Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Future of 18th Street

In honor of the 100th year anniversary of Daniel Burnham's plan for Chicago, the city and various architects/visionaries have created an exhibit called "Big. Bold. Visionary. Chicago Considers the Next Century." The exhibit, which is located at 72 E. Randolph and runs from Sept 4th - Oct 11th, displays a wide variety of unique plans . Many seem reasonable and attainable, but most are pie in the sky ideas (which is fine...just not very practical).

A lot of the ideas revolve around the lakefront and one in particular addresses an 18th street bridge that connects to Northerly Island and drastically changes the area (see image on the left). This is a concept from Keith Campbell at
RTKL Chicago, called 'Peir 2'

The project proposes construction of a new elevated parkway along the South Loop’s eastern edge; the reorganization of Northerly Island to a more natural, park-like state; and completion of the symmetrical intention of the Plan of Chicago through the addition of a second pier in line with 18th Street, extending equidistant into the lake as its northern counterpart, Navy Pier.

We realize that this is a 'vision' and probably won't happen, but it got us thinking, what will 18th street evolve into?

As of today, it's a nice quaint area that has seen tremendous residential development, but still lacks retail and restaurants. However, we feel that this stretch will eventually bloom in these departments. There are many potential dominoes set-up and if pushed over could set off this retail development (i.e. - Olympics, CTA building a stop at 18th). Regardless, in our opinion this will eventually happen, however how soon could be dependent on the 'dominoes' falling.

18th street already has some key attributes that seem ideal to make this a major retail/walking street (think Armitage in Lincoln Park). First off, 18th street already has a walking bridge that connects to Soldier Field. Although this currently isn't very impressive, if money was invested it could be much better. People come to Soldier Field for a lot of events (not just Bears games) so having bars, restaurants, shops, etc seems like a natural fit.

Second, Prairie Avenue (and the district) is a beautiful and historic area, but under-appreciated since there isn't an easy public transportation option to get to there. Although it's unlikely that people would only make the trip down to check out Prairie Avenue, it serves as a nice attribute that aides to the character of the overall neighborhood.

Finally, Motor Row (aka Michigan Avenue) now has numerous vacant retail spots that are prime for bars, restaurants and shops. There are businesses that are starting to pop up here and there, but there is still a long way to go. However, give it some's already starting to change. Other surrounding streets will also most likely follow suit. However, these might take a little longer. Regardless, we see a lot of potential on 18th street and the surrounding areas.

Maybe we're drinking to much South Loop kool-aid, what do you think?

(Hat Tip: D-Beezy)


Me said...

You forgot to mention that it is insanely safe. The 18th St. police station is right there. When I lived there, police were pretty much regularly all over the place. It was actually nice to see bike cops and the like.

Sloopy said...

Thanks for pointing that out...very true!