BUYER WANTED: Landmarked Johnson Publishing Building Listed for Sale

“The historic Johnson Publishing Company building is up for sale again amid a construction boom on Michigan Avenue.

“The last time the former home of Ebony and Jet magazines was up for sale, a developer wanted to demolish it, forcing city officials to move quickly in designating it as an official landmark.

“According to Crain’s Chicago Business and CBS 2 Chicago, 3L Real Estate, which bought the building in 2017 for $10 million, has put the former home of Ebony and Jet back on the market after spending $37 million to rehab and convert the building into 150 apartments.

“But the former home of Ebony and Jet magazines cannot be demolished, nor its exterior altered, as it is an official Chicago Landmark.

“Located on prime real estate at 820 S. Michigan, the iconic building was nearly demolished years ago when a developer wanted to build a skyscraper on the property.

“In 2017, after seven years of being vacant, one developer seeking to buy the building wanted to demolish it and build a skyscraper during a development boom in the South Loop. Back then, plans for skyscrapers were popping up. Plans were in the works for Essex on the Park, a 56-story apartment complex that will eventually go up just yards away from the Johnson Publishing Company building at 820 S. Michigan Ave. Further south, developers were moving forward in building the 76-story luxury glass Nemo apartment tower, the largest skyscraper south of the Willis Tower.

“When Rahm Emanuel was mayor, Alderman Sophia King (4th Ward) in 2017 filed an emergency request to have the Johnson Publishing Company building placed on the list of Chicago Landmarks. Research and studies were done. Meetings with Preservation Chicago were held as city officials rushed to protect the only building on Michigan Avenue built and designed by a Black man.

“On December 17, 2017, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks (CCL) designated the Johnson Publishing Company building a Chicago Landmark, capping a months-long process with heavy support from Alderman King and Mayor Emanuel.

“The designation protects Chicago Landmarks like the Johnson Publishing Company building from future demolition. However, developers can gut the building’s interior to serve a new purpose. Today, the exterior of the Johnson Publishing building remains the same with the iconic Ebony /Jet sign at the top. The garage door leading to John H. Johnson’s private parking space is also still there, years after being the only structure in or near the Loop with a driveway accessible from Michigan Avenue.” (Johnson, The Chicago Crusader, 4/8/24)

Preservation Chicago played an important role the Chicago Landmark Designation of the Johnson Publishing Company. We were thrilled that this important and significant building received the honor and protection which follow a Chicago Landmark Designation. We worked closely with stakeholders and decisionmakers, and testified on its behalf. Also, we strongly advocated to include the iconic Ebony Jet rooftop sign in the landmark designation.

Read the full story at The Chicago Crusader

Johnson Publishing Company building up for sale again, Erick Johnson, The Chicago Crusader, 4/8/24


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