Water Tower Place Changes Hands On Michigan Avenue

Interior of Water Tower Place via Shopwatertower.com

The famed Water Tower Place Mall at 835 N Michigan Avenue on the Magnificent Mile has been turned over to its lender. Located between E Chestnut Street and E Pearson Street just south of the John Hancock Tower, the retail location has occupied the full block site since the 1970’s. Most recently owned by New York-based Brookfield Properties who operate retail locations across the nation, the mall will now be in the hands of MetLife Investment Management which is a part of the insurance company.

Interior of Water Tower Place in 1975 via Chicago History Today

The mall is part of a larger complex built in 1975 that includes a 78-story, 859-foot-tall skyscraper home to a Ritz-Carlton hotel, condominiums, office space, and a theater that is part of Broadway in Chicago. However the turnover consists of just the nine-story mall, which was built for Marshall Fields Co, developed by Philip Morris Klutznick, and designed by Lobel, Schlossman, Bennett and Dart Architects. The mall would become the first enclosed mall in the city with over 100 tenants in its 818,000 square feet of space; by 1976 the $150 million project was fully leased.

Interior of Water Tower Place via Themagnificentmile.com

A stark difference from today, the mall was long owned by Chicago-based General Growth Properties (GGP) which was bought out by Brookfield in 2018. In 2020 Brookfield took full control of the mall buying out its partner, however several stores including Macys have closed. Most recently American Girl Doll announced it would shed some of its remaining space on the first floor. A sharp decline in revenue put on hold a pending renovation. The property is now worth less than the $300 million in debt owed on it, leading Brookfield to pull the plug according to Crain’s.

Current view of Water Tower Place via Google Maps

Water Tower Place is the most recent casualty of a market trying to find its footing in the modern world. But its uniqueness was also its downfall as the popularity of the street grew, the less tenants wanted to be enclosed on a high floor. Various other properties have stumbled on the avenue as retailers move to Oak Street and residents fight big-box stores like the proposed Target in the previous Macys space. While experiential retail is the future for Magnificent Mile, larger structures along the corridor will need to figure out how to keep up with all of the space offered.

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10 Comments on "Water Tower Place Changes Hands On Michigan Avenue"

  1. correction: The developer was Philip Klutznik – Urban Invenstment Corp that developed premiere shopping centers around Chicago as well as developed Park Forest, Illinois – and the building was designed by Lobel, Schlossman, Bennett and Dart, Architects.

  2. Tear it down and build housing. Malls with hostile street-facing blank walls have no place in the city

  3. They should partial demo it and scale it back to open up the street more and convert it to more hotel suites or condos or something. Could be tastefully and easily done on what is already an ugly (mall part not tower) and in need of renovation building .

  4. It should be demolished ASAP.

  5. Steve River North | April 9, 2022 at 10:35 am | Reply

    I have to agree that demo and revision the site might be best way to go. Heck the mall does not even have a Cinnabon!!!

    I believe someone did float Casino here as an idea once?

  6. As beautiful and modern as WTP was and still is to some degree the times when people wanted to spend their leisure time riding elevators and escalators to go shopping are long past. Perhaps WTP could be remand into a one-level shopping arcade of some sort with offices/residential on the upper floors? The hulking outside also would need a complete overhaul and be reclad in glass (at least in part). This will not be a cheap fix, but long term I do not see another choice unless a full-on teardown of WTP is on offer.

  7. I’m a neighbor, and here is what I cannot figure out. Perhaps people have feedback…

    There are tens of thousands of middle, upper middle and high end units within a short distance: Streeterville, Gold Coast and River North. How is it possible that these tenants – let alone the tens of thousands of additional office workers and tourists – cannot float a few hundred retailers? Every nearby resident needs to ship for a wide range of goods and services. And there is too much space?!

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