EDITED BY JENNIFER TANAKA
PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRIS LAKE
In 1951, the city built a stretch of tunnels in and around the Loop to connect the Red Line and Blue Line el trains between State and Dearborn streets. Called the Pedway, the tunnel network has since grown to link 40 city blocks and dozens of buildings in the central business district. Today, it’s possible to walk from the Swissôtel on Upper Wacker to the Thompson Center with only two block-long jaunts aboveground. According to Brian Steele, spokesman for the city’s Department of Transportation, the navigability of the Pedway will improve in early 2008 with uniform signs and maps. In the meantime, we compiled a tour of its best features.
Begin your journey under the (1) Swissôtel Chicago (323 E. Wacker Dr.), accessible down the escalator through the hotel’s lobby. Straight ahead, the Dunkin’ Donuts in the (2) 303 East Wacker Drive building is the first sign of life. If you follow the horseshoe around to the right, you’ll find Petrosino’s Parlor salon, Fleurtations florist, Gateway newsstand, and an ATM. Or keep walking straight toward the signs pointing to Columbus Drive and you’ll run into Milya’s Boutique (women’s clothes), a newly built Khyber Pass (Indian food), and an Oriental Express, which offers a popular daily Chinese lunch special priced at $5.25.
The Pedway tunnels that run underneath the (3) Hyatt Regency Chicago (151 E. Wacker Dr.) can be confusing; ask the Hyatt staff for help. Get a haircut at the Italian-themed Spa Di La Fronza, which also offers a quick lunchtime manicure for $18 to $21.
Next door, the (4) Illinois Center (233 N. Michigan Ave.) houses in its basement the mother of all food courts, which contains some gems among the usual chain suspects (Così, Potbelly, McDonald’s, and many others). Try the spicy chicken sandwich and steak fries from tiny Vista; the turkey bagel sandwiches from Jaffa Bagels; and fresh, pay-by-the-pound salads and Asian food from Delmonico’s. Non-culinary services include a dentist, tobacco shop, FedEx, shoe repair, barbershop, florist, and card store. Building veterans we talked to recommend hair coloring from Vicky at the Anna George Salon.
Keep going . . .
As you walk south, you’ll pass through the (5) Boulevard Towers (205 N. Michigan Ave.), where the Pedway seems to end. You can stay underground by taking a rather sparsely populated shortcut down the escalator, past the trains, and up the ramp, ending at the shiny new Millennium Metra Station at Randolph Street and Michigan Avenue (skip ahead to number 8). Or exit the Illinois Center, cross Lake Street, and enter the (6) Prudential Plaza a few doors east (its exact address is 130 E. Randolph St., but use the north entrance on Lake Street); the street-level Pedway, one of the classier parts of the trip, picks up again in the lobby. Highlights include King’s Row barbershop; Golden Rose florist; Nailcessity salon; and Curves fitness center.
A detour east down the stairs will take you to the (7) Aon Center (200 E. Randolph St.), where the Pedway offers more chain lunch options (Au Bon Pain, Salad Spinners, Sopraffina), services (travel agency, cleaners, florist, men’s hair salon), and a U.S. post office. Before the Pedway dead-ends into the Lakeshore Athletic Club and Fairmont Hotel, look for the fruit-and-juice bar next to Au Bon Pain and order one of its fantastic frozen-yogurt smoothies made with fresh fruit. Another good destination is Café 200, which serves sushi, Mexican fare, salads to order, and brick-oven pizza, cafeteria style.
To head west from the Prudential Plaza, take a stairway in the lobby on the Randolph Street side of the building; it leads to the Pedway in the (8) Millennium Metra Station. Before entering the station, however, be sure to stop in at Market Creations; Prudential office workers rave about the huge grilled panini—in particular, the Reuben on soft rye with corned beef, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing (it’s not on the regular menu, so ask). The station also offers a clean and bright public restroom.
Just past the Now We’re Poppin’ snack shop in the Metra station, bear left down a few steps and make a slight right through the glass doors. You can access the (9) Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St.) using an elevator on the right side or head straight into the basement of the newly renovated (10) 139 North Wabash Avenue building, where you’ll find a Subway, a dry cleaners, and Intelligentsia Coffee.
Except for Infield’s sports bar and an ATM, the Pedway in the basement of (11) Macy’s (111 N. State St.) is fairly desolate, and we recommend hurrying through until you reach the Washington Red Line subway station. Here, construction prevents you from connecting to the Blue Line, so exit the Pedway and pick it up at the Washington Blue Line stop (19 N. Dearborn St.) at the (12) Richard J. Daley Center (55 E. Randolph St.).
The Pedway in the lower level of the Daley Center leads through a maze of courtrooms, related offices, and information booths. Go left down the first hallway past the Starbucks to reach the (13) 69 West Washington Street building, where we were delighted to encounter a subterranean Dairy Queen and a watch repair. Also, look for the express driver’s license facility, open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Go back to the main tunnel of the Daley Center and head west to the (14) City Hall-County Building (121 N. LaSalle St.). Halfway through City Hall, take a right, and after walking through the first set of doors at the end of the hall, take a quick right and ride the escalator down to the lower level. On your left is the Marriage Court; bear right and continue past the vending machines. The (15) James R. Thompson Center (100 W. Randolph St.) is just ahead. (Ignore the State of Illinois signs.) Go past the Department of Motor Vehicles and walk through the massive circular food court. From here, the Pedway leads to the Clark/Lake Blue Line el station or to the aboveground catwalk along Lake Street connecting the (16) 203 North LaSalle Street building all the way east to the (17) Leo Burnett Building (35 W. Wacker Dr.) and the (18) Renaissance Hotel (1 W. Wacker Dr.).