DOWNTOWN — A year's worth of changes in Chicago can be felt in each of the city's neighborhoods, but as the face of the city — with Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office, North America's second-tallest building and Chicago's front yard on our turf — big news in the heart of the city impacts residents and visitors alike.
So it's no wonder that much of Downtown's big news in 2013 was big news for the city as a whole. Here's what captured Chicago's attention, from big stories that brought the city together to on-the-street stories that energized residents and made the central business district feel so much smaller.
1. Prentice Comes Down: After months of back-and-forth between preservationists and Northwestern University, demolition began in October on Bertrand Goldberg's Prentice Women's Hospital. Last month, Northwestern released renderings of the three designs being considered to replace the building and displayed 3D models to the community, but the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents pushed back, saying the designs "fell short of the goal of being a signature look that would represent Northwestern's research facilities as world class" and asking them to return to the drawing board. The final decision is up to the school's Board of Trustees, and construction's set to begin on the new tower in early 2015.
2. Protected Bike Lanes Come to the Loop: The first stretch of barrier-protected bike lanes came to Dearborn Street at the end of 2012, but in 2013 the city and activists made Loop amenities for cyclists a priority. Milwaukee Avenue's paths, installed in June, debuted a passing lane and bike traffic signals. More ambitious projects now in the works include a bike lane buffered from traffic by bus stations and a two-way bike lane on Roosevelt Road that separates cyclists from cars with a line of trees. Oh, and that Dearborn Street lane was named the best protected bike path in the country.
3.Northerly Island Mud Pit: As the summer of 2013 drew nearer, concert fans snapped up tens of thousands of tickets for big-name headliners booked at Northerly Island FirstMerit Bank Pavilion's new two acres of expanded lawn seating. But heavy rains and and strong winds forced season opener Dispatch to move their show to a smaller venue at UIC, and add an additional, free show for ticketholders. Weeks later, a much-anticipated Jimmy Buffet concert was "awful," fans said. "Lawn was a mud swamp," one concert-goer reported. Free tickets were issued to irked Parrotheads, but a month later, LiveNation contended with a new crop of complaints after cutting off a Backstreet Boys' encore.
4. Eataly Opens in River North: In what may have been the most hotly-anticipated grocery store opening of Chicago history, high-end Italian mega-grocery store Eataly opened in River North at the tail of 2013 after months of build-up. Foodies flocked to the outpost's pasta, wine, meat and cheese aisles and restaurants came out in such great numbers that the shop had to close after its first weekend to restock its decimated shelves.
5. Two New Schools Being Built Downtown: In the Loop, GEMS World Academy broke ground this year to build a two-building, K-12 private school program that will have the highest tuition in the city when it opens next fall. And despite months of opposition from South Loop residents fighting for the park they were promised behind the Roosevelt Collection, plans are moving forward to build a British School campus on the site, with a rooftop park that's open to the public and shared greenspace on the lot. In other Downtown school news, Ogden International School finally chose a new principal in December after months of interviewing candidates with a retired administrator at the helm. Former Principal Kenneth Staral was "reassigned," then resigned over the summer amid a CPS investigation into a "personnel issue" that was never explained by the district.
With two new schools coming Downtown and a host of residential towers in the works, the Loop and surrounding neighborhoods are bracing for a possible influx of new neighbors — and hoping they'll have the good sense to pick up after their dogs.