Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Walking the SuperLoop

"In many of the largest cities in the most-populous metropolitan areas, downtown populations grew at double-digit rates from 2000 to 2010.

Chicago had the largest numerical increase -- 48,000 -- in its downtown, according to fresh Census Bureau data. The Census defines downtown as an area within 2 miles of city hall.

Haya El Nasser, "Downtowns enjoying robust population growth," USA Today," September 28, 2012.

This growth occurred while Chicago lost 200,000 jobs in the past decade with an up-tick of 8,800 jobs between 2010 and 2011. These factoids caught my eye because I recently spent time walking the SuperLoop surrounding downtown and couldn't help but sense it's a very different place. I've been walking this urban space for over forty years and have watched the demise of public housing, skid rows, old train stations, SROs, workingmen's cafeteria's, factories and warehouses, and old ethnic neighborhoods. This turf was once called the "transition zone" by Ernest Burgess of the Chicago School. Now, its more like the playground for Richard Florida's creative class. In the 1960s Daley the First tore down neighborhoods and built the University of Illinois at Chicago; in the 1970s, the Chicago 21 Committee produced the Chicago 21 plan, which called for rebuilding the SuperLoop, starting with Dearborn Park. Chicago River dreams portend more change, and the same kind of change. And on and on. Hardly natural market forces at work alone.

But, I have to admit, I still like the walks and find much of the old Chicago within my street-level view. It's in the bones, at least for now.

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