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Merch Mart Could Have Had Some Competition

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Whoever said size doesn't matter apparently wasn't a Chicago architect. In the case of yet another failed attempt at total world structural dominance, a 1928 Chicago Tribune headline boasted the city was "to Have World's Tallest and Largest Building" had plans worked out for architect Walter Ahlschlager's proposed downtown Apparel Mart (SPOILER ALERT: They didn't).

The $45 million, 75-story complex would have housed an apparel-manufacturers' center, a 1,200-car garage, a 1,000-room hotel, and a swimming pool among other amenities, on Wacker Drive about where the east tower of the Hyatt stands today. The space was also meant to feature "its own police force, a first-aid hospital, and railroad terminals and tracks underground to handle passengers, freight, and mail. The normal daytime population of the building was expected to approach 18,000," according to the blog Connecting the Windy City.

Aside from its headline-making size, this other Mart was also noteworthy as one of the first commercial structures to be part of an air rights deal. Pitching such an ambitious project the year before the stock market's famous plummet proved to be a bad idea. As far as we can tell, the plan that had been so celebrated quietly faded away.
·Illinois Center—What Might Have Been [Connecting the Windy City]
·"Chicago to have World's Tallest Building..." [Architecture Farm]

—Gwendolyn Purdom