Saturday, August 26, 2006

Retail icon moving out of Loop

Retail icon moving out of Loop
BY SANDRA GUY Business Reporter
August 26, 2006
Copyright by The Chicago Sun Times

Carson Pirie Scott & Co. announced Friday it is willingly leaving its 102-year-old home at 1 S. State St. by March for a new site in Chicago, spurred by a helpful push from its landlord, Joseph Freed and Associates.

"The store has been declining in sales for years, and the operating expenses are 40 percent higher than an average Carson's store in Chicago," Byron "Bud" Bergren, the native Minnesotan who is CEO of Carson's parent company, Bon-Ton Stores, told the Sun-Times.

Carson's will be leaving its 102-year-old home by next March. The building at 1 S. State was designed by famed architect Louis H. Sullivan and is a historic landmark. (BRIAN JACKSON/SUN-TIMES)

Bon-Ton would have to spend even more money to upgrade the store, Bergren said, but he declined to cite specific costs.

The landlord's offer to buy out Carson's lease, which would have expired in 2022, was too good a price to pass up, Bergren said. Bon-Ton, of York, Pa., bought Carson's and four other regional department store chains from Saks Inc. for $1.1 billion in March.

Carson's will remain open on State Street through the holidays and will open a new store in Chicago. It is already reviewing sites on the Near South Side and the Near North Side, Bergren said.

Boutique idea ruled out

Shoppers expressed shock at the news and recalled fond memories of the store, but few were surprised because of Carson's deteriorating condition.

Catherine Clark recalled getting spa treatments at the Elizabeth Arden Spa there and of buying her ultimate pre-teen birthday gift, a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans.

"I just assumed that Carson's store was such a staple, it would always have a place on State Street," she said.

Carson's parent company considered returning to the flagship store as a small boutique, but decided it wouldn't work, Bergren said. It also has looked at sites downtown for a possible new store but has yet to find the right one.

"We are still very committed to the city of Chicago, and we have no desire to change the Carson's name," Bergren said. Carson's operates 28 department stores and five furniture stores in the region, including two stores inside Chicago's city limits at Gateway Mall, 120 South Riverside Plaza, and at Ford City Mall, 7601 South Cicero.


The Carson Pirie Scott & Co. building at State and Madison is one of more than 100 buildings designated by the City of Chicago as landmarks.
The buildings cannot be torn down or modified inside or outside without specific permission from several city agencies.
For a full list of Chicago landmarked buildings, go to chicago

Bergren said the decision to vacate the historic landmarked Louis H. Sulivan building was difficult because Carson's "is very much a tradition."

But he said the more difficult decision was to eliminate jobs of the 450 employees at the flagship store, many of whom have worked for Carson's for many years.

Far higher rents expected

Carson's will offer the employees -- 300 full-time and 150 part-time -- a chance to interview for positions at other stores and, if they cannot find a new job, offer severance and state employment service help.

Paul Fitzpatrick, managing director at Freed, said Friday the landlord will lease space to small and large retailers in the basement level and on the first two floors of the Carson's building at rents that are expected to be far higher than what Carson's pays.

A grocery store, restaurant and student entertainment service are being courted for the site, Fitzpatrick confirmed.

The remainder of the Carson's store space, floors 3-7, will be leased for offices. Higher floors in the building are occupied by offices including the Illinois Department of Employment Security and the School of the Art Institute.

New retailers are expected to appeal to the Loop's burgeoning population of students and well-heeled condo dwellers.

Chicago's Loop has become the biggest "campus town" in Illinois, hosting about 52,000 students who would like new and cheaper places to eat, shop and park, according to a study released in January 2005 by Regional Economic Applications Laboratory at the University of Illinois.


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