Open Streets event closes down State Street

By Lisa Schulz

Seven blocks of State Street will be shut down to vehicle traffic between Lake and Van Buren streets on Oct. 1 to host “Open Streets,” a five-hour festival promoting on-foot exploration of downtown businesses and ways to get active.

The free event, arranged by the Chicago Loop Alliance and the Active Transportation Alliance, runs from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. and doubles as a celebration for the 100th day of the “Go Do Good” campaign, advertised across the South Loop in an effort to increase education and healthy lifestyles.

“It’s pretty unprecedented for State Street to close for an event like this. There’s the Memorial Day Parade and the Thanksgiving Parade, but obviously even pedestrians are kicked off the street for those events,” said Dillon Goodson, CLA project coordinator. “It’ll be interesting to not to have to look both ways before you cross the street.”

The idea was inspired by Bogota, Colombia, where 70 miles of streets are shut down every Sunday to encourage community mingling and healthy recreation, according to Julia Kim, ATA Open Streets manager. Other large cities, such as New York and Paris, have had success with similar events.

In 2008, a two-day bike and run event called “Sunday Parkways” shut down four blocks of streets in Logan Square. Because it was so popular, the event was recreated a year later on eight miles of streets on a single day in Little Village.

“We don’t want this to be a festival or a block party. We want this to be something different and unique,” Goodson said. “The programming we have chosen and designed is specifically intended to wow people and make people healthier while giving them something completely different to do.”

“Open Streets” on State Street will feature events in areas that cater to different age demographics, Goodson said. The part nearest to Lake Street is generally designed for children and families with playgrounds and games. The part nearest to Van Buren Street is aimed at attracting an older audience and the six universities surrounding the area, where there will be a roller disco, a Loop-wide scavenger hunt, yoga and zumba classes, breakdancing instruction and demo, relay races, a mobile skate park with complimentary 7-11 Slurpees and more.

C4Cycling, a Columbia student organization, will be performing tune-ups and brake checks for bicyclists free-of-charge at Pritzker Park, 344 S. State St.

“It’s giving an opportunity to interact with a lot of college students from other colleges, which I think will create some partnerships and some friendly engagement between the colleges,” said Ethan Spotts, ATA director of marketing and communications.

There are plenty of opportunities for leisure as well. “Chill zones” will be available for patrons, which are four sod-covered areas throughout the street. People are invited to read, enjoy food and beverage from surrounding businesses and admire the architecture in the park-like environment, Kim said.

The event is expected to attract more than 10,000 attendees, which is more foot traffic than State Street receives daily, Goodson said.

Pedestrians and vehicles will still be able to pass through Monroe and Madison streets. The organizations have been working closely with the City of Chicago to provide an adequate number of police and security for crowd control and traffic, just as a big event like Lollapalooza would, Goodson said.

Kim said the ATA plans on hosting the event more frequently in the future.

“It’s really a way to turn this space over to [“Go Do Good” contributors] to say ‘thank you for all the work you’ve done and to make the city a better place,’”

Goodson said.