Motor Row developer loses Cheap Trick club, dinner theater
Deals to bring a Cheap Trick-themed night club and a circus-cabaret dinner theater to Motor Row have fizzled, a double blow to the city's plan to turn the strip west of McCormick Place into an entertainment district.
The owner of a building at 2245 S. Michigan Ave. has put the property up for sale after developer Landmark America LLC couldn't deliver on plans to turn the former Buick dealership into a Cheap Trick restaurant, music venue and museum, said Mark Nelson, principal at NelsonHill, the Chicago-based brokerage hired to sell the building.
A group that wants to bring Teatro ZinZanni, the dinner theatre, to Chicago also has terminated its lease for a former Rambler dealership at 132 E. 23rd St., saying the same developer couldn't promise the space would be ready by an agreed-upon date.
“We have not lost interest in Motor Row,” said Stanley Feig, CEO of AMF Entertainment, the Sonoma, Calif.-based investment group that broke the lease. “We just need a partner to work with.”
The scuttled deals represent a setback for the city, which wants to attract restaurants and nightclubs to Motor Row, a landmark district centered on Michigan Avenue stretching from Cermak Road to the Stevenson Expressway. With McCormick Place around the corner, city officials believe a nightlife mecca there would keep conventioneers in the neighborhood and attract tourists and residents from other parts of the city.
The push seemed to be gaining momentum, fueled by the plans to open the Cheap Trick and Teatro ZinZanni clubs, along with a Big Shoulders Brewery at 2337 S. Michigan Ave. Plans are also in the works to build another 1,200-room hotel next to McCormick Place.
Ald. Robert Fioretti, (2nd), whose ward includes Motor Row, said he was “disappointed” that the plans to bring the two nightspots had fallen apart. But “interest is very high” in the district, he said.
“We're going to continue to find a solution and move these projects,” he said.
The aborted deals also represent another disappointment for Landmark America, a Chicago-based developer that also had tried to develop a site just north of the convention center into a massive hotel-and-retail complex. But the Landmark venture that owns the property is about to lose it to foreclosure after two trips through Bankruptcy Court. The property is now considered as a site for a new basketball arena for DePaul University.
Landmark America founder Pamela Gleichman didn't return calls.
AMF, the group scouting sites for Teatro ZinZanni, originally sought space in the Block 37 shopping center on State Street. But that deal fell through after the project wound up in foreclosure.
Mr. Feig's group signed a lease in August 2012 with Landmark America, which doesn't own either Motor Row building but had reached agreements with the landlords to redevelop them. Under the lease, the space at 132 E. 23rd had to be ready for occupancy by Aug. 1.
On March 1, Ms. Gleichman informed Mr. Feig that the property would not be ready for Teatro ZinZanni by then. After discussing alternate timelines and failing to receive any assurance from Ms. Gleichman that the theater could enter the space by Jan. 1, 2014, Mr. Feig said he decided to terminate the lease.
“We lost confidence in Gleichman to deliver,” he said.
Feig estimated AMF lost more than $250,000 pursuing the deal. He said he is unsure whether he will take legal action.
Meanwhile, the 22,500-square-foot building at 2245 S. Michigan and adjoining 8,000 square-foot parking lot are listed for $4.0 million.
Though Motor Row has yet to prove itself as an entertainment destination, it will “explode” one day, said Michael Costanzo, a broker specializing in bar, club and restaurant sales at Jameson Commercial. He compared the area to Wicker Park's busy North-Damen-Milwaukee intersection, saying it took more than 25 years for the area to become a lively commercial district.
What do you think?
The commenter section of Crain's Chicago Business is an opportunity for our readers to start a dialog on our content. While we don't require you to use your real name, we do ask that you participate as though you were – that is, keep the conversation civil, stay on topic, avoid profanity, vulgarity and personal attacks, and please don't post commercial or self-promotional material. We will remove comments that violate these standards.
(Note: Your first name and last initial will appear with your remarks.)