THREATENED: McKinley Park’s Central Manufacturing District should be a Landmark District

Central Manufacturing District. Photo Credit: Ward Miller
Central Manufacturing District. Photo Credit: Ward Miller

The grand and magnificent buildings that comprise the Central Manufacturing District (CMD) harken back to a time in the early 1900s to the 1920s when big companies began housing operations there – including Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Co., the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Albert Pick & Co. and the U.S. Cold Storage Company.

Chicago’s CMD was one of the first planned industrial districts in the country. A remarkable number of the buildings are intact, but development pressure is mounting. Creating a Landmark District now will provide significant safeguards to protect the CMD buildings going forward.

With developers moving in on some buildings within the CMD, there is concern about the integrity of the buildings being maintained. Aberdeen Development has already stripped the brick off the U.S. Cold Storage Co. building at 2055 W. Pershing Road, claiming it was structurally unsound.

Now is the time to advance a Chicago Landmark District for both the Pershing Road buildings and the East District (bounded by Ashland Avenue to the west, 35th Street to the north, Morgan Street to the East, and Pershing Road to the south). Both of these areas are already National Register of Historic Places Historic Districts.

The City’s Request for Proposals (RFP) to sell three parcels it owns on the south side of the street between 1717 and 1831 West Pershing Road did not yield any viable bidders. The properties were included in C40’s Reinventing Cities design competition. The two larger buildings were built in 1918 and designed by architect Samuel Scott Jay. They are six stories tall, and each building is 570,000 square feet.

Hispanic Housing Development Corporation is developing affordable housing at 2159 W. Pershing Road in partnership with for-profit developer Code Real Estate Partners. That team will build out commercial, retail and residential space in a second building at 2139 W. Pershing Road. Aberdeen owns a second building, the historic, one-story post office building, at 1950 W. Pershing Road.

A Landmark District will protect the integrity of this significantly intact area, and it will provide incentives to preservation-minded developers. At a July 2 community meeting hosted by Alderman George Cardenas, both Code Real Estate Partners and Aberdeen Development representatives pledged their full support to designating the CMD a Chicago Landmark District.

Preservation Chicago stands alongside the community in calling for the creation of a Chicago Landmark District.

The 11-story Tower Building at 2001 W. Pershing Road, pictured in this article, has massive clocks at the top and was originally constructed to conceal a water tank.

“The Central Manufacturing District Tower Building was constructed during the summer of 1917 and served as the main water source for the District. The Tower Building was designed by architect Samuel Scott Joy and built by contractor E.W. Sproul. The tower in 11 stories in height and 50’ wide and 38’ deep. It is clad in red brick with Late Gothic Revival terra cotta architectural details. The tower has an elaborate terra cotta portal with Gothic detailing. The shaft has large industrial steel windows flanked by a single window on each side. Near the top of the tower there is a terra cotta string course with terra cotta decorative panels stemming from it. Above that there is a larger clock set inside a large, segmented arch window that has lancet mullions.” [from the National Register nomination prepared by Erica Ruggiero and supported by Preservation Chicago and Landmarks Illinois]

McKinley Park residents are justifiably concerned about the future of their community. With an asphalt plant being opened with little to no notice to neighbors and new developers arriving, people have begun discussions to draft a community benefits agreement (CBA) for future proposals.

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