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Best odd monument and tribute to The Great Migration

City Life No Comments »

Central Station remains

Two granite fragments are all that are left of Chicago’s Central Station, which served the city between 1893 and 1972. Many have no idea what these white boulders, with vague Romanesque designs, are doing resting in the south end of Grant Park. However, Chicago’s cultural historian Tim Samuelson considers these fragments a powerful symbol because the station served as a “virtual Ellis Island of the rails for hundreds of thousands of African-American southerners who escaped the boot of Jim Crow between World War I and 1970. For many African Americans who arrived in Chicago during the Great Migration, catching sight of Central Station was similar to the first glimpse of ‘Lady Liberty.’”

Near Roosevelt Road and Michigan Avenue

Best of Chicago 2015

Best Barack Obama moment

Audience Choice, City Life No Comments »

Election night, Grant Park, among the unticketed masses. The awe is palpable; most can’t find the words, even those who sling them for a living. Then the speech, on the monitor, clearly visible and audible for all. Cell-phone cameras light up the sky like candles. Nearby, a trio of burly men, in matching short locs and baggy Obama t-shirts with “YES WE DID!!” on the back, listen intently, like parishioners in a South Side church, calling back to the President-Elect, “One Nation!” A few yards away, the statue of Abraham Lincoln, almost unnoticed, silently whispers “amen.”

Audience choice:
Election night speech in Grant Park

Audience Comments: “Hello Chicago!”; “‘terrorist’ fist bump”;“Bowling and ending up with a worse score than I’d get”; “Dancing with Ellen Degeneres: Finally, a president who can dance!!”; “I met him in a parking lot at 47th street, in the late 1990s, when he was first running for office and I thought he was too skinny and civilized to get anywhere in Chicago politics”; “when he was on ‘Check, Please’: it never aired”;“January 20, 2009.”

Best of Chicago 2008

Best artist who has yet to play Lollapalooza but should

Audience Choice, Culture & Nightlife No Comments »

Bruce Springsteen

When in doubt, ask The Boss. The blue-collar poet from Jersey has taught us life lessons for more than three decades, his tales of common man echo in our minds. Young love, small towns, unwanted wars, returning home, prom queens, bad boys and gravel roads—Bruce is the musical authority on the American heart. His recent stumping for Obama seemed most inspired and, perhaps most importantly, he still makes good records. We’d love to see Prince, we’d love to see Neil Young and we’d really love to see Michael Jackson, but to hear Bruce tell us “the highway’s jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive,” under the August, Grant Park moonlight, would be sublime.

Audience choice
Many, many, many suggestions

Best new piece of architecture

Audience Choice, City Life No Comments »

Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies

While some buildings receive more media attention, few are as powerfully effective on so many levels as the new home of Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, opened at the end of 2007. Built in modest scale befitting its place on the historic southern stretch of Michigan Avenue across from Grant Park, this shimmering, multifaceted glass-walled ten-story building commands the attention of a building ten times its size. From a distance, on the east side of the park on the lakefront path, its glass wall, constructed of 726 windows in 556 different shapes, looks like water, a liquid building, in harmony with the flows of Buckingham Fountain. Up close, the building invites visitors into its galleries and libraries in a manner that its more fortress-like predecessor never did. And once inside! The open glass atriums, the dramatic views and that glass wall, now seen from the other side as it bends light in infinite ways, together create one of the city’s great interior spaces. To the architects, Krueck & Sexton Architects, and to the Institute itself, we say mazel tov!

610 S. Michigan

Audience choice
Trump International Hotel 
401 N. Wabash

Best of Chicago 2008

Best iconic transformation

City Life No Comments »

Grant Park

After the Obama rally, throngs of people walked down Michigan Avenue. Crowds danced and sang in front of the Art Institute, using drums and singing “Oh, Oh, Obama.” Throughout the walk you could see young people of all races singing and dancing together. Periodically you’d hear the crowds chanting “Obama, Obama!” At this moment, we stood in the crux of history, witnessing Chicago’s transformation from being the site of the riots of 1968 to being a place where the crowds jubilantly celebrated and embraced an African-American President. The city with one of the worst histories of racial barriers became the city to welcome in change. Grant Park had a new meaning.

Best of Chicago 2008

Best moment that made us proud of our country

City Life No Comments »

Grant Park on election night

That was the night when everything changed, and every American knows what happened there. Someday, it will be like Woodstock. A seminal moment that will ever be the answer to the question, were you there? And it was like the greatest rock concert ever, with T-shirt vendors popping up all over the place selling gloriously unofficial celebrations. But even the vendors were caught in the moment—there for a buck, sure, but for much more. At the corner of Congress and Michigan, 10pm, the crowd roars, folks start running across in the street toward the park in huge joyous masses. Something happened. Did he win? One fellow selling t-shirts begs a passerby to tell him if it was true. “Yes,” a mobile connection to CNN confirmed it. “But it’s not official; is it official?” as if it was too good to be true. Over and over he asked with a rising mixture of joy and yearning in his voice, even when assured it was true, saying that, “IF it was true, we could finally all be a nation as one.” And yes, we were there.

Best of Chicago 2008

Best race other than the marathon

Audience Choice, Sports & Recreation No Comments »

Race for the Cure

Chicago is a rich, rich city for runners, with dozens of well-managed races of all lengths, culminating each October with its world-class marathon. But the best wins not for the professionalism of its execution, for in that regard it comes up short (the focus is on the cause not the clock), nor for the challenge of its course, a mere 5K run along the lakefront. No, Race for the Cure wins for the raw emotion on the course, where teams of breast-cancer survivors rub elbows with the friends and loved ones running in memory of those who did not survive. Most races have some financial connection to a charity; this one is so organic that you won’t have sweat in your eyes, it will be tears.

End of September, Grant Park,

Audience Choice
Chicago Triathalon

Best of Chicago 2007

Best neighborhood in which to weather the possible decline in real estate values precipitated, among other things, by the mortgage crisis

Audience Choice, City Life, Gold Coast, Logan Square, South Loop No Comments »

South Loop

Three little words: location, location, location. When the going gets tough in the investment world, the world takes flight to quality. And in real estate, quality is virtually synonymous with location. The South Loop may suffer disproportionately in the near term due to its enormous supply of new housing units coming onto the market over the next few years, but you can’t take away its location: along the lakefront, at the hub of all mass transit lines and within walking distance of Grant Park, Museum Campus and the Art Institute, shopping and Soldier Field. Those who can buy on price weakness and hold will do quite well.

Audience Choice
Gold Coast; Logan Square (tie)

Best of Chicago 2007

Best reason to go to Lollapalooza

Culture & Nightlife No Comments »

The Venue
As far as outdoor venues are concerned, it’s tough to top Grant Park in the summer. Remember Radiohead’s unbelievable show in Hutchinson Field during the “Amnesiac” tour? Multiply that by, oh, a hundred, spread over three days and expand the playing field by three. With the country’s best skyline on one side and the haunting, beautiful lake on the other (Buckingham Fountain spouting in between), Grant Park hosts with elegance. Even the unplanned Soldier Field fireworks—which erupted in the middle of Pearl Jam’s set this year, illuminating the sky—capped a weekend visual marathon.

Best of Chicago 2007