Malling the Loop: Block 37, aka 108 North State Street
Bordered by State, Randolph, Dearborn and Washington streets, the North Loop’s "Block 37" encompasses an entire city block in the heart of downtown. Years ago this nearly three-acre plot of land was about as urban as it could be—with independently-owned shops, movie theaters, food stores and restaurants. Then it was empty, some said cursed, and the city missed the tax revenues that such a central parcel could generate. After several false starts, a mall was born: a multi-story shopping mall whose ground-level opens to the street studios of WBBM-TV. Architecture critics have called the still-unfinished project a major disappointment.
Many of the stores and restaurants are the same as those found in any mall anywhere in America. Yet, one could argue that the addition of this mall is helping to transform State Street back into the major shopping destination it once was. Inside is a sky-lit atrium, with escalators found in any suburban shopping mall, but it also boasts views of the city, framing landmarks such as the Picasso sculpture across the street in Daley Plaza. Movie theaters are planned, and the roof will be accessible. Luxury hotel and residential towers could be built above the mall, when the economy picks up.
What would have been a grand urban move—a Chicago Transit Authority "superstation" beneath the mall, to take travelers on express trains to O'Hare and Midway airports—has been mothballed for the foreseeable future. Maybe this plot should have remained a park? True, it generates taxes and downtown activity, and more tenants will move in as the economy improves, but some say that as built, Block 37 will always lack a truly-urban edge.
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