Willard Says...

April 25, 2017

The Buzz

By Jonathan Zimmerman

You have to admit, downtown Chicago is a pretty amazing place to work; transcendent architecture, premier accessibility, fascinating cultural attractions, restaurants at every corner, and miles upon miles of shopping. Very few cities come close to topping what we get to enjoy.

As glorious as these elements are, however, I have to say my favorite thing about the city is the “buzz.”

The second I exit the train every morning and step outside into the Loop, there is a certain energy that strikes me right away and it simply cannot be matched. It is difficult to describe, but you know it when you see and feel it.

Crowds of people rushing from place to place, cars darting in and out of lanes, “L” trains racing around the tracks, gleaming skyscrapers in all their glory, the brilliance of the Chicago River and accompanying Riverwalk, the truly Magnificent Mile, the street musicians and peddlers, all framed by Lake Michigan in the background. Every piece comes together and crescendos into a certain kind of rush where you just know you are somewhere important.

My fascination with the city started long before my daily Metra commutes to work. I can still remember two instances from my youth that shaped my love of downtown Chicago.

The first time I felt the “buzz” was when my grandmother would take me with her to shop at “dime stores” (am I dating myself?) on State Street. We would ride the Ravenswood train (now the Brown Line) and spend hours walking around the late State Street Mall. The visit was always capped by a visit to the soda fountain at Woolworths for a root beer float.

My other memory was when I was in 5th grade and we took the greatest field trip ever–next to my senior ditch day excursion to Great America, but that is a story for another time–to downtown Chicago. I vividly remember going up and down the glass elevators at the recently-opened State of Illinois Building (now the Thompson Center) over and over until a security guard threw us out. We got to visit the Skydeck at the then-Sears Tower and even ate lunch at McDonald’s. From that moment on, I was hooked and I just knew I had to find a way to work downtown.

No disrespect to the suburbs, but I cannot imagine myself working in one of those far away office campuses and having to drive everywhere. They seem so ordinary and sterile compared to downtown. It totally makes sense why all of these corporations are relocating to downtown Chicago, or at least establishing a satellite office. Most people today want to work downtown; they want to be part of the buzz.

All these years later, the thrill is as strong as ever. One of the great things about my job as a downtown real estate broker is being right in the middle of the buzz on a daily basis. If the day starts to drag, all I need to do is leave my office and take a short walk around the block. That is as good as a jolt of caffeine. It is gratifying to play a role, no matter how small, in contributing to this phenomenon. As stressful as the job can be, I never lose sight of how fortunate I am to work in the center of such a dynamic place.