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Can Pop-Up Events Revitalize Underused Areas of the Loop?

The Chicago Loop Alliance has made its mission to revitalize some of the more underserved places in the Loop, and this summer, the organization has launched a number of placemaking initiatives to get more people interacting with each other in the Loop. Some of spots featured in CLA events include more formal spaces like Pritzker Park, but also some more unusual places like the alley next to the Sullivan Center, and the Chicago Theater alley. The group has also launched a program called #CitySeats, where red tables and chairs are randomly placed throughout the Loop, and the location is announced via Twitter. The chairs and tables only remain at a particular spot for a short period, and then are moved again. We recently caught up with Chicago Loop Alliance Board Chairman Martin Stern to learn more about the organization's placemaking efforts, and what they mean for the Loop.


How have Loop residents responded to the recent placemaking initiatives?

Local residents love them! Those who work in the Loop and don't live here also love them. Programs like our ACTIVATE urban celebrations, The Gateway public plaza on State Street and the Pritzker Park pop-up events provide a chance to experience downtown spaces in ways people never thought possible. With the large student population returning this month, we are looking forward to working with the schools to develop even more creative programming. This ultimately leads to additional growth and economic development, as investors realize the Loop is a high performing, vibrant and unique neighborhood.

How successful was the Pritzker Park ACTIVATE initiative in bringing more attention to the park?

We've had much success with the Pritzker Park activations. Chicago Loop Alliance continues to engage crowds on a weekly basis with food trucks and various pop-up experiences, including dynamic dance and musical performances, yoga classes, plant sales and The Living Loop Performing Arts Festival.

What are a couple of the most underperforming/underutilized spaces in the Loop?

Some of our most successful activations have been in underutilized alleys throughout the Loop—including Couch Place and Benton Place. Each of these monthly ACTIVATE events has drawn thousands of people to enjoy music, art and performances. Pritzker Park is another example of a former underperforming space. It's one of our rare green spaces downtown outside the major lakefront parks. There's a tremendous amount of pedestrian traffic and lunchtime activity in the area near Harold Washington Library – all it needed was a few pop-up programs to make people want to stop and enjoy the space. Getting people to linger in the Loop for these events encourages them to patronize more local businesses and increases the overall vibrancy of the district.

Is the Chicago Loop Alliance currently involved with the city's new Lighting Framework Plan in any capacity?

We are advocating for Wabash Avenue—especially iconic locations like Jewelers Row and the forthcoming Washington/Wabash CTA station—to be a part of the lighting program. Additionally, over the past four months CLA has been meeting with Wabash stakeholders and technical experts to develop ideas for revitalizing Wabash Avenue, including potential new lighting, design, landscaping and programming elements. Transforming Wabash is one of four catalytic initiatives for the Loop outlined in CLA's first Strategic Action Plan, which we released last year.

·Pop-up Art Show Coming to Chicago Theatre Alley Aug. 1 [Curbed Chicago]
·Food Trucks & Live Music Coming Soon To Pritzker Park [Curbed Chicago]