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Bears plans shouldn’t pit Chicago vs. Arlington Heights – Crain’s Chicago Business

In his Sept. 29 column, Greg Hinz continues a problematic narrative that’s surfacing lately: that the city of Chicago somehow needs to compete with any of its suburbs in terms of entertainment options downtown (“What’s at stake for Lightfoot as the Bears head for the exit”).

This recent line that has appeared in numerous publications and social media is problematic, because it continues unproductive competitive thinking about the metro region (Chicago vs. the suburbs), and it also ignores the strengths of the entirety of the Loop entertainment districts, Loop-adjacent neighborhoods, Chinatown and other neighborhoods within one or two CTA stops from Soldier Field. Even these lines of argumentation ignore Lincoln Yards and the 78 as forthcoming entertainment districts within shouting distance from the Loop.

This type of thinking is problematic, because it creates intraregional competition that ensures that whether the Bears stay in Chicago or leave for the suburbs, the result will be a less suitable project for all residents of the metro region. If Cook County, the city, the Regional Transportation Authority and the Illinois Department of Transportation, among other stakeholders, work together to plan inclusive regional economic development and transportation, a Bears site in Arlington Heights could be a victory for metro Chicago in numerous ways. Residents across the region need better options for work, fair access to affordable housing and better transportation options to make these connections work. This new stadium is as good an excuse as we’ll have to address these issues for a long time.

But if all we’re focusing on is dropping a suburban-style entertainment district next to a stadium in isolation of any other planning efforts, be it in Arlington Heights or along the Chicago lakefront, the next Bears stadium will prove to be just as much a failure as the current one. A competitive mindset of Arlington Heights vs. Chicago will almost certainly guarantee such an outcome.

NICHOLAS ZETTEL

Chicago

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