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Michigan Ave Streetwall Now Endangered On A National Scale

By Marcus Gilmer in News on May 19, 2008 9:10PM

2008_05_Streetwall.jpgLast month, we told you about the state's endangered landmarks list, which included the famed Michigan Avenue Streetwall, the nearly one-and-a-half mile stretch of skyline that runs from 11th Street to Randolph St. Now, the Streetwall is hitting the national scene after being added to the D.C.-based National Trust for Historic Preservation's list of the nation's 11 most endangered historic places, which comes out tomorrow. (Again with a list of 11!)

While the National Trust has no legal authority, it does have a sterling reputation and a certain weight it can use to support local preservation groups. However, this being Chicago, nothing is straightforward. While the Streetwall is an officially-protected city landmark district, "only the facades of its buildings are protected, unless they happen to be individual city landmarks," meaning parts of the building that are not part of the Streetwall can be altered. At least, we think that's what it means. Blair Kamin explains at The Skyline:

So the city has been evaluating proposals like the one the Trust singled out for derision: As announced last year, it would have hacked off roughly the rear two-thirds of the Venetian-Gothic Chicago Athletic Association Building at 12 S. Michigan Ave. to make way for a 19-story hotel tower. The tower would have risen above the original building’s roof like a grotesque ziggurat. Worse, it would have set a precedent for more of these rooftop monsters, as forecast in a study of the streetwall commissioned by the Chicago-based preservation group, Landmarks Illinois.

Still, the odds are in favor of the preservationists. While Landmarks Illinois has struggled to save their listed places (their save rate of 27 percent is only slightly better than their demolished rate of 20 percent), the National Trust's list has a save rate of over 50 percent and a demolished rate of only 3 percent.

Photo of the Michigan Ave. Streetwall courtesy of Steven Crane