In an eleventh-hour bid to save a piece of Chicago architecture history from the wrecking ball, preservationists are scrambling to find someone willing and able to remove the facade of a Daniel Burnham-designed building — by Monday.
The advocacy group Preservation Chicago issued an SOS on Thursday for the building at 1217 W. Washington Blvd., designed in 1910 by Daniel Burnham, revered as one of the greatest architects and city planners Chicago has ever produced.
Developer Phil Denny of Peppercorn Capital owns the property and applied for a demolition permit in 2017. Despite the building’s “orange” rating as “potentially significant,” which triggered a review by the city, Denny’s permit was ultimately approved in late January.
Preservation Chicago has continued to push for the rescue of at least some portion of the structure, originally home to the Chicago Machinery Exchange.
“Chicago is very fortunate to have this rich architecture history by these great architects. It’s what makes Chicago special. Blandness is so much a part of so many areas of our country — Chicago has a different standard,” said Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago.
“It’s tragic the developer, the alderman and the city didn’t have the wherewithal to save a building by D.H. Burnham,” Miller said. “For people not to understand it should be preserved befuddles me. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. You can’t have another one. You’re depleting an important cultural and historical resource.”
On Thursday, Miller struck a tentative deal with Peppercorn to minimally save the striking red and white three-story facade for reuse or relocation elsewhere. The arrangement is contingent on Preservation Chicago identifying by Monday an entity capable of removing the facade at their own expense, a cost Miller pegged in the range of $300,000.
Though he immediately reached out to developers who might be interested in salvaging the facade, Miller had yet to secure a commitment.
“It’s a big ask,” Miller acknowledged. “In all fairness, we have to try.”
Denny did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Peppercorn Capital also owns 1201 W. Washington Blvd., home of Sun-Times Media.
ALERT! Developer will NOT agree to sell or delay demolition, but is willing to donate D. H. Burnham & Co designed façade of 1217 W. Washington Blvd…IF AND ONLY IF, Preservation Chicago can find a taker who can remove façade at their own expense. We have until MONDAY!
— Preservation Chicago (@Pres_Chicago) February 1, 2018