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Near South Side is a community area in Chicago just south of the Downtown Chicago, or The Loop, the city’s central business district. Also known as South Loop, it is a dynamic area that has been through many changes throughout the years. It’s characterized by a variety of interesting neighborhoods, each of which has a unique story. For example, Dearborn Park was constructed on an old railroad site. The South Loop and Near South Side contain many of Chicago’s most famous structures, like McCormick Place, Northerly Island, and Soldier Field.
The South Loop is the future of home of The Discovery Partners Institute, a billion-dollar business innovation center intended to provide a space for entrepreneurs and businesses to solve problems related to agriculture and healthcare.
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Commercial space is quite affordable to rent in South Loop and cheap compared to most other central neighborhoods in Chicago, such as the Loop, River North, and North Michigan Avenue. In South Loop, office space costs an average of $28.50 per square foot to rent, compared to the overall city average of $34 per square foot.
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The South Loop is located within South Side, Chicago, in Cook County. It’s bordered by Roosevelt Road to the north; 26th Street to the south; the Chicago River, Clark Street, and Stevenson Expressway to the west; and Lake Michigan to the east. The South Loop includes Prairie District, Central Station, Dearborn Park, Museum Campus, and other neighborhoods.
South Loop is both walkable and bikeable, which is great news for people who like to get some exercise when they’re getting to work. Chicago and its surrounding areas have very extensive public transportation options. Those who would rather take public transportation can use the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), nicknamed the L. Other options include a myriad of bus lines and taxi services. Traveling throughout the country and around the world from here is convenient, too; just use Midway International Airport or O’Hare International Airport, which are both located close by.
Even if employees love their office spaces, everyone spends time outside the office—during business hours and off the clock. It’s important to put down roots in an area that can feel like home. The South Loop offers plenty of restaurants to try, parks to explore, and fun things to do. Here are some popular restaurants in the area: Umai, a Japanese food and sushi bar; Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria; The Bongo Room, a breakfast and brunch location; Meli Cafe, a breakfast and brunch location; and Sociale Chicago. Burnham Park and Northerly Island rest along Lake Michigan and include attractions such as the Field Museum of Natural History, Adler Planetarium, and the John G. Shedd Aquarium. Central Station, which was redeveloped recently, includes Mark Twain Park, Daniel Webster Park, and Grant Park Extension. McCormick place, named after newspaper magnate Robert R. McCormick, is also here.
An exciting new development in the South Loop is The Discovery Partners Institute, a joint education, research and innovation institute that will be led by the University of Illinois System, its three universities and partners. Entrepreneurs, experts in technology, students, inventors, investors, and other creative minds are invited to come together at the institute to solve problems, create life-altering products, and meet like-minded professionals. Most research and innovation efforts will be focused on Food & Agriculture, Computing & Data, Health & Wellness, and Environment & Water. The global problems the institute intends to tackle will mostly fall under one of the following four categories: Culture & Society; Entrepreneurship and Technology Commercialization; Education and Workforce Development; and Public Policy. “This is what we need to do to bring the public, private, governmental sectors together, sort of at a scale that will really turbocharge the state’s economy,” University of Illinois System President Tim Killeen said of the institute.
South Loop Neighborhood History
South Loop’s history is marked with almost constant change. It has been a home for Native Americans, an upscale residential district, a slum, a warehouse district, and a gentrified residence. Transportation, fires, business developments, and new settlers were the primary catalysts for the seemingly constant change the South Loop has experienced for the past several hundred years.
After the Native Americans, the first settlers in Near South Side were primarily Germans, Irish, and Scandinavians. Increased transportation into the area, including railroads and horse-car lines, brought more people to South Loop and encouraged expansion of city limits.
The growth of The Loop’s business district brought wealthy families to Prairie, Indiana, Calumet, and Michigan Avenues. Many of their impressive homes still stand hundreds of years later, despite the Chicago Fire of 1871, which left most of the area undamaged. Another fire in 1874, however, destroyed a neighborhood in Near South Side.
Between 1890 and 1892, developers contracted the construction of the South Side Elevated Railroad, which provided the area with rapid transit. By this time, most of the area’s wealthier inhabitants had moved to Kenwood or to Near North Side. However, many businesses moved into the South Loop Area. In particular, these were wholesale houses, warehouses, and printing firms.
The 1920s and 1930s brought extensive redevelopment projects to the South Loop. A landfill beside Lake Michigan was transformed into Burnham Park and Northerly Island. Developers then imagined and constructed the Field Museum of Natural History, Soldier Field, Adler Planetarium, and the John G. Shedd Aquarium in these two new areas.
In 1960, the first McCormick Place building was set up to accommodate the high number of trade fairs, including the Railroad Fair, which took place in the area. In 1967, a fire took down the building, and a large building was constructed in its place. Many exposition-related businesses came to the area as a result, and in the twentieth century, hotels and retail options popped up as well.
Around 1988, developers set out to create more residential spaces in Near South Side. In particular, South Loop expanded, and Dearborn Park was constructed at the site of an old rail yard. Later, Central Station and Printers Row were also developed.