Block37 in Chicago

Photo of Block37 in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Block37 in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
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Photo of Block37 in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Block37 in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Block37 in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Block37 in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Block37 in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Block37 in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Block37 in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Block37 in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Block37 in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Block37 in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Block37 in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Block37 in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Block37 in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Block37 in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation

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Block37
Also known as:Block Thirty Seven
Formerly:Block 37
Formerly:108 North State

1 West Ranolph Street, Chicago, Illinois, The Loop 60602
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In real estate, it's all about location. And this parcel of land has one of the most desirable locations in all Chicago. But being desirable isn't easy. Block37 spent more than a decade as a vacant lot, since a jumble of run-down buildings were leveled in 1989. Before that date, it was a standard Chicago commercial block covered with buildings between one and six-stories tall. Though it sounds innocuous, it was a cancer on the area. The buildings were run down and attracted vagrants, junkies, and worse. Even the vacant lot was better than the buildings that preceded it.

A number of plans came and went over the years. Everything from an American branch of British luxury retailer Harrod's to a 100-story megatower. While waiting for development, the lot served as a location for various festivals and city events.

Finally in 2004 things started to actually happen. The plan that finally turned an eyesore into a landmark was a mix of office, retail, residential, and hotel space. By 2005, dirt was finally turning and people, long weary of broken promises, started actually believing that something would happen.

The company behind the plan was the Mills Corporation, of Gurnee Mills, Grapevine Mills, Katy Mills, etc... fame. Mills is adroit at turning vacant plots of land into entertainment and shopping destinations, combining theme park settings with retail to create a destination of their own. At first it appeared to be out of place in the heart of the Loop. The location across the street from the once-great Marshall Field's seemed a little dicey especially now that Field's heritage and luster has been lost to corporate sell-offs.

But the timing was perfect -- just as the mall component was getting built, State Street started undergoing a renaissance. The street that was once Chicago's shopping hub was returning to prominence. Old vacant storefronts were being replaced by gleaming new shops. Nasty run-down stores of questionable utility were replaced by art stores catering to students, coffee shops, and freestanding outlets of East Coast and European clothing stores. Even the crusty old Palmer House Hilton renovated its ground floor retail arcade to bring in a newer, younger mix of shopping opportunities. With State Street once again becoming the city's third great shopping district (Behind Oak Street and Michigan Avenue) The idea of a mall in the Loop no longer seemed strange, and many hoped it could provide the kind of anchor needed to help funnel business into struggling properties like Macy's on State and the former Carson Pirie Scott building.

But in spite of many hopes and big plans, things change. The plan was amended amid rough economic times. The residential component has been removed, leaving a mall at the base, plus an office tower and a hotel tower.

Underneath Block37 was supposed to be a transit hub. This was one of Mayor Daley's pet projects. He envisioned a place where people headed to O'Hare and Midway airports could check their luggage before leaving downtown, then take an express train directly to the airport. The idea was to reduce lines and congestion at the airport, and make traveling more convenient for passengers who wouldn't have to schlep their bags on the el. Individual airlines have tried similar experiments in other cities with mixed results. But in mid-2008, the plan was mothballed. The Chicago Transit Authority began work on the station, but simply didn't have enough money to complete the mayor's vision. For now the station is abandoned and there's no indication it will ever return to service.

However, other parts of this project have managed to be completed. The office tower opened in September, 2008 along with the new WBBM-TV street front studio and offices. But that opening brought with it another disappointment for project planners and the mayor. The plan approved by the city included a massive video wall that would wrap around the Washington Street and Dearborn Street sides of the building. When WBBM television moved in, it instead put up one single video panel, leaving the rest of the space an ugly framework exposed to the public.

Quick Facts
Statistics
  • Retail floor space: 400,000 square feet.
Timeline
  • 1989 - The buildings on this 2.85 acre lot were razed.
  • 2002 - The City of Chicago purchased Block 37 for $32,500,000.
  • 2002 - Mills Corp, of Arlington, Virginia, was selected to develop Block 37.
  • August, 2004 - CBS confirmed that WBBM television and radio would move into the new building.
  • 1 September, 2004 - Mills Corp applied for a zoning change on Block 37 to build a new retail, commercial, and residential complex.
  • 12 October, 2004 - The plan to turn Block 37 into the 108 North State entertainment complex received preliminary approval from the city's planning commission.
  • 13 October, 2004 - The Chicago Tribune reported that Mayor Daley wass considering this location for a city-owned casino. On WGN Television, Daley refused to say where the favored locations for the casino were, claiming it would raise property values in those neighborhoods. Just a few months earlier, Mayor Daley purchased a new home two blocks away.
  • 3 May, 2005 - The Mills Corporation announced the names of the first few businesses expected to move into 108 North State. They included Banana Republic, and an restaurant.
  • 15 November, 2005 - Groundbreaking.
  • August 11, 2006 - Golub & Company bought the residential and office portions of the project.
  • March 31, 2007 - Fire broke out at this construction site. Witnesses described a column of smoke climbing into the sky blotting out neighboring buildings. It was caused by sparks from a welder's torch that fell on some flammable material.
  • June 9, 2008: WBBM Television began moving in.
  • July 21, 2008: WBBM Television was supposed to start broadcasting from its new streetfront studio on this date. But according to the Chicago Tribune, that date had to be pushed back because it wasn't ready.
  • September 1, 2008: Official opening of the office tower portion of this project.
  • September 22, 2008: WBBM Television begins broadcasting from its new street-front studio in this building.
  • November, 2008: The city approved $12,000,000 to help build a new hotel tower above the shopping complex. The Loews chain was expected to run the 384-room hotel.
  • September 14, 2009: Crain's Chicago Business reported that Loews has backed out of the hotel deal for this property, even though it got the site for just one dollar.
  • November, 2009: The Chicago Tribune reported that the official name of this mall will be the unofficial name: Block 37.
  • November 21, 2009: The first store opened at this mall.
  • 2011: Bank of America foreclosed on this property.
  • April, 2012: It was revealed that CIM Group purchased this property for $84 million.
  • September, 2012: CIM Group bought the air rights to develop a hotel above this building.
Notes
  • The television studios in this building use the address 22 West Washington Street, a play on WBBM-TV's original channel number: 2.
  • This mall formerly had the address of 108 North State Street, Chicago, Illinois.
  • Because the McCarthy Building was demolished to make way for this project, the developers had to donate $1 million to the city for the preservation of other nearby historic buildings.
Did You Know?
  • This complex was originally intended to have 800 residences.
Look For
  • The art deco Commonwealth Edison building on the Dearborn Street side. This building is so important to providing power to the central business district that it could not be removed, and the mall had to build around it.
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Towrs: Block_37

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Your Thoughts

There are nine comments.

  For a city of such stunning architecture this is dull. dull. dull. Please tear it down and start again.

Diesel Balaam - Sunday, January 13th, 2013 @ 3:00am  

  This is something of a highly-conspicuous mishmosh, with discordant surfaces and forms not, at first glance, giving the impression of belonging to the same structure. The Dearborn and Washington elevations are broken by doubtless necessary but unsightly garage and loading dock entrances, and the Dearborn side is awkwardly wrapped around the ComEd substation. Probably the most likable feature is the mirror-like surface of the tower at the southwest corner, giving interesting reflected views from Daley Plaza..

Alan Follett - Monday, September 24th, 2012 @ 11:23am  

  This bland box could truly be anywhere in the world. It gives none of the Chicago grittiness that makes this city the best in the world when it comes to architecture. It's just a glass rectangle. Let's not lose the signature Chicago architectural excellence that the world has become accustomed to.

Ethan W. - Saturday, January 29th, 2011 @ 2:00pm  

  Chicago needs more visionary architecture - like the Aqua. This structure screams "fear of innovation"...pair it with Trump tower and Chicago risks snoozing through an architectural revolution. I think Chicago architects need to strive to become the iconic international destination for architecture afficionados! Continue to build on the shoulders of Sullivan, Burnham, Mies...with the vision of carbon-neutrality!

S R - Saturday, September 25th, 2010 @ 12:28pm  

  This could be the ugliest new architecture in Chicago. The new block 37 looks like a big air conditioner. I can't believe that after tearing down several beautiful buildings that were designated Chicago landmarks and then sitting vacant for 15 years and with all the high hopes and debates over this land that the city built this pile of crap. It is an insult to the city of Chicago and a huge eyesore. The CBS corner at Washington & Dearborn is ok, but still nothing special. The rest of it looks like the back of a K-mart or something, really a shame. I think so many people had high hopes for this space. After seeing this I wish they would have just left it an open gathering place for the citizens.

Mike - Friday, February 6th, 2009 @ 3:57pm  

  Finally Chicago is able to fill in the gap that looked ugly, and was called Block 37. These new buildings for this complex replaces it as beauty to Chicago's architectural tradition. Keep up the good work.

Brent Kampert - Sunday, December 7th, 2008 @ 6:05pm  

  The architectural drawings look great! State Street has so much to offer, but is overlooked by many as being a run-down and out of date. This is just what is needed to help bring in more revenue for the city and clean-up what has become a very run-down part of Chicago.

Stephen - Friday, January 25th, 2008 @ 3:56pm  

  Its about time that someone has stepped up to the plate and done something with this dump. Good job Daley! I think the plan (Block 37) is good with it's mixed use type structure and should bring some people back to the now ghost town known as State Street. Developers need to wake up already and realize that times have changed; people want to be able to shop, work, eat, and live all in the same structure or at least be darn close. Yes it's sad, but people are lazy. Start building more of those types (mixed use) of buildings and you will see a major change to Chicago's lonely at night Loop area and for God sake's put some stuff in there that will actually draw some people off the Mag Mile already! Palos Shoes and Dollar Tree aren't going to do it! Think Saks Fifth Avenue, not Walgreens or Starbucks.

Jim - Tuesday, April 10th, 2007 @ 11:14am  

  i simply love the plan it will give the downtown area more color and attraction for visitor and better treveling 4 everone i give it a 4 cause its something to look forward to in the future

Brian - Friday, March 30th, 2007 @ 2:38pm  

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