Chicago to Get One of Six Starbucks Flagship Stores

“We really want to send a new message. Especially in this neighborhood, and this city; and this is the place to do it.” -Dean Klein, Starbucks

I’m not one who supports the baseless speculation that goes on in blogs.  It’s a big part of what separates blogging from real journalism.  But every once in a while I’ll go off the deep end, as I did a couple of weeks ago when we did our story about 1003 North Rush Street being torn down and replaced.  Let me just say this about that:

A glass of Washington State riesling. Yes, it’s served in a Starbucks wine glass.

Nailed it.

As predicted in our earlier piece, the new building to be erected at 1003 North Rush will, indeed, become a new Starbucks.  And not just any Starbucks — a flagship Starbucks, modeled on the Olive/Summit store in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.

This will make the new Rush Street Chicago Starbucks (which we’ll call Rush/Oak III until Starbucks comes up with its own official name next year) one of only six flagships in the world.  The others are in New York, Seattle (two), Los Angeles, and Paris.

So, what makes a mere café into a Starbucks flagship?  It’s the entire experience.  As detailed in our story last week, the food is better, the beverages include beer and wine, the furniture and lighting are more upscale, and the entire experience is more for adults unwinding after a hard day at work, not a circus of double-wide baby strollers and babbling tweens.

The bar at the Olive/Summit Starbucks in Seattle

Over the years, Starbucks has become America’s “third place.”  It has filled the gap between home and work where people can go just to hang out with their friends.  In decades past, this was the bowling league, the corner bar, the neighborhood diner, the VFW hall, the YMCA, etc…

With the implosion of the nuclear family in the 70’s and 80’s, many of those institutions are long gone.  Shopping malls and self-help groups aren’t adequate substitutes.  But for many people, Starbucks is.

That’s where the coffee chain is going with its Rush/Oak III flagship store.  It’s intended to be a friendly, neighborhood place where you can meet with friends, or just unwind, without the cacophony that mars the Rush/Oak II experience.

So far, it’s a hard sell for the usual crowd of neighborhood NIMBY’s.  They have invented fears that this will be a wild, swinging lounge with people throwing drinks off the second-floor patio.  They, of course, have never been to an upscale Starbucks and, as usual, have a hard time wrapping their brains around anything new or different.

Geographically speaking, the new Starbucks is outside of the imagined jurisdiction of SORE (Seniors Opposed to Really Everything), but several SORE members have already told the developers what they think of the project.  It remains to be seen if the progress-killing organization will take an official position on this project.

The current Starbucks at 932 North Rush Street

Dean Klein, the Director of Store Development for Starbucks’ Midwest and Mid-America Regions is clear that a decision hasn’t even been made yet about whether this new Starbucks will sell booze.  There’s no reason it shouldn’t, since the other flagships do, and it’s right in the heart of Chicago’s Over-40’s bar district.

But just because Starbucks starts serving booze, doesn’t mean it’s a “bar” in the traditional sense.  A Starbucks could not possibly compete in the bar business with Gibson’s, Lux Bar, Trader Vic’s, and others as neighbors.

As Klein put it, “There are a number of establishments along Rush Street that are either bars or restaurants, and they have a significantly wider liquor service than we would.  Ours would be limited.  And we’re not necessarily looking to attract the 22-year-old younger crowd.  We’re really trying to give people who are a little older, and a little more mature, a safe place to go to enjoy a glass of wine or a beer, and have a conversation with their friends.”

But if Starbucks is not permitted by the city to sell alcohol, or for some reason caves in to the people who managed to go from key party swingers in the 1970’s to teetotaler prohibitionists in the 2000’s, this project will go ahead anyway.  The reason is money.

Starbucks’ lease at its current location (932 North Rush Street) is up in a little over two years.  Real estate agents we’ve heard from in the area expect the café’s rent would triple.  Jumping ship to a larger store makes long-term economic sense.  Especially since the new store is expected to have 30% more space, and 20% more seating than the old space.

Rendering of the new Starbucks at 1003 North Rush Street

Here’s a breakdown of the important parts:

  • Demolition of the old building at 1003 North Rush Street should begin in late September or Early October.
  • Starbucks wants to open the new store April 1.  The developers would like to make this happen, but are reluctant to make promises, especially since there aren’t even permits in place yet.
  • The new building will be 37 feet tall.
  • Zoning for that plot allows a residential building 135 feet tall, or a commercial building 155 feet tall.
  • A larger building wasn’t contemplated because the demand isn’t there.
  • Building facade will be dark brick around the edges, with the rest of the front mostly glass.
  • Narrower, more intimate barista area.
  • Double-sided fireplace on the second floor.
  • Balcony extends a maximum of six feet over the sidewalk — less than the existing Geneva Seal canopies.
  • Rendering of the new Starbucks at 1003 North Rush Street

    Balcony will be 12 feet above the sidewalk.

  • 30% greater square footage.
  • Seating increased 20% to between 60 and 70 seats.
  • Restrooms on the second floor (should help cut down on vagrants bathing in them)
  • Green roof
  • Bricks for the new facade will be recycled from the old building
  • At one time, there was a thought of using the alley behind the new Starbucks to allow for an additional entry off of Oak Street, but that didn’t work out for a number of reasons, including the fact that no one is really sure who owns the alley since it was vacated in 1886.


Author: Editor

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

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