As I See It . . . Summer 2002
By Mike Glasser, President, Rogers Park Builders Group
It seems as though the latest popular expression is to “think out of the box.” I first heard this term a couple of years ago when Mayor Daley expressed frustration with the city’s stalled school reform process. I still hear the expression used when leaders encourage their staffs or peers to cast aside the normal way of doing business, and view a situation creatively, unrestrained by established habits or routines.
I now hear this term used by local real estate professionals and community leaders as we contemplate the future of the Howard-Clark Building, which, for many years, has been occupied by Pivot Point Beauty School. This 6- story, 63,000 square foot building, has been a fixture in our community for over 70 years. It towers over neighboring buildings in the immediate area, and it happens to be located on the same corner as the community’s most substantial retail development in many years: the Gateway Center (which, in case you have been living in Siberia for the past several years), houses the Dominick’s grocery, and will also soon feature a Bally’s Health Club and a Marshall’s Department store.
Conventional shopping center theory (“in the box” thinking) would call for the demolition of the Howard-Clark building. Pedestrians and motorists traveling along Howard and Clark should have full sight lines of the Gateway Center, much of which is presently blocked by the Howard-Clark building. However, negotiations over purchase of the Howard-Clark building broke down several years ago, and the Gateway developer, under pres- sure to get moving with the development, opted to leave Howard-Clark at its existing location, and construct the Gateway Center around it.
Now, the Pivot Point Beauty School, which occupies nearly the entire building, is finalizing plans to move to other locations. The building is for sale, and potential buyers, influenced by their impression of the community’s needs, need to figure out “the highest and best use” of this structure (or “lowest and best,” if demolition is in order.)
“Out of the box” thinkers propose various options. Clearly, people have suggested mixed use: perhaps some sort of retail presence on the first floor or two, with residential conversion of the upper floors, whether for condominiums or for rental. (The disposable income of future Howard-Clark residents would boost the retail at Gateway, and elsewhere along Clark Street and Howard Street.) Alternatively, since the building was originally designed as an office building (it once housed medical offices) perhaps the building could maintain a mixed use of office, residential and retail? Or per- haps another school would want to locate there, given the site’s incredible proximity to a variety of public transportation outlets?
The building offers breathtaking unobstructed city views from its upper floors on the south, interesting views to the north (especially if you are a train buff, since it overlooks the CTA turn around), and glimpses of the lake if you face east. Interestingly, none of the parking in the Gateway development belongs to the Howard-Clark building, and the building’s design is such that constructing an interior garage appears unfeasible. However, the building is located only a block from the urban transit center connecting bus lines to the CTA, which in a few years will house a refurbished, state of the art, Howard “El station.”
Irrespective of whether you think “in or out of the box,” this building (or its site) offers a sterling opportunity to well clad developers who appreciate the dynamic change occurring on the north side of the Rogers Park community, and a positive vision for its future.
For information about the Howard-Clark box (I mean, building), contact its exclusive leasing agent, Tom Bosshart of Norwood-O’Hare Realty Group, at (630)694-1000.