4 vacant buildings on South State Street put out to bid

The 16-story Century Building, at 202 S. State Street (pictured in 2005), was designed by Holabird & Roche and completed in 1915. | Sun-Times file photo

Four vacant buildings that Mayor Rahm Emanuel called “monumental obstacles to development of an entire block” of South State Street were put out to bid Tuesday in hopes of jump-starting development on a marquee street.

All four buildings involved in the city’s “request for proposals” are owned by the federal government and are in the heart of the Loop Retail Historic District, which is listed on the U.S. Register of Historic Places.

The 16-story Century Building, 202 S. State, was designed by Holabird & Roche and completed in 1915.

Only renovations will be accepted for the building, which has 68,200 square feet of commercial space and is a “contributing structure” to the Loop Retail Historic District. It might even meet the criteria for designation as a Chicago landmark.

The interior of a floor in the Century Building in the 202 S. State St. | Provided photo

Same goes for the 22-story Consumers Building, 220 S. State. The city is insisting that the 104-year-old building, which has 198,400 square feet of commercial space, be saved and renovated.

The buildings in between those two anchors — at 212 and 214 S. State — are three- and six-stories tall respectively and can be demolished. But the city is insisting that competing developers preserve the storefront at the 131-year-old building at 214 S. State.

All four buildings were acquired by the federal government in 2005, amid plans for another federal building complex to buffer the courthouse and government office buildings nearby. The General Services Administration nixed the project and now wants to unload the buildings.

They will be sold in a three-way transaction between the GSA, the city and the private developer chosen through the requests for proposals process.

“For more than a decade, these buildings have stood as monumental obstacles to development on an entire block of one of Chicago’s marquee streets,” Emanuel said in a press release.

“Today, we are taking the first step to ensure this corridor reaches its potential to thrive and support jobs that reach every part of Chicago,” he said.

Planning and Development Commissioner David Reifman said the door is wide open to an array of uses that include hotels, residential, student housing, classrooms and office space.

“State Street is an extremely important corridor for the city. We want a high-quality development at that location . . . to take care of these buildings that are not in good shape. That will require thoughtful design and creativity,” Reifman told the Chicago Sun-Times.

“It’s not far from DePaul, Columbia College and all of that South Loop activity. It’s ideally suited for development, given a lot of the activity in the area. I don’t know what the ideal use would be,” he said. “We want a lot of foot traffic and people for this part of the city. But it could take different forms. We have to see what the market will bring. These are two historic buildings that can lend themselves to great urban character and integrity with the ability to redevelop space in the smaller buildings.”

Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) said whenever “landmark-worthy buildings are at risk,” his preference is to encourage preservation and adaptive re-use.

“All but one of these buildings are considered to be potentially landmark-worthy and all four of these buildings are definitely at-risk. They have not been well maintained and will require structural work and significant facade restoration,” Reilly wrote in an email.

“We have confirmed three of the four buildings included in the South State Street sale . . . are historically significant and I feel strongly that those buildings should be preserved and re-positioned for adaptive re-use,” he wrote.

Reilly noted that the fourth building, 212 S. State St., is “considered less significant” than the other three.

“While I would prefer to see that building retained as well, I believe the future owner should be given some flexibility to determine the future viability of that structure,” he wrote.

Given the significance of the buildings and their “prominence” on State Street, Reilly urged Reifman to “carefully review” respondents to the RFP and choose the competitor with “extensive experience preserving and re-using historic landmark buildings in downtown Chicago.”

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