THREATENED: Unanimous Public Support for Chicago Landmark Designation of Century and Consumers Buildings at Public Hearing (Chicago 7 2011, 2013, 2022 & 2023)

Century and Consumers Building Coverage Makes Front Page on Chicago Tribune on November 14, 2023. Image credit: Chicago Tribune

“The federal government wants to demolish two century-old skyscrapers on State Street, and historic preservationists are mobilizing to stop the planned teardowns.

“Advocates and neighborhood residents lined up at a public hearing Monday to plead for the survival and renovation of the vacant Century and Consumers Buildings, at 202 and 220 S. State St. The federal government owns the pair, and for several years has sought to raze the structures, claiming that if they were redeveloped and occupied it could pose an unacceptable security risk to employees in the modernist federal courthouse just to the west at 219 S. Dearborn St.

“Razing the buildings would be a waste, said Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago. The buildings are among the final works done in the style of the classic Chicago School of Architecture, which revolutionized big city skylines in the 19th century by using steel frames to create the first skyscrapers.

“‘The Century and Consumers Buildings were truly part of this story and Chicago’s first golden age of architecture and design,’ he said.

“Miller prefers to see the buildings renovated in a way that answers the security concerns voiced by federal officials. He pointed out that the 16-story Century Building, with its elaborate facade and many architectural details, could become as appealing as the nearby Reliance Building, a 19th century structure recently transformed into an upscale hotel.

“‘It’s an astounding building and, if you will, a Reliance Building in waiting, anchoring this important corner of State and Adams streets,’ he said.

“The advocates are asking the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, which held Monday’s public hearing at City Hall, to make both buildings local landmarks at its next meeting in December. If the buildings get the nod from commissioners, the landmark proposal will head to the City Council’s Zoning Committee for approval, and then to the full City Council.

“That won’t necessarily protect the buildings from demolition. The federal government can override local landmark designations, and already has a $52 million earmark set aside for the demolition work, Miller said. But he hopes winning landmark status from the city, and other public pressure, will force the U.S. General Services Administration to back down.

“‘Suddenly, you’d have buildings that the city of Chicago had deemed important,’ he told the Tribune. ‘It would send a strong message that demolition was not the right path and be a huge embarrassment for the GSA if these buildings were lost.’

“Miller wants the federal government to use its earmarked funds to start renovations, which could include blocking off or strengthening the windows nearest the courthouse.

“‘We want to be partners with the GSA,’ he said, ‘and we’ve already had a number of productive meetings with them, and I hope that will continue.’ (Rogal, Chicago Tribune, 11/13/23)

Read the full story at Chicago Tribune

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