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Spruce Up Wabash, Expand Art Downtown, Loop Business Alliance Says

 The five-year plan unveiled Monday will create "gateways" and tourist destinations in the Loop.
Chicago Loop Alliance Strategic Action Plan
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THE LOOP — More public art — including along a revitalized Wabash Avenue — along with street ambassadors roaming the Loop could greatly spruce up downtown, a business group said Monday.

In a new report, the eight-year-old Chicago Loop Alliance also called for enhancing "gateways" with more art — such as along the Riverwalk and at Millennium Park — and turning underused spots like Pritzker Park into destinations by adding seating and sculptures.

The report offers "a bold new vision of the Chicago Loop as a vibrant global business center and recognized world-class destination,” said CLA Executive Director Michael Edwards.

At its annual meeting last February, Edwards listed reducing panhandling, cleaning up State Street, updating alleys and bringing more public art downtown as priorities for the alliance of downtown business leaders.

The final Strategic Action Plan released Monday has four prongs: one is the newly unveiled Street Team Ambassador program. Two encompass a greater push for public art downtown that centers on an "L"-centric display along Wabash Avenue. The last leg calls for renewing and expanding the CLA's business improvement contract with the city.

In addition to Millennium Park and the Riverwalk, a diagram of the Loop released with the plan identifies 11 other opportunities to create gateways in areas that connect downtown hubs. It identified opportunities near Pritzker Park and the corner of Randolph and Dearborn Streets; it points to the recently unveiled Gateway Public Plaza as an example where so-called "placemaking" was successful.

Other commitments made in the strategic plan include an eye on downtown signage to make sure promotions are "impactful and inspirational," and support for zoning changes that "encourage flexibility in residential unit size and parking requirements to meet market needs."

As it did in February, the Alliance renewed its commitment to meeting Choose Chicago and Mayor Rahm Emanuel's tourism goals.

Ninety percent of the Chicago Loop Alliance's funding comes from the city, which appointed the group as the sole service provider of the downtown Special Service Area (SSA). Business and community leaders in the group pay membership dues, lead fundraisers and secure sponsorships to bolster the organization's budget.

The Strategic Action Plan unveiled Monday outlines a plan to expand the SSA boundaries and adjust the assessment rate for the contract with the city, along with increasing fundraising efforts and seeking government grants for projects.

The full Strategic Action Plan is available on the Chicago Loop Alliance Foundation's website.