Mayor Emanuel says new Wicker Park and Bucktown flagship store is "Not your grandmother's Walgreens!"


Historic ceiling and columns provide impressive background for balcony and main levels


Mayor Emanuel encourages everyone to see the vault, "Architecturally, it is the most interesting re-use of space."

"This is not your grandmother's Walgreens," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel during the opening ceremonies of Walgreen's new 24-hour flagship store in the historic Noel Bank building, 1601 N. Milwaukee, at Milwaukee, North and Damen Avenues in the Wicker Park and Bucktown area.


At ribbon cutting, Lisa McMiller, Store Mgr, with the Mayor and Joseph Magnacca, Pres. of Daily Living Products and Solutions

"This is absolutely the most fantastic Walgreens you are going to see in the United States," said Scott Waguespack, 32nd Ward Alderman. He pointed out that the advice and input from community organizations such as the Bucktown Community Organization, Wicker Park Committee,  set the tone for adaptive re-use of the historic building. Furthermore he believes that the process "is history in the making" a model for other projects around the city where the same  community involvement will encouraged and engaged.

"This is probably one of the most beautiful Walgreens that I've seen in my life time, which means that it can only enhance the shopping experience," said Jonathan Fine, Executive Director of Preservation Chicago. "People are going to come here because it is a pleasant, nice place to shop. The fact is that the better the architecture the more interesting the space, the more revenue they're going to generate. I highly encourage Walgreens to use this model again and again instead of jumping to demolition.  There are more banks and religious buildings that could be re-used. There should be one in every neighborhood."


Walgreens' John Grant talks with Steve Jensen, Debbie Dodge, Scott Waguespack and another Walgreens' person

"This is magnificent! Walgreens is a 115 year old business that is showing its commitment to the City. They never abandoned  the city universally throughout the century and into the new decades. This is the epitome of reusing a building like this," said Mr. Murphy, Legal Counsel for Walgreens.


Ken Lubinski Sr.


Walgreens' legal counsel Murphy

Reminiscing about the space as a bank, Ken Lubinski Sr. of Lubinski Furniture, 1550 N. Milwaukee Ave. said, "My first communion, I was nine and had $40. My mother brought me over here and I opened my first account. I had a little green passbook[Fairfield Savings and Loan]. Then my wife and I had our first home mortgage here. Then when they sold all their account to Mid-West, we went with them. I'm glad they didn't do anything with the ceiling or the columns!

After the ceremonies, Waguespack commented, "I mentioned the various organizations earlier because often there are contentious issues between different local groups, but this was great. Everyone worked to push forward trying to get building owners to do what the residents want…this is it!"


Scott Waguespack with son Brandt

With his ten month old son in his arms, Waguespack represented the third and fourth generations of his family with ties to the building. In July 1921, the Noel State Bank opened in the then new building, having been across the street in the Milnoro Building [predecessor to the Northwest Tower Building]*. Waguespack's grandfather was one of the first Noel State Bank account holders.

With 80 new jobs in the store, Walgreens' commitment in 2011 to have 600 new jobs in Chicago is closer to reality, as Emanuel pointed out.


Old safety deposit boxes are still part of the vault on the right wall

In the three floors of the facility, shoppers can find anything from food service to medical services 24 hours a day. 

Imagine, in days gone by you could meet someone at a drugstore's "soda fountain," now you can meet at the sushi bar!

Two stories that may give more insight into the re-use project are at Crain's Chicago Business and on Daniel O'Neil's blog


*Wicker Park From 1673 Thru 1929 and Walking Tour Guide, Elaine Coorens



I know it's a minor error,

I know it's a minor error, but Mayor Emanuel actually remarked, ""It is not your mom and dad's Walgreens." Thanks for the great recap and photos. Editor's note: Thank you and I want to assure you that the Mayor actually said "grandma" which I made grandmother. When I went thru my tape of the event I thought I heard grandmother but as I relisten it was "grandma!"

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