If change is good, 2012 looks to be a banner year for Chicago retail – and for IRDC attendees seeking fresh inspiration come September.
In January, Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens debuted a decidedly upscale State Street flagship that’s more department store than drugstore, employing manicurists, a barista, a sushi chef and a full-time “health guide” in the pharmacy.
A month later – on Valentine’s Day – Urban Outfitters’ bridal concept BHLDN opened a block away from Chicago’s luxury corridor, Oak Street, where brands such as Vera Wang, Tory Burch, Escada and Y-3 have also set up shop.
On Michigan Avenue, fast fashion is driving growth as Forever 21, H&M and Zara compete with British sensation Topshop, which arrived in September with a glitzy, 49,000-square-foot flagship in the corner space formerly occupied by Borders.
And this summer, Target unveils its urban format, CityTarget, in the ornate, Louis Sullivan-designed Carson Pirie Scott Building, a U.S. Historic Landmark now known as Sullivan Center.
As new retailers settle into premium spaces left vacant by the Great Recession, others are seizing the opportunity to downsize.
“Chicago retail is still in recovery mode,” says Neil Stern, senior partner at Chicago-based retail consultancy McMillanDoolittle. “We’re seeing a square footage rationalization trend as established brands work to remain competitive. The Ann Taylor move on the Mag Mile is one example.”
In March, the 58-year-old women’s apparel chain moved its Michigan Avenue store from a 10,400-square-foot corner space to one about half that size on the same block. The move coincided with the rollout of its new boutique concept, a residential-inspired layout with luxe finishes, multi-channel touchscreens for accessing products online and a proprietary lighting system in the fitting rooms.
So that’s yet another store to check out during IRDC, held September 5-7, at the Renaissance Chicago Downtown. In the meantime, peruse these inspiring places to eat, drink, shop and explore, as recommended by Chicago’s retail design community.
Betsy Smith is principal at Betsy Smith Worldwide (Cincinnati), providing copywriting and consulting to creative businesses in retail, hospitality, interior, graphic and interactive design.
456 N. Clark St. | River North rokaakor.com
The centerpiece of this Japanese eatery is the massive grill-sushi bar, masked by a custom-designed, backlit sculpture made of 20,000 nails reclaimed from a 19th-Century grain elevator. “It’s a stylish steak and sushi restaurant that features Robatayaki style ‘open charcoal’ cuisine. An amazing dining experience!” says Karin Pryor, vp, marketing, Leggett & Platt.
123 N. Jefferson St. | West Loop sepiachicago.com
The lighting steals the design show in this rustic but refined space, converted from an 1890s print shop. “Sepia is comfortable, yet sophisticated,” says Alison Guy, retail design director, McDonald’s USA. It’s also acclaimed for its Nouvelle American cuisine and its list of boutique wines, housed in backlit, floor-to-ceiling racks.
15 E. Oak St. | Gold Coast barneys.com
Find contemporary American and Italian cuisine in a wood-filled, modern space on the top floor of Barneys New York. The penthouse-style layout includes a custom-made bar and a stone fireplace that doubles as a pizza oven. “Great food, warm atmosphere and a large terrace with views of the lake,” says Ramona Kurland, visual merchandising consultant.
Terzo Piano at The Art Institute of Chicago
159 E. Monroe St. | The Loop terzopianochicago.com
It’s an all-white, light-filled lunch spot on the third floor of the AIC’s new Renzo Piano-designed Modern Wing. “Wonderful,” raves Jon Jones, visual director, Macy’s State Street. “The true way to experience it is to enter through Millennium Park via the pedestrian bridge, which brings
you directly to the restaurant’s main entrance.”
DMAC Architecture, Chicago (Roka akor); Doug Snower, Chicago (sepia); Courtesy Schefer Design LLC, New York (fred’s); Michelle Litvin Studio, Chicago / Design: Dirk Denison Architects, Chicago (terzo piano)
Roof on theWit
201 N. State St. | The Loop Deemed a must-see by the majority of designers on our panel, this contemporary space sits atop Chicago’s new 27-story hotel, theWit – across the street from IRDC headquarters – and offers a panoramic look at the city’s iconic skyline. “Great views, great design, walking distance from everything in the Loop and Millennium Park,” says Randy Sattler, principal, RGLA Solutions.
800 N. Michigan Ave. | Magnificent Mile
A long-time favorite along Chicago’s famed retail promenade, NoMI juts out from the seventh floor of the Park Hyatt Chicago. “Not only are the views spectacular, but the international mix of options provides both familiar and unique tastes,” says Ali Wente, vp, sales and education, H2O Plus.
833 W. Randolph St. | West Loop
“Calling all chandelier lovers!” says Fleetwood’s chief brand officer, Bill Goddu, on the new French American restaurant/bar inspired by Villa Nellcote, the ornate 16-room mansion in southern France where the Rolling Stones recorded portions of “Exile on Main Street” in 1971. “This classic space has been refreshed and reinvented into a spirited, neo-bistro establishment,” Goddu says.
955 W. Fulton Mkt. | West Loop
Mad science meets culinary art in this nationally acclaimed and utterly unique bar. McDonald’s Guy calls it “elusive and exclusive, relying on its unparalleled reputation to attract patrons. Expect an explosion of the senses, from the artful delivery to the science of mixology and creative presentation.”
Darkroom Demons, Chicago (roof on thewit); Anthony Tahlier Photography, Chicago (nomi);
Potluck Creative, New York/Chicago (nellcote); Christian Seel, Chicago (the aviary)
151 N. State St. | Loop
This jaw-dropping makeover exhibits “game-changing design work for beauty and personal care,” says Fleetwood’s Goddu. Essentially a department store for healthy living, the two-level space has boutiques devoted to cosmetics, manicures, upscale wine and spirits, a humidor-kept cheese selection, made-to-order sushi and more.
8 E. Walton St. | Gold Coast
This is the second brick-and-mortar location for Urban Outfitters’ new French-inspired bridal concept. Akin to sister brand Anthropologie in look and feel, the two-level store features 15-foot ceilings, Parisian mirrors and grand dressing suites with iPod stations. “A totally new wedding dress store concept,” says Laura Romanoff, senior vp, sales and marketing, Maya Romanoff.
15 E. Huron St. | River North
Welcome to the namesake boutique of Ikram Goldman, unofficial stylist to Michelle Obama and other high-profile Chicagoans. In addition to couture fashions, the 16,000-square-foot Red Box, as it’s known, houses an art gallery and café finished in high-gloss African hardwood and deep red lacquer. “Ikram is an amazing retail experience that any designer (or shopper) would enjoy seeing,” says Romanoff.
Topshop / Topman
830 N. Michigan Ave. | Magnificent Mile
One of only three U.S. stores to date for Britain’s iconic
fast-fashion brand, this four-level flagship uses lighting, materials and graphics to make bold brand statements throughout. “Topshop’s storefront is enormous, bigger than anything Chicago has ever seen!” says Amanda Wolfson, production manager, Oak Street Design.
Courtesy of Urban Outfitters Inc., Philadelphia (bhldn); Josh Goldman for Ikram, chicago (Ikram);
courtesy of Clive Chilvers / Shutterstock.com (topshop)
The Merchandise Mart
222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza | River North
The world’s largest commercial building (4.2 million square feet!) is home to major design shows. With industry credentials, a complimentary Mart Card can be obtained to gain access to the upper floors, which house commercial and home furnishings. “The showrooms are a great source of inspiration and unique design,” says Leggett’s Pryor.
201 E. Randolph St. | Loop
“A hub to all the great venues of Chicago,” says McDonald’s Guy, of the park ideally sited along South Michigan, next to the city’s iconic Art Institute. It’s a 24.5-acre showcase of world-class architecture, sculpture and landscape design, with the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion as its centerpiece.
Modern Wing at The Art Institute of Chicago
111 S. Michigan Ave. | Loop
The Renzo Piano-designed addition was completed in 2009. The glass-walled building’s “flying carpet” roof features an energy-saving screen engineered to shade and reflect sunlight into the galleries. “Everything is infused with natural light,” says H2O’s Wente. “It feels as if you’re walking through the clouds.”
Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise Aboard Chicago’s First Lady Cruises
224 S. Michigan Ave. | Loop
Don’t miss this highly acclaimed 90-minute tour covering 50+ buildings along the Chicago River, including the Willis Tower, Wrigley Building, Tribune Tower, Merchandise Mart, Marina City and other favorites. “A must for anyone inspired by architecture, new and old,” says Oak Street’s Wolfson.
courtesy of Palette7 / Shutterstock.com (millennium park); Courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago (modern wing); Courtesy of Chicago Architecture Foundation (river cruise)