Sun-Times Editorial: When wall comes tumbling down at Lakeside Center, action is needed

“It’s been an open secret for the past decade that McCormick Place’s ragged Lakeside Center needs a major, big-ticket rehabilitation.

“Additional proof came Monday evening when a big section of the brick cladding adorning the structure’s mammoth podium suddenly collapsed and spilled onto the Stevenson Expressway ramp to northbound DuSable Lake Shore Drive.

“The collapse is another reminder that the hall’s owner, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, needs to step up repairs at Lakeside Center and give some serious thought to the 51-year-old building’s future before things inevitably worsen.

“In April, the MPEA reported the building needs a staggering $400 million rehabilitation, including a new 19-acre roof and fixes to the hall’s parking structure, plumbing, mechanical and electrical systems.

“Lakeside Center’s exterior glass — and there are acres of that, too — needs replacing, and the voluminous interior spaces need work also.

MPEA could seek state funding to rejuvenate Lakeside Center, but nearly a half-billion dollars is still a mighty big ask for a building that now represents McCormick Place’s past more than its future

“And demolishing the building and reclaiming the lakeshore on which it sits is a tough option.

“According to the MPEA, Lakeside Center’s 30,000-square foot kitchen serves the McCormick Place campus. The agency also says the building has a host of mechanical and communications equipment, and chilled air lines that service the other McCormick Place buildings also.

“When Lakeside Center was being considered for a casino site earlier this year, the MPEA responded that taking the building offline meant a $1.7 billion hall would have to be built to replace the lost meeting hall’s space and functions.

“Demolition could run into the tens of millions at least, experts tell us. And it would also likely cause a Donnybrook of a preservation battle, given the modernist building’s history — it was once among the most impressive convention halls in the nation — size, architectural significance and architects: the acclaimed Gene Summers and a young Helmut Jahn.

“It’s a civic embarrassment — and a dangerous one at that — for one of the city’s most visible and iconic structures to just up and crumble into the street like a common shack.

“But the incident could also be a call to duty, for the MPEA, the city, the state and Chicago’s considerable architectural talent to begin now mapping out a new day for the old building.”

Read the full editorial at the Chicago Sun-Times

When wall comes tumbling down at Lakeside Center, action is needed

The collapse is another reminder that the MPEA, city and state must step up repairs at the 51-year-old building and give some serious thought to its future use, Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, 6/29/22

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