Make no small plans, right? Choose Chicago is floating the idea of privately financed tourist attractions.
A group of Chicago tourism officials and civic supporters who want to give the city’s image and economy a boost is examining a slate of ideas for new attractions and amenities that include light shows playing off downtown skyscrapers, airborne glass cable cars running along the riverfront and designated luxury cars on the transit line to O’Hare.
The brainstorming is taking place under the auspices of Choose Chicago, the not-for-profit that serves as the city’s convention and tourism bureau. Bruce Rauner, its chairman, is leading the push, along with significant input from hotel investor Laurence Geller, Broadway in Chicago President Lou Raizin and Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts.
The broad outlines of the vision, which aims to draw as much as $30 billion in private investment, are expected to be disclosed Thursday at the annual meeting of Choose Chicago. Other ideas include plane rides along the lakefront and perhaps an architecturally stunning casino complex if gambling is approved for the city.
“We said, ‘Let’s be aspirational and aggressive, not just incremental,’ ” Rauner said. The aim is to boost visitor numbers from nearly 44 million in 2011 to 70 million annually, which, if achieved, would blow past the 50 million Mayor Rahm Emanuel would like to see by 2020.
(click here to continue reading Group gets ‘aggressive’ with ideas for tourism.)
So what are the plans under consideration?
Among the ideas under consideration, according to Rauner and other sources:
- Dramatic light show-type illuminations of city buildings and structures, such as bridges.
- A luxury casino-anchored entertainment complex, along the lines of the Marina Bay Sands, a massive resort in Singapore designed by Moshe Safdie and built for more than $5 billion. Such a project would depend on getting state approval for a downtown casino.
- Tourism “carriages” on the CTA between downtown and O’Hare International Airport, which would be set up as sorts of club cars, where travelers could get drinks and help with their luggage, among other amenities.
- Glass-bubble airborne cable cars — with air conditioning in summer and heat in winter — that would take visitors along the river from Navy Pier to the point where Wacker Drive turns south.
- A float plane port on Northerly Island, where tourists could take plane rides up and down the lakefront.
- A jazz and blues hall of fame on the Near South Side
- A lakefront botanic garden
- A technology park for children
- An architecture festival, similar to Biennale cultural festivals in Europe.
Pretty much all fun ideas in the abstract. I’m not crazy about a casino, and the City hasn’t even legalized gambling yet, but I have no moral objection to people throwing away their money, so why not make it architecturally significant?
One does have to question the motives here, however. No organization is going to donate money to the City of Chicago without some strings attached. What are they? They claim to have enough private money to create all these marvels, but I would be very surprised if there weren’t some kick-ins from Chicago, financial or otherwise. Especially because Bruce Rauner has an agenda…