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Farwell Hopes Dashed; Architecture Buffs Free to Panic

By Shannon in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 9, 2007 8:00PM

Wellsir, after much hemming and hawing, it is done. The last nail was rammed into the coffin yesterday for the Farwell Building. At a special meeting to determine the edifice’s fate, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks approved a plan to destroy it and rebuild it entirely, using only the current façade in the new construction. Commissioners passed it sweepingly with an 8-1 vote, believing that this was the best fate for the crumbling Farwell. Technically the proposal still has to go before City Council, but it seems to be all over but the crying.

farwellPreservationists protested one last time, but to no avail. Landmarks Illinois president David Bahlman led the charge, thoroughly upset at the wholesale demolition of an entire landmark (except for façade, of course). The Reader’s Lynn Becker delivers a predictably scathing breakdown on his blog. But as Prism Development Co. pointed out, the Farwell’s infrastructure is shaky at best; parts of the limestone façade are being held in place by pins. Naturally, they would rather take this controversial, policy-shattering path rather than repair and reuse. We understand that it would take boatloads of money in order to do such a thing, but the alternative still puts Chicago landmarked buildings in danger. So help us God if any developer even thinks of touching Carson’s. Your lives will be forfeit.

Perhaps the most touching part of the meeting came from Peter Hanig, proprietor of Hanig’s Footwear. One particular branch of Hanig’s has sat in the Farwell on the ground floor for over 30 years. The small business owner lamented that the move would destroy his chain, since the store in question was his most profitable. Not only that, he railed against what most preservationists fear: that Michigan Avenue was becoming “an urban strip mall with no uniqueness and no sense of community.” More depressing in a residential neighborhood as opposed to commercial, sure, but notable nonetheless.

Image via Kim Scarborough.