There's always something missing in the South Loop during the summer: college kids.
We need them. To perk up the streets, scurry around, solidify our diversity, put bodies in the restaurants, money in the cash registers and pay the rent on the condos of speculators. They also fill up the dorms, the classrooms and the many buildings devoted to college life in the neighborhood. And they produce and circulate a thick college newspaper in news boxes on our streets.
Those neighborhoods have but one college. We have many: Columbia College Chicago, DePaul University's downtown campus, East-West University, Robert Morris University, Roosevelt University, John Marshall Law School, not to mention several trade schools for everything from massage therapy to broadcasting.
Our colleges repurpose warehouses and office buildings and use them for student life of all sorts. Our academia is diffuse. It runs through the 'hood like a meandering river.
Columbia has the most buildings in the neighborhood. (At this point, with the enrollment down, layoffs aplenty and extracurriculars being cut back, probably too many.) And I love that they abide by the old semester system, starting class after Labor Day, using the long weekend to move their stuff in and show their parents where they will be spending their time in the coming months.
That sight always warms my heart.
Some South Loop residents complain that the students treat the neighborhood too much like a college campus. With too much imbibing, too much raucousness, just too much of everything.
But I think they bring life. Safety. Youth. Academic pursuit. The academic pursuit that we see moving about on our tree-lined (and some not so tree-lined) streets filled with lofts, condos, townhouses, apartments and single family homes represents the future. Our next generation of lawyers, accountants, artists, filmmakers, actors, journalists.... They live among us as they begin to hone their skills. And we are welcome to sample their culture.
And so, while I watched young people leaving Target a block from my house a mile a minute over the Labor Day weekend with plastic storage containers, cute little trash cans, table lamps, new sheets and pillowcases and batches of toilet tissue and cleaning agents--in order to set up their first homes away from home--I did get a certain rush.
The kids are back!
And the neighborhood will be complete for the next several months.
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