“Dystopian” Woodlawn bank to be preserved, restored

Developer of century-old building to keep facade intact

Chicago /
May.May 03, 2022 01:48 PM
Cook County Land Bank Authority's Eleanor Gorski and 6300 South Cottage Grove Avenue (CCLBA, Google Maps)

Cook County Land Bank Authority’s Eleanor Gorski and 6300 South Cottage Grove Avenue (CCLBA, Google Maps)

A century-old Woodlawn office building whose interior resembles a dystopian movie more than the bank it once was may be redeveloped with its original limestone facade, windows and entrances.

Developer Leon Walker submitted plans in January 2020 to demolish the blighted building at 6300 South Cottage Grove Avenue to make way for a new office and retail building, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. “The pandemic was a complete full stop,” Walker said.

As Walker sought a lender willing to finance risky or early-stage projects, Eleanor Gorski took over as executive director of the Cook County Land Bank Authority, which owns the building and whose mission is to encourage development of difficult properties, especially in poor areas.

“I wanted the whole building preserved,” Gorski said. “The numbers just didn’t allow it.”

The result: Walker now plans a restored exterior and 75,000 square feet of new office space that Walker plans to market to neighborhood entrepreneurs.

Walker will present the plans, from bKL Architecture, to the community later this month. Provided feedback is positive, Gorski says she hopes the land bank’s board will be able to approve the sale of the property in June. Gorski and Walker said the price for the property hasn’t been decided.

Built in 1924, the Washington Park National Bank building served the community until the Great Depression claimed it. Vacant for years, the skylit atrium has long since caved in. Walker plans to widen floor plates inside the building to make it more suitable for today’s offices.

“We’re committed to this.” Walker said. “We’ve been through several iterations of our plan during Covid. This will be an awesome addition to that intersection.”

[CST] — Victoria Pruitt





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