ChicagoDowntown / Loop

Is the West Loop there yet?

by Joe Zekas on 6/26/12

Five years ago we took an in-depth look at the West Loop and ended with the suggestion that it had a ways to go before becoming a pedestrian-friendly urban neighborhood.

The pedestrian experience is at the core of what defines urban life. If you live where you can leave your house to have a pair of shoes fixed or buy some toothpaste or get a bagel and a cup of coffee without having to get in a car, you live in an urban place (or a hotel, but you get the idea). And lack of the pedestrian experience is what most people complain about in the West Loop.

Which isn’t to say that there isn’t any pedestrian experience, it’s just more limited than what you might expect in the heart of the city.
….
Maybe the West Loop is never going to be Lincoln Park or Lake View or Bucktown – and maybe that’s OK. Jeff Payne sums it up. “The neighborhood is fascinating. It has a little bit of almost everything. The days when you could call yourself a pioneer may be gone,” he says, “but as the density increases, it’s just getting better and better.

“I think we’re about 50 percent there.”

How much progress has the West Loop seen in the last 5 years?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Justin June 26, 2012 at 10:02 AM

The real shame is that a lot of the progress that could have happened in the West Loop has been stymied by over-zealous, self-righteous Nimbys. Madison Street from the Loop all the way to the United Center could be one of the city’s best strips, but the development needed to support it has been constantly watered down by the a-holes in WLCO.

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David June 27, 2012 at 12:21 PM

The West Loop is certainly improving. I don’t know if I’d say it’s completely “there” yet, but that’s partially because I know what is still yet to come in the near future. As far as the pedestrian experience goes, it’s much better than it was 5 years ago and getting better. There are a ton of walkable options for groceries and retail, at least in the eastern portion of the neighborhood. The Wal-Mart, new Morgan stop, the upcoming Mariano’s, River Point, St. Pat’s Tower, and the numerous restaurants and other businesses opening all over the neighborhood are great additions.

I’m all for growing the density of the neighborhood, and I think WLCO should stop opposing highrise projects. Maybe when all the surface parking lots are gone it will finally be safe to call the West Loop “there”.

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Patrick July 2, 2012 at 11:29 AM

I’ve lived here for almost 4 years – several as a renter and one as a homeowner, now.

WL does seem to be improving – there were many good things about it to begin with, especially at the east end of WL. The walkability and bike-a-bility (is that a word?) to the Loop and to work is a huge factor. And the stores mentioned in David’s list (plus the coming Target and the expansion of options on Fulton Market) is definitely making things better.

I don’t want WL to be all three story buildings, nor tall towers – I think a mixture of dense development and more mixed-level buildings would be great. And I’d love to see some investment in the west end (near Ashland).

What I still miss for the most part in WL that exists in Lincoln Park, Andersonville, etc is small business and places to go. A big indoor social space would be great – larger than existing coffeehouses. The existing retail seems to be very limited (and overrun by dry cleaners and nail salons). Something like a bakery (full service) would be nice.

David: I agree that surface lots should go but I also would hope for planning for a parkade or some sort of parking garage to support additional traffic from businesses on Randolph or Madison. In my fantasy, it would be something nice…a few stories and maybe a green roof or a park on the rooftop.

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David July 3, 2012 at 8:55 AM

When I say I want to see the surface lots gone, I still want to see their capacity replaced by parking garages (one or multiple). The West Loop needs to remain car-friendly to stay competitive. It is probably the most accessible neighborhood in Chicago via highways and it would be silly to choke that growth by removing parking options.

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Joe Zekas July 2, 2012 at 3:58 PM

Patrick,

Have you checked out Artopolis, on Halsted?

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