November 7, 2006 – The Mills Corporation of Chevy Chase, Maryland, the group developing Block 37, agrees to sell the retail and transit portions of the $450 million project to developer Joseph Freed and Associates. The empty block surrounded by State Street and Dearborn Street on the east and west and Washington Boulevard and Randolph Street on the south and north, has stood vacant for 17 years after the city bought it for $46.5 million, sold it to the original developer for $12.5 million and then watched various development schemes fall apart as one of the premier blocks in the Loop sat waiting for something, anything, to happen. The senior vice-president for Freed, Steven Jacobsen, says of the acquisition, “We’re very bullish on this location based on its 24-hour-a-day population base.” [Chicago Tribune, November 8, 2006] The developer will face the same challenges the previous developers have faced. For one thing, the retail section of the project must be filled with “stores that have little or no presence elsewhere in the Chicago area.” Freed’s challenges are not restricted to Block 37. The developer is also trying to fill a quarter of a million square feet in the former Carson, Pirie, and Scott building just across State Street. Martin Stern, executive vice president of U. S. Equities Realty, says of the venture, “The most important thing for Block 37 is to get dirt moving and see the project is for real.”
November 7, 1977 – From the “Being in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time Department” – Ms. Raphan Boonying drives her car across the Wells Street bridge, heading north, and encounters a warning gate dropping down in front of her, prompting her to stop with the front wheels of the vehicle on the street and the rear wheels on the bridge. The bridge then begins to rise. “Suddenly I felt the rear of the car going down,” Boonying says. “I thought, ‘I am going to die’ and I screamed.” Officials describe what happens next. The car begins to slide back toward the river as the bridge opens, but before the car falls into the brink the upper section of the bridge’s double-deck truss system catches it and crushes its rear section, pinching it between the bridge and the street. The bridge-tender swears that he did not see any vehicle on the bridge when he began to raise it. Trains of the Ravenswood and Howard lines, which run atop the structure, are delayed for two hours as the wrecked car and its shaken owner are removed. The Tribune graphic, shown above, shows how close Ms. Boonying came to ending up in the river.