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State Street apartment plan derailed over security concerns at nearby courthouse

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The project would have breathed new life into the Loop’s old Consumers Building and Century Building

Two older terracotta office buildings with a contemporary glassy addition in the middle stand in the middle of an urban streetscape.
A rendering of CA Venture’s proposal to turn 202 and 220 S. State Street in a massive rental complex.
Antunovich Associates

An unusual concern has halted a $141 million plan to revitalize State Street’s long-vacant Consumers and Century Buildings into more than 400 rental apartments. Security issues raised by judges at nearby Dirksen U.S. Courthouse, as well as other federal agencies, put a stop to the redevelopment.

Concerns over a proposed rooftop deck that would have direct sightlines into the adjacent courthouse caused the city of Chicago to withdraw an earlier agreement to buy the buildings from the federal government’s General Services Administration (GSA) and transfer ownership to local real estate firm CA Ventures, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“Recent assessments by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and U.S. Marshals Service, among others, found that the sale of these properties would create significant public safety vulnerabilities threatening the public servants who work in the Dirksen Courthouse and the general public who utilize the building,” wrote Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in a letter cited in the Tribune report.

CA Ventures reached an agreement to pay $10.4 million for the State Street properties after responding to request for proposals made by the city on behalf of the GSA in 2017. The developer teamed with Chicago architecture firm Antunovich Associates on a renovation plan to rehab the office levels and ground-floor retail spaces as well as construct a glassy residential addition on the southern side of the Century Building.

“We had the rug pulled out from under us,” Keith Giles of CA Venture told the newspaper. “We were ready to move forward. We had spent two and a half years, thousands of hours, and lots of money on the project, and the city pulled the plug on us in September.”

It’s unclear what—if anything—will happen with the underutilized stretch of State Street now that the deal has been called off. A GSA spokesperson told the Tribune that the agency is “exploring next steps.”

Preservationists have called attention to the pair of historic buildings since the early 2000s. Both located on the 200 block of State Street, the 22-story Consumers Building was designed by Jenny, Mundie & Jensen and the 15-story Century Building was completed by Holabird & Roche. The latter contributes to the Loop Retail Historic District, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The vacant buildings were acquired by the federal government in 2005, and deteriorating conditions have earned them a spot on Preservation Chicago’s most endangered list in 2011 and 2013. The decline and further neglect of these buildings would mean losing two excellent examples of Chicago School high-rises, wrote the organization.