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Preservationists' Magnificent Seven

By Justin Sondak in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 10, 2005 11:47PM

Calling attention to unique and threatened urban spaces, Preservation Chicago has released their annual list of endangered Chicago buildings. Not much on the list will surprise anyone who follows the ongoing drama of developer/preservationist smackdowns.

We expected to see:

Promontory Point, with its beautiful but fading limestone steps. If the City has its way, these will go the way of their concrete-laden counterparts to the north.

DePaul University’s Hayes-Healey Center, which the CTA plans to encroach upon during Brown Line reconstruction, remains an inspiration to Goth kids all over the north side.

The New York Life Building, among the few remaining William LeBaron Jenney steel-framed skyscrapers in Chicago, has become the target of a vertical-expansion project. Critics fear putting additional stories on top would destroy a piece of history.

Owners of Waveland and Sheffield Avenue rooftops will be elevating their buildings to keep up with expansion of the Wrigley Field bleachers. Owners have been at odds with the Cubs since they announced Wrigley expansion, and whether they can build new prime outfield seats without disrupting neighborhood character will be the new fight.

Then there are the creative interpretations of the word “building”:

The Pilsen neighborhood. Do you like those instant condos morphing from UIC’s south flank? Developers hope to bring them to Pilsen. Preservation Chicago thinks that’s a bad idea and they’ve got a strong case: Maxwell Street aside, University Village and its neighbors were mostly built upon outdated and abandoned industrial sites. But Pilsen is an established center of Mexican-American culture that even the most jaded gringo could love.

Halsted Street between 59th and 61st could be completely transformed by the Englewood Commercial Development Corporation in an effort to renew one of Chicago’s poorest and oldest neighborhoods. Eradicating poverty is a noble cause, but preservationists advocate using scalpels rather than bulldozers.

And a project that doesn’t have a prayer:

circuitcourtweb.jpgThe Cook County Domestic Violence Building on South Michigan Avenue. Haven’t heard of this one? The County Board thinks that’s just fine. They abandoned it last month and are planning to sell it (read: prepare it for demolition). Originally the home of the Interior Furniture Company, this squat Classical structure was built to withstand heavy industry. But no amount of terra cotta and smart engineering can withstand area politics.