SUN-TIMES EDITORIAL: Landmarks Commission Must Move to Protect Historic Century and Consumers Buildings (Chicago 7 2011, 2013, 2022 & 2023)

“For the past four years, this editorial board and other voices around Chicago have argued in favor of saving and renovating downtown’s Century and Consumers buildings rather than wrecking and hauling them away, as proposed under a $52 million plan by the federal government.

“The city’s Commission on Chicago Landmarks has the opportunity Thursday to take a stance against the buildings’ demolition. The commission will vote on a city proposal to preliminarily landmark the two early skyscrapers on the southwest corner of Adams and State streets.

“We strongly encourage the commission to approve the preliminary designation. (Update: The commission approved the designation Thursday.)

“The federal government wants to demolish the Century Building, 202 S. State St., and the neighboring Consumers Building, 220 S. State St. — both vacant — to create a security plaza for the Dirksen Federal Building, located a half-block west of the site. The federal government has owned the Century and Consumers for 20 years.

“Judges at the Dirksen have been championing the building’s demolition, backed by a tightly-held security analysis by federal law enforcement agencies that hints the skyscrapers, if reoccupied, would place jurists in peril. But razing the buildings instead of reusing them would be a major and needless loss for both downtown and the struggling-to-rebound State Street.

“And it also would be a startling blow to the city’s architectural history. The Century, built in 1915, was designed by the famed Chicago architecture firm Holabird & Root. The equally well-noted Jenney Mundie & Jensen designed the Consumers, built in 1913.

“Normally, preliminary landmark status would protect the buildings from being demolished or altered without city approval, and would generally place the site on a pathway toward a permanent designation approved by the City Council. But in this case, city landmark status in any form could be largely symbolic because the federal government has the power to overrule the designation and reduce the buildings to rubble anyway.

“Meanwhile, symbols are important. A yes vote by the landmarks commission is a gauntlet thrown; a line in the sand drawn, telling the feds the city wants the two historic properties saved.

“And designation would also place the building’s owners, the U.S. General Services Administration, in the tough spot of sidestepping the wishes of an architecturally important city and smashing to bits two landmarked vintage skyscrapers in the heart of downtown.

“The landmarks commission has an important decision before it. A vote in favor of the designation for both buildings is the right way to go.” (Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, 12/7/23)

Read all seven Chicago Sun-Times Century and Consumers editorials at Chicago Sun-Times


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