Suburban Light Show Lands in Chicago’s Gold Coast

We (among many others) have long bemoaned the transformation of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile from one of the nation’s premiere shopping districts into pretty much a suburban mall — except with more kids banging empty buckets. Now the suburbanization of Chicago’s retail experience has crept into the one remaining outpost of high-end shopping in the city: The Oak Street District.

Sure, Oak Street has been in decline for a while now. A lot of the high-end stores moved over to Walton or Rush Streets. But Oak is still Oak, even without Barneys and the real Kate Spade.

But empty storefronts and mid-range chains don’t bring in foot traffic, especially with the memory of summer looting fresh in people’s minds. So what do you do to tempt potential shoppers to crack open their wallets? Bedazzle them!

Gold Coast Spy B sent in this video of the new Christmas lights on Oak Street. They’re the same tasteful white lights etching the patterns of oak trees into the darkness. But if you wait a bit, you’ll find out that they’re animated.

Spy B calls it “downmarket,” and he might be right. You no longer have to drive to a suburban strip mall or downstate drag race track to walk through a magical moving light show.

But at the same time, what else is Oak Street supposed to do to bring people in? The people who used to drop a grand on a new pair of shoes every month aren’t visiting anymore. Even people with seven-figure salaries are buying online, instead of walking four blocks to support their local shopgirls. So, points for doing something, I guess. It’s better than doing nothing.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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