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A day in Chicago – the Navy Pier, museums, hot dogs and the Blue Man Group

Quicken Loans meets the Blue Man in ChicagoAll my life Detroit has been on a 5-year plan.

In the late 70s the plan was to build the Renaissance Center and Hart Plaza, stirring economic development and transforming the riverfront from an industrial port to an entertainment destination with festivals, restaurants and other stuff.  It didn’t really work.

In the 80s the plan was to build the Detroit People Mover and Detroit Trolley line, which would spur economic development and connect the various parts of downtown with 100s of thousands of daily riders going from place to place.  It, uh, didn’t really work.

In the 90s the plan was to build two new stadiums (baseball and football) and for GM to move downtown and bring along with it enough professionals to fill downtown office spaces.  It sort of worked, but not really.  No question the stadiums bring people, especially when the Tigers do as well as they have for the past two years, but it’s hard to argue that the stadium really have that much affect when streets are deserted on a non-game days and office buildings around them sit half empty.

I have to admit the latest 5-year plan, which includes the new Riverwalk, Campus Martius Park (anchored by the headquarters of Compuware), and a redeveloped Woodward Ave and Washington Blvd. (complete with stores, – stores? downtown Detroit? huh? – lofts, and restaurants), is the most ambitious and hopeful 5-year plan I’ve ever seen.  I mean, downtown actually is looking better.  Greg Parrish, a buddy of mine over at the Detroit Planning Division, told me this is the most development he’s seen in his 10 years at the city of Detroit.

Anyway, I digress from my original post idea.  This isn’t about Detroit.

It’s about Chicago. 

And let me tell you, whatever 5-year plan Chicago has been on for the past 30 years, they need to share it with Detroit. 

I went to Chicago for a long weekend this summer and was blown away.  Downtown Chicago buzzed like Manhattan, with a much more relaxed vibe.  It’s hard to explain, but it’s real.  I think anyone who has been to both places understands.

I visited Navy Pier, the Watertown Mall, had some the best popcorn I’ve ever tasted at Garrett’s, and went to Little Korea for some great Korean BBQ.  I also visited Frank Lloyd Wright‘s home and design studio in Oak Park and the saw the Blue Man Group.  Add to that visits to the Chicago Institute of Arts and the Field Museum and I had a very busy 2 and ½ days there. 

And the thing is, what makes Chicago great isn’t all the activities one can do in Chicago. It’s really about the attitude people have towards the city and the amenities the city offers.  It’s about the endless interesting neighborhoods and ethnic enclaves throughout the city.  It’s about the waterfront and how Chicago has developed it as both an attraction for tourists and a destination for residents.  It’s about being able to walk around and people watch.  And it’s about the food.  The variety of food was amazing. 

But don’t get it from me.  Here’s a local’s take on the city.

My homie Jarrett Knyal was born and raised in a suburb of Chicago and has some love for the city.

"Chicago is the cleanest city I’ve ever seen. It’s extremely clean.  And the hot dogs are the best.  You’ve never had a hot dog until you’ve had a Chicago dog.  And you really have to go to Chicago to get one.  Another great sandwich I’ve only seen in Chicago is The Combo.  It’s an Italian beef wrapped around an Italian sausage.  It’s amazing.  It’s a heart attack on a roll.  Look for the  Vienna or Scala brand sign outside the restaurant. By the way, have you ever seen the bean sculpture?"

The bean sculpture?  I missed that.  I’ll have to catch that on my next trip.  Maybe I’ll even check out the Blue Man Group again.  It was really cool.  I want to be a Blue Man.  How do you get a job like that?

Now back to Detroit.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a lifelong Detroiter and I wish more than anything Detroit could became a better city. 

My advice to Detroit’s leadership.  Sit down with Chicago’s leaders.  Figure out what they’ve done for the last 20 years to build up Chicago and do the same thing in Detroit. 

That seems like a good idea to me…

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  1. Blue Man Group Rocks!! Chicago is an oddly clean city…I need to plan another trip.

    Posted by: Kel | October 10, 2007
  2. As someone who’s lived in downtown Detroit and downtown Chicago, I can confidently say that the “D” ain’t got nothin’ on the Windy City (sorry, Detroit, it’s true). I rarely ventured outside of apartment in Detroit for fear that I’d get assaulted or run over by the flurries of SWAT teams that might as well have had a parking spot in my apartment complex.
    In Chicago, I went out all the time. The people were friendly and fun. Exploring the different neighborhoods — each with their own unique flairs — was always an adventure. There are so many awesome sights to see, cultural attractions, restaurants, bars, etc., that you never run out of things to do. And the food — mmmmmm. With the exception of bread and bagels (Chicago water sucks, ergo Chicago bread products suck), and Middle Eastern food (Detroit’s got a lock on that), Chicago has some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life — and quite the variety too!
    I echo Clay’s sentiments in that I hope Detroit starts to take a lesson from Chicago. In the Windy City, a building gets knocked down so that something newer and better can be built in its place. In Detroit, we let historic buildings rot and when we do knock something down, we rarely build something worthwhile in its place.
    Come on D-town! Get a clue! Give my Chicago friends a reason to come to Detroit!

    Posted by: Ann-Marie | October 11, 2007
  3. I heard that if you ride the people mover it’s a guaranteed mugging.

    Posted by: Jacque | October 11, 2007
  4. Sigh, Detroit vs. Chicago. That’s like comparing the sun to pluto (not even a planet), The Lions to the New England Patriots, George W. Bush vs. anyone with a brain, The Pacific Ocean to tributary of the Rouge River.
    The Trolley so funny you mentioned that. I did not know it was supposed to used for actual transit… hahahah hooooo…It was like 2 blocks.
    Good that you gave Greg Parrish a shout out. He’s actually trying to make a differnce in Detroit AND he knows what he’s doing AND he’s smart, unlike KWAME…

    Posted by: Billy Leopardskinhousen | October 12, 2007

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Sunday, March 18, 2018