Message from the President: Keeping Streeterville a Quieter Neighborhood

Every city neighborhood-probably throughout the world--shares a distinctive set of urban noises. Streeterville's noise level is particularly challenged by ambulances and fire trucks hurrying to transport patients for emergency care at one of our renowned health care facilities. I think we all can agree that these trips must be made as quickly and safely as possible. But SOAR has questioned whether the level of siren noise needed to blare as high as it has been for so many years. Leaders and members of the SOAR Safety and Sound Task Force have met regularly with city officials and health care institutions to help turn the volume down in Streeterville, night and day. Please read Martha Music's Safety and Sound Task Force report below for more information on this topic.The report shows that the status quo not only can be questioned, but that changes can be made that benefit residents without sacrificing the needs of others. On behalf of the Board, I want to thank those officials who have found time to listen to us, to hear what we are saying and to respond positively. And of course, thanks to the many volunteers who helped achieve these accomplishments.

As always, I will be happy to respond to your questions and comments when you reach me by email

Deborah Gershbein

Safety & Sound Management Update

Last year SOAR's Sound Management Task Force members met with leaders within the community in an effort to reduce siren noise where possible. One meeting was with Michael Callahan, Deputy Commissioner of the Chicago Fire Department. The task force communicated concerns from Streeterville residents about the noise level of sirens used by the fire department as trucks left the firehouse on Chicago Avenue, as well as those coming into and out of the neighborhood from elsewhere. As a result, Deputy Commissioner Callahan listened and took action by decreasing sound level--and not only for trucks on their way to fires or traveling in for other emergency purposes. With regard to other calls, such as accident investigations, resetting fire alarms and boxes and water leaks, sirens will be lowered and, in some circumstances, turned off. Martha Music, Board member and chair of the task force, said, "This is great news indeed for the Streeterville community, as well as other Chicago communities that will benefit from SOAR's initiative and the Fire Department's response. We extend our thanks to Deputy Commissioner Callahan for listening to our concerns, and acting upon them. To all residents of Streeterville: enjoy a bit more quiet time at home."
At the next task force meeting on Wednesday, February 24, 6:30 pm in the SOAR Conference Room, 244 E. Pearson, Lobby Level, the agenda will include the results of the recent sound survey and accomplishments to date--including more details about the announcement by the Chicago Fire Department on reducing/eliminating siren noise. We also will discuss some goals and initiatives for this year, including your own ideas for priorities. We hope that by the end of the meeting, you will participate in safety issues, sound issues--or both! Light refreshments will be served. Please RSVP to Martha Music by email or by calling 312.280.2596 by Sunday, February 21. If you have questions in advance, don't hesitate to contact Martha.

W Hotel: SOAR has learned that City of Chicago officials have met with W Hotel management to discuss security concerns, including the January shootings at the property, located on Lake Shore between Ontario and Erie. W management has been asked to provide a revised and updated security plan for approval by those City officials. We have also learned that the property has been warned that future incidents will put the property and various licenses at serious risk. We are continuing to monitor the situation. We will provide an update when details become available.
Coyote Sighting: The coyote, a frequent visitor to Streeterville, has recently been seen at the property owned by Northwestern Medicine between Erie/Huron and Fairbanks/McClurg. Dog owners are advised to keep their dogs leashed.
Chicago Public Police District CAPS (Chicago Alternative Policing Policy) Beat (aka Sector 30) Meeting: Beats 1831/32/33/34 meet the first Thursday of every odd-numbered month at 6:30 pm at Access Living, 115 W. Chicago. The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 3. For information phone 312.742.5778 and ask for Officer Christopher Schenk.

SOAR Real Estate Task Force Update

  237 E. Ontario: The SOAR Real Estate Task Force received a presentation by Tishman Realty on February 9 for their proposed hotel.  Task Force members are discussing the impact of this hotel on the community and will be sending comments to Alderman Reilly. Gail Spreen, task force chair, shares some details: 

Development description: The developer is planning a 22-story hotel, 250-foot tall structure, with approximately 400 rooms and 4,500 square feet of meeting space. Because is no parking garage included in the plan, guests will arrive by car, taxi/Uber or public transportation. A porte-cochère on the east side of the building, located just off the alley, will hold three or four vehicles entering from Ontario; there will be three loading spaces on Ontario.  A limited-service food "grab and go" will be located in the lobby and a pool and deck on the amenity floor. Roof mechanicals will be screened, no rooftop bar is included and most of the roof will be "greened."
Site Plan and Traffic: The task force has identified the most significant issues as the traffic generated by hotel use and the proposed site plan layout.  Although the developer would widen the north half of the alley and the entrance to the alley by three feet, we believe there are problems regarding the porte-cochère on the loading spaces. At the present, the north-south alley on the east side of the property is fully or partially blocked several times a day by deliveries or moves from the neighboring buildings to the east and southeast.  Valet service is planned to take the guests cars from the porte-cochèreto Northwestern's parking garage at Ontario and Fairbanks, efficiency will be critical to having this traffic plan work.  There are two angled loading bays on the south side of the building off the east/west alley.

Northwestern University Simpson-Querrey Biomedical Research Building:
The latest construction update for the site at 303 E. Superior begins with the announcement that caisson operation is complete. The Earth Retention System (ERS) sheeting installation continues through mid-March. Seventy-five-foot-long corrugated steel sheets are being installed in the ground using a vibratory-hydraulic rig, continuing to create noise and vibration for several more weeks, followed by site excavation and tie-back installation.Northwestern anticipates that a single extended-load truck will deliver materials every other day. IDOT, the Illinois Department of Transportation, requires these deliveries arrive at the site before 6:30 am, although trucks will not be unloaded before the city ordinance work hours of 8:00 am. Three to five trucks hauling material from the site will operate every other day. Refinement to the exterior wall mock-up at the southeast corner of Robert H. Lurie Research Center will periodically block access to Lurie loading dock. Work hours will be per the City of Chicago construction ordinance, from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm and will involve work on Saturdays. Northwestern University emergency contact information provided to SOAR: Jay Baehr, phone 847.815.4732 and Brian Kittle, phone 847.815.4708.

Get Out Your Crayolas: Here's a coloring book that outlines some of Streeterville's most famous buildings. Read More
If you notice problems at construction sites in the neighborhood, send photos and descriptions to Gail Spreen, chair of the Real Estate Task Force. The task force will follow up with appropriate developers and/or elected officials. In addition, readers are invited to send an email to Gail regarding proposed developments. Feel free to contact SOAR with any questions: Thank you.

SOAR Parks Task Force Update

Jean Baptiste Point duSable, first permanent resident of Chicago

SOAR Parks Task Force:
On Wednesday, March 2nd, 6:30 pm at the SOAR Conference Room, Serge Pierre-Louis, president of the DuSable Park Coalition--which includes SOAR and a number of other advocacy groups--will provide an update on the park. We will also be inviting you to the annual DuSable Celebration scheduled for Friday, March 4. Stay tuned for further details on the celebration! Contact Gail Spreen or David Lewin to RSVP or for more information.

What Is a Park Advisory Council, Anyway?

Learn More 
Seneca Park/Eli M. Schulman Playground Advisory Council: The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, February 22, 6:00 pm at the Lake Shore Park Field House, 808 N. Lake Shore, at Chicago Avenue. The agenda includes a presentation by the Chicago Park District regarding possible enhancements to the park and playground. Future meetings are on April 13, June 8 and August 10.
Lake Shore Park Advisory Council: Meetings are held the second Monday of the month, 5:30 pm at the Lake Shore Park Field House, 808 N. Lake Shore, at Chicago Avenue. The next meeting is scheduled for March 14.
Streeterville Parks: This begins a series on the many parks throughout our community. While we think that these three are pretty well-known, some we cover in future issues will surprise you. The SOAR Parks Task Force, chaired by Board member David Lewin, with Immediate Past President Gail Spreen as vice-chair, is responsible for identifying problems and plans for each individual park, and for recommending positions to the Board of Directors.
Lake Shore Park: Initially known as Chicago Avenue Park, the site at Chicago Avenue and Lake Shore was first stabilized and expanded with landfill in 1897 by the Lincoln Park Commission, a leader in a national movement toward neighborhood parks. The volunteer-driven SOAR Lake Shore Park Garden Club maintains gardens inside this park. Read More Here
Seneca Playlot Park: Tiny Seneca Park, just east of Michigan Avenue between Chicago and Superior, features both a lawn with shaded walkways and a heavily-used playlot, named for the late Streeterville restauranteur Eli M. Schulman. On the lawn sit two recent sculptures by nationally-recognized artists: "Ben", a bronze horse by sculptor Debra Butterfield, and Farmer's Dream, an abstract piece by sculptor Richard Hunt. SOAR played a key role in the redevelopment of the park and playlot in the 1980's. The Chicago Park District will present new plans at the February 22 meeting of the Seneca Park/Eli M. Schulman Playlot Advisory Council. Read More Here
Polk Bros Park: You may know it as the former Gateway Park. In honor of the Navy Pier Centennial this year, Chicago's Polk family contributed $20 million to redevelop this public land just west of the Pier. Read More Here

Deborah Gershbein Elected 15th President of SOAR

The SOAR Board of Directors elected Deborah (Debby) Gershbein as 2015-16 President of the organization at its monthly meeting on October 20. She is the 15th President to serve in the four decades since SOAR was founded in 1975. David Lewin was elected Vice President; Howard W. Melton, Treasurer, and Robert (Bob) Levin Secretary. Gail Spreen is Immediate Past President, having stepped down after five years in the position. All will serve on SOAR's executive committee, called the Board Affairs Council (BAC).
Gershbein has lived and worked in Central Streeterville for 26 years. She was elected to the SOAR Board in 2014, taking on the chairmanship of the inaugural SOAR Farmers Market at the MCA Plaza. The undertaking secured the continuation of the Farmers Market in Streeterville after many years as a City-run and -funded enterprise. She also served on the 2014-15 Marketing and Artisan Market Task Forces.

Lewin, his wife, Vicky, their twins and German shepherd puppy, Zoe, live in South Streeterville. A resident since 1998, he is chair of the Parks Task Force. Melton and his wife, JoAnne, have lived in North Streeterville with their Labrador retrievers (current is Jazz) since 1997.  He has been active in SOAR for many years, serving in a number of capacities, including the Finance Committee, which he now chairs for the second consecutive term as Treasurer. He also sits on the Real Estate Committee and the Parks Task Force. Levin and his wife, Linda, chair of this year's SOAR Artisan Market, have lived in South Streeterville for eight years. He has chaired the Membership Committee and served on the 2015 Streeterville Neighborhood Plan Task Force. Spreen has lived and worked in Streeterville since 1997. She will continue as chair of the Real Estate Task Force.

Gershbein said, "I am honored to be elected as President of the SOAR Board of Directors and to lead the launch of our next 40 years. We are a premiere neighborhood with some of the most significant properties in the United States, if not the world, and one of the busiest tourist destinations in the United States. Yet we still must strive to 'keep Streeterville a neighborhood.' While our 40th anniversary celebrated our past, we now have an obligation to focus on the present and the future. As we focus on maintaining and building strong community relations with Streeterville residents, businesses, institutions and local government, we will look forward to hearing from you about your perspectives. I have met many of you at the SOAR Farmers Market this year and look forward to creating more idea sharing opportunities for Streeterville stakeholders. Please contact me anytime, at, with your comments and suggestions. I look forward to shopping with you at the last Farmers Market of the season--tomorrow, Tuesday, October 27--and at the Artisan Market, Friday through Sunday, November 6 through 8, at Lurie Research Building Lobby & Atrium 303 E. Superior."

Continuing as directors of SOAR for 2015-16 are Mary Baim, Seth Blumenthal, Larry Brown, Karen Burnett, Maury Fantus, Christian Ficara, Mario W. Hollemans, Phyllis Mitzen and Gail Spreen.

From left to right: Debby Gershbein, David Lewin, Howard W. Melton, Bob Levin