05/02/2012 10:00 PM
When the story broke last weekend that the United Center was considering turning one of its parking lots into a retail and entertainment complex, we were pleasantly surprised.
For years, the arena has been an island in the middle of a vast sea of asphalt, isolated from any semblance of the neighborhood by thousands of cars. With few businesses surrounding the arena and no great options for public transportation, fans drove in, watched the Bulls or Blackhawks play, and left immediately.
But the proposed development at the arenaís front door from the United Centerís owners, Jerry Reinsdorf and Rocky Wirtz, will change things.
Fans will get a Blackhawks- and Bulls-endorsed area thatíll get them out of their cars and used to milling about before a game. The spillover effect could be immediate and huge, in terms of creating opportunities for other businesses to open up in the area.
We already know thereís a big demand for people looking to have a drink and a bite to eat before the game. The West Loopís strip of bars along Madison Street has been proving that for years, running free shuttles back and forth to the United Center for fans.
Expanding that strip of commerce west all the way to the actual stadium would catalyze the Near West Side. Itís a much-needed boost that could help this pocket of the city pull itself up by its bootstraps, and itís a move Reinsdorf and Wirtz should have made a decade ago.
May Day OK
We were very happy with how May Day turned out in Chicago. The annual workerís rights day could potentially have been the beginning of a very awful month of May, if rabble-rousing by some of the Occupy movement had taken hold.
The talk of it being the beginning of Chicago Spring had many worried. After all, while the Arab Spring was occasion to celebrate for much of the world, it did generally involve some bloodshed.
Thatís not something we need in Chicago, and conjuring up that image only served to scare ordinary civilians.
But Tuesdayís protest was everything a civilian could ask for. The crowd was big, but in control. The police did their jobs well, keeping protestors in line and under control without making a scene.
And at the end of the show, protestors calmly dissipated.
We hope all the protests this spring are so smooth. This is a good sign.