THREATENED: More Legal Difficulties Delay Landmark Pittsfield Building Renovation

Pittsfield Building Vestibule, 1927, Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, 55 E. Washington Street. Designated a Chicago Landmark in 2002. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Pittsfield Building Atrium, 1927, Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, 55 E. Washington Street. Designated a Chicago Landmark in 2002. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers

“A new legal squabble has erupted over the Pittsfield Building, with an out-of-town investor suing to thwart a court-approved sale of his stake in the star-crossed East Loop landmark.

“The recent sale of 30 of the 40 floors in the high-rise at 55 E. Washington St. could mark the end of a troubled era for a property that has included a bankruptcy, multiple lawsuits and aborted deals, along with an international financial scandal. Nearly a century old, the Pittsfield badly needs a makeover after suffering from years of neglect.

“A venture led by Tom Liravongsa, an investor from Grand Rapids, Mich., acquired the Pittsfield space through a foreclosure sale in late April. An unknown in Chicago real estate circles, Liravongsa is managing partner of L’Cre Partners, an investment boutique that specializes in real estate and other alternative investments, according to its website.

“Now, the question is whether Liravongsa has the creativity, fortitude and money to get the job done. He already faces one obstacle: a lawsuit by the former owner of the space, a venture led by Chinese-Canadian business mogul Xiao Hua “Edward” Gong. Filed in Cook County Circuit Court in early April, before the sale closed, the complaint asks a judge to block the transaction, alleging it was improper and accusing the court-appointed receiver who arranged it of a variety of shenanigans.

“Judge Celia Horan did not step in to stop the sale, but case is proceeding. If the suit drags on, it could stall any redevelopment plan, leaving the Pittsfield in its current state of disrepair.

“For now, however, Liravongsa’s venture owns all but floors 13 through 21 in the Pittsfield. The former office space is mostly gutted, waiting to be redeveloped. Previous developers proposed a hotel and residential units for the space; given the continued strength of the apartment market, rental housing could make the most sense there now. Apartments fill the other floors in the building, which are owned by Chicago-based Marc Realty.

“It will take a major investment to turn around the Pittsfield. Designed by Graham Anderson Probst & White in a hybrid art deco and Gothic style, the high-rise was the tallest building in the city when it opened in 1927. It is ‘one of Chicago’s finest 1920s-era skyscrapers, built during the decade when the city’s distinctive tower-pierced downtown skyline first began to take shape,’ according to a 2001 report recommending a landmark designation for the property.” (Gallun, Crain’s Chicago Business, 5/15/23)


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