Friday morning on Valentine's Day, I attended a meeting of the Chicago Loop Alliance. My first one ever. Breakfast at the Blackstone Hotel. A packed ballroom. And a glitzy lime green colored annual report on each seat--not to mention a small asparagus quiche, two strips of bacon, chocolate croissants, yogurt with blueberry compote and coffee on the table.
These were the people who were seated around me: the head of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; the head of the Gene Siskel Theater; the head of the Auditorium Theater; the head of the Chicago Architecture Foundation; the head of the City's department of cultural affairs and special events.
And this, believe it or not, was just the back of the ballroom.
All the Loop's movers and shakers were there. All the usual downtown suspects. Pam Capitanini, the Alliance secretary and membership chair, who heads up the Italian Village restaurants, conducted a perfunctory business meeting to the letter of the by-laws--but in the spirit of morning fellowship and time efficiency in that she skipped all the committee reports.
There was a lot of talking about planning and advocacy for stakeholders downtown. Loop business owners like Thomas Zoells, who runs Pianoforte at 13th and Michigan were there, and listening attentively to the great state of the Loop. In fact, all the impressive business, cultural, legal and industrial downtown leaders peppered the room. With smiles on.
The very politically connected Lori Healy, who was at one time, among other things, Mayor Daley's Chief of Staff, not to mention head of the 2016 Chicago Olympics Committee, was made a member of the Alliance's Honorary board of directors. Healy said when you get appointed to an honorary board, it's a sure sign you're getting old.
And there were some unlikely attendees, too. Like renowned pianist George LePauw, who runs the fabulously famous and very local annual Beethoven Festival, which last year was presented at Merit School of Music in the West Loop.
Speaking of West Loop, Channel 7's Mark Giangreco MC'd. He shared the fact that he recently gave up living in the West Loop and moved to a beautiful condo with a magnificent view in the South Loop at Roosevelt and Michigan, just a stone's throw from my house, by the way.
I was surprised to learn some of the things the Alliance does to help the 220,000 Loop workers, visitors, residents and students who traverse the landscape every day. Like plantings in the planters. I never realized who did that. They do.
They also have a team of ex-cons from the Safer Foundation that cleans the streets in the Loop. In fact, last year they removed 20 tons of trash and 3,000 graffiti tags. Pretty impressive.
They also have a professional team that roams the streets 16 hours a day, seven days a week assisting at-risk individuals in the Loop streets with quality-of-life issues like finding services to address homelessness and mental health issues.
There was talk of what was accomplished last year in terms of creating, managing and promoting "high-performing urban experiences" that attract people and investment to the Loop. And what will be accomplished this year to make the Loop a more active place, prettier, comfier, more interesting.
There will be more pop-up art, events in the Loop alleys and the "activation" of Pritzker Park at Van Buren and State. It will be the bookend to last year's activation of Gateway to the Loop--a plaza that provided seating, bright colors and good feelings at State and Wacker.
Two parking places at Dearborn and Adams will offer 300 square feet of deck, plantings, chairs and tables.
And there will be rotating chairs and tables that "will appear unexpectedly throughout the Loop complete with flowers, music and art," said the group's pass out materials. The locations will be tweeted out so Loop lovers can follow the tables and chairs around.
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