Chicago’s construction boom has been a boon for developers and the banks that finance the many projects that are underway around the city. But on the other hands, the construction boom means trouble for older building stock. In many cases, building new means demolishing existing structures to clear the way for new construction. This is not always the case though—other situations see historic buildings and important elements of them being renovated or altered to a point of affecting its architectural pedigree or integrity.
Preservationists—both at a local and state level—have identified endangered buildings around Chicago, and are trying to raise awareness of these buildings’ importance to the city and the communities that they are located in. However, without landmark protection, historic structures can be (and often are) demolished to build new or to simple avoid having to pay property taxes. Some important buildings recently identified by local preservationists as being endangered include the Thompson Center in the Loop, the old Union Station Power House along the Chicago River, and the Cornell Store and Flats in Greater Grand Crossing.
In 2015, the Chicago City Council elected to designate Bertrand Goldberg’s iconic Marina City as a Chicago Landmark—a move lauded by architecture buffs and writers. However, just three years prior, Goldberg’s Women’s Prentice Hospital in Streeterville was reduced to rubble. The modernist hospital featured similar design elements as Marina City’s towers—round concrete forms—but yet, it ultimately witnessed a much different fate.
And it’s not just high-profile structures designed by famous modernist architects. Older houses and multiunit buildings throughout the neighborhoods are being demolished at an alarming pace to make way for expensive new construction houses. And often times, this pattern of replacing old with new affects neighborhoods’ density and affordability.
So, which buildings should the city bless as official Chicago Landmarks in 2017?