Vacant and suffering deferred maintenance since 2004, the Schulze Baking Company building will be renovated and adaptively reused as a data center. Located at 40 E. Garfield Boulevard (55th Street) in Washington Park, this architecturally exuberant building was designed by Chicago architect John Ahlschlager & Son in 1914. The Schulze Baking Company building is a beautifully designed industrial building and was thoroughly modern for its time. Its design is highlighted by a combination of its strong classical form, extensive geometric patterns and detail in the white glazed brick, vivid blue terra cotta, and exuberant Sullivanesque-inspired terra cotta ornamentation with wheat shafts, corn, and other grains.
Despite being of Landmark quality, the Schulze Baking Company building was never designated as a Chicago Landmark and had suffered years of deferred maintenance and neglect. Its status on the National Register of Historic Places since 1982 makes it eligible for federal historic tax credits but does nothing to prevent demolition.
The 220,000-square-foot site Schulze property was sold to CIM Group,a large real estate development firm, with projects including Block 37 and the Tribune Tower redevelopment. As reported in Crain’s, the century-old building, which will be called Midway Technology Center, will require a major rehab that could total $150 million to become a data center, including a new roof and bringing in additional power required for racks of electricity-thirsty servers. The partners have decided against pursuing tax breaks associated with historic landmarks, but they plan to restore the building’s distinctive façade with its exuberant terra cotta which has been removed over time. The facility is located in a state-designated enterprise zone, which could provide some sales-tax incentives. (Pletz, Crain’s, 7/31/18)
Preservation Chicago applauds the development team for their plans to restore the historic Schulze Baking Company Building and encourages them to pursue a Chicago Landmark designation and a full restoration of the decorative terra cotta at the top most floors of the building.