Dear Editor, Unexpectedly I totally agree with Councillor Whitby. He is correct to develop the relationship between Birmingham and Chicago. As Alun Thorne’s piece in last week’s Post points out, there are numerous areas where two great cities can learn from one another. Can I suggest a couple of items to add to the agenda?
First is the serious need to improve their airport. Until recently O’Hare airport claimed to be the busiest in the world. In terms of aircraft movements it considerably exceeds Heathrow, and it is a major “hub” with many arriving passengers flying on to other destinations.
However the vast bulk of those flights are internal US domestic flights. For international passengers it is seriously deficient.
Arriving there on a recent trip, it took well over three hours to get through passport control. There must have been a thousand passengers milling about in the immigration hall, with no seating, no catering ,and no toilet facilities. Pregnant women, the elderly, and anyone unwell just had to stand and wait like the rest of us. Like my wife and I, most had connecting flights, which – like my wife and I – were missed. Frankly, it was a disgrace.
Departing from O’Hare was little better. Getting through security was a nightmare. The facilities were cramped and inadequate. The security staff were (understandably) brusque, and it all became a bad tempered and fractious experience.
Once we were through security we encountered what is usually referred to as the “departure lounge”. Minimal catering, minimal bars, just about adequate seating. I would like to visit Chicago again, but until improvements are made, it will not be through O’Hare.
My second suggestion is that we can learn from Chicago in redeveloping obsolete buildings. It is a city of spectacular architecture, best seen – for the tourist – from the river.
It has numerous former warehouse and office buildings which have been cleverly converted to apartments (or condominiums as the Americans like to call them).
In Birmingham we have the scandal of the “old” Queen Elizabeth Hospital building standing empty. It is an iconic building which should be redeveloped as flats, leisure facilities or a student village (or all three). Clearly there are Chicago based property companies who would relish the challenge of the QE.
I suggest that Councillor Whitby talks to the University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust along these lines.
Anthony N Cook.