Oprah Winfrey has been the undisputed queen of the talk show for nearly 25 years. But her reign of TV dominance is about to come to an end.
During her time as a talk show host, Oprah brought much joy and many jobs to Chicago. She also contributed, almost single-handedly, to the renovation and expansion of the West Loop.
When Oprah decided to open her production company, Harpo Studios, in the West Loop in 1990, the neighborhood was neglected and largely in disrepair. The neighborhood had been on the decline for years, and if Oprah had not chosen to base Harpo Studios there, it is unlikely that the West Loop would have experienced the urban renaissance that it did.
But Oprah did choose to place her studio there, and that made all the difference. She began to quietly buy up some of the most neglected buildings in the area, and she did what she could to bring them back to their former glory. Then, when her talk show was granted syndication, many more people began to move to the neighborhood.
Harpo employees chose to settle close to studio headquarters. And other Chicagoans, unaffiliated with Oprah’s show in any way, chose to move to the West Loop to take advantage of the spirit of renewal Oprah brought to the area.
So, what will become of Chicago now that Oprah intends to end her show and move to Chicago? Will urban renewal in neighborhoods like the West Loop grind to a complete and total halt?
In a word, no. Chicago’s real estate experts believe that—although Oprah unquestionably contributed a great deal to Chicago’s recent urban renewal—the city should do just fine without her.
In fact, many real estate experts believe that—as soon as the Chicago-based tech company Groupon announces its IPO (initial public offering) a new wave of urban renewal and real estate development may sweep through the city.
We can only hope so.
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