A Preservation Chicago Most Endangered 2016, the shuttered Sears Store at 1900 W. Lawrence Avenue was the first Sears, Roebuck & Company retail store to be built from the ground up as a commercial department store. It is an outstanding building with great prospects for a preservation-sensitive redevelopment.
The building was purchased from Sears Holdings and is being redeveloped by Springbank Capital Advisors. The proposed $30 million plan includes an adaptive reuse of the existing structure and will deliver 59 apartments, 91 parking places, and 30,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space.
The Lawrence Avenue Sears store was built in 1925. At that time, it was on the cutting edge of department store design including massive plate glass windows to maximize natural sunlight. Sears called this new generation of neighborhood department stores its ‘daylight’ stores, according to Professor Richard Longstreth, in his article” Sears, Roebuck and the Remaking of the Department Store, 1924-42″.
Preservation Chicago’s primary concern is with regard to the façade treatment. The original building façade had large and expansive windows and we would strongly support the reinstallation of windows of a similar size to the original design. Additionally, Preservation Chicago opposes the proposed staining of the original exterior blonde brick.
Earlier renderings indicated a solution that was more sensitive to the building’s original design with deeper setbacks and fewer additional floors. The developer has responded to some community concerns voiced at public meetings to address parking and traffic flow considerations. 47th Ward Alderman Ameya Pawar announced his support for the requested zoning change in September 2017.
Preservation Chicago hopes that the developer will reconsider some façade treatment elements. Urban apartment dwellers are drawn to historic properties that celebrate the building’s history. Instead of trying to make the façade something it isn’t, Preservation Chicago hopes the developer will embrace its strong, elegant appearance. Ironically, the original conceptual rendering proposed by the Springbank did a much better job at recognizing and celebrating the building’s historic elements.