Oak Street Taking Yet Another Step From Bling To Bland

Gold Coast shopgirls are dismayed to learn that one of the few remaining charming Oak Street retail walk-ups is going to become yet another glass block Apple Store wannabe.

April 2020 rendering of 113 East Oak Street

Next week, the Chicago Plan Commission will consider an application to demolish 113 East Oak Street and replace the greystone with a new two-story retail building  that maximizes floor space at the expense of the once-fashionable street’s collective aesthetic.  

113 East Oak Street (July 2007)
113 East Oak Street (July 2007)

One Thirteen once housed a Kate Spade store, back before the late Mrs. Spade sold her name and brand to a low-end retail conglomerate.  The building then became the home to several faux-lux brands as Oak Street skidded from the center of Chicago’s upper crust shopping into a wing of the generic could-be-anywhere-in-America shopping mall known as North Michigan Avenue.

The proposed replacement is a 5,050-square-foot retail building 44 feet tall, and square as a North Shore debutante’s dental work.  It was designed by Ware Malcolmb, outside Los Angeles.

Though Ware Malcolmb describes this building as “bring[ing] its corner up to par with the modern luxury of the rest of its high-design neighbors,” we can’t help but disagree.  This design might seem at home in a mid-rate Los Angeles strip mall, or in the middle of a row of storefronts at the Mall of America, but it is certainly not up to Chicago standards.  It is claimed to have a “hint of Chicago’s history,” but you’ll need a magnifying glass and Nancy Drew to find it.  Unless the “history” you’re looking for is the recent history of demolishing Chicago’s greystones and replacing them with generic cubes of commerce.

Location: 113 East Oak Street, Gold Coast

Author: Editor

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

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