Defacing Sullivan's Legacy? - Target Targets A Landmark Building

Defacing Sullivan's Legacy? - Target Targets A Landmark Building
Rendering Courtesy of Target Corp and Chicago Tribune

The former Carson Pirie Scott building located at State and Madison is getting a face lift.

The building itself is no stranger to retail clientele;  Carson's tenure lasted just over 100 years.  Now, after four years of sitting vacant, Target is poised to restore life to the renowned Sullivan Center.

On Thursday, the Chicago Permit Review Committee of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks (Yes- that's a real committee.  Say it three times fast.  We dare you...) approved the installation of Target's famed bull's eye logo.

The AP article detailing this development refers to this logo placement not as a dark mark, but rather that it will be "gracing" the Sullivan Center.  At the same time, some Chicagoan's liken this transition to the Macy's take over of Marshal Fields and the aesthetic change that ensued.  Is Target's role more of saviour than conqueror for this iconic space?

The Tribune article outlines the hurdles Target Corp must go through to open their "City Target" in this national Landmark.  It will not be an easy road and they aren't in the clear yet (lighting, awnings, and everything else still require approvals) but they are on their way.

What do you think?



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  • Given the circumstances of the space, Target deserves our support and commendation for their efforts.

    I attended last Thursday's Landmarks Commission hearing on Target in the Sullivan Center and I also happen to be one of the co-organizers of the periodic rallies to bring back Marshall Field's. Macy's and Field's and Target moving into the former Carson's are circumstances. In the first an international destination-Marshall Field's-- was homogenized dow from being one of Chicago's greatest assets to being another Macy's; in the case of the former Carson's. the worst had already happened before Target entered the picture and now Target is a bit of a white knight to make use of an empty historic structure.

    Given the circumstances, Target is doing great with the former Carson's location. When I attended the hearing, I had no complaints to offer. I think the design is pretty much the best possible outcome and Target is really preserving the building for the future. If there is any criticism, it should be reserved for Carson's parent, Bon-Ton, and Macy's.

    When Field's was converted to Macy's, Field's on State Street wavered back and forth over the line of profitability but was clearly on the upswing with its "store within a store" concept. It was a viable store that was still an international destination that, even according to Macy's web site in 2006, was Chicago's number three destination. The switch to Macy's was done not only to have the same brand coast to coast but also to reduce competition for Macy's Bloomingdale's stores.

    The loss of Marshall Field's to Macy's took State Street down-market, in part, setting the stage for the loss of Carson's. On top of that, Carson's needed to be closed temporarily for the rehab of Sullivan's iron work; moreover, it seems that Carson's did not want to compete with Macy's. Finally, Carson's parent is a struggling company. The circumstances set the stage for Carson's new owner, Bon-Ton stores, to "slip out the back door."

    All in all, it is very shameful that Carson's did not move back in after the remodel. If Target can move in, so could have Carson's.

    At the same time, one has to ask why other department stores did not want to move into that amazing, internationally significant space after Carson's left. Like many, I believe if Marshall Field's was still around or had been brought back, competitors more on par with Field's rather than the down-market Macy's would have be eager to compete with Field's. The likes of Lord and Taylor and Von Maur would be eager to move into the former Carson's to compete with Field's; with Macy's, not so much.

    Marshall Field's is STILL by far Chicago's best known and most respected brand on an international level. Marshall Field's on State Street constantly reinvented itself and it should be reinvented as a Harrods or Selfridges-style emporium for the 21st Century. There are very few grand European-style department stores left in the world--and in fact, Field's was the template for those European stores. Macy's parent could even run the store as a single one-of-a-kind emporium. In late May, Macy's CEO said they now needed to experiment nore and take risks. Marshall Field's back on State Street would be a no-brainer as our recent survey of 800 Chicago shoppers showed that 79% want Field's to return there.

    As for Target, they have been very careful in their design to respect and even protect the architectural details of Sullivan's original design. The significant aspects are the exterior, the rotunda and the interior capitals. While the space would ideally be a department store, if it has to be a discount store, this is the best possible outcome.

  • In reply to Jim M:


    You bring up some interesting points.

    The space has been vacant for years and Target's tenancy will help preserve this landmark and will also continue to revitalize that stretch of State Street. The addition of retail options like Urban Outfitters, Ulta, and even (gasp) Block 37 continue to reinvent State St. as a shopping destination.

    You are right- some are concerned about having a big box retailer in that location. That being said, there weren't other options. Lord & Taylor left Water Tower, Von Maur shopped the space but wouldn't pull the trigger. Who else could come to the plate?

    Target also looks to be a very welcome addition to the neighborhood. It's only a matter of time before we can start our usual Target shopping routine: go with a plan to buy a mop, instead drop a few hundred big ones on lamps, clothing, groceries, and anything else we "must have"...
    and forget to pick up the mop.

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    In reply to Jim M:

    Jim, I couldn't have said it better. The only things I get from Macy's are discounted more than 20 dollars will I spend at Macy's. Since the name change....I now shop at Nordstrom, Barneys, and Neiman Marcus. (If I can't get my brand names in a brick and mortar specific boutique store, I prefer that) Marshall Field's was the Harrods of the country. I even tell my friends to purchase elsewhere. Now, I know this is a long shot......but Macy's gives out plastic bags when you purchase things!!! Walgreens does that! Blast!!

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