Plaza of the Americas: Maintaining a Historic City Gem

Downtown Chicago is home to numerous public plazas and other open spaces where tourists can get a little respite from a day of shopping or sightseeing, and downtown workers can enjoy a cooling lake breeze while eating their brown bag lunch. While names like Daley Plaza or Federal Plaza are more familiar, thanks to their large Picasso and Calder sculptures, the GNP Realty family of workers is proud of the small plaza adjacent to our offices at 430 N. Michigan Ave. — the Plaza of the Americas.

The Plaza of the Americas is one of only a few public spaces on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile—located on a narrow strip of property between the Wrigley Building and the REALTOR® Building, just north of the Chicago River. Unbeknownst to many pedestrians, the Plaza sits atop a steel structure that lifts it above Hubbard St. below, home to the Billy Goat Tavern of Saturday Night Live fame.

The Plaza was built in 1965 to pay tribute to the Organization of American States (OAS) member nations and Benito Juárez, Mexico’s first president of indigenous descent. Juárez served as the country’s 26th president from 1858 to 1872. The Organization of American States is an international organization founded in 1948 to promote cooperation among its member states within the Americas.

The flags of its 35 member states rim the Plaza (often fully unfurled thanks to a wind tunnel effect between the buildings) with a 16-foot, five-ton statue of Benito Juárez rising above black granite beds of foliage and flowers that provide a relaxing place to sit. The statue was a gift from the Mexican government. In 2022, the Wings of Mexico sculpture by artist Jorge Marín was added to the Plaza.

We’re proud of the Plaza for more than its proximity to our offices. Due to a unique agreement between the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and the city of Chicago, NAR maintains the Plaza. As property managers for the REALTOR® Building, GNP also manages the upkeep of the Plaza.

While the Plaza has been renovated several times since its original installation (before NAR’s ownership of the property), the most recent renovation was in 2018-19. At that time, GNP and One Development (the development arm of GNP) led the redesign and executed its construction, working with a member of the OAS for design approval. The $4 million renovation (a gift to the city from NAR) inspired the Tribune Tower’s Pioneer Court plaza conversion directly across the street, creating a cohesive look and feel.

“Our partnership with NAR is long-standing and built on significant trust,” says Dean Kutrumanes, CEO and principal of GNP Realty. “We were given wide latitude to identify and work with top architects to create a space that the city and NAR can be proud of.”

With the addition of the Wings of Mexico art installation (now owned by NAR), the Plaza has seen an increase in foot traffic, drawing large numbers of visitors interested in taking selfies with the interactive “Wings” and potentially helping increase commerce for businesses located at the south end of the Magnificent Mile.