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Cheap Trick eyes Record Row for museum, concert venue

The bCheap Trick wants get resurrectihistoric South Michigan Avenue strip this home Chess Records studio. The bwould like turn an

The band Cheap Trick wants to get in on the resurrection of the historic South Michigan Avenue strip that is home to the Chess Records studio. The band would like to turn an old Buick dealership at 2275 S. Michigan into a museum and concert venue. | Patrick Doyle~ AP

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Updated: November 16, 2011 8:53AM

They want you to want Record Row.

Cheap Trick is the latest entity to link into the resurrection of the historic South Michigan Avenue strip that is the home of the Chess Records studio, Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) said Tuesday.

The Rockford-based band is looking to open a museum and concert venue in a vacant Buick dealership at 2245 S. Michigan, he said. Chess is at 2120 S. Michigan.

The former Vee-Jay andBrunswick Records building is for sale at 1449 S. Michigan, and there is talk of turning that into a museum and recording studio.

Fioretti has been working on creating an entertainment district whose engine would be Record Row — or Motor Row, as the area was also known for fancy automobile dealerships. Fioretti envisions another “prominent blues band” opening a similar rehearsal space-museum a few buildings north of the Cheap Trick site.

He also wants to see more restaurants and hotels there because of the area’s proximity to McCormick Place.

“Cheap Trick’s venue will have live music and serve burgers, traditional American food,” Fioretti said. “I’m hoping they open within the next year. They want to move fast.”

Representatives for Cheap Trick did not return request for comment.

City of Chicago cultural historian Tim Samuelson said the vacant dealerships can thrive again as recording studios and concert venues.

“The buildings of Motor Row were designed for large automobiles,” Samuelson said. “They were usually one big open area without columns so you could drive and move automobiles inside. There was a fairly high ceiling because they wanted to make the cars look nice. The buildings date from the time when there were many makes of different cars. People would go window shopping up and down South Michigan Avenue. Over the years Motor Row seamlessly became Record Row.

“And now those buildings are perfect for studios. They vary in size, they could work for small or large operations.”

Sierra is the company reportedly working to develop the Cheap Trick deal. In an e-mail, Sierra principal Luke Sauer wrote, “Please note our primary effort to date regards zoning change and working with investors. We have no announcements regarding Cheap Trick or any other restaurant or entertainment operator(s) we may be speaking with about Motor Row.”

Last month, after nearly two decades of discussion, the City Council’s Zoning Committee agreed to transform the three-block stretch of South Michigan Avenue between Cermak and the Stevenson Expy. from “Motor Row” into “Record Row.” This initially means that no new residential projects could be built within the boundaries of the new entertainment district.

“The new zoning will attract businesses and make sure businesses have incentives to rehab a lot of these buildings,” Fioretti said. “We are looking to bring in entities. This is the way to combine the South Loop, Chinatown and Bronzeville into one area. Activity is starting to move at a quicker speed.”

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