Last year the Bennigan's restaurant chain collapsed, leaving two very high profile vacancies in Chicago's Loop. One, directly across from the Art Institute must have been a gold mine, especially on rainy days, as tourists sought shelter from the elements and vagrants. The other was front and center on the ground floor, Michigan Avenue face of the Illinois Center. Now it appears there is some life at both locations.
First, down by the Art Institute, we're happy to report that the Bennigan's has actually reopened for business. It's been open since at least November and appears to be doing OK. Not as good as it used to, but what restaurant is doing its old traffic these days anyway?
The Illinois Center location isn't open, but at least we don't have to look at a vacant bar anymore. The windows have been covered up with advertising for some movie coming out in the spring. One of the large windows has been transformed into a video screen. It's not ideal, but it's certainly better than nothing, especially considering the amount of vacant storefronts within 1,000 yards of that location.
What we'd like to see: WFLD Television take over the Bennigan's space and finally get the streetfront news studio it's been craving for years. Parking the microwave truck on South Water Street and doing live shots from the plaza of 230 North Michigan really isn't the same thing. It would also leave WGN Television as the only commercial station in town whose news operation isn't open to public viewing.