Monday, February 2, 2009

Diagrams: Best Buy's Impact on the John Hancock Center

Last week a resident of the John Hancock Center told me almost breathlessly that the plans were out for the design of the Best Buy going in on the ground floor of the landmark building.  With a mix of fear and indignation she stammered, "it's going to have neon."

The truth is a lot less awful than it sounds.  I managed to get my hands on a copy of the plans, and they don't look bad.  They're certainly a magnitude of order lighter and more colorful than what men's clothier Paul Stuart did with the space before it moved to 107 East Oak Street last year.

The designs by Experience Development Group show the main entrance will see the addition of a smallish "Best Buy" sign above the doors, flanked by blue awnings over the neighboring windows.

There will be illuminated signage, and that might be what had the Hancockers worried.  But the specs show signs will be three feet tall, four feet wide, and only placed at the corners of the building.

Far more visual appeal is planned for upstairs where the equipment racks and merchandise shelves placed against the windows will be backed by large-scale photos of happy neutral people enjoying the benefits of technology.  The Best Buy signs will once again be relegated to the corners.

Whether these displays end up looking garish, or adding much-needed color to an otherwise drab block remains to be seen.  We'll find out in May, 2009 when the grand opening is planned.

The residents of the John Hancock Center are notably concerned.  Many of them have lived in the skyscraper long enough to remember when "Boul Mich" was compared to the great boulevards of Paris.  Since then it's gone through a period of neglect, a period of growth, and now it's something closer to an outdoor mall than the Champs-Élysées as most of the boutiques have fled for the side streets and neighborhoods north.  Most Chicagoans don't realize or remember that the Hancock Center was where Cartier had its Chicago store for many years.

Still, Best Buy is better than nothing.  And considering the state of nearby buildings like Chicago Place, the Peninsula Hotel block, and the Esquire Theater, "nothing" could have been a real possibility.  And surely, people who patronize L'Appetito, the wanna-be Italian deli staffed by the least-friendly stone faced Russian robot chicks in the Midwest, cannot be all that picky, right?


  1. Better than nothing however it does dimish the class factor. My theory is the raised plinth retail is just not condusive to foot traffic nowadays. In the 60s when it was built there was probably an air of importance to steping up into the towers' base.

    Which makes me think there must be some ramps or new features to be installed?

  2. I don't think any ramps or anything will be necessary since Best Buy will mostly occupy the same space that the previous retail tenant did.

    I don't think Best Buy is the best use of this space, but these days it beats a big fat vacancy.

  3. Best Buy will bring modern flair to and old (but beutiful) building. It is just what the Hancock Tower needs, at leasts its not a dingy Circuit City or a cheap Walmart. Best Buy is turning in to a classy, but trendy techno-place. As a resident of the tower I am glad to see this company moving in.


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