When you're talking about the downtown area, a surface parking lot is like an open wound for a neighborhood. They clearly disrupt the flow of the cityscape, but one can only hope that they're only temporary. They aren't supposed to be surface parking lots, the economics simply don't work when a lot could be earning much more money as commercial, residential, retail, or even a proper multi-level parking garage. A surface parking means somebody owns that lot but they don't know what to do with it yet, so they might as well paint some white lines and try to earn a few bucks until a better idea comes along. In the South Loop, the biggest gaping wound has long been the parking lot at State Street between Harrison and Balbo.
Now that the lot at State and 9th is being developed into an apartment tower by Golub, the Harrison-Balbo parking lot has become the last missing piece for a fully built-out State Street between River North and Roosevelt Road, a constant reminder for pedestrians that the South Loop just isn't finished yet. But now, at long last, Crain's has reported that the property has been purchased by the prestigious School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). The $24 million purchase will be used to build out a new campus building with integrated gallery space.
The property was once owned by the YMCA organization, who intended to build a new national headquarters on the site, but backed out and sold the site to a property holding firm a few years ago. The move by SAIC further solidifies the South Loop's position as a nexus for education, with campuses and housing for Roosevelt University, Columbia, Robert Morris University, East-West University, the Spertus Institute, Illinois Center for Broadcasting, and even Jones College Prep high school all nearby.
·Art Institute school buys big South Loop development site [Crain's Chicago]
·Previous South Loop coverage [Curbed Chicago]