WIN: Commission on Chicago Landmarks Votes Unanimously to Recommend Century and Consumers Buildings to City Council for Final Chicago Landmark Designation! (Chicago 7 2011, 2013, 2022 & 2023)

The Century and Consumers Buildings. The Century Building, 1915, Holabird & Roche, 202 S. State Street. The Consumers Building, 1913, Jenney, Mundie & Jensen, 220 S. State Street. Photo credit: Chicago DPD Twitter
Century and Consumers Building Coverage Makes Front Page on Chicago Tribune on November 14, 2023. Image credit: Chicago Tribune

“A city panel unanimously recommended landmark designation Thursday for two early 20th century skyscrapers on State Street, potentially setting up a showdown with a federal agency that wants them torn down.

“The Commission on Chicago Landmarks urged landmark status for buildings at 202 and 220 S. State St. to the applause of audience members who supported their preservation. The vote sends the matter to the City Council for a final decision.

“The federal government owns the buildings and would not be bound by the city’s landmarks ordinance. However, the panel’s vote could increase pressure on federal officials to save them, even though Congress has appropriated $52 million for their demolition.

“Federal officials have argued the two buildings, which back up against the Dirksen Federal Building on Dearborn Street, pose a security risk for U.S. courts. The federal government owns the buildings, which have been vacant for years.

“The commission’s vote is ‘positive optics if we do find a successful reuse for these two seminal Chicago buildings,’ said Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago. His group has advanced a plan to turn the buildings into an archive center shared by several organizations.

“Miller contends such a plan would satisfy security concerns while still putting the buildings back into use. He gave the landmarks commission 23,000 signatures from an online petition supporting the buildings.

“The General Services Administration has been holding public hearings on alternatives for the buildings because they are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Court officials here have stuck to their argument that they pose a security threat, even though wrecking them would expose Dirksen to sight lines as a greater distance. (Roeder, Chicago Sun-Times, 12/7/23)

“”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.

“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 the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune

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