After losing the second game of the Western Conference finals, the Chicago Blackhawks will be looking for resurgence when their series with the L.A. Kings resumes on Saturday.
But another resurgence is already underway in the neighborhood just east of the United Center.
The West Loop sees a surge of people on nights when the Hawks are in town. TV screens in bars light up with game, and registers light up with cash. But the question is, do these red-clad visitors turn into regular patrons in the off season?
“I think, this being what some would say the Golden Age of the Blackhawks hockey, it's getting a lot of people to see what a cool neighborhood this is, and there's definitely a lot more people coming in on non-Hawks games,” said Panchi Cole, the assistant general manager at West End Bar and Grill, a Blackhawks bar on West Madison.
But many people are doing more than just visiting the area for a night out. It’s become a hot neighborhood to call home. Monica Frager moved here two years ago.
“I really enjoy this neighborhood, there's a lot of young professionals, a lot of people my age, it's very dog friendly, it's very sports oriented and those are all the things that I like," Frager said as she walked her dog.
And she's not alone. The amount of newly built, or under construction housing, is incredible, and in demand. According to Census data, from 2000 to 2010, the population in this part of Chicago more than doubled. Sterling Bay, the developers who recently bought Oprah's old studio, see tremendous potential in the near west side, most notably in the Fulton Market area.
“To find an area so close to the central business district that's been relatively untouched for so long is relatively unique,” said Sterling Bay’s Founding principal Scott Goodman. “I think that if you go to any major metropolitan area in the country you'd be hard pressed to find a neighborhood with this kind of opportunity and this kind of character.”
Goodman doesn't believe the Blackhawks popularity is driving that. But Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) believes it certainly doesn't hurt.
“I think some of it is people getting introduced to it when they come to the United Center, see the games, they see that are a lot of things that are happening in the West Loop area,” Burnett said.
Besides housing, there's plenty of newer businesses and restaurants, which all benefit from those coming to the neighborhood either because of the Blackhawks, or simply because it's close and convenient for people working downtown.
Goodman notes the growth in the West Loop has to do with its character and proximity, and the public transportation options.
“It's continued to grow because Chicago is becoming a more and more popular workplace for the Millennials,” Goodman said.
And as more high tech jobs move into the downtown area, it’s likely to fuel more growth in the West Loop.
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