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State Street To Close For 5-Hour Festival Oct. 1

State Street

State Street will close for a five-hour festival on Oct. 1. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — State Street downtown will turn from a thoroughfare to a fairground on Oct. 1.

As CBS 2’s Kris Habermehl reports, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day – a Saturday – State Street will be transformed into an “urban playground” for the festival called, “Open Streets on State Street.”

Organizers say the festival is patterned after similar events in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco and Bogota, Colombia, which encourage people to walk outside, visit local businesses and meet new people.

Organizers say in Bogota, the city closes 70 miles of road to traffic every Sunday, and nearly 1 million people gather in their place.

“It’s only five hours on a Saturday, but it’s another way we’re trying to draw traffic and do something outside of the box,” said Ty Tabing, executive director of the Chicago Loop Alliance, which is sponsoring the event as part of its “Go Do Good” campaign.

The summer-long campaign encourages the public to “do good,” in tandem with a new mural by artist Kay Rosen along State Street composed of the Words “Go Do Good,” the city says.

The Chicago Loop Alliance is no stranger to ambitious – and sometimes eccentric – events in the downtown area. In 2007 and 2008, the organization staged the dusk-to-dawn festival “Looptopia” on the downtown streets and inside museums and public buildings, which featured everything from film screenings and dance parties to Indian sitar performances and drag contests.

For the “Open Streets” event, State Street will be lined from Lake Street to Van Buren Street with activities ranging from a dunking booth, to a roller disco to demonstrations on bike safety and break dancing. Cars will be allowed to cross at Madison and Monroe streets.

“This gives people a new way to see one of the most iconic streets in the city, by walking to the businesses and standing in the street, looking up and appreciating the architecture. We want people to get around in healthier, ‘greener’ and more cost-efficient ways, and increase the trips people make by walking, biking or taking public transit,” said Adolfo Hernandez, director of advocacy and outreach for Active Transportation Alliance, a Chicago non-profit that has planned and will set up the event.

The “Open Streets” event will cost $125,000 to stage. The cost is borne by a variety of Loop businesses, including the lead sponsor, the Illinois Center for Broadcasting at 530 S. State St.

Walgreens will promote a walking program as part of its return to its former State and Randolph site in early 2012, this time with a new store featuring a sushi bar, manicure and pedicure services, and fresh produce and prepared foods.

Walgreens operated a store at the site from 1926 until 2005, when its old building was torn down and replaced with the new structure at 151 N. State St., which most recently occupied by a Loehmann’s store.

The new Walgreens format is patterned after New York City’s Duane Reade drugstore chain, which has become known for its upscale foodstuffs and elaborate cosmetics departments. The Walgreen Co. acquired Duane Reade in February 2010.

Closing State Street for pedestrian traffic may bring back some bad memories for longtime Chicagoans. From 1979 to 1996, State Street was converted into a pedestrian mall that was open only to bus traffic between Wacker Drive and Congress Parkway.

The mall cost more than $17 million to complete, and was intended to draw more people to shop in the Loop, the Chicago Tribune recalled. But at the time that State Street was reopened to traffic, the Chicago Tribune called the mall “a dismal experiment that didn’t work,” and instead left the grand street looking empty and gray at all hours of the day.

But organizers of the “Open Streets” event are assuring residents that no plans exist to bring back the mall.

The Chicago Sun-Times contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire.