Renovation of the ground-floor-level common spaces of Chicago’s Merchandise Mart has been finished, with community-focused elements including a 50-foot-wide marble staircase designed for interaction, 200-person seating, a large projection screen and free Wi-Fi. Other new additions include a lounge with meeting space, a locally focused food hall and a 5,000-square-foot green space outside by the Chicago River. The lounge includes furnishings by Allermuir, Bernhardt Design, Davis, HBF, Herman Miller, Masland Carpets and Stylex. The most recent update, which was led by New York firm A+I with Valerio Dewalt Train Associates, is the most dramatic the building has seen in 40 years.
New lounge and meeting space at Merchandise Mart; courtesy Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune
“Rather than creating a port of entrance and exit, the architectural features of the Mart's new lobby allow for a new kind of engagement by slowing down the pace of passage,” says Brad Zizmor, principal and co-founder of A+I. “The Grand Stair and Reception Area create a monumental architectural landscape conducive to reflection, thinking and socializing. In keeping with A+I’s reinvention of the lobby as a programmatic space to dwell in, as opposed to pass through, we designed a colossal stair with a physical structure that is 80 percent meant to be lingered on as opposed to being walked on.”
The Grand Staircase
The Mart is at almost 98 percent occupancy and includes not only furniture and decor brands but, increasingly, businesses like Allstate, eBay, PayPal and Yelp. “Our building, the Mart, has become the epicenter of what is this extraordinary resurgence of River North in Chicago,” David Greenbaum, president of Vornado Realty Trust, which has owned the building since 1998, told the Chicago Tribune. The office space, he told the Tribune, which now makes up about 60 percent of the building (showrooms span about 40 percent), has been “reimagined for the next generation” with a millennial-driven focus that is “all about getting the tenants to stay in the building longer over the course of the day and working harder.”