Jeremy Nelson's Commentary

User submitted December 16, 2009

700 North Michigan Avenue.
Chicago, Illinois

Opening in 1990, Chicago Place was built in the style of other downtown shopping centers. Like 900 North Michigan (opened in 1989), and Water Tower Place (opened in 1974), the mall was built vertically. Because of space constraints, these malls have many floors and a smaller area per floor, rather than just two or three levels of spread out floors.

Since Chicago Place's opening, its main anchor has been Saks Fifth Avenue. With the exception of two small stores on the eighth floor, as well as the food court, Saks is the only store left in the mall. It seems they have abandoned Chicago Place as well; the mall entry is blocked off, and a sign has been posted telling shoppers to enter the store through the street entrance.

The mall's escalators have been shut off. Only one elevator is in commission, and its sole purpose is to transport customers to the food court on the eighth level.

The food court is the only part of the mall where there are any signs of life, and even those signs all point towards life support. There looks to have been a small river flowing through the center of the eating area that led to a fountain at the head of the food court, but it has been drained. The food court boasts many of the mainstays of other mall food courts, like a Great Steak & Potato, a Subway, and a Taco Bell. Although closing time wasn't for another 45 minutes, many of the eateries were already closed for the night. Some employees had curled up in front of their respective cash registers with newspapers and cell phones, waiting for closing time to arrive.

“It's so dead here.” replied one food court employee. “Sometimes, we'll get an influx of people who come here on lunch break, but that doesn't happen everyday. We probably could get more people from Saks, but all of their mall entries are closed..”

The mall's glass elevator showed me everything I needed to see- as I traveled back down to the ground floor, Some storefronts were completely closed down, not even leaving a clue behind as to who the last tenant was. Some stores were still fully lit, and I could even see random items that were left behind. Mannequins, desks, and even barber chairs were some of the "throwaways" I saw on my way down.

There are a lot of different aspects that could be attributed to the mall's decline. The Water Tower Place was an already established mall, and 900 North Michigan had already opened a year before. A third mall, less than five blocks south, may have just been one too many. However, in 2000, The Shops At North Bridge, a Nordstrom-anchored mall, opened just three blocks south of Chicago Place, and continues to thrive.

Even though each downtown mall has one of the major anchors (Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom, and Saks), another cause could be the buildup of Michigan Avenue. Stores that would usually be found in a mall, such as Gap, Victoria's Secret, and The Disney Store, have their own storefronts on Michigan Avenue.

Location, overexposure to malls, and a lack of well known stores all played a part in the demise of Chicago Place. Plans are underway to convert part of the building into office spaces, so it may end up being a smaller version of the Thompson Center, a mini mall/office complex located elsewhere in Chicago. Regardless of that possibility, it still doesn't change the fact that dead malls can show up anywhere- even in the most high traffic areas.

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