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Historic Woodlawn bank building makes ‘most endangered buildings’ list as demolition looms

Preservation Chicago listed the Washington Park National Bank among seven of Chicago’s most endangered buildings in 2020.

The former Washington Park National Bank, at 63rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue.
The nearly century-old Washington Park National Bank building, 6300 S. Cottage Grove Ave., is facing demolition.
Leslie Adkins/For the Sun-Times

A long-vacant South Side bank building targeted for demolition has been listed as one of the seven “most endangered” buildings in Chicago, alongside the James R. Thompson Center and South Shore Cultural Center.

The former Washington Park National Bank in Woodlawn, built in 1924, makes Preservation Chicago’s annual list for the second time, even as developer DL3 Realty is currently working toward building anew at that site.

Built in 1924, the Cook County Land Bank Authority announced in March 2019 it planned to sell the building to Revive 6300, a joint venture of DL3 Realty and Greenlining Realty USA.

The building, at 63rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, was added to the Landmarks Illinois list of most endangered historic places last year.

Preservation Chicago said the building has been an “anchor” in the Woodlawn community for nearly a century, and is a “perfect candidate” for transit-oriented redevelopment.

The James R. Thompson Center state office building in the Loop also made the list. The state wants to unload the Thompson Center, which opened in 1985. In December, it picked a project management team led by Ernst & Young Infrastructure Advisors to handle the sale.

“After years of neglect, the Thompson Center has outlived its useful life in its current state, requiring $17 million a year just to operate — and it’s time to generate value for the taxpayers from selling the building,” Pritzker said at the time.

But the preservation group called the building, designed by Helmut Jahn, an “integral” part of downtown Chicago. Opened in 1985, several years of delayed maintenance have affected the building. The preservation organization said any repurposing should retain the design features of the building.

The James R. Thompson Center, designed by Helmut Jahn.
The James R. Thompson Center, designed by Helmut Jahn, 100 W. Randolph St., is up for sale by the State of Illinois after years of delayed maintence has affected the building.
Serhii Chrucky/Preservation Chicago
An Illinois Department of Central Management Services spokesperson confirmed Saturday that two potential buyers have submitted their plans to acquire the Helmut Jahn-designed Thompson Center.
A project management team led by Ernst & Young infrastructure Advisors will handle the sale of the James R. Thompson Center.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

The adjacent South Shore Cultural Center, Jackson Park and Midway Plaisance made the list for the fourth time. Preservation Chicago said 2020 will be a “critical” year in decision-making for the site, which would be impacted by the planned Obama Presidential Center in nearby Jackson Park.

A report prepared by the Federal Highway Administration on the effects of the proposed Obama Center said the project would change the historic nature of a stretch of boulevards that qualify for the National Register of Historic Places.

The South Shore Cultural Center. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times
Preservation Chicago said 2020 will be a “critical” year in decision-making for the South Shore Cultural Center and other nearby sites, which would be impacted by the planned Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park.
Colin Boyle/Sun-Times
Aerial view of Jackson Park, chosen site of the Obama Presidential Center.
Jackson Park includes a stretch of boulevards that qualify for the National Register of Historic Places, according to a report prepared by the Federal Highway Administration in January.
Sun-Times file photo

“This year we continue to see the threat to our public resources, which is of great concern — from the potential sale of the James R. Thompson Center, to the loss of 20 acres of lakefront park lands in Jackson Park, the Midway and the South Shore Cultural Center for the proposed Obama Presidential Center,” said Ward Miller, Preservation Chicago Executive Director.

“We need to prioritize strategies that put preservation first in public policy and practice so the history that ties us to our communities and connects us to place can be protected.”

The rest of the list includes:

  • Union Station Power House, 301 W Taylor St., has been vacant since 2011. Amtrak, who owns the building, has plans to demolish the site for a maintenance shed. The organization encourages the powerhouse, designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White firm, to remain intact and considers it a “beautiful art modern” piece.
  • Chicago Town & Tennis Club, 1925 W. Thome Ave., was built in 1924 and designed by Chicago architect George Washington Maher. Misericordia purchased the property and plans to build housing for developmentally disabled people.
  • Central Manufacturing District, a 265-acre area located in McKinley Park, contains structural sound buildings according to the organization. The district providing centralized finances, construction and transportation services in its heyday. The area is now facing developer pressure.
  • Roseland Michigan Avenue Commercial District, 176 acres of commercial, residential and institutional properties along Michigan Avenue in the Roseland and West Pullman, is also at a risk for demolition. The district historically provided shopping, food and entertainment for Far South Side communities and the organization believes it can be restored to better serve the needs of Roseland and Pullman community members.