Chicago Launches Lighting Competition in Bid to Boost Tourism, Skeptics Concerned Over Pollution

Design, Lighting, Midwest
Monday, January 27, 2014
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(Courtesy City of Chicago)

(Courtesy City of Chicago)

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been very vocal about his ambitions to increase tourism in the city, and he once again upped that goal to 55 million annual visitors by 2020—an almost 20 percent jump from current numbers.

Riding high on news of record hotel occupancy last year, Emanuel said Wednesday that Chicago would launch an international design contest to light up the city at night. As with previous initiatives, like the Downtown Riverwalk extension, the lighting design competition would highlight the Chicago River.

(Courtesy City of Chicago)

(Courtesy City of Chicago)

Lou Raizin, president of Broadway in Chicago, will lead the light-up Chicago initiative.

The Illinois Coalition for Responsible Outdoor Lighting called it the idea “frivolous” and environmentally harmful. But the plan to make Chicago America’s city of light is more about creating buzz than addressing light pollution.

The City reports that it has already seen a 15 percent jump in visitors since 2011. But as Fran Spielman of the Chicago Sun-Times reported, even the president of tourism agency Choose Chicago acknowledged a lighting festival alone won’t bring nine million more people to the city by 2020:

“We’re going to need some of the big festivals that may be in other parts of the world. Or we’re going to create some new ones,” [Don] Welsh said, pointing to a planned, citywide celebration of the Chinese New Year.

That citywide Chinese New Year celebration runs from Jan. 31 through Feb. 14.

(Courtesy City of Chicago)

(Courtesy City of Chicago)

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