Apple offers a look inside new Michigan Avenue store

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Apple gave a preview of its new Michigan Avenue store on Thursday. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

In a sneak peek Thursday, Apple unveiled its new Magnificent Mile store on the banks of the Chicago River.

The official opening of the store at 401 N. Michigan Ave. will take place at 5 p.m. Friday, inviting fans of the tech giant to check out their favorite products in a space that Apple says will serve as a classroom and social spot.

The store is almost entirely transparent with the exception of its roof, which resembles an Apple laptop. Floor-to-ceiling windows flow into an outdoor space that leads to the river, connecting Michigan Avenue to the Chicago Riverwalk via Pioneer Plaza.

Staffed with 250 employees, the new store replaces Apple’s first flagship store in Chicago at 679 N. Michigan Ave., which closed on Wednesday.

Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s senior vice president of retail, said Thursday that the company worked closely with the city to create a space that would revitalize the Riverwalk when designing the structure with London-based architects Foster and Partners.


Gallery“The whole idea is that the plaza comes down quite gently to the river,” said Stefan Behling, a partner at the architecture firm. “You literally blur the boundaries between inside and outside.”

Inside, the two-level store features retail “avenues” for browsing items, where new “Creative Pros” will lead lessons in gaming, coding, music and photography.

A first-of-its-kind “genius gallery” offers a bird’s-eye view of events, classes, and the river, overlooking the “forum” — a “flexible” space that Apple says it will use for socializing, networking and learning from an in-store programming series called Today at Apple.

According to Hashem Bajwa, director of Today at Apple, the series is designed to teach Apple users how technology can help them improve their craft. Bajwa also said it’s also meant to build community connections in Chicago.

The store will be the first to have a city-specific education venture, called The Chicago Series. Beginning Oct. 23, Apple will host local organizations and non-profits for hands-on, technology based courses.

“We hope the community feels this is a beautiful place for them to discover things,” Bajwa said.

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