“The Commission on Chicago Landmarks delayed a vote on the preliminary landmark designation of the Century and Consumers Buildings during its recent monthly meeting on Thursday. The vote would’ve set up a battle between the city and the federally run General Services Administration (GSA), as they seek to spend $52 million in federal funds to demolish the towers, citing security and safety reasons for the Dirksen Courthouse.
“With an extremely thorough and detailed presentation, city historic preservation staff outlined how the two buildings each meet three landmark designation criteria, as well as the separate integrity criterion.
“The GSA provided a statement to the commission that they will be impartially conducting the Section 106 process from the National Historic Preservation Act, which directs them to consider viable alternatives to the proposed demolition. They remain officially neutral on the proposed landmark designation.
“The landmarks staff has been directed to work with the relevant city and federal agencies to identify specific safety issues that the buildings pose while the GSA proceeds with their Section 106 process. The GSA will be setting up public meetings in the next few weeks as part of that procedure. (Kugler, Urbanize Chicago, 9/11/22)
“Maurice Cox, commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development, said there was little doubt the “properties are meritous of landmark status” but argued that no action should be taken without a more thorough understanding of the broader issues at play.
“Ultimately the commission’s chairman, Ernie Wong, declined to call a vote on whether to confer preliminary landmark status on the buildings. Citing the ‘highly unusual circumstances’ surrounding the buildings, he said additional study is needed into the specific safety issues at hand and potential solutions. (Wetli, WTTW Chicago, 9/8/22)
Preservation Chicago along with other preservation partners provided powerful testimony at the Commission on Chicago Landmarks hearing in support of the Century and Consumers Buildings. This represents the culmination of an intensive campaign to save these important buildings from demolition by securing the strong support of the public and City of Chicago. The campaign included a Chicago 7 Most Endangered designation, dozens of media stories detailing the history, circumstances, threat, and alternatives, discussion of the UNESCO World Heritage Site nomination, the Chicago Collaborative Archive Center press conference, a Change.org petition with over 23,000 signatures, a B1M short film with over 900,000 views and extensive high-level advocacy.
This preservation effort succeeded in profoundly shifting the public discourse and earning a ‘spot at the table’ for preservation partners with the GSA and the Federal Court to directly discuss opportunities and challenges. On September 12, 2022, key preservation leaders and Chicago Collaborative Archive Center leaders met with representatives of the GSA and Federal Court for over two hours. The meeting was cordial, constructive and comprehensive.
The ultimate outcome of these efforts remains uncertain, but the preservation effort is well positioned for the upcoming Section 106 hearings, scheduled to occur in the coming months.
The advocacy campaign has sought to anticipate and address all potential concerns. We continue to reinforce the architectural significance of the buildings, the viability of the Chicago Collaborative Archive Center and its comprehensive solutions to the security concerns, the risk to the UNESCO nomination, and the importance of these terra cotta skyscrapers to Mies van der Rohe’s overall vision for the Chicago Federal Center.
The focus is increasingly shifting to the buildings’ existing conditions and cost to restore. Despite 17 years of deferred maintenance during the period of GSA ownership, we believe that the buildings are in stable condition and can successfully be restored. Many examples of buildings in far worse condition have been successfully restored including the Old Chicago Post Office, Cook County Hospital, Reliance Building, and many others.
Regarding cost, we believe that if the $52 million federal earmark for demolition were reallocated to restoration, it would cover a significant portion of the rehabilitation cost. For perspective, Lane Tech is Chicago’s largest public school at 607,000 square feet. It’s more than double the square footage of Century and Consumers Buildings combined. In 2017, Lane Tech was comprehensively restored, inside and out, including restored parapets, replaced terra cotta, new windows, new roof, and interiors for a total cost of $52 million.
Read more at Urbanize Chicago and WTTW Chicago
Landmarks stops short of designation for Century & Consumers Buildings; The GSA will soon begin public hearings on the proposed demolition, Lukas Kugler, Urbanize Chicago, 9/11/22
Landmarks Commission Kicks the Can on Status of Threatened Century and Consumers Buildings, Patty Wetli, WTTW Chicago, 9/8/22
Commission punts vote tied to demolition plan on State Street; Safety and security concerns leave statuses in limbo, The Read Deal, 9/12/22
Are the endangered Century and Consumer buildings headed toward landmark status? Let’s hope so. It would be a better fate than the federal government’s plan to demolish the structures for a security plaza, Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, 7/23/22
City landmarks panel backs review of State Street buildings that feds say are security risk; The members act after getting a petition from more than 22,000 people who voiced support for saving the early 20th century structures, setting up a potential show down with the federal government over security concerns for the nearby Dirksen Federal Courthouse, David Roeder, Chicago Sun-Times, 7/7/22
Preservationists seek landmark status for State Street buildings; The Commission on Chicago Landmarks has scheduled a presentation on the buildings today after an advocacy group gathered more than 22,000 signatures supporting its plan to protect them from demolition, Alby Gallun, Crain’s Chicago Business, 7/7/22
Commission On Chicago Landmarks Passes Resolution To Review Endangered Buildings At 202 And 220 S State Street In The Loop, Jack Crawford, Chicago YIMBY, 7/12/22
Landmarks backs review of Century and Consumer Buildings; The process may lead to a landmarks standoff with the federal government, Lukas Kugler, Urbanize Chicago, 7/10/22
Read the full story at Chicago Sun-Times
Groups coalesce around plan to save State Street buildings; The proposal calls for turning them into a shared archive center, but the properties’ owner, the federal government, wants the early 20th century high-rises wrecked, David Roeder, Chicago Sun-Times, 5/18/22
Explore preservation group’s plan to save two doomed Loop towers; Federal government ought to give a proper hearing to this or any other legit, preservation-minded proposal, Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, 5/19/22
These two endangered downtown buildings look rough outside. The inside is even worse. See photos inside 202 and 220 S. State, a pair of historical towers the federal government wants to spend $52 million demolishing, Dennis Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 5/20/22
Instead Of Demolishing Century And Consumer Buildings, Let Us Turn Them Into A National Archive Center, Preservationists Ask Feds; Preservation groups said the national archive center would meet the security guidelines of the neighboring federal courthouse while serving as a major hub for archive-based research, Melody Mercado, Block Club Chicago, 5/18/22
Preservationists push to save Chicago’s Century, Consumers towers; Plans to use the building as archive address security concerns of adjacent courthouse, The Real Deal, 5/19/22
Preservationists highlight history as two Loop buildings face uncertain future, Leslie Williamson and Madison Comeau, The DePaulia, 6/6/22
Preservationist places faith in plan for State Street buildings; A proposal to revive the buildings adjacent to the federal complex is being developed, with hope that it will satisfy concerns about safety, David Roeder, Chicago Sun-Times, 5/9/22
Preservationists push rescue plan for endangered State Street skyscrapers; The feds want to demolish a pair of early 20th-century Loop buildings. But preservation groups say they could be reused instead., Denis Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 5/18/22
New plan revealed to save State Street skyscrapers; There’s a new proposal to save two historic Chicago skyscrapers from demolition, Fox 32 Chicago, 5/19/22
Proposal aims to save 2 historic buildings in downtown Chicago from demolition, ABC7 Chicago, 5/18/22
The Two Towers, A bizarre federal quest to destroy a pair of historic Chicago skyscrapers, Henry Grabar, Slate, 5/11/22
Why have feds spent millions on vacant Chicago buildings they now want to demolish? Ben Bradley, WGN Chicago, 4/6/22
A federal case: U.S. government shouldn’t wreck two Loop skyscrapers in the name of safety; The buildings’ demolition would create an economic and pedestrian dead zone on State Street. And it would be a shameful waste of some really good Chicago architecture, Lee Bey, Chicago Sun-Times, 4/3/22
Flashback: Chicago remains a ‘city of skyscrapers,’ but two early examples may be nearing a date with the wrecking ball, Ron Grossman, Chicago Tribune, 4/14/22
Loop skyscrapers must be demolished to protect safety of Dirksen federal building; I respect the interest in historic preservation. But the Dirksen Courthouse and those who work in it have been targeted before, and security vulnerabilities around the courthouse must be addressed, Sen. Dick Durbin, Chicago Sun-Times, 4/26/22
Wrecking the Century & Consumers buildings is ‘Durbin Renewal,’ not urban safety, Elizabeth Blasius, Chicago Tribune Op-Ed, 4/29/22
Century and Consumer Buildings Good Day DePaul Episode with Emily Reilly, 5/2/22
Century And Consumers Buildings, Beverly’s Pike House Top List Of Most Endangered Historic Places In Illinois; The feds plans to tear down the historic Loop buildings as part of a $52 million demolition. They’ve sat vacant for 17 years. “It’s completely ridiculous,” one Landmarks Illinois preservationist said., Melody Mercado, Block Club Chicago, 4/20/22
What’s that building? The Century and Consumers buildings; The federal government wants to demolish a pair of century-old State Street buildings — a plan preservationists are trying to stop, Dennis Rodkin, WBEZ, 3/31/22
Preservation Chicago 2022 Chicago 7 Most Endangered: The Century and Consumers Buildings
Landmarks Illinois 2022 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois, Century & Consumers Buildings, 4/20/22
The US Government Wants to Destroy These Towers, The B1M, Fred Mills, 7/13/22 (9:29)
PETITION to Save the Century & Consumers Buildings