What will we do with the giant empty hulk of the Railway Exchange Building? It seems that the age of the august department store in downtown is over, because, despite angry nostalgia when they close, nobody shops at them. My heart sunk when I walked in to buy a wedding gift at the downtown Macy’s in St. Louis last summer; while the employees were friendly, there was absolutely no reason for anyone to go out of their way to that store. Any trace of the interesting architecture, which you could catch in glimpses before during the Famous Barr days, was gone. I knew it was only a matter of time…
Which brings to my happy discovery from my recent trip to Chicago; the iconic Carson Pirie Scott Building, designed by the great Louis Sullivan, has found new life as a Target. I examined an urban Target last year in Seattle, and I was happy with the results. I had visited the venerable Carson Pirie Scott before it had closed, and it was a sad sight; low quality merchandise, a tired and run-down interior pervaded.
Sullivan’s masterpiece has never looked better in all the time I have visited Chicago; restored and cleaned, the interior lobby is beautiful. Interestingly, since it is an historic landmark, the Target sign had to be creatively inserted on the interior of the building.
Likewise, while you feel like you’re in a Target, their designers left important design elements, such as the capitals of the columns intact. We can bemoan the death of Famous Barr/Macy’s, but we must also find a solution for the vast empty retail spaces left behind. Is a Target the best option? Perhaps.
Hey, at least there is a gigantic parking garage for everyone in St. Louis.