We’ve spent many a frozen winter’s eve standing at the corner of West 35th Street and South Morgan Street waiting for the #35 bus to carry us home. Being in that place, it’s hard not to look at the handsome, yet abandoned, Spiegel Catalog Administration Building with the same admiration that our mothers had when leafing through the actual catalog way back when.
For a building forsaken as long as it has been, Herr Spiegel somehow manages to remain stately and dignified, waiting for the neighborhood to return to productivity so it can once again serve.
We’ve seen redevelopment plans for this property before. Most recently, two Decembers ago we told you that a Chinese artist was trying to rise it out of bankruptcy and return it to mixed use. Back then we also reported
Spiegel actually had 11 buildings in the Bridgeport neighborhood, but this is the only one with Chicago Landmark status, and also one of the very few Art Moderne buildings left in the city.
It was designed by Battey & Kipp and erected from 1936 to 1937. Like many Chicago buildings, its original two-story form was designed for upward expansion, and so Abraham Epstein designed the additional four floors, which were completed in 1942.
The building has been empty since 1995. Now yet another plan has been filed with the city to return this building to life. This time as a multi-use commercial building.
In the paperwork filed on behalf of the building’s owner, it is described as “uninhabitable and inoperable,” perhaps in an effort to rule out any residential use. Instead future operations are specified as “a fully functioning commercial real estate space that will house a wide range of business ventures including office, artist studio space, self-storage and small scale/boutique manufacturing operations.”
That’s quite a wide range of uses, but not out of line with the surrounding commercial patterns evolving as this corner of Bridgeport is gentrified by both an influx of newcomers who can’t afford downtown, and the rapid expansion of Chinatown.
To achieve that goal, the owner of the building wants to break out of the previously approved Planned Development, and return the space to C3-5 Commercial, Manufacturing and Employment District zoning. The redevelopment will be designed by K2 Studios/CION Companies up the road on 18th Street in Pilsen. It’s the same brains that did the historic Thalia Hall a few years ago.
So, what are the chances that this, the fifth redevelopment plan in 11 years, will actually be the one that saves the Spiegel Building? Well, it helps to look at who the new owner is: Blue Star Properties. That’s the same outfit that recently took the old Chicago Public Schools building at 125 South Clark Street in The Loop and transformed it into The National, giving it new life and earning it a position on a recently published list of the world’s best food halls.