Business

Ryan Ori: Google backs off plans for retail flagship in Chicago

Google has backed off plans to open its first retail flagship store in Chicago's Fulton Market district.

The company last year was in advanced negotiations to open a store in a two-story, 14,000-square-foot space in connected brick buildings, the Tribune reported in August, citing people familiar with the deal.

But Google has walked away from the deal, and the space is now being marketed to other potential tenants by Chicago-based property owner Newcastle Ltd., according to real estate sources.

It's unclear why Mountain View, Calif.-based Google halted plans late in the leasing process, or whether a store could wind up elsewhere in Chicago or another city.

"We don't comment on rumor or speculation," spokeswoman Kayla Conti said.

One location apparently not under consideration for a store is Google's nearby Midwest headquarters building, 1KFulton.

Last year, Google confirmed it was leasing additional space on the ground floor of the former cold storage building. The company plans to use that space to train clients that use the company's cloud services, Conti said.

Google has been rumored for years to be considering stores to sell hardware such as tablets, smartphones and Google Home – the company's version of Amazon Echo.

So far, though, Google has only opened short-term pop-up stores such as one that was open in Chicago at the end of 2018. Other pop-ups were in New York and London.

Newcastle's space at Randolph and Peoria streets is expected to get a boost from nearby hotels bringing foot traffic to the area, including the Soho House, the recently opened Hoxton and the Nobu hotel and restaurant expected to open this summer. Nobu is in the final stages of construction directly across the street.

"That core customer is so affluent," broker Greg Kirsch, Cushman & Wakefield's head of Midwest retail, said of the hotels' impact on retail space in the neighborhood. "I'm a huge believer in that area."

Kirsch is not involved in Google's deal or Newcastle's leasing efforts.

Newcastle president and CEO Michael Haney could not immediately be reached for comment.

Newcastle acquired the Randolph Street buildings in 2016 as part of a portfolio of properties in the area that had been owned by businesswoman Sue Gin. Newcastle bought the properties from the estate of Gin, the Flying Food Group founder who died in 2014.

The space Google eyed included the former restaurant spaces of Perez and Jaipur.

(Tribune's Ally Marotti contributed.)

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