Once an area known for it's abundance of industrial pollution, leading to the nickname "Smokey Hollow," River North is now an established center for the art community that is "brimming with galleries, production companies, photography studios and interior design businesses." The transformation began to take shape in the 1970s when, after manufacturing slumped and many of the factories were converted into dormant storerooms and warehouses, real estate developer Albert Friedman started to "buy, restore and build commercial property in the southeast" part of the area. Because much of this area was skid row at the time, Friedman started calling it "River North" in an effort to attract tenants to his properties.
From the old (the Wrigley Building) to the new (the Trump Tower), River North is also home to many significant architectural standouts. Completed in 1931, and once the largest building in the world, the Merchandise Mart is one of the stand out structures. With over 4,000,000 square feet of floor space, the Mart centralized Chicago's wholesale goods business by consolidating vendors and trade under a single roof. While it doesn't serve the same purpose today, "the building continues to be a leading retailing and wholesale destination, hosting 20,000 visitors and tenants per day."