6 South and West Side grocery stores to be revamped, new COVID strains gain ground and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

SHARE 6 South and West Side grocery stores to be revamped, new COVID strains gain ground and more in your Chicago news roundup
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The closed Save-A-Lot store at 7908 S. Halsted St. in Gresham.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times file

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a five-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be snowy with a high near 36 degrees. Snow mixed with rain is also possible tonight with a low near 32. Snow showers are expected tomorrow with a high near 36.

Top story

Company gets OK for $13.5M city subsidy to buy, revamp 6 South, West side grocery stores

The City Council’s Finance Committee agreed yesterday to give a Black-owned company $13.5 million in city subsidies to purchase and revitalize six shuttered or run-down Save A Lot grocery stores, but only after warning Yellow Banana about the need for some serious “rebranding.”

West Side Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, said the Save A Lot name that will be revived by stores operated by Yellow Banana has been seriously damaged by grocery store closings on the South and West sides.

Ervin said he understands that there “may need to be some connection with Save A Lot,” but he’d like to see the store at 420 S. Pulaski renamed to get the bad taste out of the mouths of local residents who felt betrayed by the company.

“The city is putting a significant investment out here, but at the same time, we want to make sure that people will actually utilize this. And that may be something that may hold people up from doing it. There will be some challenges just based on the name and based on what happened in the community in the past,” Ervin said.

“Sign at least the 420 S. Pulaski store up for a name change or a rebranding of some sort, just to bring a fresher perspective for the community and give them a sense of a restart,” Ervin said.

Michael Nance, a partner in the holding company that owns Yellow Banana, said he and his partners have given “tremendous thought” to the rebranding question.

Nance said he and his partners met last week with Save A Lot executives to discuss the “reputational damage that’s been done,” and they “understand that we may have to change the brand image and the branding on these buildings to get community buy-in.”

The redevelopment agreement advanced Monday authorizes $13.5 million in tax increment financing and other city subsidies to help Yellow Banana buy and transform six shuttered Save A Lot stores at 7908 S. Halsted St. in Auburn Gresham; 420 S. Pulaski Road in West Garfield Park; 10700 S. Halsted St. in Morgan Park; 2858 E. 83rd St. in South Chicago; 7240 S. Stony Island Ave. in South Shore; and 4439 W. 63rd St. in West Lawn.

Deputy Planning and Development Commissioner Tim Jeffries said the six stores are structurally sound but have “significant deferred maintenance issues that, at best, make the stores feel run-down, and at worst, created health and safety issues.”

To justify the city subsidy, all six stores must remain open for “no less than 10 years,” he said.

Fran Spielman has more on Yellow Banana’s efforts here.

More news you need

  1. Before he hit a bus carrying students from St. Ignatius College Prep, the driver of a semi was seen swerving across a highway and traveling more than 90 mph, according to Indiana authorities. Our Sophie Sherry has the new details on the crash, which injured at least 16 members of the school’s junior varsity hockey team, three of them critically.
  2. A federal jury today convicted Donald “Lil’ Don” Lee, identifying him as the head of the Wicked Town street gang and holding him responsible for six murders, marking the end of a two-month racketeering trial. Jurors found that many murders carried out by Wicked Town on the West Side were “committed in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner,” our Jon Seidel reports.
  3. Red swastikas were spray-painted on at least 16 headstones in a Waukegan Jewish cemetery, police said. Officers discovered the vandalism yesterday morning at the Congregation Am Echod Jewish Cemetery at 3050 Grand Ave. in the north suburb.
  4. Mayor Lori Lightfoot today launched the “repopulation phase” of her signature plan to rebuild 10 long-neglected commercial corridors on Chicago’s South and West sides. The plan is to spur “in-fill development” on 5,600 city-owned vacant lots to stop what one city official called “the bleeding of Black and Brown families” leaving Chicago.
  5. Cook County property tax bills were posted online today after months of delays. Payments are due Dec. 30.
  6. New subvariants of COVID-19 now make up nearly half of new cases and appear to be gaining ground, but health experts say the bivalent booster should offer some protection. USA Today’s Adrianna Rodriguez breaks down the latest on the new COVID strains here.
  7. After debuting its outdoor concert space last summer, Salt Shed today announced its first wave of the 2023 concert season for the venue’s new indoor space. Acts like the Flaming Lips, the Roots, Iggy Pop, Tove Lo, and Bikini Kill and more will perform at the complex, located on the former site of the Morton Salt company.

A bright one

Chicago chef Yasmin Gutierrez’s spicy Mexican chocolate cookie recipe

As part of our “Holiday dining at home” series, we asked Chicago-area chefs to share their favorite holiday recipes — the dishes that reflect family traditions that are important to them. 

In one iteration of the new series, we stopped by Beatrix (519 N. Clark St.), and caught up with executive pastry chef Yasmin Gutierrez.

Gutierrez shared her spicy Mexican chocolate cookie with milk chocolate and cayenne recipe

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Yasmin Gutierrez, partner and executive pastry chef at Beatrix, holds a plate of her spicy Mexican chocolate cookies.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

“Growing up, my mom always made hot chocolate and champurrado with Abuelita, a traditional, cinnamon-infused chocolate commonly used in home cooking in Mexico,” Gutierrez said. “I replicated these flavors when creating the Spicy Mexican Chocolate Cookie by using milk chocolate, cinnamon and the addition of cayenne. 

“Each bite reminds me of Mexico.”

It’s a recipe that you can try at home to get you in the holiday spirit and kick of the festive celebrations. 

Find the full recipe and step-by-step instructions here.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

What’s the best song written about Chicago? Tell us why.

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday we asked you: Based on architecture/design, what is your favorite Chicago building?

Here’s what some of you said...

“I can’t pick just one. Aqua Tower— gorgeous, innovative, spectacular in so many ways. Jeanne Gang really raises the bar. Nuveen Building — at first I thought it looked really silly, but after giving it a chance, I love how it feels, how it fits its location. Harold Washington Library — the owls, the owls, the owls (and also its wonderful interplay of both classic and modern elements). And did I mention the owls?” — Michal Brody

“This may be an unpopular answer, but architecturally, I really like how Soldier Field combines the old and the new. Maintaining the historic columns with the modern spaceship-looking glass interior dropped inside creates an interesting juxtaposition. Though I will agree it lacks as a modern-day NFL stadium.” — Alex Weir

“From the majestic lions peering up and down Michigan Ave to Lautrec hanging on the interior, the Art Institute, born of the Columbian Exposition, is spectacular! — Carol Ford

“Chicago’s bungalows. They not only tell the story of the city, but hold the stories of it’s people. Pass, present and future.” — Bernie Biernacki

“Da Sears Tower, brings back many great memories when I was a child.” — Pattie Lopez

“I love the Chicago Athletic Club and the awesome Intercontinental Hotel.” — Joanne Budka-Clines

“The American Furniture Mart. On a clear day, the window in the peak appears to float mid-air — the blue matches the sky so well.” — Rhon Brenza

“I love the way the Chicago Water Tower was left standing after the great Chicago fire. I think to me that's, the most beautiful building in the hold of Chicago.” — Marilyn Lamboy

“The Carbide and Carbon building. It’s a beautiful building with an interesting design story.” — Craig Barner

“I like the Mies van der Rohe IBM Building, because it’s simple yet significant, and the Carbide and Carbon Building because it’s fancy and stands out in a crowd.” — Rachel Shattuck

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition.Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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