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Table of Contents > Chapter 1

The Loop (continued)

But the Loop continued to show a good deal of vitality in the 1950s and afterwards. The construction of the Prudential Building in 1955 broke the ice jam in downtown construction that had lasted since the Great Depression. A renaissance in office building construction has taken place over the last twenty-eight years. This economic boom, however, did not directly effect the retail district on State Street. Here decline began to set in, especially as North Michigan Avenue captured a significant part of the city's retail trade. In 1978 the city turned State Street between Wacker Drive and Congress Parkway into a mall. At first this seemed to be an unpopular move, but Chicagoans have gotten used to the new traffic patterns. But the mall did not stem the decline of State Street as a retail center. Especially at the south end of the street, many retailers closed their stores and moved on. Goldblatt's Sears, and Montgomery Ward left the strip. Lytton's, a long time State Street store, first announced it was leaving then decided to keep a smaller store in the Loop at its old location. The old Sears store at State and Congress is being turned into a combined retail and office building. The Goldblatt building at State and Jackson is schedule to become the new home of the Chicago Public Library. There are new directions and new developments in the city and in the Loop once again.

The growth of North Michigan Avenue as a retail center was influenced by two factors connected with State Street. The first was a racial factor. Many retailers abandoned South and West Side shopping centers as racial change took place in those neighborhoods. This left large parts of black Chicago with few or no retail shopping centers. But the transit lines still led to the Loop, and the downtown shopping district became the only alternative for many of these people. This trend created a sort of retail white flight from the Loop. The higher-priced stores which wanted to stay in the city opened new locations on the more fashionable North Michigan Avenue. These retailers began calling the shopping strip north of the river the "New Downtown." The second factor was a change in function that saw the Loop return to an earlier pattern of settlement.

After nearly a century, the Loop suddenly began to acquire a residential population once again. The first step in this direction was the construction of Marina Towers (1960-64) on the North Bank of the Chicago River. These twin sixty-story towers designed by Bertrand Goldberg ushered in a new era in the history of downtown Chicago. Standing at the north end of the Loop on Dearborn Street, they rise above the river on a street that is known for its architectural excellence.

Between 1963 and 1981 the downtown residential district expanded eastward with such highrises as Outer Drive East at 400 E. Randolph, the Columbus Plaza Apartments at 233 E. Wacker Drive, and Doral Plaza at 155 N. Michigan.

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