Crate and Barrel-Shaped C&B Building to Become Verismo-Shaped Starbucks Building

The transformation of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile from a string of exclusive boutiques and unique shopping experiences into a suburban mall continues with the arrival of a mega Starbucks.

Rendering of the proposed new flagship Starbucks store on Michigan Avenue (Courtesy of Starbucks)

Rendering of the proposed new flagship Starbucks store on Michigan Avenue.  For some reason the three-story-tall trees that line the Michigan Avenue side have all been cut down. (Courtesy of Starbucks)

The Seattle caffeinator is the latest international homogenized brand to bigfoot its way onto the Boul Mich with a flagship store. This one taking over the Crate and Barrel building. As is often the case on Michigan Avenue, “flagship” means “Doesn’t need to make money because it’s really just a giant advertising billboard in disguise.”

Nokia was a pioneer in this kind of retail pollution of the city’s Gold Coast. More recent offenders include AT&T, Verizon, and Under Armor.

As coffee achievers, we’re happy to have a Starbucks to replace the one lost when the Ritz-Carlton Residences (664 North Michigan Avenue) ate the Terra art museum. But SCB’s 1990 Crate and Barrel building is architecturally significant. From its web site:

Rather than the typical one- or two-stories of retail space at the base of a tall tower, the building is designed as a stand-alone store with a program that accommodates a high level of traffic over four levels.

The project also established a new paradigm for retail design by making the building a product display platform from the street. A sky-lit, glass-enclosed atrium makes the most of the store’s corner real estate, while a second three-story rectangular atrium floods the central retail spaces with natural light. Through the extensive use of glass, shoppers passing by are able to clearly see the product, which invites pedestrians to come in and explore. The building’s exterior is composed of clear glass panels and ribbed, glossy, white metal panels, which provided the store with a unique identity that still looks fresh today.

The Michigan Avenue facility became the model for over 40 SCB-designed Crate & Barrel stores across the United States. It also set an important precedent for stand-alone retail stores on Chicago’s renowned retail thoroughfare, altering its character to become more pedestrian friendly and paving the way for contemporary imitators.

Fortunately, in spite of its very questionable recent furniture decisions, Starbucks does have a habit of being very sensitive to the buildings it inhabits. Sometimes to a fault. Let’s hope C&B is in good hands.


SEATTLE – Starbucks Coffee Company (NASDAQ: SBUX) today announced it will open a Starbucks Reserve® Roastery in Chicago in 2019. Located on North Michigan Avenue and Erie Street on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, the Chicago Reserve® Roastery represents the company’s third Roastery location in the U.S. following Seattle, which opened in December 2014, and New York City, which is on track to open in 2018.  The company also plans to offer customers multiple international Roastery experiences, including Shanghai, opening late 2017, alongside Milan and Tokyo, slated to open in 2018.

“Having opened our first Starbucks store in Chicago nearly 30 years ago, our first outside of Seattle, this is a very special city for me. At the time, it was a true test for Starbucks because the Chicago customer is so savvy and discerning about their coffee,” said Howard Schultz, Starbucks executive chairman. “Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, so we took our time to find an incredible space to match the unprecedented coffee experience our premium Roastery will offer. To be located on one of the best-known retail streets in the world is a proud moment for all of us and we can’t wait to bring Chicago and the world a coffee experience worthy of their most premier real estate.”

“Chicago’s Magnificent Mile brings in millions of visitors from across this globe and is the perfect location for a world-class coffee destination,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “This Starbucks Reserve Roastery will be an investment in Chicago and a strong addition to Michigan Avenue, where residents and visitors can enjoy incredible coffees from around the world in a remarkable environment.”

Much like its flagship Seattle location, which was the most successful store opening in the company’s history, the new Chicago Roastery will be a fully sensorial coffee environment dedicated to roasting, brewing and packaging its rare, small-batch Starbucks Reserve coffees from around the world. Tailored to the Chicago customer, the interactive four-story, 43,000-square-foot space will also be designed to bring coffee craft to life by offering multiple brewing methods, specialty Reserve beverages and mixology.

“Howard and I share the same passion for the companies we created, each centered around the customer experience and a relentless attention to detail. This building has a unique way of becoming a beacon for a brand, and I can’t think of a better retailer than Starbucks to offer Chicago something new and exciting with its Reserve Roastery,” said Gordon Segal, founder, Crate and Barrel.

As announced at the company’s December Investor Day, Starbucks will also include fresh baking on site in all Reserve Roastery locations courtesy of Italian baker Rocco Princi. Known for his artisan breads created from traditional family recipes, Princi’s handcrafted food pairs perfectly with Reserve coffee, elevating every daypart – breakfast, lunch and dinner in all Starbucks Roasteries. Princi food will also be available in the company’s new Reserve stores, a retail concept inspired by the Roastery but not yet open to the public.  Starbucks has announced a Reserve store coming to the West Loop in Chicago in 2018 and Seattle in 2017. During last year’s Investor Day, Starbucks confirmed that it would open 20-30 Roastery locations globally over time and up to 1,000 Reserve stores.

The premium Starbucks Reserve brand is also coming to life in Starbucks stores with the inclusion of Reserve experience bars in select locations worldwide. Currently, there are 20 Starbucks stores in the U.S. with Reserve bars – three in downtown Chicago and one in Lake Forest, Illinois. This spectrum of Starbucks retail experiences is not new for Chicago: Since opening in 1987, the Chicago customer has seen many firsts from the company, including early iterations of the third-place experience, modular Drive Thru stores made from shipping containers, an express format focused on the commuting customer and, more recently, the opening of its first store in Englewood, providing job skills training to youth in addition to investing in local women- and minority-owned businesses while creating dozens of Chicago-area jobs.

Author: Editor

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

Share This Post On