Monday, February 2, 2009

Freedom Museum Leaving Michigan Avenue

Over the weekend the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum announced that it is closing the doors on its Michigan Avenue home.  The not-quite-three-year-old museum spent $10 million to convert the Hammacher Schlemmer store adjacent to the Tribune Tower into a showplace for the notion of freedom of the press.

Regardless of what you think of the museum's content, it was an unusual choice.  It's quite possible that the former McCormick Tribune Foundation may have been able to arrange favorable rent from the Tribune Company at the time of its opening.  But times have changed.  Tribune is now bankrupt, and the foundation has dropped the Trib's name from its title.  It seems like as good a time as any to move on.

With Sam Zell running things at Tribune these days, we can only hope that the soon-to-be-vacant storefront will attract a high-profile tenant.  The space is not without its problems, though.  It has an unusual number of columns to support the weight of the building above it.  These columns are essential to the building and cannot be moved.  This is one of the reasons that WGN television was never able to open a streetfront studio in what would seem to be the perfect location.  There simply isn't enough column-free space for a modern television studio.

As a side note, the Trib Tower annex that the Freedom Museum is leaving is actually called the WGN-TV Building, as noted on its cornerstone.  WGN television moved out of the building in the 1960's to its new home in the little known North Central neighborhood , better known as "the neighborhood next to Roscoe Village."  

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