Kapos: Neighbors’ beef with the MCA

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What would Mies say?

Residents whose high-rise homes overlook the Museum of Contemporary Art worry the museum’s soon-to-be-opened restaurant will affect their views and add unwanted noise and odors to their idyllic Streeterville neighborhood.

Marisol, as the restaurant is called, will be on the ground floor within the museum but kitchen-related equipment has been added to the once-sleek roof. A large refrigeration compressor and a ventilator (to pull smells up and out of the building) have been placed next to three cellphone towers.

It’s all in full view of the surrounding high-rise neighbors, and they don’t like it.

“It looks like an industrial zone,” said Karen Burnett, a retired marketing executive who lives on Pearson Street overlooking the museum. “I would have expected the people at the MCA to be arbiters of elegance and good taste and yet they’ve done this to the roof.”

The four-story MCA was built in 1996 on the site of a former National Guard Armory between Michigan Avenue and the lake. Its modern design is said to reference Mies van der Rohe, the famed architect who lived in Burnett’s building for many years.

A large refrigeration compressor and a ventilator have been added to the MCA's roof for the soon-to-open restaurant.

A large refrigeration compressor and a ventilator have been added to the MCA’s roof for the soon-to-open restaurant. | Shia Kapos/Sun-Times

Nearby residents who lived there when the museum was built say they remember getting assurances the museum roof would be aesthetically pleasing.

Neighbors I talked to support the museum and look forward to a new restaurant. They just don’t want a visual (or smelly) blight. And they’re turning up their noses to noise they expect will come from Marisol’s late-night operating hours.

“It’s piling on,” Burnett said.

And then there are property values.

“I look at (the condo) as an asset. For them to erode our investments all along this street is unconscionable,” said Barbara Champion, a retired marketing research consultant.

MCA didn’t return my calls or emails. In an April 12 letter it told neighbors it’s working with architects and designers on “a feasible solution for the aesthetics of the rooftop which we believe will take approximately two months.” Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) also is involved in discussions.

With Marisol set to open in June, residents worry it will be too late to move equipment or accommodate their concerns.

The new restaurant, which replaces a smaller cafe, is part of a $16 million renovation MCA hopes will attract a wider audience.

Marisol will look out toward Seneca Park, which is also being renovated and has drawn criticism from residents over safety issues.

The restaurant takes its name from Marisol Escobar, the late avant-garde French/Venezuelan artist. Its interior will showcase a mural by painter Chris Ofili, who made headlines in 2015 when his painting “The Holy Virgin Mary,” made in part with elephant dung, sold for $4.6 million.

Drama in the ballroom

While the Ounce of Prevention fundraising lunch ran smoothly the other day, it was still a ballroom full of drama.

Diana Rauner and Gov. Bruce Rauner

Diana Rauner and Gov. Bruce Rauner | Sun-Times file photo

The nonprofit is headed by Diana Rauner, wife of Gov. Bruce Rauner, who also attended. The luncheon was held on the heels of the governor opposing an abortion-rights bill. There was buzz about his seeming change of view on the issue and some expected protesters to show up. But not a placard was to be found.

More interesting was watching the governor work the ballroom at the Hilton Chicago without talking to Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The two lawmakers have butted heads over the budget impasse and how it affects schools.

The budget impasse also affects Ounce.

So it was interesting when Diana Rauner told the crowd that the Ounce and other social-service agencies “continue to be challenged by the state’s fiscal crisis.”

Other big names at the event: philanthropists Renee and Lester Crown, co-chairs Steven Crown (Henry Crown & Co.) and his wife, Nancy; LaSalle Network CEO Tom Gimbel; art collectors Larry and Marilyn Fields; and tech entrepreneur Mark Tebbe and Magellan Development’s Robin Loewenberg Tebbe.

Chewing the fat

Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Sen. Elizabeth Warren | AP file photo

Mayor Rahm Emanuel was much chattier with Elizabeth Warren, who visited over the weekend.

The Massachusetts senator was in Chicago promoting her new book and met the mayor for granola at Cafe Selmarie.

The two know each other through Democratic circles and reportedly have met before to talk about national politics.

Bright Pink’s real deal

Bright Pink, which works to educate women about breast and ovarian cancer, has hired Katie Thiede, as its new CEO.

Katie Thiede, the new CEO of Bright Pink

Katie Thiede, the new CEO of Bright Pink | Photo by Jasmin Shah

She replaces Bright Pink founder and current CEO Lindsay Avner, who becomes board chairman of the organization.

Thiede starts May 8. She was vice president of development at Planned Parenthood of Illinois.

Avner tells me she was impressed by Thiede’s work at Planned Parenthood, particularly tripling fundraising to about $12 million during her four years there.

“She’s young and has an incredible spirit and tenaciousness,” Avner says of Thiede. “She’s the real deal.”

Read more Taking Names at shiakapos.com.


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