On Reserve

World's largest Starbucks opens on downtown Chicago's Magnificent Mile

The design of the new Starbucks Reserve Roastery Chicago is proving more popular than expected. (Courtesy Starbucks)

Nothing screams excess like a five-story Starbucks. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or that it’s poorly designed. Today marks the grand opening of the Seattle-based coffee giant’s largest flagship store in the world. Located on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, the 35,000-square-foot facility fills every inch of a former Crate & Barrel store originally built in 1990. 

Designed by an in-house team with added help from Perkins & Will, the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Chicago takes cues from the original architecture of the largely-all-glass-and-stone department store. It boasts plenty of natural light within the five-story interior thanks to the building’s existing rotunda and floor-to-ceiling windows. The characteristic materials of a Starbucks project are all there too: Jet black metal cladding cover the walls, both light and dark wooden accents populate the bars and ceilings, while the classic bronze finish found in other Reserve projects clad the railings and machinery. One new touch that defines the Chicago flagship is the ample use of soft green throughout the space, especially notable on the perforated wood panels that line the ceiling.

Exterior photo of a spiraling Crate and Barrel store clad in glass

Built in 1990, the original Crate & Barrel on the corner of Michigan Avenue closed last year. (Julie Sweeney/Flickr)

At the center of the space, spanning all five floors, is a towering coffee bean cask made of eight cylindrical chambers. It stretches 56 feet-tall from the ground-floor upward and is surrounded by a spiraling escalator that guests can take to the second floor. From the very top, to see conveyors drop roasted coffee beans in the cask to cool.

It’s a curvy interior and it deftly matches Crate & Barrel’s curvy aesthetic. The exterior of the building has been virtually untouched and the Starbucks stamp is minimal. Despite the intervention, the structure still looks like it belongs in downtown Chicago. Among the five other Reserve projects built around the world since 2014, this retrofit has already received early praise for its adherence to the integrity of the city and space in which it exists.

Interior shot looking down at coffee bean cask and spiraling escalator

A coffee bean cask is the sculptural center of the massive space. (Courtesy Starbucks)

Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin loved the shop upon touring it and described the architectural appeal of the new “cathedral of coffee” in his review this week: 

“It’s visually theatrical, crisply designed and carefully tailored to its host city even though it springs from a well-worn corporate template,” wrote Kamin. “The flagship reminds us that modern architecture celebrates the process of making things, unlike beaux-arts buildings that hide such things behind pretty facades.” 

That must be the general allure of the Starbucks Reserve brand: The company has broken out these shops not as “everyday” places to grab a coffee but more as tourist-oriented theme parks or experience centers complete with merchandise and $15-to-$20 coffees

But this will also be the company’s last chance to impress this way. Starbucks has announced the Chicago space will be the final Reserve flagship in its portfolio. 

Image of staircase against mural inside of a Starbucks

Green and bronze accents lend a powerful pop to the interior. Here a giant mural by Chicago artist Eulojio Ortega spans a wall across all five floors. (Courtesy Starbucks)

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