Remember 1975? What, you don’t? Well, let me tell you about Chicago in 1975.
The center of the city was dying. People were moving to the suburbs. Offices were moving, factories were moving, all kinds of businesses were moving.
Stores were moving, too. Woodfield had been open a few years. Now it was mobbed. Indoor shopping malls were the way of the future.
If downtown Chicago were going to survive, we needed an indoor shopping mall. We didn’t want to wind up like Cleveland, or St. Louis, or Detroit. But where could we put a whole mall near downtown? Then somebody got the idea–a vertical indoor shopping mall!
And that’s how we got Water Tower Place.
It was a whole unified concept–a 74-floor highrise with 260 condos, a Ritz Carlton Hotel, and the vertical shopping mall. The shopping mall took up the first eight floors. The anchor stores were Marshall Field’s and Lord & Taylor.
Water Tower Place cost $150 million. It took three years to build. Meanwhile, Marshall Field’s started buying up antique jewelry, silver, pewter, and furniture–storing it in a warehouse, just to have it ready for the grand opening.
So now it’s 1975. The stores were supposed to open at 10 a.m., but people were already lining up by 8. Then they threw open the doors. The first 2,000 women were each given a rose as they entered. I don’t think the men got anything.
Most early indoor malls had been simple, just a big warehouse building partitioned into stores. Water Tower Place was on Michigan Avenue, so they had to make it look special. They had marble floors and walls, and chandeliers, and glass elevators around the atrium, and so on.
Some of the stores in Water Tower Place hadn’t been finished, and they missed the grand opening. Yet people were coming by the thousands. This shopping center was going to be a huge success.
So in the last 39 years the center of Chicago has been revitalized. And now it takes forever to get there, and it’s crowded, and it costs a fortune to park. But would you rather live in Cleveland or St. Louis or Detroit?