30 Things You Don’t Know About Block37

Yesterday there was a meeting to update the public about the status of Block37.

The people from Joseph Freed and Associates did the presentation, and while they made every effort to be forthcoming, there were certain things they refused to talk about.*

Much has been written in the news about the project’s legal and financial situation, and to date we’ve entirely avoided even mentioning those things in this blog because, quite frankly, they’re boring and we don’t care.  Open or closed is all we (and the wider public) care about.  We don’t want to get bogged down in the minutiae of who appointed what receiver that can’t get insurance for blah blah blah blah.  Open or closed.  That’s all we want to know.

In our many explorations of the retail complex, we’ve come to certain conclusions:

  • The exterior facade is not great, though it’s our understanding that by the time Joseph Freed and Associates gained control of the project it was too late to make any changes.
  • The multiple-level LED screens are pretty cool, especially when there are sharks swimming in them (See our CrappyCameraPhone™ video).
  • Block37 has some of the cleanest public restrooms on State Street.
  • Beard Papa’s creampuffs are OK.  They’re a little bland, but some people consider that a virtue.  It’s also in keeping with its homeland’s fondness for the appreciation of subtle flavors.
  • WBBM-TV really screwed the public, and should be ashamed of the way it half-assed the screens above its streetfront studio.
On a different note, a lot was said in the meeting that we knew, but there were a number of new nuggets of information presented.  Here are 30 things about Block37 that you may or may not already know:
  1. The first time a proposal was floated to demolish the entire block and start again was back in the 1980’s.
  2. There was once a plan to open Block 37 as a walkable, low-height suburban-style outdoor mall.
  3. The planned hotel and residential towers haven’t been cancelled.  They can still be added when the economy improves.
  4. The hotel and residential portions of the building must be built at the same time for structural reasons.
  5. When the hotel and residential towers are completed, a green roof will be planed on top of the retail podium.
  6. The planned green roof will open as a small public park, like the one atop the Pepsico offices in the West Loop.
  7. The planned hotel is expected to have 385 room.
  8. The planned condo/apartment block is expected to have 400 residences.
  9. If you look at the building’s columns from the pedway level, you may be able to see that there have been diagonal rows created going southeast to northwest.
  10. The diagonally arranged columns were done that way to accommodate future express train service below the building.
  11. Block37 already has all of the infrastructure in place for the CTA to open an express train station with high-speed service to Midway and O’Hare airports.
  12. The developer of the project was required to bring in a certain amount of stores that were new to the region.
  13. The reason that the Anthropologie and Puma stores are both two levels is because ground floor stores were given reduced rents if they went vertical.  The idea is to lure shoppers into going higher in the building to explore the stores on the upper levels.
  14. In 2009, seven million people passed beneath Block 37.  Two million going through the CTA Blue Line’s Washington Street station, and five million through the CTA Red Line’s Lake Street station.
  15. Each day, 25,000 people use the CTA stations at Block 37.
  16. Block37’s southeastern ground floor exit was positioned to deliberately give its users a view of the former Marshall Field’s building.
  17. Block37’s northeastern ground floor exit was positioned to give people a view of the Chicago Theater sign as they leave.
  18. Block37’s western ground floor exit was positioned to open up on Daley Plaza.
  19. These three things were done to provide a sense of cohesion with the rest of the Loop, so that Block37 wouldn’t feel like yet another isolated island of commerce.
  20. Block37’s mission is “A public-private partnership that creates a vibrant and successful mixed use development to strengthen downtown Chicago’s reputation as a shop, dine, work, live, and play destination while embracing the community’s desire for a central transportation hub.”
  21. 140,000 people live within two miles of Block37.
  22. 65,000 college students go to school near Block37.
  23. “108 North State” was not meant to be the building’s final name, it was just a placeholder.
  24. The name “Block37” was chosen because “108 North State” had the potential to alienate retailers in the building who were not positioned on State Street.
  25. The big ugly empty steel spaces that wrap around the corner of Washington and Randolph Streets are where CBS was supposed to put in a huge Times Square-style wraparound video screen.  Instead, it went the cheap route and put in a single square screen, leaving the rest of the structure exposed.
  26. Block37 has 280,000 square feet of retail space.
  27. Block37 has 1,000 restaurant seats.
  28. Block37 has 1,630 live and movie theater seats.
  29. Block37 has underground parking for 350 vehicles.
  30. Block37 has 440,000 square feet of office space.

* To be perfectly clear here, the Freed people stated that they couldn’t talk about certain things for “legal reasons.”  While they are very likely acting on the advice of their lawyers not to talk about stuff, there is nothing in the law which actually prohibits them from doing so, which is why we used the phrase above “refused to talk” instead of the more common and journalistically lazy “could not talk.”  It is a choice made by people at the company, not an actual restriction imposed by law.  Anytime you see a company say “we cannot comment on pending litigation” or “we cannot speak for legal reasons” it’s not that they cannot speak.  It’s that their lawyers advise them not to and they choose to follow that advice.  For the time being we still have the right to free speech in the United States.  With this in mind, you’ll notice a pattern develop over time — that companies with strong leadership and policies of public openness will talk to the media; while companies with weak leadership, a culture that stifles employee thought, and a “circle the wagons” mentality will go with “no comment.”

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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