The City of Chicago issued a Request for Proposals, on behalf of the General Services Administration, to redevelop the four contiguous buildings at 202, 212, 214, and 220 S. State with hopes that a well-qualified private developer steps forward to adaptively reuse the buildings. Responses are due May 1, 2017, and a decision will be announced May 24.
Preservation Chicago has long been concerned about the deferred maintenance and deteriorating condition of these buildings. The Century Building and the Consumers Buildings twice made the Chicago 7 Most Endangered list, in 2011 and then again in 2013.
In the post 9-11 period, the determination was made by the Federal Government that an enhanced security perimeter was required for Mies van der Rohe’s Dirksen Federal Building. So in 2005, the General Services Administration acquired nearly all of the buildings located on the short block along State, between Adams and Jackson. Per Crain’s reporting at the time, when the Feds couldn’t settle on a price with the Century Building owner, they exercised their power of eminent domain.
The GSA had initially planned an extensive office building complex, but funding never materialized. The buildings sat vacant and fell into disrepair. The temporary protective canopies to protect pedestrians became semi-permanent.
Originally, these proud and elegant buildings were part of a thriving and vibrant State Street Retail District. The 16-story Century Building at 202 S. State was designed by Holabird and Roche in 1915. Its strong verticality represented a shift from the Chicago School toward the Art Deco. Its façade ornament is a rare example of Neo-Manueline, inspired by the historic Portuguese style, and includes shields with dragons, botanical motifs and pinnacles. Its renovation is required by the RFP.
The 22-story Consumers Building at 220 S. State was designed by Jenny, Mundie & Jensen in 1913. Part of the late Chicago School style called Commercial Style, it is clad in white terra cotta with minimal ornamentation. The interiors, however, are highly ornamented including a lobby with terrazzo floors and Italian marble walls and ceiling. Windows on all four sides of the building allow natural light to reach all parts of the floor plates, eliminating the need for an interior light well. Its renovation is required by the RFP. During the renovation, it is hoped that the lost bronze canopy over the State Street entrance, two storefronts, and the original roof design, that included a frieze band and cornice with lights, will be rebuilt.
The 6-story building at 214 S. State was built in 1886. The RFP requires, at a minimum, the reuse of the historic façade. The 3-story John R. Marshall Co. Building at 212 S. State by Marshall & Fox has few protections per the RFP.
While the plan received support from both Mayor Emanuel and Commissioner David Reifman for its expected positive impact on State Street and job creation, 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly was clear and direct in his desire for a preservation-oriented redevelopment plan.
As reported in the Sun-Times, “Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) said whenever “landmark-worthy buildings are at risk,” his preference is to encourage preservation and adaptive re-use.”
“All but one of these buildings are considered to be potentially landmark-worthy and all four of these buildings are definitely at-risk. They have not been well maintained and will require structural work and significant façade restoration,” Reilly wrote in an email.
“We have confirmed three of the four buildings included in the South State Street sale . . . are historically significant and I feel strongly that those buildings should be preserved and re-positioned for adaptive re-use,” he wrote.
Reilly noted that the fourth building, 212 S. State St., is “considered less significant” than the other three.
“While I would prefer to see that building retained as well, I believe the future owner should be given some flexibility to determine the future viability of that structure,” he wrote.
Given the significance of the buildings and their “prominence” on State Street, Reilly urged Reifman to “carefully review” respondents to the RFP and choose the competitor with “extensive experience preserving and re-using historic landmark buildings in downtown Chicago.” (Speilman, 3/21/17)
After many years of advocacy, Preservation Chicago is thrilled that these important historic buildings on State Street are finally going to be renovated and reactivated and in a preservation-sensitive manner.
Preservation Chicago also wishes to commend Alderman Reilly for his strong commitment to preservation and for his leadership in helping to bring about preservation sensitive outcomes. The 42nd Ward covers the central business district and includes a very high number of important historic buildings. Additionally, development pressure in the central business district is intense. Alderman Reilly is a strong and eloquent champion of both historic preservation and economic development, who recognizes that they are, indeed, complementary.