OLD TOWN — Downtown high rises, public housing complexes and lakefront attractions are on this year’s list of the most endangered spots in Chicago.
Preservation Chicago has released this year’s “most endangered list,” which includes eight entries instead of the usual seven. The list started in 2003 and is updated yearly, showing which portions of Chicago’s built environment are most threatened by redevelopment or through neglect.
This year’s list includes multiple clusters of buildings, including public housing sites, a stretch of Midcentury Modern buildings in West Ridge and a trio of structures in Old Town.
“The threats to our historic built environment are all across Chicago, but we have hope for our city that these places can be reused, repurposed and protected, making them a cornerstone to communities grow sensitively and holistically,” Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, said in a statement.
Here is this year’s list:
The Century and Consumers Buildings
The Century and the Consumers buildings, at 202 and 220 N. State. St., are making their third appearances on the most endangered list. Built in 1915 and 1913, respectively, the buildings suffer from deferred maintenance and vacancy, according to Preservation Chicago.
The federal government took ownership of the buildings through eminent domain in 2005 to shore up security near Federal Plaza. A federal infrastructure bill has earmarked funds for the buildings’ demolitions, according to Preservation Chicago.
The preservation group is calling on the buildings to be reused, and it has pitched having the buildings house an archive called the Chicago Archives Center. There are solutions that satisfy the government’s security needs while restoring the century-old high rises, Preservation Chicago said in a statement.
Public housing sites
Public housing complexes — including the Cabrini Green row houses, Lathrop Homes-South Campus and Altgeld Gardens — have components that are underused and face uncertain futures, according to Preservation Chicago.
The Cabrini Green row houses include 586 units, of which about 140 units have been restored. The “vast majority” of the apartments have not seen upgrades, according to the preservation group.
At Altgeld Gardens, a retail building with midcentury modern design features and a building that’s part of a local school campus have sat mostly vacant. While Lathrop Homes has seen a large renovation project, much of its south campus has not gotten improvements.
The Chicago Housing Authority “is once again neglecting some of its historic resources and developments, with more than 1,000 existing housing units being mothballed or vacant,” according to the preservation group. “Restore these historic complexes and put them back into good use for the people.”
North DuSable Lake Shore Drive
A planned rebuilding of DuSable Lake Shore Drive’s north branch could “impose interstate highway standards” on the thoroughfare, according to Preservation Chicago. That would continue a trend of transforming the famous drive from its original days as a boulevard parkway into a highway.
Preservation Chicago is against the further widening of the drive and changes to its historic art deco bridges.
“Let us continue to maintain and honor those remarkable features that maketraveling on North DuSable Lake Shore Drive, or adjacent to it, pleasurable experiences,” according to the group. “After all, this is one very special boulevard drive and we should not squander its beauty and natural qualities or its historic resources.”
Peterson Avenue Midcentury Modern District
Preservation Chicago is proposing the city create a landmark district along Peterson Avenue between Pulaski Road and Oakley Avenue. The area is characterized by midcentury modern offices and commercial buildings, some of which have been demolished in recent years.
These buildings exemplify the post-World War II building boom that happened on the city’s outskirts and helped make west Ridge and North Park business destinations. A building within the proposed landmark area was demolished recently to make way for offices for a refugee nonprofit.
To preserve some of the city’s best examples of midcentury modern design, a landmark district should be established, according to preservationists. The group also wants some of the buildings along the Peterson Avenue corridor to be added to the city’s historical registry survey, which has omitted most midcentury architecture.
As the city is trying to fortify the lakefront against rising water and battering waves, plans to replace Promontory Point’s limestone revetment walls with concrete have not sat well with preservationists.
Community members in the 1980s successfully saved the limestone wall from redevelopment. There is still community support for the preservation effort, and Preservation Chicago is asking the Park District to drop plans for a concrete wall at the popular lakefront destination in Hyde Park.
St. Martin of Tours
St. Martin de Tours has stood at 5848 S. Princeton Ave. in Englewood for 130 years, but it has been unused since 1989. The church has suffered “significant deterioration,” according to Preservation Chicago.
The group is calling for the church’s redevelopment for use as an incubator space, hosting arts education, exhibits and performances. The parish’s school building was already demolished, providing opportunity for green space at the site, including a beekeeping area and a community garden.
“A renovated St. Martin Church can be a beacon of pride and hope for the entire community, making this corner of Englewood a treasure that is no longer hidden,” Preservation Chicago said.
Central Park Theater
The Central Park Theater was once a West Side hub for music, performing arts and film. But today, the historically significant building survives only due to the preservation efforts of the House of Prayer Church of God in Christ, which bought the deteriorating theater in 1971.
Under the leadership of founding pastor Lincoln Scott, the theater found new life as a community hub and place of worship. The House of Prayer congregation poured their resources into saving the building, which otherwise would have been torn down, said Robert Marshall, the church’s current pastor.
“We restored it and kept the building up. We didn’t want the building to just be torn down and go to waste. The pastors who came before me, they put [in] so much effort. They spent their own money. They put their houses up for mortgage renovate the building,” Marshall said.
Their efforts have left the interior details of the building almost entirely intact despite issues with water damage, roofing and tuckpointing. The theater was designed to be a marvel to visitors when built in 1917 by developers Balaban & Katz and architecture firm Rapp & Rapp.
The building has a Mediterranean revival-style façade with an auditorium that is a mix of French baroque, neoclassical and Renaissance revival architecture.
For decades, the theater was a fixture for the Jewish community in Lawndale as well as the Black residents who established themselves in the neighborhood during the Great Migration. After it was bought by House of Prayer, it became a gathering place for worship and after-school programs, and it was a world-renowned venue for gospel performers, including Shirley Caesar and the Mighty Clouds of Joy.
Restoration of the theater has been marred by financial limitations of the church and maintenance challenges that caused the building to be shut down by the city.
“If we don’t do something soon, the way the weather is in Chicago, it’ll start deteriorating. First the outside, then the roof will give away. Then the cold will create cracks on the inside,” Marshall said.
The committee is seeking a Chicago Landmark designation for the theater, and its members are aiming to raise $100,000 in emergency stabilization funds to address building code issues. Supporters can donate to the restoration efforts through GoFundMe.
As Old Town prepares for a massive development, some of the neighborhood’s most heralded structures are in the crosshairs, according to Preservation Chicago.
Development firm Fern Hill Company is looking to redevelop a number of properties along North Avenue, LaSalle Drive and Wells Street. The Moody Triangle, bounded by these streets, has three buildings threatened by the proposed developments.
Those include the Wintrust Bank building, 100 W. North Ave.; the Moody Church, 1635 N. LaSalle Drive; and the BP gas station at 1647 N. LaSalle Drive.
Specific site plans for the development have not been released, but these three buildings are “threatened by looming demolition,” according to Preservation Chicago. The group has no objections to redeveloping the Shell gas station at 130 W. North Ave. — also included in the development footprint — but is asking the other three properties to be landmarked.
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