After the apocalypse of the last post, I’d still like to come out as being firmly in favor of the weird and kind of cool Chicago Gondola Plan. What I like is that it firmly reimagines Chicago as what it originally was: a river town, built from an impossible idea of dredging a narrow and shallow and sand-chocked river to ford a muddy expanse of swamp in order to make it, eventually, to the Mississippi. It was audacious and ridiculous and it worked. We’ve more or less forgotten that this was a river town, that it was built due to water, due to being at the perfect spot where the Great Lakes basin ends, and the continent shifts imperceptibly toward the Mississippi Basin. It’s that slight hinge, that tectonic blip, that has created the life of the city, and the destiny of million.
So focusing on the river, as the great people at Friends of the Chicago River* do, is an exciting development. And while I don’t quite see the connection between gondolas and Chicago, and while I don’t think they will be “iconic” in the way the Eiffel Tower is (despite the claims of the people proposing the plan), I think it is cool, and will bring even more people to the city.
What I especially like is that the plan is to go south along the river, to Chinatown and beyond. The area there has seen a bit of an uptick, as we move to clean the river and promote more tourism. Showing people that you can safely go sotuh of Madison is a good way to expand what Chicago tourism means. It won’t solve all the problems, but getting people to conceive of Chicago as more than Michigan Avenue and Wrigley Field is a great start.
(Also, while I love love love the idea of projecting opera on the back of the Civic so people can float up and watch it, I think they are overestimating the general appetite for opera.)
*Not to be confused with the ruinous petty-tyrant pecksniffs of the Friends of the Park, who blocked a museum to save parking lots. I’m so angry about this I can’t quite breathe.