Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Motor Row" to Become "Music Row"?

Lately it seems like Alderman Fioretti has been aggressively talking about transforming part of South Michigan into an entertainment district. Whether it is talking about Microbreweries in this part of the sloop or simply touting the history of the area, it seems to be an important part of his agenda.

Along those lines, last week a reader sent us a link to a Chicago Sun-Times article saying that the city council is expected to move forward with a designation to have this area called "Music Row":

A South Loop street once lined with automobile showrooms could someday become a thriving entertainment district that celebrates Chicago’s musical roots in blues and jazz, thanks to a zoning designation advanced Thursday.

After nearly two decades of discussion, the City Council’s Zoning Committee agreed to transform the three-block stretch of South Michigan Avenue between Cermak and the Stevenson Expressway from “Motor Row” into “Music Row.” The full City council is expected to sign off next week.
We like this idea. In our opinion Music history is more interesting than the history of auto showrooms. We're not sure if this will be the shot in the arm this area needs to become a thriving entertainment district, but hopefully it does. Regardless it seems like a step in the right direction.

There is one thing that doesn't really make sense to us (and maybe we're just missing something). The historic music buildings that we know of in the area don't reside in the three block stretch from the Stevenson to Cermak that would be called "Music Row". The old Chess records studio is at 2120 S. Michigan and the old Vee Jay Records studio is at 1449 S. Michigan.

Does anyone else know of any studios or significant music destinations that would be in the "Music Row" area? We know the Marmon Grand Ballroom would be in the area (2230 S. Michigan), but don't think that has a historic musical background.

What are your thoughts on this change? Good? Bad? Will it make a difference?

(Hat tip: AK!)


Anonymous said...

The Fearless Radio studios are in this three block stretch - that's the only thing I can think of.

O. Asik said...

It can only help - that stretch is desolate as of now. Any transformation will be slow, but having that hotbed of activity to the South would be huge for not only the immediate area but also the stretch between Cermak and 16th, which is also a little retail-desolate.


Anonymous said...

This is the logical progression of the south loop's multi-decade transformation. An entertainment complex adjacent to McCormick Place sounds like a total win for the neighborhood and Cermack is finally going to be the exciting corridor it was meant to be. Thanks in part to the removal of the Ickes homes on State Street which has kept the area in a stranglehold for too many years. I currently use the Monkey Bar gym on 23rd & Michigan and the area is ripe for business: many vacancies, plenty of parking, beautiful historic structures, close to thousands of conventioneers with money to burn, and a resurgence of local residents. The south side needs a "Beale Street" type area full of history & fun.

Anonymous said...

This is the logical progression of the south loop's multi-decade transformation. An entertainment complex adjacent to McCormick Place sounds like a total win for the neighborhood and Cermack is finally going to be the exciting corridor it was meant to be. Thanks in part to the removal of the Ickes homes on State Street which has kept the area in a stranglehold for too many years. I currently use the Monkey Bar gym on 23rd & Michigan and the area is ripe for business: many vacancies, plenty of parking, beautiful historic structures, close to thousands of conventioneers with money to burn, and a resurgence of local residents. The south side needs a "Beale Street" type area full of history & fun.

Anonymous said...

Those that live here know the SL is always going to be a "neighborhood feel with pockets of great places to go". Motor Row is the only area that we can develop to have a full block or 2 of restaurants, shops, etc.. The stretch of Wabash with Wabash Tap, Scout, Zap, Flo and Gioco is a fantastic pocket, but in reality there is no way to continue that past 14th (in future it could pick up again from 16th - Cermak). Praire District will remain 99% residential, Printer's Row will remain what it is and cater to students and young professionals and Roosevelt to Cermak will continue to add great retail, with some restaurants, but Motor Row is ideal in that it has the space to build boutique hotels, patio/rooftop restaurants, shops on Indiana Ave AND Michigan Ave. Lexington Park at Michigan/Cermak has great retail potential as well. There is alot of talk of adding the Green Line stop again at Cermak and Wabash as well.

"pumped" said...

Why not embrace the true history of the area and keep it motor row?

"music row" just seems really fabricated and made-up to me. Keep it motor row and have a few resturants/cafe/bars with a vintage automobile theme. Or maybe have an automobile mueseum nearby.

Jazz clubs dont exactly thrive in chicago and the ones that do tend to cater only to one culture...

Anonymous said...

The name will do nothing. That area will continue to be horrible. It would be more accurate to call it North Kenwood. Bottom line remove more poor people from the section eight housing and the area will improve. One look at all of those sketchy high rise apartments on south Michigan reminds me of more of Ghetto Row than music row. Visitors from McCormick place would agree.

waste of time said...

aNON @ 4:12

I'd have to agree with your assessment, truthfully its the most logical at this juncture

Fearless Kris said...

Yes, we (Fearless Radio) are here and loving the neighborhood! I'd love to see more music/entertainment. Worried about a possible move to make this stretch of Michigan Ave. pedestrian only though - that would be very detrimental to our area and guests. And thanks Anonymous!

Anonymous said...

Agreed, that area is pretty "sketch". Many people won't venture past Cullerton, let alone Cermak. You can obviously notice the lower socioeconomic state of the people and section 8 housing which is present around that area. As much as I want our society to be able to live in a mixed income setting, Chicago will continue to be a vastly segregated city, and boundaries will continue to exist, or until the area is completely gentrified to the point where lower income people can no longer live here.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Such negativity. This is perfect for this area. Music Row is superficial and made up but thats exactly what will spur development. The city council knows this which is why they chose to rename it.

An enclave of music/bars/nightlife. Our own Beale Street is what a poster already mentioned! This would be the best place in the city for that type of attraction.

Anon 4:12 we need to raise property value in this area, which will force section 8 and other low renters out. Sorry to say this but it is best for us property owners. That how they did it in Brooklyn. It doesn't happen over night.

Im excited! Lets give out some tax breaks to new businesses in the area and get it going.

Anonymous said...

Motor Row doesn't sell. Music Row does.

not happening said...

its not happening, hate to crush your dreams but even if they built over there no one would ever go. You think its hard to

Anonymous said...

Fearless - the area won't lose any parking other than possibly a couple of spots (if they do it correctly). They are not closing off the street as your comment is suggesting. They are widening the sidewalks and will have to lose one lane (not sure which direction will have 2 and which will have 1) Also, where the bus stops are now, there is no parking there anyway, so that will naturally be a breakout and the rest will be widened. Check out what a "Road Diet" is and that is the plan.

fred said...

blind faith...

Jeff said...

This smacks of typical Second City mentality desperation.

It's completely lame to "officially" change the name of an area in hopes that it becomes what the name suggests. They didn't call it Printer's Row in hopes of attracting printing companies and they didn't name it China Town to try to entice immigrants from China to settle there.

Historically, it's Motor Row. Why not promote it as the "music district at Motor Row" or something? Will calling it Music Row really entice more people to show up? Why put the cart before the horse and invent a fake name for an old, historic area of the city? Sounds like something Las Vegas or Orlando would do, not an older city with an actual rich heritage like Chicago. Then again, we live in shallow marketing-driven times.

Aside from that, the music scene is what the market will bear. I don't see how the city promoting a fake music zone will be popular.

And I'll say once again that I am not against growth or development or gentrification, but this is a lame bass-ackwards way to go about it.

Anonymous said...

"Record Row": A Documentary of Chicago Soul Music!
I came upon this excellent documentary called "Record Row, the Story of Chicago Soul Labels" that I wanted to share here. It is packed with a lot of great information, vintage performance clips and photos. Check it out:

Pt. 1




Pt. 3


Pt. 4


Pt. 5


Constellation Records was located at 1421 South Michigan Avenue 

Chance records was originally located in Sheridan's American Record Distributors, 2011 South Michigan Ave

It doesn't really touch on TONS  of other record row labels like Constellation Records (1421 S. Mich), Chance records (originally located in Sheridan's American Record Distributors, 2011 South Mich), Mercury, Okeh Records, One-Der-Ful, Marvelous, MPac Records, etc, etc, etc. 

Michigan Ave from 13th all the way down past Cermak was THE hub for music in this town and we need to celebrate it's history. 

Anonymous said...

Get rid of Long grove house

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the documentary links and info on Music Row.

"This smacks of typical Second City mentality desperation."

Looks like you are WRONG jeff!

Jeff said...

Wait-- It used to be called Record Row? Now they want to rename it Music Row? After it's been called Motor Row?

Yes I'm sure this kind of bold move by the alderman will bring a thriving music scene to a near desolate stretch of street.

Seriously, they might be able pull off a phony Navy Pier type blues/jazz venue for conventioneers at McCormick Place. Maybe along with an Unos or a Lou Malnati's. Maybe a stage show with a couple guys dressed up as Jake and Elwood.


How many years do you suppose this will take by the way? I still contend this is silly, but carry on believing there will be some awesome thriving music district there. Some day.

Allen said...

Jeff - you are taking the 'concept' of music row too literal when it is just a way to focus on the area (14th-Stevenson) and use the idea of blues, jazz AND Rock n Roll to bring in development. There is already construction activity at one of the Recording Studios in which I believe they are building a bar and music venue. The Alderman has this 100% correct in how to get investment (Chicago, investors, etc.) to turn into development. McCormick place, South Loop residents and Chicago will all benefit.

Jeff said...

Well, good luck. But I'll believe it when I see it.

There's empty retail/venue space on Dearborn in the heart of Printer's Row. There's empty spaces in the Loop and everywhere from Roosevelt Collection to the closer parts of the South Loop -- and safer neighborhoods to boot.

Why will a bunch of urban development spring up in a desolate stretch of south Michigan Ave when it hasn't happened elsewhere? The economy sucks right now, and when it improves, the nicer, more developed areas will see their empty spaces filled up before musicmotorrecord row does.

Anonymous said...

Jeff - you are missing the point. This is about Chicago and McCormick Place (South Loop residents will be beneficiary's of the development). Investors are building hotels in the Motor Row area (there is a need for a minimum of 5,000 more rooms). With that said, the area NEEDS high end restaurants, bars, music venues in which visitors and Chicago can utilize. Printers Row and Central Station (Roosevelt to Cermak) has empty retail spots that are quietly getting filled by independent businesses. Roosevelt Collection will have a focus on higher end retail.

Jeff said...

The area doesn't NEED anything. The people going to conventions and staying in the area do just fine as it is. Yes, it would be nice to get a whole bunch of good development in the area. I just don't see it happening through a phony renaming of the area and governmental "push" to build stuff.

This is the likely hood of a fake Navy Pier type tourist zone catering to conventioneers who don't feel safe or rich enough taking a taxi to another neighborhood at best.

"Clap louder" is the general consensus of commenters on this blog about any issue concerning the neighborhood. I see this issue as silly at best and wishful thinking by people who bought condos down there during the real estate boom and are now stuck with them at worst.

Good luck.

Jason said...

Jeff, maybe I'm wrong but all I hear about is Chicago losing conventions from the unions AND because convention-goers complain there is nothing to do around McCormick Place.

I think there is a happy median between the forced Disneyland area that you dread and the organic nature of trendy bar/restaurant areas that have formed over time around the city. The music theme could be just a nice undertone to the whole area.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, I appreciate your point of view. But it seems you are being more and more like a miser than a resident of the area. I welcome anything south of us... whether it is a fake undertaking or a genuine expression of art/music. I welcome a Las Vegas/Disneyland-esque venture. Where do you think Chicago is losing conventions to. Not to mention the revenue opportunities and tax base it would create.

Anonymous said...

I have lived in South Commons for 10 years. It is not public housing or slums. I moved after 30 years in East Lakeview. I have a balcony, doorman, swimming pool, exercise room, laundry room, and a spectacular view. It is condos, not rental buildings. I got a lot more bang for my buck than the 3rd floor, walk-up studio unit with no amenities in Lakeview. The people in my building represent various races and occupations - cops, firefighters, teachers, doctors, sales reps,etc. Everyone is friendly. So, don't spit on the people who live in the area. You obviously don't know it. We ARE in need of retail, a major grocery store, even a 7-11. The only negative is the lack of stores in the area. I am a white female and am not fearful, and have never been hassled. Everyone is welcome!

Anonymous said...

ms South Commons - people r talking about LONG GROVE and 2105 s michigan, not south commons.