Published on Wednesday, 11 January 2012 08:17
WGN-AM is on the move this year... literally. The Tribune Tower has leased out much of the space on its first floor where WGN Radio's studios, control rooms and offices are located to a restaurant management company. To make room for the new tenant, all of WGN-AM's first floor offices, with the exception of its showcase studio, will be moving up six floors from where it currently is in the near future.
In recent years, Tribune Tower, located at 435 N. Michigan Avenue in Chicago, became about one-third vacant, as newspaper offices consolidated and other businesses moved out. They have been trying to fill the vacant space for the last couple of years. With Michigan Avenue locations such a rare commodity, it made sense to offer up ground floor offices to a retail or restaurant operator and move the radio offices to an unused upper floor.
Chicago restaurant & bar operator Bottleneck Management agreed to lease close to 14,000 square feet of space on the south half of the ground floor of Tribune Tower. Financial details of the agreement are not being released publicly. Once the WGN offices are vacated from this space, Bottleneck Management will begin build out on its fifth establishment in Chicago. The restaurant will be located toward the back, southeast portion of Tribune Tower, past the WGN Showcase Studio windows, with its main face & windows directly overlooking Pioneer Court. Bottleneck Management hopes to have the approximate 300 seat restaurant open Spring of next year.
In a statement this morning, Bottleneck Management's Chris Bisaillon said: "This is an opportunity to create something truly unique and provide more amenities to the growing number of people who work and visit this thriving area of Chicago. We intend to work diligently in the months ahead to develop a dynamic plan for this space - one that works in harmony with Pioneer Court, our neighbors, our growing tourism industry and, of course, our future customers."
owns four other establishments in Chicago: Trace, The Boundary, South Branch, and Sweetwater, which is located just over the Chicago River, a few blocks south of Tribune Tower on Michigan Avenue.
WGN Radio currently occupies around 30,000 square feet of the first floor of Tribune Tower, with much of it unused. It will now move all of that used space up to the seventh floor of the building, taking over around 20,000 square feet. The new location is being designed to be much more efficient than the current main level location, which is overly segmented and separated. Only the famous WGN Showcase Studios, which overlook Michigan Avenue and Pioneer Court, will remain downstairs. Fans will still be able to watch the weekday daytime radio shows take place through the walls of streetside windows. The interior radio studio, named Studio A, will be relocated upstairs and rebuilt with new, state-of-the-art equipment.
In fact, most of the equipment for WGN Radio will be replaced with all new equipment, making this a move that should last for many years to come. The construction on the new facilities on the seventh floor will begin right away. The hope is to have WGN-AM's offices fully in the new space by this Summer.
Another positive is that this move will reunite the WGN Radio family. In April 2010, WGN-AM moved its newsroom away from the first floor and up to the fourth floor of Tribune Tower, thinking the close proximity to the Chicago Tribune newsroom would be better for the radio news staff. Once construction is complete, the WGN Radio Newsroom will be up on the seventh floor with everybody else. Instead of windows looking at Tribune reporters typing on their computers, the newsroom will have windows looking out over Chicago.
The seventh floor of Tribune Tower has sat mostly unused since 2009, when the Tribune Company's charitable group, The McCormick Foundation, moved out from that space to relocate to a space a few block south at 205 N. Michigan Avenue. Currently, only CNN's Chicago Bureau and the meeting room Campbell Hall are found on that floor. (Both will remain untouched by this move.)
As it turns out, this move is a full-circle one, which will reunite WGN-AM with the section of the building that was originally built for it, way back in the mid-1930s. At one time, Campbell Hall, now used as a company meeting room, was a large WGN Radio studio used for big band shows.
WGN-AM has been in its current space since 1986, moving back into the building after spending 25 years at 2501 W. Bradley Place, where WGN-TV is located.
This new arrangement with Bottleneck Management and move for the radio station was first publicly announced on the Chicago Tribune website just after Midnight today. The article, written by the Chicago Tribune's Robert Channick, can be viewed HERE
Early this morning, Tom Langmyer, WGN Radio's Vice President & General Manager, sent out a memo to all of the station's staffers. Here is what he had to say to them:
"I'm very excited to share some news with you about WGN Radio's studios and offices.
Tribune Company has entered into an agreement with Bottleneck Management Group develop a premier restaurant in part of the space currently occupied by WGN Radio (The formal announcement is being made this morning.)
What this means to us is that we will be relocating to new space within the Tower. During the past few months, we have been working on plans to relocate WGN's offices and studios - and building a brand new state-of-the art broadcast facility on the 7th floor (while retaining the Showcase Studio).
Our new location in the building will include a fresher and brighter workspace (as the relocated offices, sales area, news department and studios will have windows as well) and the technical operation and new studios will be fully digital, replacing the current analog equipment, much of which has been in service since WGN moved to the Tower 25 years ago. In addition to the Showcase Studio, which remains on the first floor, WGN's new studio complex and a new newsroom will now overlook Michigan Avenue.
Adding a quality tenant in our building and having a broadcast facility designed for the future speaks to Tribune's commitment to growing our business on many levels. This is a tremendous thing for all of us as WGN Radio and Tribune employees."