What to do with Lakeside Center? | WBEZ
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What to do with Lakeside Center?

Lakeside Center sits there, overlooking the shore as it has for 40 years. One wonders for how much longer.

For more than a decade after its 1971 completion, when you said "McCormick Place," the big, dark, glassy pavilion was it. Then came a quarter century of McCormick Place additions--a westward expansion that, thankfully, saved the lakefront, but left a landmark-quality modernist gem looking rather marooned on the east side of Lake Shore Drive. Separated from the pack and underutilized, the original McCormick Place seems a bit vulnerable now.

Will it come down? Mayor Daley has threatened a decade ago when he called it the Berlin Wall of the lakefront--he's right--and said it was too costly to maintain. And last year, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which owns McCormick Place, figured it would cost $100 million just to update the building; and a multi-million updating of the facility in the late 1990s is barely more than a decade old...

What would you do with the building? Keep it? Demolish it? A demo would be a blow to the city's fledgling efforts to protect modern architecture. Would we want to lose a building by Gene R. Summers--a protege of Mies van der Rohe-- and a young Helmut Jahn, who worked with Summers at C.F. Murphy Associates (the firm later became Murphy/Jahn).

Keeping it is no small feat either. It would have to be repurposed as something other than a convention center, and although small as a convention center, the building's "tale of the tape" is staggering. It has 580,000 square feet inside--the gross square feet of 15 blocks' worth of Chicago bungalows. Hall E alone is 283,000 square feet, making it bigger than the 264,000 square foot Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago.

So what would you do with it? Comment below...




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