A Bright Future for Century and Consumers Buildings Photo Credit GoogleMaps

Roberto’s Art Moderne Storefront, 214 S. State Street, Photo Credit GoogleMaps

UPDATE: After many years of uncertainly and vacancy, the historically-sensitive adaptive reuse of the Century and Consumers Buildings on South State Street is moving forward. CA Ventures’ proposal with Chicago architecture firm Antunovich Associates was selected by the City of Chicago after an RFP was issued in March. A $141 million renovation is planned for the four building cluster, including two historic towers and two adjacent low-rise buildings. The plan will restore and adaptively reuse the tall terra cotta office buildings as 429 residential apartments and retail along the State Street frontage.

The Marshall & Fox designed building at 212 S. State, which has been drastically altered over time, will be replaced by a 16-story building.
Another, smaller building dating from 1886 and located at 214 S. State Street will have its historic façade restored. The streamlined, high-style Art-Moderne storefront at 214 S. State with its black vitrolite, colored terrazzo, silver banding, and exuberant circular glass window display is highly intact and a rare survivor from State Street’s rich history. Preservation Chicago hopes that particular care and sensitivity will be taken to protect and restore this highly significant element.

Additionally, Preservation Chicago hopes that the State Street and Quincy elevations of the Consumers Building will be restored including original rooflines, frieze band, fascia, and cornice, along with the store fronts and lobby.

Preservation Chicago has been concerned about the deferred maintenance and deteriorating condition of these buildings and they twice made the Chicago 7 Most Endangered list, in 2011 and then again in 2013. So Preservation Chicago was delighted by the selection of the CA Ventures. Years before, Ward Miller had toured the site with the selected developer and encouraged him to consider the possibility of an adaptive reuse project, as that same team had recently completed the restoration of the Steiger Building complex by architects Marshall and Fox a half block to the east.

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 Street was designed by Holabird and Roche in 1915. Its strong verticality represented a shift from the Chicago School to a more streamlined composition. Its façade ornament is a rare example of Neo-Manueline, inspired by the historic Portuguese late-gothic style, an exuberant artistic style developed during the reign of Manuel I of Portugal (1495-1521) and included shields with elaborate dragons, botanical motifs, and pinnacles.

The 22-story Consumers Building at 220 S. State Street/1 W. Quincy Court was designed by Jenny, Mundie & Jensen in 1913. Part of the late Chicago School style, also referred to as the Chicago Commercial Style, its 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. There are also elaborate restaurant and retail spaces throughout the first floor and basement concourse level.

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. In 2005, the General Services Administration (GSA) acquired nearly all of the buildings located on the short block along State, between Adams and Jackson. Per the Crain’s Chicago Business reporting at the time, when the GSA couldn’t come to terms with the Century Building ownership, they exercised their power of eminent domain.

While the GSA had initially planned a massive office building complex possibly conjoining the taller terra cotta buildings, funding never materialized. The buildings sat vacant and fell into disrepair and the temporary protective canopies became semi-permanent.

On behalf of the GSA, the City of Chicago issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) released for the four adjacent buildings at 202, 212, 214, and 220 S. State Street in March 2017, with hopes that a well-qualified private developer steps forward to adaptively reuse the buildings.

While Mayor Emanuel and Commissioner Ravid Reifman focused upon the positive impact the redevelopment would have on State Street and job creation, 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly was clear and direct in his demands for a preservation-oriented redevelopment.

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 facade 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 State Street buildings, located on an important historic commercial/retail thoroughfare, are finally going to be renovated, activated and reused.

Preservation Chicago also wishes to applaud 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 high number of important historic buildings. Additionally, development pressure in the Loop is intense. Alderman Reilly is a strong and eloquent champion of both historic preservation and economic development, who recognizes that they are indeed complementary.

Additional Reading

A pre-renovation glimpse inside Chicago’s abandoned Consumers & Century buildings, Curbed Chicago, Jay Koziarz, 6/28/17

Hundreds more apartments planned for the Loop, Curbed Chicago, AJ LaTrace, June 1, 2017

Mayor Emanuel Announces Selection of Team to Redevelop Venerable State Street High-Rises, City of Chicago, June 1, 2017

Chicago DPD Interior VIDEO of Existing Conditions, June 27, 2017

4 Vacant Buildings on South State Street put out to bid, Sun Times, Fran Speilman, 3/21/17

Redeveloper sought for State Street’s historic Century & Consumers Buildings, Chicago Curbed, Jay Koziarz, 3/22/17

City Wants To Sell State Street Buildings That Aren’t So Great, David Matthews, March 21, 2017

202-220 S. State St. Request For Proposals (RFP), City of Chicago

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