With a new CTA station under their feet, and the promise of a new skyscraper soon to rise above their heads, the developers, architects and financiers of The Sinclair (1200 North Clark Street) have officially broken ground on the residential tower and supermarket project.
As we’ve reported since October, ground has actually been broken, spindled, and mutilated at this location for a couple of months now. But this past Wednesday was the ceremonial groundbreaking for the SCB-designed and Fifield-developed skyscraper, with shiny brass shovels and shining faces all around. These are normally pretty routine affairs, but this time the event had two unusual elements: Benny, the Chicago Bulls mascot in overalls and hard hat, and a Sinclair-shaped cake. Since most Chicago skyscrapers are basic blocks, it is now surprising that more groundbreakings aren’t equipped with architectural pastry.
The Sinclair comes at a time of changing fortunes for the intersection of Clark and Division. For too long this has been a surprisingly run down corner of the Gold Coast, popular with vagrants and those for whom public urination is a competitive sport. It’s easy to point the finger of blame at the strip of sometimes rowdy bars down the street to the east, or to point west to the public housing, much of which is now gone with the attempted erasure of Cabrini Green.
Regardless of the cause of the area’s woes, the solution is quickly closing in from both sides. New condo blocks, townhouses, and retail space is bringing TINKs, the single affluent, and *gasp* families to this area of the city in measurable numbers for the first time since this was a neighborhood of mansions and carriage houses. The recent $87 million reconstruction of the CTA Red Line station at this corner has already gone a long way toward giving it a new feel. The removal of the worn out Jewel-Osco supermarket has also helped. That supermarket will be reborn in the base of the Sinclair. And developers know — if there’s one thing that draws families to a Chicago neighborhood more than a park, it’s a new supermarket.
The sheer size of this building will also help spur the growth of small retail businesses in the area. As the steady depopulation of Lincoln Park and adjacent areas continues, retail has had a hard time. Some places that used to easily support a variety of mom-and-pop shops simply don’t have the critical mass of foot traffic necessary to sustain retail anymore. Tall, upscale developments like this one are an economic shot in the arm for the immediate area. Don’t be surprised if within a year of the Sinclair’s opening there are cupcake shops, foodie micro-restaurants, and purveyors of unisex skinny jeans muscling in on the storefronts currently dominated by liquor stores, currency exchanges, and for rent signs.