Our History

Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc. has long roots that extend back to the mid-20th century. It was created to manage the Kennedy family’s portfolio of real estate assets which was largely concentrated in the showroom business and included The Merchandise Mart in Chicago.

The Merchandise Mart was developed by Marshall Field & Co. to create a central marketplace where stocking retailers could come to buy their wares all under one roof. Since The Merchandise Mart's debut in 1930, it has housed products that target audiences and department store buyers want to see and purchase.

After a brief downturn during Great Depression and a conversion of the building to government offices during World War II, The Mart was returned to its initial use when it was purchased by Joseph P. Kennedy in 1945. Kennedy ushered in a new era of mercantile pride by reviving the original concept of the building and gradually allowing public access. The Merchandise Mart was once again primed to be a market maker.

In the mid-1940s and 1950s, The Merchandise Mart was the single largest producer of trade shows in the United States. It helped to lay the foundation for Chicago’s continued leadership in America’s convention and tourism industry. Since the mid-1940s, showrooms in The Merchandise Mart have displayed almost every kind of product produced and MMPI has attracted every sort of professional buyer to the building.

In the late 1990s, we had an opportunity to consolidate ownership of this management-intensive niche of the real estate business. After looking for a company that shared our vision and that could enhance our efforts, Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc. was acquired by Vornado Realty Trust (VNO) in 1998.

Vornado is a fully integrated, publicly owned, real estate investment trust. Headquartered in New York City, Vornado is one of the largest owners and managers of real estate in the United States with a portfolio of approximately 60 million square feet. In New York, Vornado’s dominant office platform includes the New York Stock Exchange and U.N. Plaza. In Washington D.C., Vornado is the largest landlord to the United States Federal government. 

The Merchandise Mart during construction in the late 1920s

Designers at the Washington Design Center in the mid-1980s

American Indian emblems on The Merchandise Mart’s façade