Monday, July 11, 2011

What's The Future for a Dilapidated, Historic Music Studio?

Most current residents of the South Loop have probably noticed an old, dilapidated two-story building at 1449 S. Michigan that has sat vacant for years. If you're like us, you've probably dreamed of some developer or business taking a risk and turning this eye sore into something functional for the neighborhood.

Well, this property might have a future, but mostly due to it's historical significance. A reader recently sent us an interesting Chicago Sun-Times article that provides some historical background on this property:

Vee Jay Records began operations on this site (1449 S. Michigan) in 1960.

The Beatles’ first American release was on Vee Jay. Their Vee Jay ’45 “Please Please Me/Ask Me Why” was released in February 1963 as the Beattles.

The Four Seasons hits “Sherry” and “Walk Like a Man” were with Vee Jay. The Staple Singers recorded their first gospel hit “Uncloudy Day” in 1962 with Vee Jay. The first album ever certified in a Gold jazz category was recorded at Vee Jay: “Exodus to Jazz” by Eddie Harris.

Vee Jay went bankrupt in 1966 and the building was sold to Brunswick Records, headed by Chicago producer Carl Davis. Brunswick recorded The Chi-Lites, Jackie Wilson, Tyrone Davis and the Young-Holt Trio. Brunswick left the building in 1976 for the North Side and the label went under in 1981.

The musician’s group wants to make the site a museum and working studio, similar to the Stax Museum in Memphis, Tenn.

The Carl Davis Music Foundation will attempt to buy the building. It is listed at $925,000. The group is working with Chicago attorney Linda Mensch to establish non-for-profit status.
Wow, we had know idea about the history of this building, but glad to hear this now. The article goes onto to give some great historical details and if you're into things like this would highly suggest a read.

It sounds like Alderman Fioretti is behind this project as well:

“That is one of the few remaining record houses and the beginning of record and auto row,” said Fioretti, who has met with the foundation group. “A couple microbreweries and a couple of name rock ‘n’ roll bands are looking to buy buildings in the district. The bands would use them as studios and restaurants. We reinstituted the TIF there and are looking to build three hotels in that area. The Brunswick-Vee Jay building could be a destination area.”
A very encouraging sign for this property and something we would love to see.

However, another interesting thing stands out in Fioretti's comment. Did he say that "a couple of name rock 'n' roll bands are looking to buy buildings in the district"? Name rock 'n' roll bands? What could this mean? It sounds so sexy and promising. Could this be something like Wilco's Loft in the Irving Park neighborhood on the North Side? We will try to resist our excitement, but it would be great to see the area attach itself to music as opposed to autos.

Ironically, the timing of this story coincides with a post we did a couple weeks back talking about Fioretti's work on making Motor Row an entertainment district. The big news then was that a brewery would be moving into the neighborhood on the 2300 block of South Michigan.

This is all very promising and something we would love to see happen for the neighborhood and South Michigan Avenue. However, talk is cheap. Before we get too excited let's see something tangible happen.

But if we can steal a line from the Beattles first American album that was distributed by the South Loop's Vee-Jay records, "Please Please Me" and build South Michigan into an Entertainment District:

(Hat tip: CL!)


Anonymous said...

I was walking my dog past the future brewery location last week and ran into some workers. I asked if they were working on the brewery and they confirmed. I also have heard lots of rumors that some members of Cheap Trick were looking to build a concert venue / bar / restaurant in motor row some years back.

Anonymous said...

I thought the point was to keep cheap tricks out of the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Depends on the value / price ratio.

Kris said...

Fearless Radio moved right next to the brewery in March...

Anonymous said...

I think more of this type of redevelopment and business opportunities should be looked at. Problem is you have some who think everything needs to be a skyscraper.

There needs to be a more aggressive small business fund use of TIF funds; the only businesses receiving TIF funds have been those connected, and even some of those are questionable projects.

Anonymous said...

I think you'll find this will be the RECORD ROW ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICT. Michigan Avenue from Roosevelt to Cermak is historic Record Row and has the potential to incite international pilgrimages. The VeeJay Brunswick Building, 1449, is revered internationally by Northern Soul fans. You already know who Chess at 2120 can attract, perhaps with a museum and studio focus.

I know 14th to Cermak is landmarked as Motor Row, but no one is going to visit Motor Row. This proposed Museum and recent promising noises made by Chess, or any other such music museum and studio that came in, would, together with these other ideas, firmly connect McCormick Place/Cermak to the Museum Campus to the benefit of us all.

If you care to, let Alderman Fioretti or the Mayor know that you too support these proposed museums and studios. It could help make the difference between talk and action.