“Lakeside Center, the oldest building in the McCormick Place complex, has also been the quietest in recent years, seemingly overshadowed by the convention center’s larger and flashier additions to the west.
“But as the Lakeside Center finds itself being eyeballed for possible reuse as a casino — and also needing $400 million in repairs and upgrades to remain in use as a convention center — it’s time to pay more attention to the flat-roofed, steel-and-glass building at 23rd Street and the lake, and for officials to focus on making important decisions regarding its future.
“But in response to the possibility of a casino being put there, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority issued a report about Lakeside Center last month that contained details that make it clear city and state officials should start talking about the building and its future now.
“According to the report issued by MPEA CEO Larita Clark, there are 253 events scheduled for Lakeside Center between now and 2035.
“This flies in the face of conventional thinking that Lakeside Center is hardly used — and thus expendable. Just six years ago, then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration cited the alleged disuse as a reason to wreck the building in an ill-fated attempt to construct the George Lucas Museum on the site.
“In 2019, State Rep. Kam Buckner (D-Chicago) tried to pass a bill authorizing the demolition of the above-ground portions of Lakeside Center for more open space; the demolition would have been paid for with a one-dollar surcharge on ridesharing fares. But the bill has gone nowhere.
“If Lakeside Center were demolished or converted into another use, Clark’s report indicated the MPEA would need a replacement building that could cost as much as $1.7 billion.
“But what about the building’s expected $400 million repair bill? MPEA says the cost includes a new roof, parking structure repairs, and mechanical, electrical and plumbing upgrades. Interior work and exterior glass replacement are also included.
“Last year, MPEA helped pay its bills by borrowing $15 million from the state. This year could be just as bad, raising the possibility that taxpayers could be on the hook for some portion of Lakeside Center’s repairs — or its demolition — unless the economy improves.
“So Chicago has a public building that can’t be ripped down or reused without having to be replaced. Not to mention the structure’s architectural significance as a high-point in modernist architecture, the city’s stock-in-trade.” (Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, 3/21/22)
Read the full editorial at the Chicago Sun-Times
Casino or not, city has big decisions to make regarding Lakeside Center; While the future of Soldier Field takes up a lot of oxygen in Chicago’s political and civic discourse, its neighbor to the south, Lakeside Center, looms just as large, Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, 3/21/22