Months after getting an exemption to a city ordinance prohibiting large signs on its facade, Block37 (1 West Randolph Street) is finally installing metal fins on its exterior that will soon bear the names of the stores within.
The downtown mall’s position on the edge between the city’s Theater District and its historic State Street district left it in an unusual situation – it was not allowed to have vertical signs of any kind hanging over the sidewalk because they might be a visual distraction. This, even though right across the street are thousands of blinking, twinkling lights festooning three marquee for one of the city’s theaters, a tea shop, and even a McDonald’s restaurant.
In February, Chicago City Council begrudgingly changed the sign ordinance to allow Block37 to have signs that protrude more than 12 inches from its facade. It is now allowed to have up to 20,000 square feet of signage hanging over the city’s sidewalks, but it only plans to use 5,600 square feet of that allocation.
The signs will be illuminated vertical blades by Kiku Obata & Company out of Saint Louis, and bear the logos of some of the Block37 shops.
The hope is to lure pedestrians into the mall by reminding them that there is shopping to be had, and perhaps letting them know about stores inside they wouldn’t be able to see from outside.
Since its completion, Block37 has had a history of “two steps forward, one step backward” progress. Gaining Magnolia Bakery, but losing Beard Papa’s. Losing several Pedway shops, but gaining restored free transfers between the CTA Red and Blue lines right through its lower level, which should dramatically increase foot traffic.
It took years to transform Block37 from a vacant lot into a retail and office complex. The transformation into a vibrant part of the city’s daily life will apparently require some patience.