Former broadcast museum considered as Venezuelan migrants continue to flood city as space for shelters dwindles
The former Museum of Broadcasting Communications building in Chicago’s River North neighborhood on State Street could be the unlikely new home for a migrant shelter.
As reported by crime news website CWB Chicago last week, city officials are looking at the taxpayer-funded building vacated by MBC earlier this year after declining attendance forced it to shutter. Last week, 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly sent an e-mail to residents of the Near North Side community adjacent to The Loop stating the vacant building could house as many as one thousand migrants, next to tourist areas such as The House Of Blues and Marina City. The proposal also mentioned the hotel next to The House Of Blues (a one-time former home of WCFL-AM and WFLD-TV), and possibly Marina City itself.
“The Mayor’s Office was not entirely truthful with the media, because the Mayor’s Office IS considering a location inside the Marina City Complex at an address less than 100 feet away from the Hotel: the now vacant former Museum of Broadcast Communications located at 360 North State Street,” the alderman said in the email according to CWB Chicago. “Our office spoke with the new owner [Fern Hill] of 360 North State Street who confirmed that the Johnson Administration recently toured the space and expressed interest in potentially using the site for migrant housing,” said Reilly’s latest email. “We subsequently confirmed with our source in the Mayor’s Office that 360 North State Street is still being considered for migrant housing.”
In addition, Reilly went on to say the former museum was “not built to [provide] residential housing.”
After numerous delays, the controversial four-story museum – which cost $6 million in public money, opened in 2012. After the top two floors were sold to investment firm Fern Hill in 2019, the museum shuttered in March 2020 due to the pandemic. After reopening, closing again, and reopening again in October 2021, MBC decided to exit at the end of April as Fern Hill excerised an option to buy the rest of the building. MBC has yet to announce plans on where – or if it would relocate to another venue.
This comes as the migrants have flooded “blue” cities across the country with New York City, Denver, Buffalo, and Chicago among the most chosen destinations as Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott is sending migrants who cross the Mexican border – many of them Venezuelan. As many as two to six buses have been coming to Chicago are coming per day, flooding police stations across the city. The migrant situation has also inflamed racial tensions between Black residents and Latinos – especially in the City Council, not unlike what we saw last year in Los Angeles.
The migrant crisis could refine Chicago and change neighborhoods, something the city haven’t seen since the 1960s and early 1970s, when racial change swept through much of the South Side due to blockbusting and shady real estate tactics.
This is the latest headache for newly-elected mayor Brandon Johnson, who in addition to inheriting problems from his predecessors now has to deal with the surge in migrants. Johnson has proposed numerous migrant shelters throughout the city, included a tented-one at 115th and Halsted in the parking lot of a former Jewel, who vacated the area in 2007 to move to a new store a mile west near I-57 and 119th street. The area borders the Morgan Park and West Pullman neighborhoods, the latter was one of those South Side communities who flipped from an all-white enclave to an all-Black one in the early 1970s, along with the racial tensions from such a shift.