One thing you learn about us at Eli’s is that we love our hometown, Chicago.
For me, it started when my dad took me on long rides around the City, showing me
the boulevards, the parks and the way that the City had developed. From those
rides, I developed a real passion for Chicago history and architecture. I was
fortunate at the age of 17, as a high school senior, to become the then youngest
docent for the Chicago Architectural Foundation. After taking a series of
classes and an exam, I was able to give tours of the loop, Pullman, the Glessner
House and Graceland Cemetery, among others. The central business district back
in 1976 didn’t look all good. Development in the south loop on Printer’s Row
hadn’t started and one of the famous buildings on the world, the Reliance
Building, was largely empty and in disrepair. Fast forward to 2004, and you have
the incredible book in the South Loop from the Lake to far west of the Medical
Center and the award winning Hotel Burnham in the Reliance Building. This past
weekend Chicago welcomed a new treasure with the opening of Millennium Park. I
knew that 24 acre site from our early days at the Taste of Chicago. There was a
small piece at grade that you could park at for Taste and the rest was below
grade and used on for some trains and storage. Mayor Daley re-centered the whole
central business district (on Michigan Avenue from Oak Street to Roosevelt Road)
by opening this urban jewel. The combination of the Jay Pritzker Band shell and
Bridge designed by Richard Gehry with the Great Lawn, Cloud Gate (known locally
as the Bean) by Anish Kapoor, the Crown fountain by Jaume Plensa of Barcelona,
the Lurie Garden (just where I used to park for Taste) make it a perfect urban
space.

The City hosted a great opening weekend for the opening of Millennium Park.
One of the groups that we actively support, The Happiness Club, was invited to
participate in a parade of performing groups with performance afterward
throughout the Park.