‘Keep it weird’ Chicago Pedway a unique, hidden gem
by Mat Cohen
The Pedway system has its lovers and its haters. Some people frequent the walkway everyday while others won’t step foot in it.
Enjoy it or not, the tunnels are an integral and symbolic part of the city with their perfect imperfections.
Margaret Hicks leads a tour through the walkway and can understand people being intimidated by the unknown.
“I think it is inherently confusing to anybody trying to use this on their own,” she said. “I think that there have been people who have been confused by the symbol who have left.
“That I don’t want.”
Starting at the Fairmont Hotel and heading down an escalator, Hicks led the tour past a Burger King, where the Dark Knight rode his motorcycle and eventually west to Block 37. The journey included murals, a pool, stained glass and signs of homelessness.
“I’m definitely in the keep-it-weird camp, I don’t want them to sterilize the Pedway,” she said. “I want them to keep it weird, but I don’t want people to feel like they’re not welcome.”
One of the art installations, Space p11, an independent art gallery at 55 E. Randolph, has art installations curated with the help of the Chicago Loop Alliance.
Director Jonathan Solomon believes the Pedway is a perfect space to grow the community of Chicago.
“The pedway is so interesting to me because it’s part of the city’s master narrative of growth and flow and exchange,” he said. “Today while parts are heavily travelled, many parts are neglected or abandoned, it’s become an eddy in the stream for Chicago.”
The Pedway system is imperfect, people can get lost as it’s not a grid like the rest of Chicago and all different people use it.
“I see the most potential as a cultural space,” Solomon said. “We have lots of retail, lots of shops, I think the exciting thing is the potential to create cultural programs that maybe don’t have a place on the street. Where people are getting lost and stumbling on something.”
Hicks and Solomon both love the essence of the Pedway despite its imperfections and agree it’s a massive part of the city.
“It’s always changing, it’s never the same,” Hicks said. “It’s really one of the neighborhoods.”
“It’s grown a culture of its own,” Solomon said. “It’s different from the street above it, different from the neighborhood. It’s one of the few places in Chicago where you can get lost because it’s not organized on this grid.”
For more information about Hicks and her tours, visit https://chicagoelevated.com/. For news and upcoming events for Space p11, visit https://space-p11.com/.