Today’s Chicago Tribune has about as wrong-headed and off-the-wall take on a neighborhood’s development as I’ve seen in over three decades of following Chicago media.
The story’s weird thesis is that Oprah Winfrey and her Harpo Studios are responsible for the blossoming of the West Loop. Seriously?
The more accurate take is that Oprah had little, if anything to do with the neighborhood’s rise.
The Harpo Studios site hosted TV and movie productions, and drew regular crowds, long before Ms Winfrey arrived on the scene. Just a week ago I chatted with the owner of a long-tenured (over 50 years) business across the street who scoffs at the notion that Oprah’s presence benefitted the area or that her departure will have much impact on it.
The prime players who really made the West Loop happen go by the names of Lewis and Annie Kostiner. You can meet Lewis in the above video, talking about his home at Superior 110.
Lewis and Annie’s Annie Properties developed 13 whimsically innovative West Loop loft buildings aggregating 1.3 million square feet of mixed-use development. Annie Properties brought 1,000s of tenants and 100s of businesses to the area, including West Loop staples like Starbucks, Johnny’s Ice House and Wishbone, to name a few. The success of their developments attracted a number of large loft condo projects to the area.
Lewis Kostiner, among his other accomplishments, is a talented photographer. We’ve talked off and on about combining his striking and gritty shots of the West Loop as it was with a video tour of the West Loop as it now is.
Lest anyone think I’m writing this simply to grind an axe for a former advertiser, I ought to note that Lewis is the only advertiser who ever sued me over something I wrote. We’ve obviously moved past that, as you can see in my earlier post touching on his role in the West Loop and in the video.