Pity the poor Atlantic Bank Building (168 North Michigan Avenue). Even when it was full of people, it wasn’t much to look at. Years of indifference kept it from being anything more than anonymous filler along the Michigan Avenue, and its constant state of disrepair made pedestrians more than happy to ignore it.
When it opened in the small years of last century, it was an outstanding achievement. Designed by legendary architecture firm Marshall and Fox, the office building was the headquarters of the Federal Life Insurance Company. Its interior boasted walls paneled in rich mahogany, and terra cotta details rivaling any of its neighbors.
However, even back then it didn’t live up to its potential. It was finished as a mere 12 stories, though it was designed to be 16. As time went on Federal got bought by a company that got bought by a company and so on… Eventually this was no longer the headquarters for an important financial firm, but just another random office building to be sliced up into a warren of differing interests.
Its last major tenant was Atlantic Bank, which started out as the Bank of Athens, a Greek company that… Well, you know what’s happening to Greek banks these days, so there’s no need to explain that it moved out several years ago.
Since then the only activity has been the use of its display windows for giant advertising signs and video screens. The kind that would never be approved by the city on their own, but since they’re inside an abandoned lobby, there’s nothing that can be done about it.
Now comes word via Crain’s Chicago Business that south suburban development company Crown Commercial Real Estate and Development has bought the building, and has big plans in the works.
It’s inked a deal with InterContinental Hotels to bring a Hotel Icon to this property, located across the street from the Illinois Center, Michigan Plaza, the Chicago Cultural Center. It’s next door to the former Smurfitt-Stone Building (150 North Michigan Avenue), now called the Crain Communications Building.
Currently, the nearest Hotel Indigo is at 1244 North Dearborn Street in the Gold Coast. This will be the second in the city, and the third in Chicagoland.
How serious is Crown about this project? It seems very. It’s stated that it wants to spend $30 million not only renovating the building, but constructing the missing four stories that were never built. They will be topped with a rooftop bar, which should have fantastic views up and down Michigan Avenue, and over Millennium Park.
So after a hundred years of waiting, 168 North Michigan will finally become what it was always meant to be.