Some architecture stands out. Some architecture blends in. And then there’s architecture that is a cognitive blind spot. Fifty East Huron is an example of what happens when a building goes for inoffensive and ends up with invisible.
The building used to be the home of the American Library Association. It sold the building in December of 2019, packing up and bookmobiling it across the Chicago River to Michigan Plaza.
The old building was kind of a big deal in librarian circles. Visiting it was likened to visiting Mecca, or Rome, or an Area 51 mothership. Whether 225 North Michigan Avenue will have the same feeling isn’t for us to say. But it’s hard to feel reverent about a big black skyscraper with a giant red tongue sticking out at you.
Replacing the book nookery will be a medical building run by the Restorative Care Institute. State documents describe the new structure as “a 98-bed skilled nursing facility,” and “40,541 gross square feet of clinical space and 42,559 gross square feet of non-clinical space.” In a note to his constituents, Forty-second Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly describes it as a “rehab and recovery center with advanced infection controls to protect post-surgical patients during recovery”
Instead of going the whole nuke-it-from-orbit-and-start-over route, the people responsible for this architectural transformation will break out their fleams and go to town on the 1963 building, leaving only the skeleton behind. Then they’ll build a new building using those bones, and while they’re at it, add another three floors to the top because it’s not just in a pick-up game of basketball where taller is better.
There is a minor zoning change that has to be worked through to make this happen, but the goal is still to have this place open by August of 2022.