June 12, 2020

Mayor Lightfoot Announces Framework for
Riverwalk to Reopen
Chicago reinstates popular recreation and restaurant destination for residents and visitors this summer

Mayor's Press Release

CHICAGO --- Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot today announced that the City is reopening its ever-popular Chicago Riverwalk under new guidance for the use of residents and visitors. Following the latest data and based upon guidance from public health experts, City officials believe the Riverwalk can safely reopen and operate throughout the summer months. New measures will allow for increased social distancing and easier compliance with public health guidance, through the designation of specific hours for different activities.  The Riverwalk will be accessible  through limited access points at Lake Street and through ADA compliant ramps between Franklin and Lake Street and State and Columbus streets. All entrances will be guarded by attendants who will be responsible for confirming reservations and counting the number of peopled to ensure capacity limits are not exceeded, while roaming Riverwalk Ambassadors will be monitoring the space to ensure social distancing is being maintained.

“The Riverwalk is one of Chicago’s architectural gems and the rare ‘instant-classic’ in our already illustrious lineup of public landmarks. It’s also an important economic engine for our city, drawing an array of residents and visitors to is many bars, restaurants, and recreational activities,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Its reopening marks the latest exciting step in our safe, citywide reopening process, and an important indicator of our great city’s resiliency in the face of the COVID-19 crisis as we work to build, grow, and recover from this pandemic stronger than we’ve ever been.”

Starting today, the Riverwalk will now be open to the general public starting between the hours of 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. The Riverwalk will be closed briefly at 10:00 a.m. to allow for cleaning. All persons using the Riverwalk and its facilities will be required to wear a face covering in accordance with public health guidance. Additionally, in order to adhere to social distancing guidance and reduce congestion the City will be implementing designated hours for recreation and concessions. The operational hours for recreational activities will occur between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m., and the hours for concessions activities will take place between 11:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. This new system will allow for enhanced cleaning activities and social distancing for those using the Riverwalk.

“The Riverwalk is one of the largest public spaces maintained by the Department of Assets, Information and Services, and we are thrilled today to announces its reopening for the summer and welcome back our concessionaires,” said David Reynolds, Commissioner of AIS. “The Department will be hard at work this summer to maintain the cleanliness of the Riverwalk in addition to ensuring that social distancing, face coverings and additional public health guidance is followed throughout the summer.”
During the recreational hours, those using the Riverwalk will be able to run, jog, walk and bike along the path between Lake Shore Drive and Lake Street. The lakefront trail remains closed and will not be accessible from the Riverwalk until it officially reopens for public use. Bicyclists should use additional caution and cycle responsibly while respecting the other users on the path. All persons using the space should be aware of their immediate proximity to others and practice social distancing.  

Concessions Program Vendors and the Community Marketplace will begin a phased reopening tomorrow between the hours of 11:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. Each will be available by reservation in order to maintain social distancing and manage crowds. In order to make a reservation everyone is encouraged to contact the establishment directly. All reservations will be made on a first-come, first-serve basis and ADA access will be available upon request when reservations are being made. Beyond requiring reservations, the concession program vendors will arrange their seating areas in a manner that promotes social distancing.
During this time there will also be limited passive recreation areas for people looking to spend time outdoors. The paths will be blocked at the under bridges between LaSalle and Columbus and users should use stairways.

Riverwalk Concession Vendors accessible by access points:
  • Tiny Tapp & Café- West Dearborn
  • City Winery – East Dearborn
  • Chicago Brewhouse- West Wabash Stairway
  • Beat Kitchen and Community Marketplace West Michigan Avenue
  • Chicago’s First Lady and Mercury Sightseeing Cruises East Michigan
  • Urban Kayaks, Island Party, The Northman- Columbus
  • O'Briens's Riverwalk Cafe East Wabash
Limited passive recreation areas:
  • Lake Street and LaSalle Street- Access at Lake Street, ADA ramp between Franklin and Lake or East LaSalle Street.
  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial- Use State Street ADA ramp
  • Michigan Plaza- Use West Michigan Avenue- this will also allow access to the Community Marketplace vendors.
  • Columbus Plaza- Use Columbus Stairs
  • Sweet Home Gelato- West LaSalle Street – Walk up service 
“City Winery is thrilled to welcome guests back to the Riverwalk. We’ve been looking forward to reopening for months and we’re eager to provide a safe, beautiful space where guests can gather for al fresco dining,” said Nathan Holgate, Chicago General Manager of City Winery. “Guests can expect plenty of space between tables, enhanced cleaning protocols and other measures to ensure the safety of our visitors, our staff and the greater community. But guests can also expect world-class wine made right here in Chicago, unbeatable skyline & river views, and a great dining experience.”
“We are very excited to be reopening on the Riverwalk,” said Kevin Vaughn, Owner of the Chicago Brewhouse on the Riverwalk. “Our awesome team looks forward to serving great Chicago made beverages and Chicago themed food in a socially distanced safe environment”
Chicago moved into phase three of its reopening framework, ‘Cautiously Reopen’, on June 3 and has been gradually reopening many of its most prominent shared spaces including Navy Pier earlier this week. Cautiously reopening still requires strict physical distancing but will began to allow for some industries to reopen. All residents must continue to abide by important guidance in phase three, including: physically distancing and wearing a face covering; limiting non-business, social gatherings to less than 10 persons; staying at home if you feel ill or have come into contact with someone with COVID-19; and getting tested if you have symptoms.

For more information about the City’s response to COVID-19 please visit  Chicago.gov/coronavirus  and for more information about the Riverwalk please visit  Chicagoriverwalk.us .
June 12, 2020

City of Chicago Unveils Virtual Memorial to Celebrate Lives of Those Who Have Passed from Covid-19
Residents can submit stories to the online memorial, “Chicago Remembers” to honor their loved ones’ legacy
Mayor's Press Release

CHICAGO - Today the city unveiled a web-based, virtual memorial to remember and honor thousands of Chicagoans who have lost their lives to COVID-19. The virtual memorial will host submitted stories and photos of residents that will be publicly available for all to see.

“In light of the current situation, the way we mourn and celebrate one’s life needs to be reimagined,” said Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “The Virtual Memorial is just one way to help Chicagoans cope with the sudden loss of their loved one to COVID-19, but also to celebrate their lives and memories.”

Residents are encouraged to share stories about their family, friends and neighbors through an online form that can be accessed at  https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/sites/covid-19/home/memorial-wall.html  

Maria Pappas
118 North Clark Street, Room 212   Chicago, Illinois 60602 

Pappas: Taxpayers now have more time to pay delinquent Cook County property taxes 
 A new Illinois law increases from nine months to 13 months the time that taxpayers have to pay delinquent Cook County property taxes before they are offered to investors, giving more breathing room to homeowners and business people struggling to pay their bills, said Treasurer Maria Pappas, who helped draft the legislation. 
“This additional time can make the difference between keeping your home and seeing it taken away,” Pappas said today. “No one knows how long this economic downturn caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 will go on, but this legislation will provide help to hard-pressed taxpayers long after the pandemic is over.” 
At one time, property owners had a dozen months to pay delinquent taxes before the Annual Tax Sale. In 2014, the Illinois General Assembly shortened the time, which last year was nine months. Pappas has pushed to extend the time, an effort culminating in the of SB 685. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the bill into law on June 5, 2020. 
“I am grateful to the Legislature for helping our most vulnerable taxpayers, and I am especially thankful to Rep. Mike Zalewski from Riverside, who sponsored the amendment that increased the time before the Tax Sale,” Pappas said. 
The Annual Tax Sale, required by state law, is the start of a legal process that can end in a loss of property ownership. Owners can avoid the Tax Sale by paying all delinquent taxes and interest before the Sale begins. Pappas obtained a court order to postpone this year’s Tax Sale, originally scheduled for May 8, 2020. She will reschedule the Sale after the Governor’s pandemic disaster declaration is lifted. More than 42,000 properties currently owe more than $130 million in delinquent taxes for Tax Year 2018 (due in 2019).

Dam Removal Allows Fish Migration to
New Upstream Habitat
A largemouth bass recently caught in the Skokie River is giving new optimism and understanding for fish migration in the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) for scientists with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) and partners.
MWRD aquatic biologists originally caught the fish in October 2019, in the North Branch Canal by Goose Island during a routine fish survey. Less than seven months later, fisherman Sey Jay was fishing in the Skokie River just south of the Skokie Lagoons by the Erickson Woods in the Cook County Forest Preserves near Winnetka when he came across the same fish. Another fisherman had left their catch behind on a stringer that was snagged on a log, he said.
"I was going to toss it back and noticed it had a tag on its back," said Jay, who has been fishing local spots for about 40 years and markets frozen fish for a living. He decided to look a little closer and noticed tag number "34111" with the MWRD's name on it.
This rare find would never have been possible if not for a partnership effort to remove a century-old dam on the North Branch of the Chicago River in 2018. Located at the confluence of the North Branch and North Shore Channel between Foster Avenue and Argyle Street, the dam was demolished as part of a restoration effort by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District (USACE), MWRD, and Chicago Park District to allow upstream fish migration and improve recreational opportunities.
"We study fish in our continuing assessment of water quality, and this incredible discovery suggests remarkable fish mobility and a healthy ecology that has been made possible by our many partnerships interested in river restoration," said MWRD President Kari K. Steele. "We thank our fisherman for relaying this big catch and our many stakeholders determined to provide thriving ecosystems in our waterways."
This was an important catch and more proof that dam removals provide fish passage and the potential to promote biodiversity in the Chicago area waterways, according to Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River.
"Friends of the Chicago River has been imagining fish swimming freely through the river since 2002 when we started the dam removal project with Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) almost two decades ago," said Frisbie. "This largemouth bass represents strong partnership between the Chicago Park District, IDNR, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, the U.S. Army Corps and Friends as well as good stewardship, tenacity, and proof that if we invest in the Chicago River system wildlife will respond. We could not be more thrilled."
The North Branch Dam and its four-foot drop have now been replaced by a series of riffles, step pools, cobbles, gravels and sands that slow the flow of water and make it possible for the fish to pass upstream. During a feasibility study, USACE biologists sampled the reach just upstream of the Dam and only found one green sunfish. Now fish are abundant.
"It's fantastic to see that fish are responding to the removal of the dam, but it's also not surprising," said Nicholas A. Barkowski, fish biologist at the USACE. "Fish were observed by USACE staff swimming upstream during the demolition. As soon as a large enough gap was created in the dam, fish started making their way upstream."
USACE fish biologists also conducted a 15-minute electro-fishing survey downstream of the dam in 2019. A total of 266 fish were captured and 17 native species were identified utilizing the confluence of the North Branch of the Chicago River. Bluegill, gizzard shad and largemouth bass were the three most abundant species. Other notable recreationally important species consisted of white crappie, channel catfish and pumpkinseed. 
USACE plans to conduct additional monitoring upstream of the confluence in the summer of 2020 to further monitor the success of the dam removal.
The fish, estimated to be four to five years old, was one of 10 largemouth bass that were tagged by the MWRD in 2019 in support of the Wild Mile Chicago project, coordinated by Urban Rivers. None of the other fish were reportedly recaptured. On the Wild Mile, along the North Branch Canal and Turning Basin, between Chicago and North Avenues, Urban Rivers and the Shedd Aquarium are creating the world's first mile-long floating eco-park. The project reclaims the waterway while providing an accessible public space for the community. The Wild Mile was outlined over the course of many community meetings with the Chicago Department of Planning and Development to build a renewed urban ecology. Partners and planners said it will help generate cleaner, healthier water and more vibrant wildlife ecosystems.
As part of the project, several improvements will be made to River Park, located at Foster Ave., including the restoration of 29 acres of savannah habitat, 14 acres of riverbank and five acres of aquatic beds by removing invasive species and establishing native bank vegetation.
With a diverse ecosystem of natural vegetation and an established riparian savannah on banks and parkland natural areas, River Park will welcome boaters, an abundance of fish and aquatic wildlife, and birds and other species relying on a reborn Chicago River as a food source. Recognizing the importance of designating property along the waterways for public recreational uses or green space that aids in water quality improvements and stormwater management, the MWRD leases the 30-acre River Park area to the Chicago Park District for a nominal fee.
MWRD aquatic biologists collect and monitor aquatic life through fish surveys. The MWRD conducts fish monitoring periodically at 28 locations throughout its service area, which includes the Chicago, Calumet, and Des Plaines River Systems. They weigh, measure, and inspect fish for disease and other anomalies before releasing the fish back unharmed into the water.
"Since the MWRD began monitoring in 1974, our scientists have seen the number of fish species found in the CAWS rise from 10 to 77, including 60 that have been found in the CAWS since 2000," said Commissioner Mariyana Spyropoulos. "Our work to improve processes has had the projected impact of dramatically improving the area waterways, and the future of the CAWS is bright."
"Since the MWRD began monitoring in 1974, our scientists have seen the number of fish species found in the CAWS rise from 10 to 77, including 60 that have been found in the CAWS since 2000," said Commissioner Mariyana Spyropoulos. "Our work to improve processes has had the projected impact of dramatically improving the area waterways, and the future of the CAWS is bright."
Anglers who catch a fish with an MWRD tag are asked to document it when possible and contact public.affairs@mwrd.org to report it.
Read the article at 
Office of Public Affairs
Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago
MWRD: Recovering Resources, Transforming Water
As a resource for businesses and residents in the Old Town neighborhood, the OTMRA will host several Virtual Industry Meet-Up sessions throughout June. These virtual meetups are a platform for in-depth conversations between businesses, and are open to all merchants in Old Town.

Virtual Industry Meet-Up Schedule:

Professional Service & Hospitality :
Tuesday June 16 at 2 PM
Zoom Link , Meeting ID: 870 2904 1897 
Dial-In: +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)

Please contact Rachel Rubinson ( rrubinson@oldtownchicago.org ) with any questions about Virtual Industry meetups.