“The Century and Consumers buildings, those vacant early State Street skyscrapers that the federal government wants to demolish, are hanging on by the thinnest of threads.
“As this newspaper and its Editorial Board have reported for the last three years, the feds own the two vintage high-rises at Adams and State streets, but seeks to wreck them, citing fears the structures would present a security risk to the adjacent Dirksen Federal Building and Courthouse, were they ever occupied again.
“On Monday November 13, 2023, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks will hold a public hearing to gather testimony in favor of — and against — the panel’s move to seek protected landmark status for the buildings.
“The federal government has the legal power to demolish the Century and Consumers, landmarks or not.
“But for the sake of State Street and the city’s architectural legacy, the buildings must be preserved and reused.
“And if the U.S. General Services Administration and the federal judges pushing for demolition are looking to actually serve the public, they’d do well to listen to and abide by what is likely to be a groundswell of testimony in favor of saving the buildings.
“Buildings are ‘everything State Street is about.’ The Century and Consumers were designed by two of the top architecture firms of turn-of-the-last-century Chicago.
“Jenny, Mundie & Jensen designed the Consumers Building, 220 S. State St., completed in 1913. Holabird & Roche’s Century Building, 202 S. State St., was built in 1915.
“But the buildings have virtually rotted under 20 years of absentee landlord-level federal ownership.
“Many in Chicago, including preservation groups and State Street advocates, have spoken for the last three years in support of reusing buildings in a way that addresses Dirksen safety concerns while putting the skyscraper back into use.
“For instance, Chicago Loop Alliance President and CEO Michael Edwards told the Sun-Times in 2022: “Those are historically-contributing buildings to everything State Street is about.”
“Given the redevelopment needs of State Street, spending $52 million to replace the classic buildings with a landscaped security perimeter is an affront to taxpayers in general and Chicagoans in particular.
“So is this: The GSA says it shells out $750,000 every two years on repairs and facade inspections on the structures. Scaffolding alone is $75,000 a year, according to the agency.
“By law, Durbin’s earmark can only be used for demolition. But this madness can be mitigated by a new earmark that sets aside $54 million — or more — for the buildings’ reuse.
“Even a draft of the GSA’s Environmental Impact Statement on the demolition released last August admits the impact of razing ‘these buildings would be negative, significant, and long term. Removing the Century and Consumers Buildings … would alter character-defining features of the Loop Retail Historic District and Chicago Federal Center, resulting in negative, moderate, and long-term impacts.’
“The Century and Consumers must be saved, renovated and reused. And if the political and civic backbone to make such a move can be bolstered by next week’s testimony, then so be it.” (Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, 11/8/23)
Vox preservare: Landmarks commission hearings are a chance to speak up on saving Century and Consumers buildings; The U.S. General Services Administration and the federal judges pushing for demolition would do well to hear and abide by what could be a flood of testimony next week in favor of saving the buildings, Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, 11/8/23