||(Left) Wabash Avenue and adjacent streets would be organized into districts in a proposal by the Chicago Loop Alliance. (Click on images to view larger versions.)
3-Mar-15 Splitting Wabash Avenue into functional districts and lighting it up with multi-color LEDs are part of the Chicago Loop Alliances final recommendations of what to do about the historic but under-performing thoroughfare.
Over the past year, the nonprofit organization, working to make the Loop a better place, has heard from more than 100 business, civic, and cultural leaders. The goals of its recommendations are to promote and strengthen Wabash Avenue, making it more economically competitive.
Despite its rich history, eclectic mix of businesses, and a growing residential population, rents on Wabash are lower than on Michigan Avenue and State Street. CLA blames this on the L, which it says makes Wabash loud, dark, and marked with pigeon droppings.
From Wacker Drive south to Congress Parkway, that would all change, as Wabash Avenue would be made cleaner, safer, and easier to navigate, with signs pointing to key cultural attractions.
Wabash would be organized into districts hotel and night life, to promote a concentration of hotels on the north end, a retail district that would include Jewelers Row, a district that makes things, a district of higher education, and Adams Street, which would be promoted as Art Street.
One of the most popular of its recommendations, says CLA, is the Wabash Lights proposal that would install thousands of programmable LED tubes on the underside of the L tracks. The three men behind this idea Jack Newell, Seth Unger, and Justin Wardell have developed a prototype and are currently trying to raise money.
(Above) Rendering of a lighting sculpture under the L tracks along a stretch of Wabash Avenue.
One idea is to empower the general public, by going to a website, to configure the Wabash Lights, changing how the lights appear as far as colors and patterns.
The lights would first be installed from Adams Street north to Monroe Street but eventually along the entire length of the L over Wabash Avenue.
CLA says it is currently talking with prospective partners about raising money and working out details.