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Marina City: A Love-Hate Relationship

(Photo: The new East Tower rooftop lighting scheme, with Jenner & Block‘s wood-paneled IBM Building offices clearly visible in the background. Credit: Looper).

Loving where you live can be a double-edged sword. As much I as revere the downtown-living lifestyle here at Marina City, the corncobs sure have their trying moments. Especially since the start of the Gary Kimmel scandal, sometimes it can be tough to decide if the good outweighs the bad. So in my ongoing quest to find my personal answer to that question, I give you my top 10 reasons why I love Marina City–and my top 10 reasons why I wish I didn’t.

Best Things About Living in Marina City:

1. Round hallways: you meet your neighbors all the time and develop a surprisingly tangible, strong sense of community.

2. More than 150 well-meaning comments by concerned neighbors in two weeks on the independent Marina City Watch Dog blog established by residents in the wake of the Gary Kimmel scandal.

3. A balcony so large (175 square feet) that I could park a car on it.

4. A location so convenient that I barely need to take public transit, much less worry about having to park a car.

5. Being able to see 25 miles from my floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall apartment windows.

6. Waking up on a summer Saturday to the ding of the bells as the Chicago River bridges raise to allow boats to pass.

7. Being a home cook, having seven major supermarkets within either a 10-minute walk or 10-minute bus ride.

8. Having an 11-minute walk to work.

9. Knowing that I live in one of the most architecturally significant high-rise residential buildings of the 20th century.

10. The open-to-all-residents, 360-degree, 61st floor panoramic roofdeck. Both of them.

Worst Things About Living in Marina City:

1. The condo board president’s brother-in-law, a homeless, actively abusing alcoholic and drug addict, is given a key fob and allowed to squat in empty apartments in the building, where he does “construction work” for unsuspecting owners with the help of local street people, and leaves empty beer cans all over the building.

2. The rules and regulations concerning permissible items on balconies are routinely not enforced by the condo board.

3. The rules and regulations concerning permissible items on balconies are routinely not enforced by the condo board. Trust me, it bore repeating (two words: storage room).

4. The rules and regulations–as well as Chicago law–concerning dropping items (such as firecrackers) from balconies are routinely not enforced by the condo board.

5. The rules and regulations concerning noise problems from neighboring units are routinely not enforced by the condo board.

6. Two real estate agents who serve on the condo board make their living exclusively within Marina City and some suspect may be colluding with certain investors to ensure that improvements desired by many resident owners are never made, in order to ensure that apartment turnover continues and commissions continue to be earned.

7. Although there have been three garbage chute fires in six months due to unknown parties throwing burning coals down the garbage chutes, requiring repeated multi-alarm responses by the Chicago Fire Department, the condo board refuses to ban charcoal grills on balconies.

8. Home Depot bargain bin finishes and furnishings in the lobbies and hallways.

9. High-rise elevators routinely break down, in some cases (one currently ongoing in East Tower) for weeks at a time, with no explanation from the condo board or maintenance crew.

10. And, of course, the longstanding presence of a prostitution ring within the building, actively sanctioned and participated in financially by the vice-president of the condo board.

And so the dilemma continues. Is the glass half empty? Is the glass half full? Or should I just start drinking out of a different glass?

Sometimes love can be a real bitch.


Read more about Marina City in my Marina City archives.

Read about the Gary S. Kimmel prostitution scandal at Marina City in my Gary Kimmel Scandal archives.

Read more about life in downtown Chicago on my main page.

Categories: LIFE Marina City

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Mike Doyle

I’m an #OpenlyAutistic gay, Hispanic, urbanist, Disney World fan, New York native, politically independent, Jewish blogger in Chicago. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I write words and raise money for nonprofits. I’ve written this blog since 2005. And counting...

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3 replies

  1. Max, in fact they were always there. From IBM’s opening in 1973 through 2009, Jenner and Block occupied the top 10 floors at 330 N Wabash, or about a fifth of the building. They moved out last year for newly built office space at 353 N Clark. See here, here, and here.

    Their conference room was easily seen from south on State Street as an oddly reddish-glowing room about four-fifths of the way up the south frontage of the tower. The “glow” was from the reddish wood-paneled finish in the room, clearly visible on the entire floor containing the conference room from the roof of Marina City, as the picture above this post shows.

    It could be that you are confusing the building with other, similarly named “IBM Buildings” in other cities. In Chicago, the official “IBM Plaza” and colloquial “IBM Building” are used interchangeably for the building at 330 N Wabash–where as I have cited above, Jenner and Block was an anchor tenant for 36 years.

  2. Residents Held Out to Dry as Marina City Floods

    (Photo: Viewed from the marina level, passing kayakers or fleeing residents? Credit: Looper). Trouble appears to be never-ending for the beleaguered Marina City corncobs. Besides the Gary Kimmel hooker scandal and ongoing reports of trash-chute fires,…

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