Axios Chicago

Newsletter branding image

πŸ“° Happy Thursday! Today is National Hug a Newsperson Day. We know some who could use a hug.

πŸŽ‚ Happy birthday to our Axios Chicago member Jennifer Burklow!

Today's newsletter is 927 words β€” a 3.5 minute read.

1 big thing: WBEZ pares staff and podcasts

The Navy Pier studios and offices of Chicago Public Media. Photo: Carrie Shepherd/Axios

Chicago Public Media is phasing out its sister radio station Vocalo and laying off 14 staffers.

Why it matters: The company continues to cut back programming and staff for all of its properties.

Driving the news: The 14 layoffs include Vocalo staff, members of the podcast team and non-newsroom Sun-Times employees.

The big picture: The layoffs come as several media companies are cutting back due to economic uncertainty.

  • WBEZ unveiled plans earlier this year to trim its local talk programming to one hour a day.
  • CPM chief executive Matt Moog announced he was stepping down last December, but he continues to run the organization while the CPM board looks for his successor.

What they're saying: "Monumental decisions like this should not be made when leadership is in flux," WBEZ City Hall reporter Mariah Woelfel said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

Inside the room: In a tense meeting last night, staff grilled Moog about his decision. They also questioned his job status and his $633,000 salary.

Context: Vocalo was created in 2007 as an initiative to bring in younger, diverse Chicago listeners β€” a goalΒ reflected in its talent and guests.

Zoom in: CPM is retaining some Vocalo staff members and shifting them to WBEZ.

  • CPM will continue to produce the current daily podcast versions of its flagship radio show "Reset" and its newsletter "The Rundown," but it's ending the rest, including the award-winning series "Making," the "Curious City" podcast and the popular "Nerdette."

Yes, but: "Curious City" will continue its weekly, shorter version of the podcast broadcast weekly on WBEZ.

What's next: Vocalo will sign off May 1.

2. Green light for affordable housing on LaSalle

LaSalle Street corridor. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

A plan to reimagine areas with empty office space along the LaSalle Street corridor into a mixed-use residential district is moving ahead.

Why it matters: The projects could transform Chicago's financial district and spark an economic restart for the Loop β€” which has struggled to recover from the pandemic.

What they're saying: It's "one of the largest adaptive reuse efforts to move forward within any central business district in the United States," Planning and Development commissioner Ciere Boatright says.

Catch up quick: Former Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the LaSalle Street Reimagined plan late last year, and some had worried it would stall after her departure.

  • But Mayor Brandon Johnson has pushed affordable housing as one of his central policies and is now offering over $150 million in tax increment financing (TIF) to convert four old office buildings into at least partial residences.

By the numbers: The four projects could cost over $500 million. They are intended to create 1,000 housing units across 40 stories.

  • 319 of the units would be set aside for affordable housing.
  • Those would be available to people making an average of 60% of the median Chicago income, or about $53,000 for a household of two.

Zoom in: The projects would be constructed in parts of existing buildings on Monroe and LaSalle streets. They include:

  • 79 W. Monroe: The Bell Federal building would redevelop eight floors into 117 units, with 41 affordable units available. The project would also restore the "Weather Bell" sign.
  • 208 S. LaSalle: The building is the original home of Continental and Commercial National Bank. This redevelopment project would create 226 apartments, 68 affordable.

The intrigue: Two other projects, at 105 W. Adams and 135 N. LaSalle, weren't approved, but Boatright says the city plans more adaptive reuse projects for those historic buildings.

What's next: The four proposals still need approval from the City Council and the Landmarks Commissions.

Go deeper: The other approved sites

3. Tips and hot links: River swim returns

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

πŸŠβ€β™€οΈ A Chicago River open-water swim will return to the city this September after a century's absence. (ABC-7)

🍲 Four Chicago restaurants β€” Lula Cafe, Elske, Esme and Indienne β€” are finalists for James Beard awards. (Axios)

🏎️ The city unveiled this summer's NASCAR traffic plan, which will include a shortened timeline for closings before the July 6-7 event. (NBC-5)

πŸ€ The Illini women's basketball team won the WBIT championship, beating Villanova 71-57 in Indianapolis. (Champaign Room)

4. Chart of the day: ✈️ Fewer airline delays

Share of flights departing on time from ORD
Data: Bureau of Transportation Statistics; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Eighty-five percent of flights out of O'Hare and 76% out of Midway departed on time in December 2023, per the latest Transportation Department data.

The big picture: More than 83% of domestic U.S. flights departed on time in December 2023.

Florida's Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport was the most on-time (89.5%), and Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport was the worst (67.2%).

Sponsored job listings

Your future begins here

πŸ’Ό Check out who's hiring on our Job Board.

  1. Director, Corporate Reputation at Golin.
  2. Sr. Manager of Advertising Sales & Capability at Grubhub.
  3. Director Internal Communications at UL Solutions.

Want more opportunities? Check out our Job Board.

Hiring? Use code FIRST50 for $50 off your first job post.

5. Chicago's eclipse events

360 Chicago is one way to see the solar eclipse from high in the sky. Photo courtesy of 360 Chicago.

From special viewing parties to ice cream flavors, there are many ways to make Monday's solar eclipse special.

Why it matters: The extremely rare event is a chance to turn a regular afternoon into a forever memory.

πŸŒ‡ Viewing events

Adler Planetarium: If you're going to witness a scientific marvel in the sky, the planetarium seems the obvious choice. The outdoor event includes safe solar viewing through telescopes and eclipse photography. (Free)

  • The event begins at 11am, and prime viewing in Chicago will be at 2:07pm.

Museum of Science and Industry is also hosting a viewing with solar telescopes and a live broadcast of the eclipse from Carbondale in southern Illinois, which is in the path of totality. (Free)

  • Event begins at 10am; outdoor telescopes will not be available if it's cloudy.

🍦 Food deals

Intergalactic ice cream: Chicago locations of Jeni's are offering special flavors for the eclipse, including "Nebula Berry" and "Cosmic Bloom."

🍩 Krispy Kreme: The "Total Solar Eclipse Doughnut" is glazed, dipped in black chocolate icing with silver sprinkles and a whole Oreo cookie in the middle.

More events and treats

πŸ›Ό Carrie really wants to roller skate! She could check out this Skate Shindig tonight but needs to go with her buddy Jacoby from City Cast Chicago.

πŸ“» Monica burst into tears while listening to Curious City's story on selective enrollment schools. Bravo to these journalists for capturing the emotions of CPS selective acceptance week.

🀠 Justin has a feeling Beyonce's "Cowboy Carter" is going to top his end-of-year listening lists, and it's only April. He's listened to the album at least 6,000 times already.