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The doors to Chicago’s finest places and spaces don’t unlock themselves. We’d like you to meet the passionate, enthusiastic people who help us host the city’s biggest annual architectural festival: Open House Chicago.

Derrick James is the Senior Manager of Government Affairs at Amtrak, the organization that owns Chicago’s historic Union Station. Last year, Derrick and his team welcomed thousands of visitors into some relatively unknown spaces. One of those hidden spaces was the stunning Women’s Lounge. The lounge was off limits to the public for many decades.

What is your favorite part about this site? Why should people see it?

So many have walked through this station to begin trips of joy and trips of sadness. There have been reunions here and long goodbyes. I especially love seeing the Boy Scouts heading off to camp and the Amish traveling to visit relatives and go on their own vacations. Millions of trips have started and ended here for 90 years.

What do you love about Open House Chicago?

OHC gives us an appreciation of the richness of this city, not just the structures but the people that built them. Those who came before us left us with these buildings that they put their mark on and that’s pretty cool.

What was your favorite OHC experience?

My favorite OHC experience actually came as a visitor to a different site. Seeing the interior of the Avalon (now New Regal) Theatre. This Moorish gem sits like a mysterious sentinel over my neighborhood. I’m hopeful that the theater can be restored. It could be an economic draw and contribute to the resurgence of the South Side.