It’s a new year and despite the winter season weather, Grant Park saw massive crowds to start off January 2018. For the second year, the downtown park was the rallying point for some 300,000 women and supporters during the March to the Polls. Also in national news, Chicago was named one of 20 finalists in Amazon’s search for a second headquarters. Looking ahead, the 84th Grant Park Music Festival will kick off its 10-week concert season in Millennium Park on June 13 and the Chicago Chopin Foundation will once again present a concert series to activate South Grant Park. This year will also see the last printer leave Printers Row after Palmer Printing sells to developers.
1) 300,000 Women Begin 2018 Women's March in Grant Park
Exceeding last year’s attendance of 250,000 for the historic Chicago march, the 2018 March to the Polls drew an estimated 300,000 to Grant Park. United in their fight for women’s rights and social justice, the gathering organized by Women’s March on Chicago (WMC) was one of several held in Las Vegas, Washington D.C. and cities across the globe. The Chicago rally and march took place Saturday, January 20. Crowds flowed in at the entrance of Congress Parkway and Columbus Drive, assembling near the main stage at Jackson Drive and in front of several screens put up along the way. Video, music and speaking programs were planned throughout the morning before hundreds of thousands proceeded to make their way through downtown to Federal Plaza.
Photo Credit: NBC Chicago
In a city with a storied history of political activism, Grant Park has been common ground for many gatherings advocating for a range of causes, from anti-war to immigration rights, and events including the 2008 presidential election victory rally.
2) Chicago Makes Finals List for Amazon HQ2
On January 18, Seattle-based company Amazon — the largest internet retailer and marketplace in the world — announced the 20 metropolitan areas that are candidates for their second headquarters in North America. Chicago was selected to move to this next phase of the nationwide search process and had submitted 10 potential sites in its formal bid back in October 2017, including two within “the city core” that are both within a mile of Grant Park. Information on recreational opportunities was requested as part of the RFP.
The “Downtown Gateway District” includes significant space in Willis Tower, a renovated Old Post Office and new development at Union Station, while “City Center Campus” proposes the
redevelopment of the James R. Thompson Center and nearby land. Further south along the Chicago River at Roosevelt Road (and near Grant Park’s Museum Campus), the largest undeveloped parcel of land in downtown Chicago is another prospective site known as “The 78”.
In selecting a location for Amazon HQ2, the company expects to invest over $5 billion and bring an estimated 50,000 jobs, which would in turn spur more job creation and investment in the surrounding community. Amazon initially reviewed 238 proposals from across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. In the coming months, further evaluation will continue and a final site selection is expected in 2018.
3) Grant Park Music Festival Announces 2018 Lineup
Grant Park Music Festival, featuring 10 weeks of classical music by the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus, brings free concerts to downtown Chicago from June 13 – August 18, 2018. The 84th festival is an annual summer tradition held at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park and drew an overall attendance of 311,000 last year.
Chicago Tribune columnist and classical music critic John von Rhein previewed the upcoming season, as well as highlighted the financial growth the organization saw last year. As a major cultural draw to the downtown lakefront park, he noted that “the festival has long made it a point of pride that it is among the very few remaining U.S. classical music festivals that receive municipal sponsorship.” An agreement between the Chicago Park District and Grant Park Orchestral Association guarantees a contribution each year of nearly $3 million toward the festival’s operating budget through 2025. Emphasizing their fundraising efforts and increases in membership paves the way for continued artistic success and free programming for the many festival attendees.
Grant Park Music Festival memberships are on sale now with various concert packages and benefits such as priority reserved seating and area dining and parking discounts.
4) Chicago Chopin Foundation Concert Series in the Works
Drawing more people to the park through music is the non-profit group, Chicago Chopin Foundation. Together with the Grant Park Conservancy (GPC), supporters of the foundation — which include the greater Polish community and classical music lovers alike — have been hosting outdoor concerts in Grant Park since 2014. Weekend performances have brought classically-trained pianists from around the world. A spring/summer concert series is once again planned for this year; stay tuned for details on 2018 dates and times.
Activating various areas of the park and gardens through cultural programming has been a priority GPC and the area at 11th Street and Michigan Avenue is under development as the Chopin Garden. Here its namesake, legendary pianist and composer Frédéric Chopin, will be honored with a monument (a replica of the bronze statue that stands in Warsaw, Poland) and the serene garden landscaping will be the setting for regular live music concerts.
5) Last Printer on Printers Row is Moving Out of South Loop
The sale of Palmer Printing (739 S. Clark Street) marks the end of an era for the company and for Chicago’s printing industry, which has had a presence in the South Loop since the 1880s, reports Crain’s Chicago Business. The longtime neighborhood business has sold its plant to residential developers CMK. The four-story, 60,000-square-foot building will likely be razed though exact plans have not been disclosed.
This historic area was the hub for printing in the United States a century ago, serviced by the many rail yards that radiated from around the downtown. Printers Row, or officially Printing House Row District, is a designated Chicago Landmark area. Conversion of printing centers such as the Donohue Building into loft-style apartments started in the last few decades, drawing tenants with their prime location near lakefront amenities such as Grant Park and the Central Business District.
Find more neighborhood news, upcoming events and volunteer opportunities through the Grant Park Conservancy at grantparkconservancy.com, and consider making a donation to support our efforts in the new year.