LOSS: Woodruff Arcade Demolished! (Chicago 7 2018)

Woodruff Arcade Demolition, 6361 N. Broadway Avenue, Photo Credit: Loyola Phoenix

The Woodruff Arcade has been demolished. Located at the corner of Broadway, Devon and Sheridan in Edgewater and Rogers Park, the 94-year old Woodruff Arcade has served dozens of small tenants since it was first opened in the 1920s. The Woodruff Arcade was an important community feature and it could have been an asset for the Rogers Park and Edgewater communities for years to come. It should have been preserved, restored, and reused.

Shopping arcades are a rare building type, both in Chicago and across the country. The predecessors to the modern shopping mall, these enclosed structures featured retail spaces arranged around a central court. Popularized first in Europe, many were built in American cities, beginning in the 19th century. One of the nation’s earliest and most significant arcades is the Westminster Arcade in Providence, Rhode Island, which opened in 1828. After a considerable effort by the Providence preservation community, it was successfully and sensitively reused. It now includes a mix of retail, restaurants and affordable housing. Other notable arcades exist in cities such as Cleveland, Nashville, Ann Arbor, and Watertown in upstate New York.

“In 1922, W.J. Woodruff received a building permit from the city for his arcade, according to the Edgewater Historical Society. Architect Herbert Green designed a handsome but utilitarian red brick building that opens up inside with iron staircases, large interior windows into the internal courtyard, and that big skylight.” (WBEZ, 6/22/17)

The Edgewater Historical Society, Preservation Chicago, and other local neighborhood groups had advocated for its protection and preservation through Chicago Landmark designation. The online petition to save the historic Woodruff Arcade collected approximately 800 signatures.

The arcade formerly housed over a dozen small business and offices until being evicted. The previous owner operated the arcade for more than 30 years, but sold the building to Borekci Real Estate, a company based in Ankara, Turkey, and Algonquin Venture Real Estate LLC based in Northbrook, Illinois. Ironically, the new seven story building to be constructed on the site is being marketed as “The Arcade.” The new construction will not retain any part of the original structure, resulting in a full demolition of the building.

48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman did not oppose the proposal and suggested that the development was too far along for the City to consider a Chicago Landmark Designation for the building. As the developer worked within the existing zoning limits (as-of-right), there was no requirement for public meetings and no requirement for Aldermanic approval. Like so many historic buildings under threat, the discrepancy between the existing historic structure and the site’s more permissive zoning results in an economic incentive for the destruction of Chicago’s historic building resources.

Preservation Chicago and preservation partners had reached out to Alderman Osterman to encourage the developer to incorporate the facade and the interior arcade in the new construction. The only concession from the developer was an offer of a commemorative plaque.

The Woodruff Arcade was an important community feature and it could have been an asset for the Rogers Park and Edgewater communities for years to come. It should have been preserved, restored, and reused.

As the developer worked within the existing zoning limits (as-of-right), there was no requirement for public meetings and no requirement for Aldermanic approval. Like so many historic buildings under threat, the discrepancy between the existing historic structure and the site’s more permissive zoning results in an economic incentive for the destruction of Chicago’s historic building resources.

Additional Reading

Petition to Save the Woodruff Arcade

Woodruff Arcade, Preservation Chicago 7 Most Endangered 2018

New Image Released Of High Rise That Could Replace Woodruff Arcade, Daniel Zagotta, Edgeville Buzz, 11/21/17

What’s That Building? The Woodruff Arcade with Dennis Rodkin, WBEZ Chicago, Morning Shift, 11 Minute Radio Story, June 22, 2017

94-Year-Old ‘Arcade’ Shopping Center Sold; Businesses Must Leave By Dec. 31, Linze Rice, DNAinfo, February 3, 2017

Arcade Building Sold, Business Owners Forced Out, Loyola Phoenix, Julie Whitehair, February 1, 2017

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