I went down to the Loop yesterday for a meeting. I got there a little early, so I walked around a bit. Despite working nearby in River North, the other half of Chicago’s bisected downtown, I rarely make it to the Loop. Because, well, I never have much reason.
The Loop is Chicago’s center, its heart, its business and transportation hub. If you picture “Chicago” in your mind, you’re probably picturing the Loop. El trains. The Willis (nee Sears) Tower. Skyscrapers galore. State Street Mall. Marshall Fields. Buckingham Fountain. The Chicago River. Grant Park. It’s all there. It’s big, it’s epic, it’s the only place in the US that comes close to matching midtown Manhattan’s vertigo-inducing maze of concrete canyons. It’s… a ghost town.
After 7 pm, that is, on weeknights. It’s worse on the weekends, when almost nothing is open. As any Chicagoan will tell you, the action is elsewhere. You want clubs, bars, restaurants, festivals? Try Lakeview, Wicker Park, Bucktown, Pilsen, Andersonville, Ukrainian Village, Hyde Park, anywhere other than the Loop. The Loop is dead. Half of Chicago works there, but then leaves as soon as the sun begins to set.
This can get really frustrating if you somehow find yourself in the Loop after dark. Not because it’s dangerous; I’m pretty sure even muggers vacate the Loop after sundown, because who would they rob? No, the Loop sucks at night because you’d have any easier time finding food or drinks in that asteroid-that-was-actually-a-giant-worm in Empire Strikes Back.
Back in March, Ayako and I went to see The Marriage of Figaro at the Lyric Opera in the Loop and had to eat when we got home to her place in Lakeview, because, I am not kidding, there are no open restaurants near the skyscraper-sized opera house in the middle of the 3rd largest city in the United States.
I sometimes dream of opening a 24-hr. Taco Bell a block from the Lyric Opera. I would be a millionaire in months. I could sit back and watch night after night as hordes of people in formal gowns and tuxedos gorged themselves on Baja chalupas.
But nobody does this, because the Loop scares people. Maybe it’s weird zoning laws or property taxes. Maybe it’s simple reputation. Mostly, I suspect, it’s because almost nobody lives there. People commute in, work, and then jump on the El as soon as the steam whistle blows (or whatever).
Whatever the reason, it’s a shame. Because the Loop really is awesome.
It really is stunning and beautiful, and full of architectural marvels like the Chicago Temple, the Board of Trade, the Willis Tower, the Cultural Center, etc. Hell, there’s a giant Picasso sculpture just sitting out in the open.
I want to start a movement. I want to get more people to move to the Loop. If more people live there, more bars, restaurants, and clubs will open (ones that will actually stay open past 7 pm and will also be open on, gasp!, weekends).
So, let’s do this, people. Move to the Loop. Make it happen. Make it happenin’. Make Chicago’s heart actually beat.
I’d do it myself, but y’know, we just moved to Bucktown and we really like it. It has 24 hr. taco stands, just like the opera house of my dreams.