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The Making of a Magnificent Mile

Take a moment to walk one of the world’s most iconic shopping districts and appreciate not just its material delights, but the daring design and real estate adventures that have made this street come to life. Destined to become a grand boulevard thanks to the vision of Burnham and Bennett’s 1909 Plan for Chicago, it was the “Soaring Twenties” that quickly conferred its mark of distinction on the area. Civic leaders, city planners, property owners and the North Central Business District Association (now the Magnificent Mile Association) joined forces in shaping Michigan Avenue’s physical identity and ultimate commercial success. They first set out to construct the Michigan Avenue Bridge (now DuSable Bridge), widen the roadway and sidewalks to permit high volume foot and automotive traffic north of the river and erect gleaming new office towers as beacons for the budding district. Ongoing public-private-partnerships have enabled various redevelopment and beautification efforts in the decades since. In the 1940s, Arthur Rubloff, a titan of downtown development, bestowed the fitting moniker “Magnificent Mile.” Today, it is designated one of the “Great Avenues of the World,” with echoes of Paris’s Champs-Élysées. Photo by Eric Allix Rogers

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