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That's a Shame ... Wait, We Won?!

By Shannon in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 7, 2007 6:48PM

farwell buildingThe architectural preservationist signal went up all over town Thursday afternoon. On that day, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks went to vote on the fate of the Farwell Building, an Art Deco/French-inspired edifice at 664 N. Michigan. Prism Development Company, the Farwell's current owner, put their proposal in front of the board: To strip the outside of the 11-story landmarked building of its facade, demolish the skeleton, and reattach the facade to a newly-built 40-story residential tower, the Ritz-Carlton Residences. What was now the Farwell would become a parking garage for the tower. Outrage and fear swept through local architecture critics, including Lynn Becker, who pasted a (justifiably) sensationalistic article on his blog. If the proposal passes, he agonized, what's to stop other landmarked buildings from getting the same treatment?

Then, something amazing happened.

After hearing Prism's proposal, along with arguments both for (most notably from that perpetual curmudgeon, Ald. Burt Natarus) and against (from Becker himself and Preservation Chicago's head honcho, Jonathan Fine), the commission, in whose hands everyone believed hung the future of landmarked buildings in Chicago ... shot it down. They voted 4-3, with one abstaining and one absent, to veto Prism's dastardly idea. Stunned doesn't begin to describe the reaction of preservationists citywide. Anyone who follows the battles of Chicago landmark designation knows that 9 times out of 10, the city caves to developers. The best rundown we read of the whole ordeal was a play-by-play on local blog The Place Where We Live (link via Gaper's Block). It's very heartening to see a little logic put into play, and to know Chicago's landmarked buildings are safe for another day. ... For now.