Feds tearing down State Street property, irking preservationists

General Services Administration cited a possible facade collapse

Ward Miller and Consumers Building at 208-12 S. State St. in Chicago
Ward Miller and Consumers Building at 208-12 S. State St. in Chicago (Wikipedia, Ward Miller Preservation Chicaago, Getty)

A federal agency is tearing down a low-rise building between two landmark towers on State Street, heightening tensions between the agency and preservationists bent on saving the taller structures from a similar fate.

The U.S. General Services Administration announced in a recent press release that it will demolish the vacant three-story structure at 208-12 South State Street, citing safety concerns and its unoccupied status, Crain’s reported. Site clearing is scheduled to begin next week. 

The soon-to-be demolished building is one of two low-rises between the 16-story Century Building and the 22-story Consumers Building. The GSA seized the entire row of properties after a bomb threat was aimed toward the nearby Dirksen Federal Building in 2004, an incident that compounded lingering concerns stemming from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks three years earlier. All of the buildings have been mostly empty since 2005.

“A recent conditions assessment found the non-historic building, which has been unoccupied for several years, is not structurally sound and presents risks, including potential facade collapse that would endanger pedestrians and street traffic,” said the GSA in the press release.

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The GSA also aims to demolish the larger buildings on State Street and is partway through a public review process to do so. Preservation Chicago and Landmarks Illinois have been actively working with the federal government to find a new use for these historic buildings, built in 1913 and 1915.

“It’s really a shame that the GSA, the landlord of the federal government, has neglected these buildings on State Street for almost two decades,” Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, told the outlet. 

A $141 million redevelopment plan, which would’ve filled the taller two buildings with apartments, was blocked by the agency in 2019 due to concerns that inhabitants would have an easy line of sight into the Dirksen, possibly enabling violence targeted at the courtroom. Congress last year approved spending $52 million for their demolition.

—Quinn Donoghue

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