Thursday, February 2, 2012

City Wants Public's Input On Arts, Culture

Check out today's Sun-Times for a great story on how the city is developing a new cultural plan for the first time in 26 years and guess what is being touted again? Uptown!

"For the first time in 26 years, Chicago is drafting a new cultural plan that’s expected to flesh out Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s dream of an Uptown Music district and the “cultural hubs” touted in his transition plan."

and "Look at Uptown, where there is potential for that with the theaters, bars and restaurants. What if the city could facilitate more parking, improve CTA stations, bring in hotels or help renovate the Uptown Theater as a better anchor for the community. When the city uses its resources to support what’s happening, you can get a really powerful cultural hub.”

Sounds good to us. You can visit the Chicago Cultural Plan 2012 website and submit your ideas for Uptown. There is also a Facebook page you can "like." We know you all have ideas and a vision for Uptown and now is the time to let the mayor's office hear about it.


  1. You find any complaints from me here, any attention is good attention.

  2. Why more parking? There should be more than enough people who can reach Uptown Via transit.

  3. I think part of the idea is that Uptown should become a destination for people who come from The City but also from outside of it. Pulling people from the suburbs or from out of state is going to require more parking.

    Going back a number of years three things that almost always came up with studies to grow Uptown were, More retail, a better CTA station and more parking. The Truman garage certainly does help when people are allowed to use it.

  4. Andy, I symptathize with your post but the reality is that if you want to be a destination for the city much less the city and suburbs, you need to have parking. Outside red/brown line hoods, it isn't that easy to get here via public transit.

    A large parking facility, ideally with a ground level commercial as to not kill the urban fabric, is a crucial component to making this work.

    I'll add that the immediate area could also use a couple smaller venues to attract more local acts.

  5. Andy -- but they don't take public transportation. They drive.

    Just try to find parking anywhere near the Aragon or Riviera on a concert night. You can't. Despite the fact there's a 24-hour bus line on Lawrence, and despite the fact that there's an el station right there, people do and will continue to drive to Uptown.

    That's just human nature, and limiting the number of parking options for them will not stop that. It will just make it damn near impossible for any Uptown resident to find parking on our residential streets, or it will limit the number of patrons who come to Uptown venues because there's no parking.

    Why punish the residents or the venues? Parking is needed, because people drive, no matter what they "should" do. In reality, they drive.

  6. Bring in the Burbians!!!!
    I would love it if Uptown sold out.
    I dont think it would ever be like Navy Pier. But hey, outside people coming to spend money would be great.

    Some Parking is a necessary evil.
    Actually it would make things more congested, thereby encouraging more public transportation.

  7. Wouldn't it be possible to turn the parking lot just west of the Aragon into a parking ramp? Or the one just SE of the Aragon for that matter?

  8. Seems like most are on the same page re: cars, they and congestion are realities of and destination. I just hope any future parking garages make best use of the sites and have retail/commercial space at ground level.

    There are a few decent candidate locations but unfortunately that vicinity is still paying a high price for the suburbinization of years past with the massive strip mall just north and a friggin tire/lube job joint smack dab in the middle of your entertainment meca.

  9. Additional parking is a must. I do not have a parking space or a garage, so if I happen to go somewhere on a concert night, when I come back, I end up either parking six blocks away or driving in circles for 30 minutes. Lots of neighborhoods have permit parking on their streets. What are the pros and cons of establishing those in Sheridan Park close to the Entertainment District such as on Magnolia, Malden, Beacon etc.?

  10. If there has to be a parking lot of multiple stories I agree that one at that ugly parking lot by the aragon would be a good location. However any multiple tiered parking lot SHOULD have retail at the ground level as well.

  11. Oakland, CA also has a neighborhood called Uptown. Not too far from Berkeley or San Francisco, on the BART, and in possession of a couple historic theaters (the Fox and the Paramount), it seemed like a natural entertainment district. But until a few years ago it was run down and sleepy, and the Fox had been closed for decades. Thanks in part to then-mayor Jerry Brown's personal interest in the project, Oakland's redevelopment agency managed to bring the Fox back to life and (crucially) spur on a number of nearby smaller music venues, bars, and restaurants. The whole project took a ton of vision, money, and effort, but it worked. Uptown Oakland is a destination again, for the first time since the '60s.

    Translate Berkeley to Evanston, San Francisco to the north side, Jerry Brown to Rahm, BART to the Red Line, and the redevelopment agency to TIFs. And note that Uptown Oakland in the '90s makes Uptown Chicago in 2012 look like the Gold Coast.

    The lessons from Oakland are: expect everything to cost more and take longer than you're promised. Expect to have to use public funds in partnership with private entities. The Uptown Theater is the centerpiece, but don't forget about small venues, bars, etc. And most of all, yes, it can work.

  12. there used to be a multi story parking lot on Lawrence between the tracks and the "Uptown Lounge".

    It would be nice to see that re-developed as a parking lot with a twist.

    Buy-out the "Just Tires", demolish it. Develop a multi-story parking garage with retail spaces on Lawrence and Broadway street level. Alek is right about that

    By going wrap around the garage would serve all three theaters nicely. A little trivia...supposedly the construction of the garage was what collapsed the infamous prohibition tunnel between the Aragon and the Uptown/Green Mill Gardens.

    On another note...this has to be about more then just venues and bringing in suburbanites, if we double the concert traffic it will only be a pain in the you know what for the residents of Uptown (us)...we need broader plan.

    What will attract visitors other times in the day, concerts happen between 7-10pm? Don't answer just think about it.

    Its good to see the city soliciting feedback and responding.

  13. It would be nice to see the Aeon parking garage with nearly 600 parking spaces just north of Argyle used. We do need more parking if the Uptown is rehabbed and utilized, however, it needs to be attractive and blend in with the neighborhood. Yes you have the lots behind the Uptown Theatre, the lot by Uptown Lounge and the lot at the corner of Lawrence and Winthrop and behind the Chase bank at the same intersection, but the people who own condos and homes by those lots need any parking structure to be designed well and be attractive in order not to drop their property values any more than the have (no one wants to live next to or across from and ugly parking structure).

  14. I'm curious how come nobody has brought up the idea of underground parking? And since we're all thinking on a grand scale, one can easily imagine those prohibition era tunnels morphing into an underground mall. Yes, I said it, MALL! That's called year round income for the community. It could happen!

  15. @Al, given the crazy costs of the most crucial part of the puzzle - the uptown theatre and the likelihood that the entire project is going to be nutty expensive, something like underground parking wich is multiples more expensive than a garage is probably asking too much.

    Garages can be done nicely and having the first floor or so go to retail goes a long towards preserving the urban fabric.

  16. I'm with Al about Chicago's potential for an underground city. The loop's pedway system would be a natural, but they are struggling to find the vision for that idea just yet.

    Montreal has a great underground city, and I believe Toronto does, too. With Canadian weather, however, it probably makes the politics required to build an underground city much easier.

    What I'd like to see in Uptown is a huge digital movieplex built across the street from the Uptown Theatre. (where Just Tires and Demera are now - both are relocatable) A tunnel connecting the movieplex and the Uptown Theatre might make the Uptown Theatre viable as a multi-use project.

    Jam or the city could rent the Uptown Theatre to the movieplex company for first-run movies on a monster digital screen, and still keep the Uptown Theatre for use as a concert venue and maybe even a multi-use public facility ala the Kodak Theater in LA.

  17. Thanks for getting the word out!

  18. @FFF Unfortunately, estimates for renovation for the Uptown Theatre are around $70 mil. If/when funding is secured, its going to time (years)before the Uptown can be turned back into a viable venue.

  19. Chi Cultural Plan is having their event at Senn tomorrow evening at 6pm.

    You have to reserve a seat, can be done at this link.

    There still are 90 seats left last time I checked, they are having one tonight at my old school Columbia so I'm hitting that one....Cheers!

  20. I just got out of the Cultural Plan Chicago 2012 Town Hall at Columbia College a few moments ago.

    I strongly urge all in Uptown with an interest in the cultural development of out neighborhood to attend the next one at Senn tomorrow.

    UU please promote it.

    The room was filled with 300 RSVP guests who consisted primarily of, arts organization leaders, educators, patrons, artists, students and one Alderman.

    It was a great format and in a nutshell, we listened, we broke off into groups, we discussed then we shared.

    So many of the ideas I've been rambling on about in this blog and elsewhere were repeated and many many others.

    This is a process to develop the first cultural plan for Chicago since 1986 when Harold Washington was Mayor.

    Daley never did it, Daley ignored Uptown. Uptown please do not ignore this process.

    There were presentation boards too, I photographed them and will post them up but they are not the core of the discussion as in the RPM open house recently...please attend the Town Hall tomorrow.

    It is important, culture is intentional, it doesn't just happen "organically" as some have said here, or as Irishpirate says "the art stuff will follow", our culture will be the sum of our passion and intentions.

    Good night neighbors.....