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Chicago’s old Museum of Contemporary Art building is nearly gone

The vacant Streeterville structure is making way for a new limited-service hotel

Harry Carmichael
Valerio Dewalt Train Associates

It’s been one month since a demo permit for Chicago’s old Museum of Contemporary Art building was issued and crews are making short work of the structure. The low-rise building at 237 E. Ontario may have disappeared somewhat into the background after years of vacancy, but the structure has an interesting history and can trace its roots back to a 1908 brick-clad building that first housed a wholesale baking facility.

According to Shifting Grounds, the site served as gallery space and even offices for Playboy before receiving an extensive post-modern makeover overseen by Chicago architect Laurence Booth in 1979. The MCA left the location in 1996 in favor of a new space several blocks north at 220 E. Chicago Avenue. In its place, developer Tishman Realty is planning a new 19-story “Aloft Mag Mile” hotel.

Harry Carmichael
Harry Carmichael

The Tishman team downsized its original 2015 plan for a 24-story tower—opting to build “as of right” rather than seek a zoning change with the city of Chicago. The project’s alley-accessed porte-cochere, however, remains a bone of contention among some of the project’s immediate neighbors. Despite objections, the Chicago Department of Transportation signed-off on the traffic management plan.

Designed by architect Valerio Dewalt Train Associates, the new Aloft slated for 237 E. Ontario would join the upcoming 21-story Hotel EMC2 located just across the street. The 195-room project penned by KOO Associates is expected to welcome its first guests next month.