The Chicago Loop Alliance’s ambitious program of 2014 placemaking projects is drawing to a close. Last Thursday, the group hosted a vibrant arts event in a Loop alley, inspired by the sights and sounds of a Manila marketplace. This was scheduled to be the last of the monthly “Activate” series, which transforms downtown passageways into buzzing art parties. However, due to the popularity of the program, the CLA is throwing one more Halloween-themed shindig, on Thursday, October 30, from 5:30 to 10 p.m. in the Auditorium Theater’s alley, 412 South Michigan.
Recently, the alliance has been using placemaking — the activation of underused public spaces through programming and installations — as a strategy to boost downtown commerce. This year, they budgeted $135,000 for placemaking initiatives, bankrolled by special service area money and corporate sponsorships.
In addition to Activate, other projects included the addition of café seating and performances at Pritzker Park, as well as the return of The Gateway, a “People Plaza” in the median of State near Wacker. The #CitySeats pop-up seating program also brought temporary lunchtime seating to different, unannounced spots in the Loop’s northeast quadrant – downtown workers were encouraged to request locations via Twitter.
The Activate events, which have brought libations, art installations, DJs, fashion and live performers to various alleys, may have been the most successful of these placemaking initiatives. Thursday’s celebration of Filipino culture was definitely a hit, with more than 1,300 people packing Sullivan Alley, located between State and Wabash, north of Monroe.