Car-free Sundays on State events will run through the summer, starting July 11

Open Streets on State in 2011. Photo: Chicago Loop Alliance
Open Streets on State in 2011. Photo: Chicago Loop Alliance

Last week, the Chicago Loop Alliance, a member-based organization promoting business and cultural activities in the Loop, officially announced Sundays on State, a weekly Open Streets program kicking off on July 11. The project will pedestrianize State Street between Madison and Lake streets (allowing people driving east and west to cross at Washington and Randolph street) for up to twelve Sundays, making space for outdoor restaurant seating, retailers, fitness classes, and arts and cultural activities in a sustained effort to reinvigorate a downtown that has seen a massive drop in activity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Active Transportation Alliance partnered with the Loop alliance to host Open Streets on State in 2011 and 2012. These one-day events were resounding successes, drawing hundreds – perhaps thousands – of people to bike, skateboard, play games, do aerobics, and lounge on the city’s iconic thoroughfare. CLA hopes this year’s weekly events will be equally popular, creating connections and lifting spirits as coronavirus restrictions ease.

Open Streets on State in 2011. Photo: Chicago Loop Alliance
Open Streets on State in 2011. Photo: Chicago Loop Alliance

This program will allow people to experience the Loop in a safe way, outdoors, and free from car traffic,” said Chicago Loop Alliance president and CEO Michael Edwards in a statement. “The area on State Street can hold activities, outdoor dining, visual arts, and performances, all of which will create lasting memories for those who experience it. And there will also be some unexpected surprises each Sunday. The three primary goals of Sundays on State are to accelerate the economic recovery, unite the community, and create joy.”

The street opening will last from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. each Sunday, with event programming from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. CLA is currently accepting activation proposals from arts and community organizations, retailers, restaurants and coffee shops, and fitness instructors, and encourages creative proposals (please someone bring back the hula hoops!)

Open Streets on State in 2011. Photo: Chicago Loop Alliance
Open Streets on State in 2011. Photo: Chicago Loop Alliance

I for one hope Sundays on State draws such throngs that CLA considers expanding the event, both further down State Street and throughout the weekend. With the majority of office workers continuing to telecommute, Chicago has a rare opportunity to reimagine Loop streets as a vital space for community gathering, rather than just corridors to move motor vehicles through.

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