Chicago's Underground Tunnels May Soon Become One Big Tourist Attraction
The city of Chicago may soon be welcoming a new underground attraction to its mix. The Pedway, a network of pedestrian tunnels that run beneath the Loop, is looking at the possibility of a major makeover.
In July, the nonprofit Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) proposed a plan to transform the space into a tourist attraction, with new additions that could include everything from a subterranean library to underground art galleries and farmer's markets.
And it looks like interest for the project may be catching on.
The ELPC’s executive director, Howard Learner, told the Chicago Tribune that city officials have given them the green light to further explore the project.
Some of the proposed changes include providing better signage and wayfinding tools, with innovative entrances that could include a glass box with brightly colored walls in Millennium Park.
Meanwhile, another proposed entrance would include the world’s largest book, with built-in LED pages that would display everything from upcoming events in the city to real-time data.
Brighter lighting features would help illuminate teh space, while more detailed information like the time to destination, transit updates, directions, and street level locations would be introduced to make navigating through the Pedway easier.
There would also be pop-up retailers and art installations to bring additional entertainment to the vicinity.
“The Chicago Pedway is an already-built, yet currently underutilized, civic asset; with improved navigation tools, upgraded lighting and coordination, and cultural activation, the revitalized Pedway will help Chicagoans and visitors to get around and be an exciting downtown experience,” Learner said.
According to the study, while there are some retail stores within the Pedway, the tunnels' small signage and lack of navigation tools can make finding them difficult.
"Believe it or not, I see the Pedway as a tourism opportunity," Lou Raizin, president of Broadway in Chicago, told DNA Info earlier this year. "You know you can take it from Point A to Point B. What we have to think about is 'Why else go down there?'"
In addition to the free library complete with reading alcoves, immersive lighting features and rotating art exhibitions would fill the corridors.
No official announcements have been made yet on the project's time frame, but in the meantime, visitors should keep their eyes out as everything from pop-up bookshops to pop-up performance series have already started arriving inside the Pedway.