If you’ll be attending Reinvention next month, then you might want to peruse the new high-end design outposts at Chicago’s design nexus. The Merchandise Mart is adding five showrooms this fall to its sixth and 14th floors. The new additions—which will feature DESIGNLUSH (furniture), KnollTextiles, Paul Ferrante (lighting, furniture, and accessories), Quadrille (wall-coverings), and Tufenkian Artisan Carpets—follow the Mart’s announcement earlier this year that it will reconfigure its Design Center into four floors for easier navigation among the top-name residential and outdoor showrooms. "Our recent leasing activity has been record breaking,” John H. Brennen III, executive vice president of MMPI, which manages the Mart, said in a statement. “In addition to resigning over 60 existing Design Center tenants who have opted to relocate, we also have five new tenants who recently signed leases who want to be part of the exciting mix. We think this high level of industry commitment speaks for itself.”
But critics contend that the move, alongside a new 15-year, 572,000-square-foot lease to Google for its Motorola Mobility brand, could signal building owners’ waning interest in maintaining the storied showrooms. Crain’s Chicago Businessreports that the Design Center move, which will occur early next year, will shrink overall showroom space to 1.9 million square feet from 2 million square feet while increasing showroom capacity to 96 percent.
“It's an understatement that there are a lot of [Design Center] vacancies,” deAurora showroom owner Mark Blumenthal told Crain’s. “You could walk down the 16th floor and it was half-empty, and it's gotten worse in the past two years. It was clear they need to consolidate it.”