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Motor Row Maybe: Hu Can Do It?

By JoshMogerman in News on Sep 30, 2012 9:00PM

Is it finally time for an entertainment district in Motor Row? Illinois Automobile Club building and former Chicago Defender newsroom, at 2400 S. Michigan Avenue. [Ann Fisher]

A big chunk of the Trib’s business section reporting staff combined to pull together a sizable update on where the long-discussed revitalization of Motor Row stands. While a lot of the data points are not new (we’ve heard plenty about the zoning changes, rumors of new developments and the much ballyhooed Cheap Trick plans), a couple of items caught our eye---and have us feeling a revitalized entertainment district around McCormick Place may really come together sooner than later.

First, there’s Langdon Neal. The Trib reports that the Board of Elections Chairman and real estate law power player attorney has apparently been trolling South Michigan and Indiana Avenues over the last month in search of property owners interested in selling to McPier. Think there is any arm-twisting going on there?

And then there’s Tony Hu. The guy is a world-beater. He runs the crowded Chinatown restaurant scene and now seems bought into making his mark a few blocks east. The same month that Chicago Magazine names the chef to their list of the most powerful Chicagoans, Kevin Pang’s profile piece in the Trib highlights Hu’s plan to open a Peking Duck spot on Michigan.

Not that the Mayor needs a ton of help in the arm-twisting or financing realm to goose the quest to liven up the dead zone around the sprawling convention center, but these two bring it. Now, if they can just do something about one of the biggest and flashiest buildings along Motor Row: the former Chicago Defender HQ. It is still mired in legal and banking purgatory in the aftermath of the death of its former owner, a Ukrainian drug money launderer who died in federal custody, and a financial failure from subsequent owners. There's always something...but this is a key domino that probably has to fall before things truly start to rock in a fledgling entertainment district.