How to revitalize a downtown area and business district? Michael Edwards in this interview shares how the Chicago Loop Alliance is strengthening and promoting placemaking and economic development in downtown Chicago. Learn how a business improvement district organization works, its challenges - and what's next for Chicago.
Michael, Chicago has benefited from a strong brand for many decades. To your mind, what does the city stand for today? How does it want to be perceived?
Chicago is well-known as “The City that Works” and “The Second City,” and I would say these taglines are still an important part of its brand today. What many people don’t know is that “Second City” doesn’t refer to Chicago being subordinate in any way; it refers to Chicago being rebuilt from the ground up after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Chicago today maintains that spirit of tenacity, innovation, and “no little plans,” as Daniel Burnham famously said.
What’s changing is the kind of work taking place, especially in the Loop and central area. Efforts by the city, organizations like World Business Chicago, tech incubators like 1871, and advocacy groups like Chicago Loop Alliance are bringing Chicago to the forefront of tech and innovation.
Chicago stands for thoughtful reinvention, being on the cutting edge, and working hard to move the city forward.
How has your own view of Chicago changed over the years – especially since you took up the position of President & CEO of the Chicago Loop Alliance, in November 2012?
Initially, I thought it was a really large city, and I was going to have trouble with scale. Come to find out, Chicago is really like a small town. Everybody knows everybody, and everybody is very positive and wants the city to be great. So everybody works together, and that was a surprise.
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