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Chicagos Loop: Then and Now

Chicago’s Loop neighborhood is ripe with history and architectural significance. While the Loop, for the most part, has been predominantly thought of as the city’s financial district, the facelift this neighborhood has undergone over the past decade thoroughly challenges this traditional association. No longer is the Loop made up strictly of office buildings and cultural landmarks like the Art Institute. Rather, the Loop today is bursting with new residential condominiums, restaurants and neighborhood amenities, like parks and gyms, that are typically found in mainly residential areas.

Despite the relatively recent renaissance the Loop has undergone, the Loop’s cultural landmarks remain permanent fixtures of this famous Chicago neighborhood. However, they no longer exclusively define its character. Since they unquestionably still wield significance, though, they are certainly worth noting. Impressive structures like the Art Institute, Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), which is the tallest high rise in North America, the Chicago Cultural Center, the Civic Opera House, the original Marshall Field’s on State St., the Chicago Board of Trade (a National Historic Landmark) and more, have attracted visitors from around the world. Also drawing the attention of visitors from far and wide are the many sculptures scattered throughout the Loop that the city has commissioned by famous sculptors. Artistic masterpieces from artists as well-known as Picasso, Miro and Chagall add interest to the Loop’s make-up.

In addition to many famous buildings and sculptures, the Loop also contains Grant Park, a green area filled with acres over which to relax and enjoy summer concerts, movies in the park, Buckingham Fountain and more. Millennium Park has also recently made its debut in the Loop (2004) and has quick become a popular tourist destination. It’s interesting art installations that regularly change, its famous sculpture, Cloud Gate, which looks like a reflexive Bean, Frank Gehry’s Jay Pritzker Pavillion and its ice-skating rink mean that visitors can be amused for hours on end.

While previous decades would have seen the Loop virtually shut down after the end of the work day, this is no longer the case. Traditionally, a few stragglers who stayed late at work might have been the only sign of life past 6pm and, but for those few, The Loop essentially turned into a ghost town. Not so anymore. Now, people not only work but also live in the Loop. Hot new buildings have been cropping up all over the place so that, now, people can live and work in the same neighborhood. There is no longer a need for the dreaded morning commute, the one which, come rain, sleet or slush, was mandatory. The morning commute that saw you smooshed, sardine-can-style, into the El or the bus (which seemed to take forever to come, especially on the coldest days of the year) is history. That’s because, now, a smattering of sexy, new luxury condominiums, some of which are the hippest in the city, are ripe for the picking.

Hot new developments in the Loop’s New East Side, Printer’s Row and West Gate subsections offer every amenity and are highly sought-after. Aqua, The Chandler, HaberdasherSquare Lofts, The Legacy, Joffrey Tower, The Regatta and more are but some of the many examples of cutting edge style mixed with urban convenience. Also notable is the proximity of the Loop to Lake Michigan, the Chicago River, Michigan Avenue and Grant Park. Really, for the first time in Chicago’s history, denizens now have the option to live in the heart of it all. Not only can they live in the same neighborhood in which they work, but they can also live in the neighborhood that houses the majority of Chicago’s cultural activities, like the Opera, Symphony, Theaters and Museums. In addition to culture, proximity to natural wonders and convenience to work, living in the Loop also affords residents an endless list of trendy bars and restaurants from which to choose for a night out on the town.

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