Plans underway for ‘50th anniversary’ celebration at Marina City
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Marina City History

Plans underway for ‘50th anniversary’ celebration at Marina City

  • Event may be the first for not-yet-open Tortoise Club
  • Renters at Marina City need not RSVP

1-Sep-12 – The condo association at Marina City has started planning a celebration of the Chicago icon’s 50th anniversary as a residence. On October 14, 1962, with both towers still under construction, the first tenants moved into the east tower where only three floors were completed. Five weeks later, on Thanksgiving Day, November 22, dignitaries that included the president of DePaul University, the president of Chicago Planetarium Society, and Mayor Richard J. Daley gathered to commemorate the two-year anniversary of Marina City’s groundbreaking.

Portland Cement Association

Few details of the 2012 celebration have been announced but it will likely take place on November 12 at Tortoise Club, an upscale restaurant currently being built at Marina City on the east side of Hotel Sax.

(Left) What Marina City looked like in October 1962 when the first tenant, Louise Hance, moved in. This view from the northwest corner of the property shows an unfinished cross-section of the commercial platform. The east tower is at left. Today, House of Blues would block this view.

Due to limited space at Tortoise Club – the main dining room will seat 140 people while the bar accommodates another 50 – unit owners who attended a recent condo board meeting were told that only owners would be invited to the celebration. The decision has already fueled animosity between owners and renters at Marina City. On Marina Watchdog, a blog for residents, most comments on the celebration supported excluding renters.

“I say screw the renters,” wrote one blogger. “I wish they would ban renting units here. This building should be all owners. Most renters don’t give a damn about this building and [its] history.”

Wrote another, “I agree that only owners should attend the 50th [anniversary] because we are the investors here. It will probably make a big deal about what the place looked like 50 years ago, why it was built in Chicago, etc., and I think renters don’t care about that.”

Members of Marina City’s Facebook Group were more sympathetic. “I understand that they need to be careful about who they invite for space reasons,” posted Holly Lipschultz, “but it makes me sad that some people claim the renters don’t care about this place or its history.”

Another member questioned the use of Tortoise Club for the event. “Why is the building having this party at such a small location, sharply limiting the number of people? It probably should be at one of the larger hotel ballrooms within a block of Marina City.”

Exact figures are not known but in 2007, 45 percent of unit owners did not live at Marina City, suggesting a large population of renters. Notable renters include architecture writer Lynn Becker and architect Lira Luis. Marina City was 100 percent rental property for 15 years – and arguably the most famous apartment building in the world at one time – converting to condominiums in 1977. More than 900 people currently live there.

Tortoise Club owner Keene Addington says he is honored to be chosen to host the event and will donate food and beverages. “We are obviously quite limited in space and the restaurant does not have the accommodations for the 900-plus people that live in the towers, although certainly we’d love to be able to handle a larger number.”

Other events being discussed include lighting Marina City’s towers between 7 and 10 p.m. on November 12, which is Veterans Day. According to Thomas Figel, managing partner of Lake Effect Communications, a media relations firm hired to promote the celebration, Klieg lights – carbon arc lamps used in filmmaking – will illuminate Marina City and each tower will be crowned with golden light.

Tortoise Club crawling toward fall opening

Tortoise Club, meanwhile, is still working toward an opening this fall but no earlier than November. Chef Gray McNally told Eater Chicago last month the restaurant, serving lunch and dinner, will have a “classic Chicago clubhouse feel with dark woods and rich leathers, fabric on the walls, and hard wood floors with area rugs.”

According to Eater, a private dining area will feature vaulted ceilings and a working fireplace. A fireplace was in the original design of Bar Louie, a bar/restaurant on the other side of Hotel Sax, but it was not built.

(Right) A sketch released in February of what the interior will look like at Marina City’s Tortoise Club. Tortoise Club

A Chicago artist, Chuck Senties, is working on ten large oil-painted caricatures of famous, colorful Chicagoans like Cap Streeter that will decorate the Tortoise Club interior.

 Related story: Tortoise Club moving forward, slowly

By Steven Dahlman | Loop North News | Published 1-Sep-12 2:59 AM

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