|click images for larger view (renderings courtesy Hicks Architectural Group)|
The complex includes a claustrophobic retail concourse at street level, and a large - and underused - open plaza above. Part of the underuse is intentional. The plaza is set behind 333 North Michigan and the Old Republic Insurance Building, and there is no direct connection to Michigan Avenue. The last time we looked, a southern access stair off of east South Water was still boarded up, and the staircase leading up from east Wacker continues to deteriorate.
The company that designed that fix, Hicks Architectural Group, also presented Parkway with some ideas for upgrading both the plaza and the street-level entrances, moving the present grand staircase, and shifting the Wacker Drive entrance eastward to lead directly into the concourse/pedway.
Commonwealth may have gotten itself a bargain. The $151 million it paid for One Illinois Center was far less than the $198 million price at which Parkway acquired the property in 2006, and it's reported to be 95% leased. But with a new owner, the planning by Hicks was at an end.
The last major renovation of the properties was in the late 1990's. Since then, Illinois Center finds itself in a potential sweet spot between the burgeoning population of Lakeshore East and the traditional tourist flow of North Michigan Avenue. A retrofit of Illinois Center that integrates it into the fabric of the city, both spatially and functionally, is not just a civic imperative, but a potentially renumerative investment.