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Cheap Trick plans museum, concert venue on Record Row

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Updated: December 13, 2011 8:35AM

‘Cheap Trick Chicago” is coming to Chicago.

Cheap Trick, the Rockford band behind the ’70s hits “Dream Police” and “I Want You to Want Me,” announced Wednesday that it will “curate” a museum and music venue in a former Buick dealership at 2245 S. Michigan in the emerging Record Row-Motor Row district.

Band manager David Frey said in a statement that Cheap Trick Chicago will be “a one-of-a-kind eatery, unique musical instrument museum, radio station, and performance space as well as rooftop and outdoor and event space in the future Music Row in Chicago.”

The project was prompted in part, Frey said, by expanding activity at nearby McCormick Place. Last month unions and management agreed to new work rules at the conventon center that will boost occupancy levels from 40 to 75 percent within two years, according to Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd).

The announcement is a continuation of Fioretti’s vision to link the historic Chess Records site, 2120 S. Michigan; the empty Vee-Jay and Brunswick Records site, 1449 S. Michigan, and vacant auto dealerships into an entertainment district that would blend history, recording studios, hotels and restaurants.

“I think we could put the Cheap Trick project together by next year,” Fioretti said Wednesday.

Frey said the timing is right. “The band won’t play temporary outdoor stages anymore after Ottawa,” he said, referring to the stage that collapsed during a stormy Cheap Trick set in July.

“Rick [Nielsen] had 250 guitars, but 47 of them were crushed in Ottawa. We’re working on restoration and we’re still recovering from that. His guitar collection is unique, as is Bun E. [Carlos’ drum collection]. He has parade drums from the 1800s. We’d maybe hang those from the ceiling, but we have a lot of ideas.

“We don’t know what the radio station is or if Sirius [satellite radio] would like it or want it. Even if not, it would be, and we’d have people program who are friends of the band and the place you go for people who love American power pop. It would be like World Cafe [in Philadelphia]: a restaurant, a DJ booth and a guy on the radio. Its a lunch draw for businesspeople. And it would be right by [McCormick Place], one of the top convention centers in the world.”

“We met with Mayor Daley about a year ago on this and he was all over this happening.”

Fioretti said a blues band is interested in opening a similar venue “within a couple blocks” of Cheap Trick Chicago. Fioretti anticipates an announcement on that venue by early 2012.

Landmark America is coordinating efforts in the district with Fioretti and Cheap Trick.

Headquartered in Chicago, Landmark America has completed more than 80 developments in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, New York and Mississippi. Known for rehabilitating historic buildings, Landmark America worked on the 1999 rehab of Lakeside Center, the former R.R. Donnelley printing center in Chicago.

“The authenticity of the area is without doubt,” Landmark America owner and CEO Pam Gleichman said Wednesday. “It started with the wealthy people on Prairie Avenue — the cars came here because they were here, Al Capone came because the cars and the wealthy people were here and the music came because of all the speakeasies and musical venues. There were 30, 40 recording studios in this location. It is a timeline that mirrors the story of the city.

“There were between 120 and 140 different car dealerships. They went from Buick and Ford to Hudson to Marmon.”

The Marmon Grand, 2230 S. Michigan — across the street from Cheap Trick Chicago — is already a reclaimed dealership hosting live music. Marmon existed between 1902-1933, and its Wasp model was the first winner of the Indianapolis 500 in 1909.

On Thursday the Marmon Grand is the site of “The Biggest and Best Jam Session,” hosted by the Hyde Park Jazz Society starting at 6:30 p.m. Dee Alexander, John Brumback, Willie Pickens, Juli Wood, former Chess Records session player Art Hoyle and many others are expected to perform ($10 donation requested, 312-225-8100).

“That is a beautiful building,” Gleichman said. ”The building next door to the Marmon is the Hudson. People think Duesenbergs were made in Germany. They were made in Indiana. They were the epitome of extravagance of the ’30s

“And that was [the scene] on South Michigan Avenue. This is not Disney World. This is the real deal.”

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