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Former Michigan Avenue Apple store considered for marijuana dispensary

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Mag Mile high?

Marijuana dispensaries aren’t afraid of the spotlight, and some are looking to Chicago’s Mag Mile for flagship locations.

It’s not a move that’s completely unexpected. Stores are opening on highly-trafficked streets: Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, Abbott Kinney in Venice, and Pearl Street in Boulder. Architecture firms now specialize in designing attractive dispensaries. The industry is moving away from dingy headshops to light, airy shopping experiences.

While cannabis companies haven’t announced any moves yet, the Chicago Tribune reports that the former Apple store at 679 N. Michigan Ave. is being considered for a dispensary. The multi-level, 30,000-square-foot space is operated by Water Town Realty and has been vacant since Apple moved into a new Foster-designed riverfront store in 2017.

Businesses like Cresco Labs, PharmaCann, and Green Thumb Industries all have plans to open multiple stores within the city, but no one’s announced where yet, the newspaper reported. There are also 55 medical dispensaries in Illinois which could also open a second recreational location.

The medical dispensaries in Chicago have mostly stayed in neighborhoods, like Moca in Wicker Park, and away from downtown until now.

It is complicated to lease a space because marijuana is still illegal on a federal level. Buildings with loans from big banks would prevent a deal, as would some brokerage companies with restrictions on cannabis companies, according to the Tribune.

Illinois was the 11th state to legalize marijuana, which will go into effect January 2020. The bill includes a provision that allows local government to prohibit cannabis businesses in their communities and enact zoning regulations to control their location, potentially setting up the same contentious debates taking place in Los Angeles.