THREATENED: Schulze Baking Company Data Center Adaptive Reuse Stalled Since 2018

Schulze Baking Company Building, 40 E. Garfield Boulevard, John Ahlschlager & Son, 1914. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Schulze Baking Company Building, 40 E. Garfield Boulevard, John Ahlschlager & Son, 1914. Photo credit: Eric Allix Rogers

“Chicago still has its mojo in the data center business.

“Data centers aren’t the sort of real estate development that get much glory. There’s typically no reason for the public to visit them and their appearance can be drab. They are distinguished by the large quantities of space they require and the vast quantities of power they need.

“They provide space for the equipment that does the work of all things in technology, allowing us to put documents in the cloud, execute financial trades in a flash and stream the latest goofiness on TikTok. Experts believe that as artificial intelligence gains acceptance, it will increase demand for data centers.

“Chicago is well positioned for this. A 2023 report by Cushman & Wakefield said among global markets, Chicago is tied for 5th place in its appeal for data centers. The ranking is based on factors such as land costs, reliable utilities and state-authorized tax incentives.

“40 E. Garfield Blvd. – It’s far from any nexus for these things, and that may be its problem. The building at the northwest corner of Garfield and Wabash Avenue is the old Schulze Baking Co. property, with floors designed for heavy equipment. A data center seems natural and news stories from a few years ago said one was planned.

“But nothing has moved forward and much of the building remains shrouded in tarp. South Siders say it’s been that way for months. Its owner is 1547 Critical Systems Realty, based in Matawan, New Jersey. A spokesperson for the company had no information about what it has marketed as the 230,000-square-foot Midway Technology Center.

“The building dates from 1914 and is on the National Register of Historic Places but could be torn down. Preservation Chicago previously put it on its ‘most endangered list.'” (Roeder, Chicago Sun-Times, 4/3/23)

Vacant and suffering deferred maintenance since 2004, the Schulze Baking Company building needs to be renovated. Located at 40 E. Garfield Boulevard (55th Street) in Washington Park, this architecturally exuberant building was designed by Chicago architect John Ahlschlager & Son in 1914.

The Schulze Baking Company building is a beautifully designed industrial building and was thoroughly modern for its time. Its design is highlighted by a combination of its strong classical form, extensive geometric patterns and detail in the white glazed brick, vivid blue terra cotta, and exuberant Sullivanesque-inspired terra cotta ornamentation with wheat shafts, corn, and other grains.

The renovation and adaptively reused data center plan announced in 2018 was received with great enthusiasm by the Chicago preservation community. Despite being of landmark quality, the Schulze Baking Company building was never designated as a Chicago Landmark. While it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, a National Register of Historic Places listing does nothing to prevent demolition.


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