotHouse Takes To Bronzeville
“Several months after launching a crowdsourcing campaign to raise $250,000 to buy the Donnelly Youth Center, 3947-3953 South Michigan, Hothouse founder Marguerite Horberg announced she’s finalized the paperwork to bring the beloved cultural hotspot to the neighborhood,” reports Block Club. “The 24,000-square-foot building will become a ‘multipurpose facility,’ hosting arts programs, social justice projects and a restaurant.”
California Stages Hope For State Bailout
“The general consensus is that we’re all dying,” a Los Angeles artistic director tells The Wrap (via Yahoo). “No hyperbole.” “More than three years after the pandemic’s onset, many live performing arts venues and nonprofit arts organizations throughout California are struggling to stay open, scaling back performances and even shutting down—and it’s not just because of COVID’s devastating toll… While small and mid-sized performance venues have been the hardest hit, large organizations that get the bulk of shrinking philanthropic dollars are hurting, too.”
Tulsa Opera Cancels Mainstage Season
Tulsa Opera is canceling its two mainstage productions for the 2023-2024 season, reports Tulsa World, and their CEO since 2018 has quit. “The company cited financial struggles exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.” The company’s headquarters “sustained significant damage during the June 18 storm, with much of the company’s library of librettos and recordings severely damaged.” A statement on their website: “Here in Tulsa, we saw a thirty-nine-percent drop in revenue last year and this year, we’re facing a forty-four-percent decline. Further, the average cost of a large production is up by twenty-two-percent, now costing well over $400,000 per show.”
Seattle’s Book-It Theater Closes After Thirty-Three Years
In Seattle, the majority of Book-it Theater’s staff of eighteen was told they’d be laid off Tuesday, reports the Seattle Times. “Also affected are the roughly 300 people who work on Book-It’s productions throughout a given year: actors, artisans, technicians, dramaturges, writers, directors, intimacy coordinators, costume shop personnel and designers. Many of these workers, 267 in total for the 2022-23 season, were part-time employees.” The causes? “Diminished audience attendance, changes in funder priorities and a lack of enough major donors” as well as the lack of an endowment, “a cascade of events in a sector where the margins are usually already razor-thin.”
ARTS & CULTURE & ETC.
Time-Lapse Video Of Quebec Wildfire Smoke Erasing Chicago
NBC 5 has thirty-six-seconds of time-lapse video from around the city as Canadian smoke rolled in.
Fog Machines Blind Burglars
“A burglar who can’t see something can’t steal it either–that is the idea behind a new method of deterring [retail thieves] by using fog,” reports CBS 2. “When a criminal breaks in after hours, the alarm deploys; the fog deploys, and in seconds, your business is going to be protected.”
Popularizer Of Chia Pet And The Clapper Was Ninety-One
“Joseph Pedott, a native Chicagoan and the advertising mastermind behind the iconic eighties products the Clapper and the Chia Pet, died recently,” reports the Sun-Times. “As for that famous phrase ‘Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia,’ the company’s website says it either was created during an agency brainstorming session or a night out at a bar. Either way, someone stuttered the word Chia and a jingle was born… The catchy jingles continued with the Clapper, a gadget that turned lights on and off when someone claps or as the catchphrase goes, ‘clap on, clap off.'”
Eruption Of Hunga Tonga Included Unprecedented Lightning
It’s no Lake Effect: “When Tonga’s underwater Hunga Tonga volcano lost its temper in an eruption on January 15, 2022, it belched gobs of magma and exhaled clouds of ash and water vapor out of the ocean, triggering intense lightning. This was no ordinary thunderstorm,” reports Ars Technica. “That storm now boasts the most lightning ever recorded on Earth. Hanging ominously above the Pacific Ocean was a volcanic cloud lit by concentric rings of lightning that flashed about 192,000 times over the eleven hours that the volcano was active (some 2,615 flashes a minute). Lightning shot up to nineteen miles high—another record, beating even cyclones and supercells.”
Chicago Unemployment Near Record Low
“The Chicago metropolitan area is approaching a record-low unemployment level, according to federal survey data released by the Illinois Department of Employment Security,” reports Crain’s. “The Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights statistical area reported an unemployment rate of just 3.2 percent in May… That’s near the lowest level ever… Other federal data shows the state and metro area still haven’t quite regained all the jobs they lost during the pandemic—a sign of the tighter-than-tight nature of the current employment market.”
Is “Cop City” In Atlanta The Future Of America?
Chicago’s got one coming, too, a prize project of the Lori Lightfoot era. “Cop cars—some of them bearing the markings of ‘Atlanta Police,’ others unmarked—seem to pop up every few hundred yards, like in a video game,” writes Will Bunch in an extensive report at the Philadelphia Inquirer. “They sit at the entrance to the dilapidated ruins of the Old Atlanta Prison Farm, where mostly Black men did hard time for much of the twentieth century, or at random pull-offs—their intimidating presence silently speaking a mantra of the Old South: Keep moving. The air of paranoia out here is thicker than the dense Georgia humidity… Its boosters don’t call it Cop City, of course. Officially, this $90 million project—funded with a blend of tax dollars and money from the corporate cabal that pulls the strings in Atlanta—is the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center. Its soft-spoken yet high-octane advocates—when they talk about it at all—claim that the state-of-the-art training site with a gun range, a four-story burn tower for firefighter training, and a small ‘mock city’ is desperately needed to replace outdated facilities and woo new recruits. And don’t police reformers want better trained cops?”
“For civic leaders, Cop City is less a construction project and more of an in-your-face mission statement—that 2020’s protests were a moment of temporary insanity and that an aggressive public safety regime is the vehicle for maintaining boundless growth. Activists see stopping Cop City as a turning point that could reveal a different path—a green and sustainable Atlanta where money is spent not on police but on what the city’s majority-Black working class needs to stay here, such as affordable housing, mental-health services, and public recreation centers.”
Send culture news and tips to [email protected]