Police closed off North Michigan Avenue for more than an hour this morning while a Bomb and Arson officer in a blast suit dismantled a suspicious object attached to a flagpole along North Michigan Avenue.
The object -- a 6-inch-long piece of steel rebar and a large metal spring wrapped in black cloth -- was taped to a pole off the plaza between the Wrigley Building at 410 N. Michigan Ave. and the Walgreens at 430 N. Michigan Ave., police said.
The officer dismantled the object after a robot was first deployed. The officer spread out the black cloth and removed and inspected the rebar and spring. He then stood up, raised his mask and gave a thumbs up shortly before 11:30 a.m.
No electronics or explosives were detected, police said, and there was no note or threat attached. On the flagpole next to the object was the word “Israel,” apparently scrawled in grease. But it was not clear if it was already there or had anything to do with the object, police said.
“I think it’s just some nut, I think it’s just a prank,” one official said.
Two women said they called 911 while they were taking a smoke break in the plaza around 10 a.m. and noticed the object taped to the pole.
“We talked about it for a few minutes and decided there was something unusual about it and we called 911,’’ said one woman, who didn't want her name used. “It looked like a stuffed animal,’’ she said. “It was black.”
Authorities spoke to both women throughout the morning and let them go back to work around 12:45 p.m. “It (the smoke break) was much longer than we expected,’’ she said.
Lenora Hope was upstairs working at the National Association of Realtors at 430 N. Michigan Ave. when employees got the word about 10:50 a.m. that they could not leave their building. “It freaked everyone out,’’ Hope said. “They told us it was a bomb scare.’’
Firefighters went to their office and told staffers to stay away from the windows. Hope said they finally were allowed out of the building when the street was opened back up to pedestrians.
The manager at the Walgreens, who asked not to be named, said police had him evacuate about 25 customers from the store. "I emptied my store voluntarily at first," but then police asked him to have everyone leave the store, the manager said.
Traffic was blocked in both directions of Michigan Avenue from Wacker Drive north to Ohio Street, including Lower Michigan. No people were allowed into offices. And pedestrians were allowed to cross the DuSable Bridge over the Chicago River only on the east side of the bridge.
The CTA's No. 3, 146, 147 and 151 Sheridan buses were rerouted around the area.
Yellow tape closed off the plaza from the Walgreens to the Wrigley Building. Around 10:30 a.m., police widened the taped-off area north to Illinois Street. The robot was deployed just before 11 a.m. and the object was taken apart around 11:25 a.m.
Police began reopening North Michigan Avenue to traffic around noon.This is the second time in two days that traffic has been disrupted on Michigan Avenue because of a suspicious package.
Late Monday morning, the Michigan Avenue bridge was closed to pedestrians for about an hour while police and fire officials investigated a bottle of pink liquid on the riverwalk below. The bridge was reopened and the area cleared around 1:10 p.m. after officials determined it was apparently drain cleaner.
Police said they did not believe the two incidents were related.