OK, OK, so it’s not the Kimbell. Still, I can imagine some gritted teeth among Cubs faithful with the announcement of a large new mixed use complex at Clark and Addison–the Ka’aba of Chicago baseball. The Architect’s Newspaper reports that the complex (called “Addison Park on Clark”–something less twee, please?) will feature a 137-room hotel, 135 apartments, and 145,000 square feet of retail. Designed by Solomon Cordwell Buenz, the project looks innocuous enough.
But that might be the problem. What it’s replacing is, without a doubt, pretty funky, a collection of one-story bars, souvenir shops, and exorbitantly-priced parking lots. But that’s all part of the game-day experience, and from the visuals released today things will be a bit more homogenous, without that stale beer smell. The developer, M&R, has at least sacrificed some space to widen the sidewalk on Clark Street–though the death-defying pinch on Addison around the first base bulge remains. And it’s smaller than the original plan, though it’s as tall as the ballpark as it stands. Does any developer go into a neighborhood development these days with anything less than Gigantor, so that they can claim to have listened to their new neighbors when the real, smaller scheme gets released?
Wrigleyville’s image is the rooftop bleachers over the three-flats across Waveland and Sheffield. The cameras rarely pan back toward Addison or Clark. So it’s maybe not that big a deal. More apartments in the neighborhood can’t be a bad thing, and the area does lack for hotels (though really, how tough is it to get on the Red Line from River North?) Still, Boston got it right a few years ago when they agreed to shut down the streets around Fenway on game days, keeping the ragged collection of bars and shops (and a high school) but promoting infill and renovation instead of starting with a clean slate. That wouldn’t be easy to do on Clark or Addison, but with the El station right there it seems like something that added more open space to accommodate game day crowds wouldn’t be amiss.
Now, what about an historic skyscraper connection? Sure. See how the new development is wrapping around a big block on Sheffield Ave.? That’s a telephone switching center–still active–designed by Holabird & Root in the early 1930s. They had quite a profitable sideline in these buildings, which are scattered throughout the city. Years of replaced wiring, patches, and equipment that can’t go offline means that most of them will be tough to take down.