“The owner of the Medinah Temple is wrestling once again with the question: What’s the vacant River North landmark going to be next?
“Friedman Properties seemed to have an answer in April, when it disclosed plans to open a retail, food and entertainment bazaar in the four-story River North building. But Chicago-based Friedman, which bought the Medinah Temple in 2019, is again seeking tenants for the property, signaling the demise of that idea.
“The entire 138,000-square-foot building at 600 N. Wabash Ave. is available for lease, according to a brochure from retail brokerage ARC Real Estate Group, which is marketing the space.
“Filling a big space won’t be easy in a downtown retail real estate market struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Few retailers or restaurants are expanding these days. Many, including Gap, Macy’s and Uniqlo, have closed stores on North Michigan Avenue, the city’s biggest shopping corridor, which has a 26% vacancy rate, according to Cushman & Wakefield. The Medinah Temple is just two blocks west of the Magnificent Mile.
“Built by the Shriners in 1912, the Medinah Temple stands out in Chicago with its Moorish Revival design and large copper onion domes on its rooftop. The building, which originally included a large auditorium with seating for about 4,200 people, fell into disrepair in the late 1990s but was saved from demolition when the city designated it a landmark in 2001.
“Friedman then orchestrated a major renovation of the entire block, including the Tree Studios to the west of the temple, assisted by $12 million in tax-increment financing from the city. The developer sold the building to Federated Department Stores, which opened a Bloomingdale’s Home Store there in 2003, but Friedman retained ownership of the land underneath it.
“The ARC brochure doesn’t specify potential uses for the Medinah Temple. It could offer potential beyond retail, with options including co-working or boutique office space, or some entertainment concept new to the city. But converting the building to another use would require an investment that could easily stretch into the tens of millions of dollars” (Gallun, Crain’s Chicago Business, 11/29/21)
“Built by the Shriners and designed by architects Huehl and Schmidt in 1912, the Medinah Temple is Moorish style amphitheater replete with distinctive onion domes and beautiful stained glass windows. The building originally housed an auditorium with seating for approximately 4,200 people on three levels. The stage extended into the auditorium, with seating on three sides. The temple once boasted a 30,000 pound pipe organ, manufactured by Austin Organ Company and installed in 1915. The organ had 92 sets of pipes, ranging in length from several inches to 40 feet. Among the many events that took place in this venue was the annual Shriner’s Circus. The auditorium’s acoustics also made it a favorite site for recording; many of the Chicago Symphony’s recordings from the late 1960s (for RCA with then-music director Jean Martinon) through the 1980s (for Decca with then-music director Sir Georg Solti) were recorded there.
“Following a period of vacancy the building became dilapidated. In 2000 The World Monument Fund listed it—and Tree Studios—among its Watch List of significant endangered structures. Through a unique partnership between Friedman Properties, the City of Chicago, the State of Illinois and Federated Department Stores, the building was saved from demolition. Later the same year, the exterior of the building was restored and the interior redeveloped for use as retail space. The building’s key decorative elements—including the large central cornice and intricate balcony railings—were restored or recreated from original drawings. Plasterwork, proscenium arch, and jewel-colored stained glass were preserved. The building’s two 10,000 pound copper onion domes had to be constructed on-site in the adjacent Tree Studios courtyard and craned onto the rooftop.
“With its crowning feature in place, Medinah Temple re-opened in February of 2003 as the nation’s first Bloomingdale’s Home Store.” (Medinah Temple Property Listing on Friedman Properties)
What will this vacant River North landmark be next? After hatching plans earlier this year to open a retail, food and entertainment bazaar in the River North landmark, Friedman Properties is marketing the entire building for lease, a sign that it’s moving on, Alby Gallun, Crain’s Chicago Business, 11/29/21