“The Century and Consumers buildings, two vacant downtown skyscrapers that are shamefully rotting away and now targeted for demolition by the federal government, might soon gain a powerful advocate.
“The Commission on Chicago Landmarks has asked the city’s Department of Planning to work on creating a landmark designation report on the early 20th century buildings, located at 202 and 220 S. State St.
“This is key because, traditionally, creation of the reports is almost always a first step toward granting landmark status to a site.
“‘I think there’s a lot of examination that has to be done,’ the commission’s chairman, Ernest Wong, said this month at a hearing on the buildings.
“For a while now, we — along with the town’s leading preservationists — have said the federal government’s plan to wreck the buildings to create a security plaza for the Dirksen Federal Building is a senseless affront to architectural preservation, and also to efforts to make State Street more viable.
“So it’s great to see the commission and the city weigh in. Both are important voices with enough weight to possibly change the outcome for the two buildings.
“The commission requested the preparation of a landmarks designation report after a July 7 meeting on the Century and Consumers buildings.
“In the wake of the [$52 million demolition earmark], one of the leading voices for saving the buildings, Preservation Chicago, proposed turning the structures into a limited-access archives center for religious orders and other organizations.
“‘There hasn’t been a space for robust conversation in the past,’ Ward Miller said. ‘It’s the GSA giving directives.’
“The stance by the landmarks commission, and the Lightfoot administration by proxy, represents a potential turnaround from the city’s position just three years ago.
“But hopefully today is a new day. Would a city landmark designation — on its face — prevent the federal government from razing the buildings?
“Likely not. It could lead to a standoff that ends with the federal government using its power to bigfoot over the city’s wishes.
“Or — and this is what we want to see — landmarking the buildings could bring the judges, the city, the GSA and that $52 million earmark to the table to work out something that leads to these buildings being properly redeveloped.
“That’s what Chicago and downtown really need.” (Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, 7/23/22)