“An 115 year-old building in the Loop being redeveloped as a Hilton hotel may earn landmark status and a $20 million property tax break over 12 years. Despite some concerns about the destruction of certain architectural elements, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks gave preliminary approval for a landmark designation to the former headquarters of Chicago & North Western Railway at 226 W. Jackson Boulevard and a Class L tax incentive for the developers.
“The 15-story building, designed by Frost and Granger and completed in 1904, was also the headquarters of City Colleges of Chicago. In September, Chicago-based developer Phoenix Development Partners purchased the structure for $32.7 million, according to Crain’s.
“They plan to convert it into a dual-branded 349-room hotel, with a 135-room Hilton Garden Inn on the lower floors and a 214-room Canopy by Hilton above and a 4,800 square-foot rooftop restaurant and bar plus 2,100 square feet of outdoor terraces. The total cost of the project—including property acquisition—is estimated at $136 million. Construction is scheduled to start later this month and be completed in 2021.
“Some members of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks said they were dismayed that the project wouldn’t preserve the historic building’s ornate cornices at a cost of $2 to $3 million. “The point of these incentives is to make the impossible possible,” said Commissioner Mary Ann Smith. “Please go back and do your analysis one more time.” (Smith, 11/8/19)
In addition to its important role in Chicago’s economic heritage, the C&NW Railway Office Building is an excellent example of the Classical Revival style in the Loop. The high-rise headquarters building is clad with light-grey granite and reflects the tripartite division of a Classical column with a base, shaft, and capital divided by ornate projecting belt courses. Its entrance is highlighted by two large fluted granite Doric columns. The formal elegance and ancient Greek origins of the headquarters’ architectural style, designed by the significant Chicago firm of Frost and Granger, communicated the stability and prominence of the railroad company. (Designation Report, 11/19)
The building’s history and design made it a strong candidate for Chicago Landmark Designation. Preservation Chicago strongly encouraged the developer to pursue this option. The developer elected to pursue landmark designation and the building became a Preliminary Chicago Landmark in November 2019.
Preservation Chicago fully supports this development and Landmark Designation. Additionally, Preservation Chicago encourages the developer to rebuild the lost historic cornice as part of the development and restoration plan. The cost for cornice rebuilding is significant and Preservation Chicago encourages the City of Chicago to adjust existing code to make cornice rebuilding more attainable and to make additional incentives available to Designated Chicago Landmarks to encourage cornice rebuilding and restoration.
Hotel redevelopment of premier railroad company headquarters seeks landmark status;Designed in 1904, the historic building housed headquarters for Chicago & North Western Railway, Ryan Smith, Curbed Chicago, 11/8/19
Former City Colleges HQ to become dual-brand Hilton; A local developer is turning the historic building across from Willis Tower into a hotel after another group’s plan to redevelop it into apartments fell through, Danny Ecker, Crain’s Chicago Business, 10/1/19