Preservationists score step toward city saving State Street towers

Local government commission approves landmark designation for buildings federal government wants to tear down

Lohan Anderson's Dirk Lohan, Ward Miller of Preservation Chicago and State Street towers at 202 and 220 South State Street in Chicago
Lohan Anderson's Dirk Lohan, Ward Miller of Preservation Chicago and State Street towers at 202 and 220 South State Street in Chicago (Lohan Anderson, Preservation Chicago, Google Maps)

Preservationists made some significant progress on their mission to save two State Street towers from the federal government’s wrecking ball as the city government took a step toward landmarking the buildings.

The Commission on Chicago Landmarks voted unanimously to assign the two towers at 202 and 220 South State Street a landmark status, possibly saving them from the U.S. General Services Administration’s plan to demolish them, although the process is still far from over, Crain’s reported.

Last year, federal officials approved a $52 demolition project to take down the buildings, and the threat to do so loomed even larger after the GSA’s recent announcement it will raze one of the two low-rise structures between the taller structures, known as Century and Consumer buildings.

That plan prompted groups like the landmark commission and Preservation Chicago to take action, asserting that the 1913- and 1915-built towers mark an important era in the city’s architectural history.

“To tear them down is a disgrace and an insult to the proud history of Chicago’s architectural significance,” Chicago architect Dirk Lohan told the outlet.

The government seized the State Street towers and the two low-rises in 2004 due to threats surrounding the nearby Dirksen Federal Building. If the Consumer and Century buildings were to be demolished, the area would serve as a safety zone around the Dirksen.

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The city commission’s recent approval for the buildings to be considered for landmarking is just a preliminary step, though. The federal government ultimately has the authority to demolish the site if it’s deemed as serious of a security threat to the adjacent federal courthouse building as officials have claimed, citing the ability of building occupants to view judge’s chambers from the towers.

But the push-back could sway the GSA away from moving forward with the razing.

“This is an important step because the federal government and (General Services Administration) have not really heard clearly from the city of Chicago that the buildings are significant,” Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, told the outlet.

The buildings could be officially kept for the long haul if the commission gives final approval of their landmark status.

— Quinn Donoghue

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