Chicago Printed String Building: Logan and Elston – Pulled from the jaws of the wrecker ball

On Election morning March 16, 2004, bulldozers began to illegally tear chicago-printed-string-company-buildinginto the back of the Orange Rated Chicago Printed String Company Building located at the corner of Logan Boulevard and Elston Avenue. But for the quick action of preservation activist Ward Miller, who happened to be driving by at the time, the building would have been destroyed. And, but for the leadership of then First Ward Alderman Manny Flores, the building would never have been adaptively converted to a retail development.

Constructed in phases between 1928 and 1941, the Chicago Printed String Company Building was designed by architect Alfred Alschuler for a company that manufactured colorful cotton tying tape used for bakery packages and candy boxes. Alschuler was one of the most prominent architects in Chicago whose works include the London Guarantee Building, K.A.M. Synagogue and the Goldblatt Brothers Department Store, all designated Chicago landmarks. The two-story building is a fusion of both Art Deco and Stripped Classical architecture rendered in grey-colored brick, limestone and featuring distinctive bandings of green Teco terra cotta.

By early 2004, the building had long been vacant and boarded up. The then-owners of the building had planned for a drive-through banking facility on the site but, because the building was rated Orange, by city law there would have been a 90-day hold before any demolition commenced. However, on that fateful morning demolition had indeed begun.  Mr. Miller sprung into action and immediately called city officials and at one point convinced demolition crews to hold off on any more demolition until the issue could be resolved.

Preservation Chicago did its part to stop the demolition by contacting as many city officials as it could, a tall order on an election day. Ultimately, the city voided the demolition permit later that day and wrecking crews were pulled off the site, but the city has never been able to adequately explain exactly why a demolition permit was ever issued in the first place.

Following a court hearing the city succeeded in legally delaying the demolition. And once the demolition was stayed, Alderman Flores immediately got to work to permanently preserve it by urging its adaptive reuse for commercial retail.

Following a series of high level meetings between the alderman, the property owner, the planning department and community stake holders including Preservation Chicago, a redevelopment agreement was finally reached and the Chicago Printed String Company Building was saved. Today, it is the home of a health club, a Panera Bakery and numerous other retail stores.