A fairly anonymous three-story brick building at 2501 West Bradley Place in Chicago’s North Center neighborhood may be torn down in the next few years. It’s been sold to Houston mega real estate developer Hines.
This isn’t just any building. It’s the home of WGN-TV. The television station moved to this building in 1963 because the old Tribune Tower space was too small. The Trib’s building columns were too close together for a studio of the size required for television.
The Ol’ Number Nine has five years left on its lease, but it seems unlikely that it will be allowed to stay on after that. Hines is a top shelf developer that puts together big projects, and also bought the property across the street for a total of 33 acres of land, so its plans are clearly ambitious. What those plans are remains to be seen. But Hines has a habit of e-mailing us press releases about every little thing it does, so we should know sooner or later.
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of artifacts are uncovered when WGN-TV moves out. There are dusty nooks and crannies in that building that haven’t been touched in decades. With any luck, they’ll find their way down to the Museum of Broadcast History for the rest of us to enjoy.
Expect lots of wailing and gnashing of sentimental teeth, including special shows about the history of Bozo’s Circus at the station. These will likely be hosted by the persistently-genial Dean Richards, who will carefully tiptoe around the inconvenient fact that Bozo was was not a Chicago invention, but a character syndicated out of Los Angeles, and that every big city is America had its own Bozo. There are still plenty of people at channel 9 who insist he was invented there.
Where the television station ends up is anyone’s guess. The Loop seems likely, as that’s where all of the other big commercial broadcasters are, and ‘GN was always at a bit of a reporting disadvantage being half-way out of town. Plus, Loop landlords are eager to bring in long-term occupants like TV stations, which (WBBM-TV notwithstanding) usually don’t move around much. But don’t count on a streetfront studio. That turned out to be a fad, and even WGN Radio’s “showcase studio” seems vacant most of the time.