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Union Station Needs More Tenants and Events, Contest Organizers Say

Activate Union Station
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Metropolitan Planning Council

NEAR WEST SIDE — Union Station has some prime real estate sitting vacant, so a Chicago nonprofit hopes a "placemaking" contest will bring in tourists and potential tenants.

For 10 days, the Metropolitan Planning Council wants to give $5,000 to someone with a great event idea that would bring masses to the train station.

The initiative's unofficial motto is "lighter, quicker, cheaper" and represents the kinds of ideas they hope to bring to life, according to Kara Riggio, an MPC associate. The plan envisions dance performances, live music, yoga classes or other programming, but Riggio said they're open to anything that could draw a crowd.

"We're hoping that this contest is sort of a stepping stone where we hope to open up people's eyes in terms of what the space has potential for," she said of the contest titled "Activate Union Station."  

"Our longer-term goal is bringing in more businesses, similar to Union Station in D.C. and Philadelphia, so there's more of a permanency in the activity there."

The prize money's been donated by Fifth Third Bank, whose Union Station location abuts one of three eligible spaces where the contests' two winners will host their events from Aug. 24 to Sept. 2.

The other sites are the Great Hall and the arcade that sits on Canal Street between Jackson and Adams streets.

Winners will be responsible for executing their proposal, though they're also fielding abstract concepts via an online idea box.