Chicago (CBS) — It’s used by thousands, but can lack a certain something that could attract more. Chicago’s underground Pedway is a series of tunnels linking 40 city blocks, winding through train stations, passing a health club and a smattering of lunch counters and stores.
Skylar Moran is a professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, who took his students to visit the underground network.
“It is more than a tunnel, but it could be more than it is,” he said.
Used by tens of thousands a day, its mix of public and private spaces can be poorly lit or maintained, and lack appeal.
“I feel like it’s kind of a little boring,” said Jiahui Pan, an architecture student at IIT. “There’s nothing much you can do here, only for walking and connecting to other spots of the city.”
Jay Yi, another architecture student, said he had only been to the Pedway once before.
“The only time I did come down here was after the ‘Dark Knight’ movie came out,” he said. “I had to check it out, cause it’s one of my favorite movies.”
Jay Yi and Jiahui Pan are both diving into a class called “Pedway 101”.
The class gets students acquainted with the system’s infrastructure and current attractions, like an underground art gallery, and challenges them to come up with ideas to help it turn a corner.
“It’s a public way that has potential for all types of uses, many of which have never emerged here,” Moran said.
Some suggest the Pedway should have more open spaces to the streets above, be more visible to the places it travels through, and have more spots to congregate. One idea is sponsoring free concerts to become a more inviting destination.
“This is what we study architecture for,” Jay Yi said. “It’s to affect the people.”
City and environmental groups are currently seeking an $18 million grant to help make improvements to the Pedway to give people a reason to stop instead of just pass thorough.