Photos by Francois Adrien
The Loop or The Chicago Loop are the terms used to designate the historical center of downtown Chicago. Most accurately, the term refers to an area bounded by a public transit circuit along Lake Street on the north, Wabash Avenue on the east, Van Buren Street on the south, and Wells Street on the west, but in general use it refers to the whole central business district.
Chicago's central business district is bounded on the west and north by the Chicago River, on the east by Lake Michigan, and on the south by Roosevelt Road. The term The Loop has different meanings. The term most explicitly applies to the area surrounded by the loop circuit formed by 'L' train tracks, and a preceding 1880s cable car loop, but common usage defines it as the area bounded by the Chicago River on the north and west sides, Congress Parkway to the south, and Columbus Drive to the east.
In official city parlance, delineated by the University of Chicago in the 1920s, the Loop is community area of Chicago number 32, bounded by the Chicago River to the north and west, Roosevelt Road to the south, and Lake Michigan to the east, though the original boundary is strictly the area circled by the elevated CTA tracks. As the downtown area and its many high-rises expanded out past the community area over the years, "The Loop" has been used more generally to denote the entire downtown.
Loop architecture is dominated by high-rises. Notable buildings include the Home Insurance Building, considered the first skyscraper (demolished in 1931); the Chicago Board of Trade Building, a National Historic Landmark; and Willis Tower, the tallest in the United States. Some of the historic buildings in this district were instrumental in the development of high-rises. Chicago's rational street numbering system originates in the Loop at the intersection of State Street and Madison Street.
This area abounds in shopping opportunities, including the Loop Retail Historic District, although it competes with the more upscale Magnificent Mile area to the north, and with suburban shopping malls. It includes Chicago's former Marshall Field's department store location in the Marshall Field and Company Building; the original Sullivan Center Carson Pirie Scott store location (closed February 21, 2007); and Sears on State.
It is the location of a number of government buildings, including City Hall/County Building, the James R. Thompson Center, the Richard J. Daley Center, and multiple federal buildings. Chicago's Downtown Theatre District is also found within this area, along with numerous restaurants and hotels.
Chicago has a famous skyline which is home to many of the tallest buildings in the world as well as the Chicago Landmark Historic Michigan Boulevard District. Chicago's skyline is spaced out throughout the downtown area, giving it a graceful bridgelike appearance. The Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, which is widely recognized as the tallest building in the United States, stands at the west end of the Loop in the heart of the city's financial district, along with other buildings, such as 311 South Wacker Drive and the AT&T Corporate Center.
Chicago's third tallest building, the Aon Center, is located just south of Illinois Center, a complex at the east end of the Loop, east of Michigan Avenue. Two Prudential Plaza is also located here, just to the west of the Aon Center.
The Loop contains a wealth of outdoor sculpture, including works by Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Henry Moore, Marc Chagall, Alexander Calder, and Jean Dubuffet. Chicago's cultural heavyweights, such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Goodman Theatre, the Chicago Theatre, the Lyric Opera at the Civic Opera House building, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, are also in this area, as is the historic Palmer House Hilton hotel, found on East Monroe Street.
Chicago's lakefront, which is almost exclusively recreational park area from north to south, features Grant Park in this downtown area. Grant Park is the home of Buckingham Fountain, the Petrillo Bandshell, the Grant Park Symphony (where free concerts can be enjoyed throughout the summer), and Chicago's annual two-week food festival, the Taste of Chicago, where more than 3 million people "pig out". A recent addition to Grant Park is the architecturally forward Millennium Park, which opened in the summer of 2004, featuring a Frank Gehry's Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Jaume Plensa's Crown Fountain and Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate sculpture and spanning what were formerly open railyards on the city's lakefront.
The Chicago River, which delineates the area, also provides entertainment and recreational opportunities, including the annual dyeing of the river green in honor of St. Patrick's Day. Trips down the Chicago River, including architectural tours, by commercial boat operators are great favorites with both locals and tourists.
The area is served by several community newspapers.[who?]
The Loop also hosts America's only city-based dusk-till-dawn cultural celebration, Looptopia. In 2008 the event was held on May 2.
The New Eastside is a mixed-use district bordered by Michigan Avenue to the west, the Chicago River to the north, Randolph Street to the south, and Lake Shore Drive to the east. It encompasses the entire Illinois Center and Lakeshore East developments, as well as separate developments like Aon Center, Prudential Plaza, Park Millennium Condominium Building, Hyatt Regency Chicago, and the Fairmont Hotel. The area has a triple-level street system and is bisected by Columbus Drive. Most of this district has been developed on land that was once used by the Illinois Central Railroad rail yards. The early buildings in this district such as the Aon Center and One Prudential Plaza used airspace rights in order to build above the railyards.
The triple-level street system allows for trucks to mainly travel and make deliveries on the lower levels, keeping traffic to a minimum on the upper levels.
Upcoming buildings include the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and Tower and the Aqua building, part of Lake Shore East that is being built by Magellan development. Construction has begun on Aqua, with an expected completion date in 2009. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel & Tower project is struggling with financing.
The New Eastside is served by the following Chicago Public Schools: Ogden School and Wells Community Academy High School.
 Printer's Row
Phillips Academy High SchoolPrinter's Row, once known as Printing House Row, is a neighborhood located in the southern portion of the Loop community area of Chicago. It is bounded by Congress Parkway on the north, Polk Street on the south, Plymouth Court on the east, and the Chicago River on the west. The signature street is Dearborn Street where the annual Printer's Row Book Fair is held. Originally, the buildings in this area were used by printing and publishing businesses. Today, the buildings have mainly been converted into residential lofts. Part of Printer's Row is an official landmark district.
Printer's Row is zoned to the following Chicago Public Schools: South Loop School and Phillips Academy High School.
 South Loop
2009 Lollapalooza in Grant ParkMost of the area south of Congress Parkway and east of the Chicago River, possibly excepting Printer's Row, is referred to as the South Loop. The southern boundary of the neighborhood is under debate. While the southern boundary for the community area is Roosevelt Road, the term "South Loop" is often used to describe an area that extends as far south as 18th Street or Cermak Road. Numerous shops south of Roosevelt Road with "South Loop" in their name hint that this more generous definition may be gaining recognition.
The more restrictively-defined area includes River City, the northern half of Dearborn Park, and portions of State Street, Wabash Avenue, and Michigan Avenue. The more generous definitions would include the Central Station development, Dearborn Park II, the Prairie District, and even the northern growth of Chinatown. In 2006, the Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization was formed to provide representation for thousands of South Loop residents.
The major landowner in the South Loop is Columbia College Chicago, a private school that owns 17 buildings. Also to be found here is the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum, championed by Mayor Daley.
South Loop is zoned to the following Chicago Public Schools: South Loop School and Phillips Academy High School. Jones College Prep High School, which is a selective enrollment magnet school drawing students from the entire city, is also located in the South Loop.
Weather permitting, large scale flea-marketing takes place here.
The South Loop was home to one of the largest homeless shelters in the city, the Pacific Garden Mission, from 1923 to 2007. The new location is further south, at 1458 S. Canal St.
The Chicago Journal newspaper covers the neighborhood and other urban communities.
 West Loop Gate
While a portion of the Near West Side traditionally called West Loop Gate is frequently abbreviated to "West Loop," Chicagoans also use West Loop to refer to the portion of the Loop community area along the eastern bank of the Chicago River.
 Historic Michigan Boulevard District
The Loop also contains the Chicago Landmark Historic Michigan Boulevard District, which is the section of Michigan Avenue opposite Grant Park and Millennium Park.