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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
You may notice that I choose to ask some questions that may be loaded, or at least contraversial on this board. That's because I am interested in a Chicago perspective and not a _____ vs. _______ issue.

In that spirit, I ask the following:

Is downtown Chicago arguably the nation's greatest central business district, perhaps even significantly so?

I ask this question with a belief there is only one rival, New York, and thus partially base my argument on the following factors in the Big Apple:

1. Downtown Manhattan
2. Midtown Manhattan
3. the unusual nature of Manhattan

First, downtown and midtown: New York has two CBD's, miles apart, never to be linked. This, as opposed to Chicago where the Loop and the Magnificent Mile were close enough to become part of a single CBD, along with neighboring sections of the city.

Downtown Manhattan lost much of its power (short of financial) to Midtown years ago. It does, however, retain the historical base of the city, making it akin to Chicago's Loop. Midtown would appear to be the real competition for Chicago, but its transformation into a CBD occurred in a well established city in the early 20th century. Its sheer growth has overwhelmed its part of Manhattan, and much of that growth has been faceless, wall-to-wall buildings. So downtown has the tradition and Midtown is the corporate poster child and life style king. Chicago's CBD contains both environments.

Manhattan grew differently than Chicago. While Manhattan is incredibly central to the greater New York City community, Manhattan itself is not centralized; it's linear. Manhattan is able to accomplish what no urban setting in the US can accomplish: a dispersion of cultural attractions away from its CBD's. Thus museums (i.e. Met, Guggenheim, etc.) can be located away from either downtown or midtown. In Chicago, a city built on concentric cores, the CBD is the center and offfers most of the city's great cultural institutions.

Chicago's CBD has a much healthier connection to water than does NYC's prime CBD, Midtown, where only the not-too-connected section by the UN links the district to the East River. In Chicago, both river and lake are well integrated into downtown.

I don't know about others, but to me, downtown Chicago works like no other CBD in the nation.
 

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I remember the NY Times or Wall Street Journal saying a couple of years ago, Chicago had the best downtown in the country.
I don't know if they were including Midtown though.

You didn't mention the fact that Chicago's downtown park (Grant) faces out to the Lake, and that are a few beaches in the downtown area. The East and Hudson River suck compared to mighty Lake Michigan.

Can you walk in a few blocks from 5th avenue shopping to a popular beach in NYC? Hell no. But Oak Street Beach is 2 blocks away from Mag Mile and Oak Street shopping.
 

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The Jive is Alive.
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Midtown Manhattan, for all practical purposes, can be considered a "downtown." Take the acronym CBD: Central Business District. What else would Midtown Manhattan be? What people call it locally means very little. Look at Charlotte, for example-- that city doesn't even have a downtown, people there call it "Uptown." But considering its function relative to the rest of the area, it is downtown. Downtown Manhattan is secondary to Midtown Manhattan in pretty much every category, so it is pretty safe to conclude that Downtown Manhattan functions more as a "midtown" and Midtown functions more as a "downtown." Not to mention that Downtown Manhattan is very limited by geographical constraints.

So having said that, Midtown Manhattan quite easily packs every other city into a pipe and smokes them. Downtown Chicago would be next in line.
 

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^I agree with jive. NYC's CBD, which is actually midtown, blows downtown Chicago out of the water. That is not to say that downtown Chicago sucks, far from it, but to compare the two would be laughable. I think that Chicago's CBD has more aesthetic appeal but NYC takes the cake in every other catagory.
 

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This an argument that is possibly more appealing to me than accurate. I agree with a lot of what edsg says, but not the conclusion that Chicago trumps NYC in this regard.

As I mentioned on another forum, Midtown has far more office space than Chicago's CBD. When you include southern Midtown (the Empire State Building/Penn Station area), this "greater Midtown" area has far more office space than the entire metro Chicago area.

I know, size isn't always what counts. In terms of architecture and all-around elegance, I think its difficult to say, because I guess you would have to go skyscraper-by-skyscraper down the list. But impressionisticly, I don't think Midtown is lacking in this category. We think of downtowns as symbols, synecdoches if you will, for corporate power. Temples of Commerce -- this is what they ultimately represent. I would wager that no street in America bespeaks corporate power like Park Avenue near Grand Central Station. (Stereotypically, when I think of Park Avenue, I think of rich old widows with time on their hands, like the one in Midnight Cowboy. But the street has so much more.) It has both the style and the substance. Like LaSalle street, it has the grand boulevard feel with a green median, and towering beacon buildings at the apex. You have Bunshaft's recently restored Lever House on one side, and a much larger tower also designed by him down the street. You have the headquarters of MetLife, JP Morgan Chase, Colgate-Palmolive, and the list goes on. And the street does not lack older elegant buildings that more effectively address the street level -- you have the old athletic club, a gorgeous church, and the old Waldorf=Astoria Hotel.

Granted, since Midtown is newer, it lacks some of the elegant old buildings that downtown Manhattan contains. But you can't say it has fewer cultural attractions than the Loop, since MoMa and Carnegie Hall are right there. Given the efficiency of the subway system, the Met, Lincoln Center, and the Museum of Natural History are not much farther than the Museum Campus is from the heart of the Loop.

And of course Times Square -- where else in America aside from DC can you find a place so thronging with tourists, yet also the *real, current* nexus of a major industry? Hollywood doesn't count since most of the studios moved to the Valley along time ago, leaving it more of a tourist relic than the nexus of the entertainment industry.

I don't think NYC's canyons of office buildings are faceless or graceless compared to Chicago. Chicago does pack in a lot of different kinds of archtiectuer in a small space, while parts of Midtown look like a class project of teacher Mies. Still, the sheer size and energy of Midtown is extremely difficult to beat. Chicago wins hands down in one area, I"ll agree -- interaction and views of water.
 

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You know NYC has a whole other feel to it than Chicago. But Chicago is awesome, and IMO a better more fun place to live if not a hipper place to live. BUt what is great about it is the access to the openess of the lakefront, the proximity of the large scale world-class cultural institutions, north michigan ave, the loop, the great nearby neighborhoods (lp, wp, pilsen, etc...).

It's a great place to live.
 

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ChicagoLover said:
This an argument that is possibly more appealing to me than accurate. I agree with a lot of what edsg says, but not the conclusion that Chicago trumps NYC in this regard.

As I mentioned on another forum, Midtown has far more office space than Chicago's CBD. When you include southern Midtown (the Empire State Building/Penn Station area), this "greater Midtown" area has far more office space than the entire metro Chicago area.

I know, size isn't always what counts. In terms of architecture and all-around elegance, I think its difficult to say, because I guess you would have to go skyscraper-by-skyscraper down the list. But impressionisticly, I don't think Midtown is lacking in this category. We think of downtowns as symbols, synecdoches if you will, for corporate power. Temples of Commerce -- this is what they ultimately represent. I would wager that no street in America bespeaks corporate power like Park Avenue near Grand Central Station. (Stereotypically, when I think of Park Avenue, I think of rich old widows with time on their hands, like the one in Midnight Cowboy. But the street has so much more.) It has both the style and the substance. Like LaSalle street, it has the grand boulevard feel with a green median, and towering beacon buildings at the apex. You have Bunshaft's recently restored Lever House on one side, and a much larger tower also designed by him down the street. You have the headquarters of MetLife, JP Morgan Chase, Colgate-Palmolive, and the list goes on. And the street does not lack older elegant buildings that more effectively address the street level -- you have the old athletic club, a gorgeous church, and the old Waldorf=Astoria Hotel.

Granted, since Midtown is newer, it lacks some of the elegant old buildings that downtown Manhattan contains. But you can't say it has fewer cultural attractions than the Loop, since MoMa and Carnegie Hall are right there. Given the efficiency of the subway system, the Met, Lincoln Center, and the Museum of Natural History are not much farther than the Museum Campus is from the heart of the Loop.

And of course Times Square -- where else in America aside from DC can you find a place so thronging with tourists, yet also the *real, current* nexus of a major industry? Hollywood doesn't count since most of the studios moved to the Valley along time ago, leaving it more of a tourist relic than the nexus of the entertainment industry.

I don't think NYC's canyons of office buildings are faceless or graceless compared to Chicago. Chicago does pack in a lot of different kinds of archtiectuer in a small space, while parts of Midtown look like a class project of teacher Mies. Still, the sheer size and energy of Midtown is extremely difficult to beat. Chicago wins hands down in one area, I"ll agree -- interaction and views of water.
Where else besides DC? Try Michigan Avenue. North Michigan and Times Square are leagues ahead of anywhere else-DC's Mall can't compare to the energy and throngs of those two areas. DC is very quiet compared to Chicago period, wether it be tourist areas or office corridors.
 

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New York and Chicago have quite a few analgous features. Moving from south to north in both cities:

Grant Park = Battery Park
Navy Pier = South Street Seaport
Loop = Lower Manhattan financial district
Michigan Avenue = Fifth Avenue
Area around Water Tower = intersection of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street
Area where Michigan Avenue hits Oak Street Beach = Fifth Avenue and 59th Street
Lincoln Park = Central Park
Gold Coast = Upper East Side
Lincoln Park hood/Lakeview = Upper West Side

Bonus: The United Center and Yankee Stadium are both located a few miles from the center of the city, both in not-so-great hoods, and both are home to teams that have become famous for winning a lot of championships.
 

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The City
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I'm sick of these comparisons to New York.

Half of you are like: Dude, shut up man, New York is like my wet dream, don't ever insult it

The other half are like: Chicago is really awesome, and it doesn't have to be as great as New York, because it's Chicago and it is great in its own way

Whatever, it will never end. Enough about New York--Edsg, I truly enjoy your insight and posts, but please no more threads about Chicago vs. New York...
 

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The Urban Politician said:
Whatever, it will never end. Enough about New York--Edsg, I truly enjoy your insight and posts, but please no more threads about Chicago vs. New York...
A-FUCKING-MEN!
 

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The Urban Politician said:
I'm sick of these comparisons to New York.

Half of you are like: Dude, shut up man, New York is like my wet dream, don't ever insult it

The other half are like: Chicago is really awesome, and it doesn't have to be as great as New York, because it's Chicago and it is great in its own way

Whatever, it will never end. Enough about New York--Edsg, I truly enjoy your insight and posts, but please no more threads about Chicago vs. New York...

dude i dont think thats realy what edsg25 intention is. hes dscusing the centrality of chicagos core and the shear magitude of it and all that it encompases and its relitivity to the rest of the city and the package as a whole . but hes also descusing how its one of a kind, and there are few cities in the u.s. that can compete in this area and that would be NYC . so hes explaining why he feels that chicagos only real competition in this field (NYC)doesent match up. weather thats true or not is up for debate and thats what the purpose of this thread is......at least i think thats what its intention is.

my opinion is that on some level chicago is unparaleled in this facet by almost every city but i dont feel you an compare NYC to chicago , they both have there ups and downs. and as simulare as they are , there very dif.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
wickedestcity said:
dude i dont think thats realy what edsg25 intention is. hes dscusing the centrality of chicagos core and the shear magitude of it and all that it encompases and its relitivity to the rest of the city and the package as a whole . but hes also descusing how its one of a kind, and there are few cities in the u.s. that can compete in this area and that would be NYC . so hes explaining why he feels that chicagos only real competition in this field (NYC)doesent match up. weather thats true or not is up for debate and thats what the purpose of this thread is......at least i think thats what its intention is.

my opinion is that on some level chicago is unparaleled in this facet by almost every city but i dont feel you an compare NYC to chicago , they both have there ups and downs. and as simulare as they are , there very dif.
actually what I was getting at was the two-mode Manhattan model and the one mode Chgo one. That was my point. I was hardly trying for NY vs. Chgo. If midtown and downtown Manhattan were together, I'd have no question that would exceed Chicago's CBD.

On the other hand, guys, if you want to ignore any comparison I or others may bring up, do so. I really don't mind whatever you want to post. I would have thought the feeling was mutual.
 

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The Jive is Alive.
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I think before we can determine which city has the best CBD, we need to define what a CBD is. By most measures, Midtown Manhattan qualifies as a CBD because it is the single largest concentration of commercial activity in New York. In that case, it would be considered the best (at least certainly the largest...by far) CBD in the nation. A "downtown" is just a local designation, and it does not necessarily mean the same thing from city to city. I would think CBDs are more determined by function rather than location or colloquial terminology.
 

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TUP -- with all due respect, I think that forum participants should not discourage each other from posting threads that don't interest them -- as long as they are subject matter-appropriate. What will make most everyone happy is for everyone to post appropriate materials as they see fit; those who are not interested can just not post/read them.
 

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^Very true. How many suburbanites say they were downtown, only to find out they really meant Lincoln Park or Lake View. Some think the whole damned city is downtown.
 

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berkeleyboy said:
so what is considered "downtown" in chicago? what are the street boundaries?
I've always considered it the Loop. The area is bounded by the Chicago River on the north and west, Michigan Avenue on the east and Congress Parkway on the south. North of it is River North and Streeterville, west is the West Loop, south is the South Loop and East is Grant Park and The "New" East Side.
 

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^ that might be too stringent.

how about division to roosevelt and from the lake to halsted?

i know the city has an official designation which it calls "the greater downtown area" and that stretches from north to cermack and from the lake to ashland, but i think we'd all agree that that would be too generous for "downtown".
 
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