The 15 1/2 hour city: Downtown at night | WBEZ
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The 15 1/2 hour city: Downtown at night

(photo by Lee Bey)

The city never sleeps. But it keeps one eye open at night, rather than two--meaning Chicago doesn't exactly roll up its sidewalks at night, but it comes close, particularly downtown.

For most of my adult life, there have been hopes of downtown as a 24-hour city. There is life after 5:25 train now, thanks to the Theater District, restaurants and the downtown colleges. Is there life after 9:30pm, though? How about 11:30?

Not much. I walked around the Loop beginning at 11:30pm Friday, camera in hand, just to see what I could see. Or couldn't see. The lonely traveler outside of‚  Union Station in the photo above sums up the experience: that downtown at night is clean and beautiful, but it is also quiet, dark and at times lonely.

(photo by Lee Bey)

(photo by Lee Bey)

(photo by Lee Bey)

(photo by Lee Bey)


What did I want to see? What did I wish had been there by the time I got ready to leave downtown at well after midnight?

Live music. People. Laughter. Food. Entertainment. Maybe an art gallery that, when I walked past, would make me check my watch and think, "Man, they are open this late?"‚  Even if we can't build it now, we can certainly plan for it.

Chicago has come a long way since the days when downtown emptied after rush hour. We've spent billions over the past 20 years in pursuit of a 24 hour downtown. With that much money on the table, we'd be unwise to stop now.

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