36, 38,39, 40

This is a longer post, but I’m so witty and fascinating, I know you’ll stay with me right? Oh I hope so!

I’m going to do my best to stay away from politics here at Chicago Elevated. So many more people know so much more than I do about all that juicy stuff – my specialties are architecture and history – not politics. But you can’t live in a city like Chicago without at least seeing some of what’s going on right? The other day I headed down to Block 37 to check out the new Pedway and mall. Check the end of the post for a small video I made before security got to me.

picture courtesy of scb.com

picture courtesy of scb.com

Here’s a quick history of Block 37 , it’s a complicated history and it helps to write it out. I hope you all comment with more information.

Block 37 is called Block 37 because when James Thompson was doing the plat of Chicago in 1830 he set up 58 city blocks and this one was the 37th. Back in those days the block was totally rockin’. It was right in the middle of everything, it had stores and offices. When the fire wiped it out, the block was rebuilt with over 4 times the square footage that it had before. Popular block.

In 1872 John Van Osdel, our first real architect, built The McCarthy Building on the land. Osdel also designed the house for our first Mayor (boyfriend Ogden) and The Palmer House Hotel.  Everything is swell and good at the 37 until the 60’s hit and the Loop starts its decline and Michigan Ave gets all the renewal money the Loop should have gotten. The Loop runs down, Block 37 runs down and by the time the upswing starts it’s too late.

In 1987 Daley and the City Council get in a big fight with preservationists about demolishing The McCarthy Building. The City Council says that the Landmarks Preservation Council and The American Institute of Architects lacked legal standing to oppose the demolition and that they couldn’t participate in a legal hearing. It’s a big case and a big deal and guess who wins? The City! So they tear down our first architect’s building and nothing goes in there, it’s just a big, gaping hole where a historical building should have been. Between 1987 and 2004 there are a million developers who want it and just as many ideas are flowing about what it should be, hotel, residential, office, but all deals fall through until the city sells the land to the Mills Corporation in 2004 with a 20 million dollar loss.

Now, the Mills Corporation has its own set of problems, problems with the SEC and problems losing a ton of cash and they sell to the Freed Corporation (who also is the developer at Carsons) with the help of 42 million in TIF money. Freed starts to actually get some work done and here we are today with Block 37 kind of half opened. Now however, B of A is after Freed and is trying to give the project to CB Richard Ellis Group, Inc., but that’s  all weird too. CB doesn’t have the right insurance and Freed has everything they need, except the money. This is all still being decided, so we’ll see what happens.

Again, I’ll do my best to stay out of the politics and give you my opinion as honestly as I can. I hate the outside. I think it’s ugly and overbearing and not pretty to the human walking by it or across from it. It looks dark and convoluted and the big CBS screen is such an eyesore my eyes are actually sore. But when I walked in there the other night I was surprised and impressed. The new building and Pedway is light and airy and new and shiny. It didn’t feel like Chicago to me somehow, this weird mall in the middle of the city…it was weird.

I’ve never understood why, but I fear the “city mall” just doesn’t work. Although it looks nice in there, that mall has the same creepy feeling that The Chicago Place Mall has (you know which one I mean, 700 N. Michigan with the REALLY creepy food court at the top?) lots of empty spaces and plenty of air. It’s a little impersonal and doesn’t have much personality.

But I love shiny, new things and I was excited to walk in there. Granted, I’ll probably never go in there to actually buy anything, but I’d go to the movies there and it certainly makes for a greater introduction to my Pedway Tour (starting January 18!). I can’t imagine the mall is going to be wildly successful, how many more stores do we need? But if it could become a place where people meet and hang and relax and eat and go to the movies, it just might work.

I did a little video before the security guards told me I couldn’t. Why, I don’t know. I would have asked but even a little amount of authority scares me, so I just smiled sweetly and put my things away. I would have thought they would like pictures and video, but they don’t. So you have been warned – don’t take pictures of our new mall.

click here for pedway tour preview

4 thoughts on “36, 38,39, 40

  1. I total agree with your accessment inside and out. The bent metal exterior on the State Street side does nothing to engage our City’s main street and it kind of looks like a train wreck without being as interesting as a train wreck. But the inside was nice. I was surprised how horizontal it was. Most city malls are very vertical and give me vertigo.

  2. Right, it does kind of look like a train wreck without the wrecked train huh? Yeah, I still got that “city mall” feeling, but it felt open and airy and light (and clean).

  3. We call the mall at 700 N Michigan the “zombie mall” — it looks a lot like the mall level in a not-too-well-made zombie game. Yes, creepy.

  4. Yes, that’s exactly what it is. We walked by it last night and it was so dark and scary. Definitely zombie mall

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