james cappleman

Chicago: Reimagining what remains (part one)

Chicago’s Loop, and Lake Shore Drive, have an array of dazzling architecture, and as Chicago residents we can take a great deal of pride in those accomplishments.

From the urban dweller’s view, there’s a lot to like about Chicago: consistent (if imperfect) mass transit, walkability , and an ever growing network of safe space for bicyclists.

It’s a testament to having planning in place, and diligently following those plans.

Daniel Burnham’s plans for Chicago have now been in the rearview mirror for more than a hundred years, but those plans have served the city magnificently. Our miles of open lakefront space – part of the plan – is, in my eyes, the jewel of the city.

But Chicago is not just the Loop, and some of the challenges that face Chicago are as wide and as deep as any facing Detroit, Buffalo and other Rust Belt cities.

The issues of segregation, racial and ethnic divides and centuries of political corruption in Chicago run deep.

For me, there are two buildings I’ve learned about that tell the story of their Chicago neighborhoods. They are symbols of the challenges those neighborhoods face now.

One is the Uptown Theater in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, and the other is the building that housed the now-defunct Brach Candy factory on Chicago’s West Side.

I’ve learned about both of these buildings because my personal story intersected with the story of these neighborhoods.