Jul 7, 2023 - News

"Downtown Day" to bring thousands of teens to the Loop this weekend

Chicago's Cloudgate, or "The Bean" with reflection of skyline and people standing around it.

Anish Kapoor's sculpture Cloud Gate in Millennium Park in 2018. Photo: Patrick Gorski/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Chicago's young people are heading back downtown, and that's a good thing.

What's happening: The nonprofit My Block, My Hood, My City (MBMHMC) is organizing a "Downtown Day" tomorrow, when teens and adults up to age 22 can explore the Loop area.

  • Several downtown businesses and organizations will offer special discounts and opportunities to participants.

Why it matters: Many young people in Chicago haven't experienced much outside their own blocks and neighborhoods, the nonprofit's CEO Jahmal Cole said in a statement.

What they're saying: "They've never been to one of our great museums, never been to the lakefront, never even been downtown," Cole said. "They've been cut off from important life experiences and opportunities."

Details: MBMHMC will chaperone small groups to explore the downtown area all day, with the help of law enforcement. The nonprofit expects thousands of teens to attend.

  • MBMHMC is giving each participant a $50 gift card to use at restaurants and shops.

Context: This event has been in the works for months, but it comes after a spate of incidents in which large groups of young people gathered downtown and some engaged in criminal activity, including assault and property destruction.

  • These gatherings, dubbed "teen takeovers" by news outlets, have led to heightened security at Millennium Park and a citywide curfew.

Zoom in: It's not just downtown. Hundreds of young people shut down Belmont Avenue in Lakeview for several hours last week.

  • Video showed people jumping on cars, CTA buses and even police cars.

The big picture: Other organizations inside Chicago neighborhoods and the surrounding suburbs have responded with new programs and, in the case of Calumet Heights, new buildings.

  • The new Chicago Youth Center (CYC), which offers youth programming in underserved neighborhoods on the South and West Sides, opened in June. It's the first new center the CYC has opened in almost 30 years.
  • "Having a dedicated space to interact with peers, grow academically, and explore new interests is crucial," CYC president and CEO Kevin Cherep tells Axios.

What we're watching: Mayor Brandon Johnson has made youth employment and engagement one of the pillars of his anti-violence plan. He's touted 2,000 additional job openings in this summer's city youth employment program over last year.

The bottom line: For Chicago Loop Alliance CEO Michael Edwards, it means more than just a field trip.

  • "This Downtown Day initiative helps show how the Loop is truly everyone's neighborhood."

What's next: Downtown Day starts Saturday at 10:45am at the Harris Theater near Millennium Park.

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