Preservation Chicago aims to save the fabric of Streeterville


(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Elisa Shoenberger

Preservation Chicago champions Chicago’s legendary architecture and is working to preserve the character of neighborhoods. The nonprofit is behind recent efforts to landmark 15 post-fire mansions in Streeterville and River North. These buildings include 42 and 44-46 E. Superior Street and the building that houses restaurant Les Nomades (222 E. Ontario).

Ward Miller, Executive Director of Preservation Chicago, explains that “the proposed Near North landmark district has received preliminary landmark status. It has received a report from the Department of Planning and Development Preservation Division.” The process can take more than a year but sometimes “a demolition permit is expedited by three months.” 

The three buildings on Superior had an active demolition permit, which helped precipitate these landmarking efforts. To be eligible, the buildings have to meet at least two designation criteria as well as integrity criteria; in this case, there was enough historic significance to help make the case for landmarking efforts.

Part of the landmarking process requires consent of the building’s owners who have 45 days or of no more than 120 days with an extension to make a decision in accordance with the Chicago Landmarks Ordinance.  That period ends on November 4th, according to Peter Strazzabosco, Deputy Commissioner, Chicago Department of Planning and Development. If any owners reject the proposal, there will be a public hearing.

Founded in 2001, Preservation Chicago has had their share of wins and loses; Prentice Women’s Hospital, located at 333 E. Superior, was demolished in 2013 despite efforts of advocates like Preservation Chicago. The building had been built by Bertrand Goldberg, who was also behind Marina City. 

But Miller explains that the loss of the building “did force Northwestern and the city to have robust discussion about protecting the historic buildings that form that Chicago Avenue wall” including the Montgomery Ward Memorial Building, Wieboldt Hall, and the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. However, Miller explains that the nonprofit is not against development but wants to “encourage sensitive development.” 

“We want to see buildings preserved and to avoid bigger taller buildings that have an impact on the quality of life,” Miller explains. These smaller buildings help keep the character of the neighborhood and provide homes for local businesses. 

“These buildings give a sense of neighborhood from another age and add to the charm and vision of Michigan Avenue,” Miller says. Miller questions: “Are we killing the golden goose? by overdeveloping Streeterville and River North.

Preservation Chicago will continue in its work to help preserve the character of Chicago in Streeterville and all the other neighborhoods in Chicago.

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