WIN: JP Morgan Chase Announces Chase Tower Renovation

McDonalds / Teller’s Building at Chase Plaza, 1969, C.F. Murphy Associates and Perkins and Will, 10 S Dearborn Street. Photo credit: Google Maps

“Part of the Chicago Loop’s magic were the occasional oddball, unexpected, ‘How in the heck did this get here?’ places that used to dot downtown.

“Places like Harem Hosiery, with its faux 1001 Arabian Knights neon sign, that used to be at 110 S. State St. Or the menagerie of old-school businesses, such as the wig-makers, correspondence schools and the like that used to populate old Block 37 and the pre-gentrified Reliance Building at State and Washington streets.

“A later addition to those curiosity shops — and one that I fear could also vanish — is the McDonald’s restaurant at 23 S. Clark St., on the southwest corner of the Chase Tower Plaza.

“Designed and built in 1972 (the plaza was finished three years after the iconic slope-faced banking tower was completed), the restaurant building is a clever, and maybe a bit under-appreciated, steel-and-glass pavilion at Clark and Monroe streets.

“A shorty in the land of downtown’s giants. And that burgers and fries are served and eaten in a place with a modernist wood panel interior and some pretty classy-looking hanging lights, is part of its charm.

“But how long will the little building or the restaurant remain? JP Morgan Chase, which recently announced plans to give its 10 S. Clark St. headquarters and plaza a major and much-needed head-to-toe renovation, hasn’t said.

“If the McDonald’s building is in danger, would it constitute a possible five-alarm downtown building preservation emergency? Well, no. That honor still goes to the horrible way the Century and Consumers buildings on State Street continue to be treated. But with big changes afoot at Chase Tower, the McDonald’s is worth keeping an eye on.

“Originally built as headquarters and banking halls for First National Bank of Chicago, the 60-story Chase Tower was jointly designed by architecture firms Perkins & Will and the old C.F. Murphy Associates, which is now Jahn.

“The building containing the McDonalds (and a Noodles & Co. franchise) was originally extra teller’s space. It was also designed by the two firms, with an assist from First National Bank’s own in-house architects, said Perkins & Will design principal Jerry Johnson.

“The skyscraper is a big, swaggering architectural tour-de-force clad in pearl gray granite, and the plaza is just as good as the building, with its seating, gathering spaces and Marc Chagall’s colorful Four Seasons mosaic under canopy.

“The multi-level and sunken plaza is a privately-owned space designed to be used by the public — and it is, from lunchtime brown-baggers to special events, particularly under First National Bank of Chicago ownership, including a free 1974 performance by the great Duke Ellington.

“‘I remember when that was an elegant little building,’ said Preservation Chicago Executive Director Ward Miller. ‘And I think it still is.’

“Chase deserves a hearty tip of the hat for its decision to renovate the tower and plaza. The company hasn’t disclosed the cost, but it looks to be well into the nine-figure category, judging from the renderings.

“This is the kind of investment downtown and its postwar modern skyscrapers need. Especially now. Just over 7,000 people are employed there.

“Chase says the plaza’s redo will include the plaza, with new seating, landscaping and better accessibility to the Chagall.

“Here’s hoping more details and renderings will be released soon. And that whatever changes happen, a renovated Mickey D’s building is also on the menu.” (Bey, Chicago Sun-Times, 4/6/24)

Preservation Chicago applauds JPMorgan Chase’s commitment to renovating Chase Tower and remaining in the Loop. Chase Tower is an important building that deserves the investment. Furthermore, we are relieved that talk of a possible sale of the open plaza as a development site has dissipated. As part of this renovation effort, we encourage JPMorgan Chase to pursue Chicago Landmark Designation for both Chase Tower and Chase Plaza.

Read the full column at Chicago Sun-Times



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