Friday, January 05, 2007

One More Farwell Update

For the moment, at least, it's official. The proposal to demolish the landmark Farwell Building was defeated at a Commission on Chicago Landmarks meeting today. The votes of the individual commissionser were as follow:
Yes - David Mosena (Chairman)
Yes - Lori T Healy (Chicago Commissioner of Planning and Development)
Yes - Ben Weese
Yes - Christopher R. Reed
No - Phyllis Ellin
No - Edward I Torrez
No - Lisa Willis
Abstain - Ernest C. Wong
The ninth member of the Commission, real estate legend John Baird, did not attend today's session.
We'll publish more details of the meeting, including the comments of individual commissioners explaining the reasons for their votes, and some suggestions as to where to go from here, sometime over the next week.

For now, here's link to the Chicago Tribune, which was quick to post the news of the vote on its website (including - it's a miracle! - an actual rendering of the proposed project), both a straight report by Johnathon E. Briggs, and an analysis by Trib architecture critic Blair Kamin, who captured the surprise and shock that accompanied the vote in his lead:
Pigs flew. When Chicago's landmarks commission stiffened its spine Thursday and throttled a plan for a spectacularly ill-conceived act of architectural taxidermy, the vote was a stunner.


Anonymous said...

Since you're promoting the Tribune's coverage, one should point out that the paper has never reported on historic preservation in an unbiased fashion. It's unfortunate. You would think that people who work in the Tribune Tower would undersand the difference between landmark worthy structures and those that aren't. Their reports on preservation issues have always included comments from the usual preservation activists but never from those with an alternate view unless they had a direct financial interest.

JB Powers said...

Anon 7:33 makes a good point as to the Tribune. Is there another opinion? I like most of the (Philip and George) Maher Buildings and would like them to remain standing, but I also think business should make money. Those are two sides of the issue. Is there another side?

Is someone out there actually saying, "The architectural history of Chicago is not worth saving because it is not good"?


anon7:33 said...

Preservationists think that everything that is old is landmark worthy. Others think that only great buildings are landmark worthy.
Preservationists hate creative adaptive re-use. Others are in favor.
Preservationists are offended by the futuristic addition to Adler Planetarium. Others think it looks good.
Preservationists think that property ownership is irrelevent. To others, it matters.
So there are other sides to the debate.

Lynn Becker said...

I'm sorry, but I think you may have been deceived by who you've talking to. You haven't been talking to preservationists. You've been talking to straw man.

Anonymous said...

Lynn, I'm not sure what you mean by that, but I have one additional observation about preservationists. They are completely obsessed with the slippery slope theory. Notice how the Carson Piere Scott building was dragged into the Farwell building debate. How could anyone be so paranoid?

Anonymous said...

This horrible project was a creative idea? I'm sorry, but either the developer is greedy or stupid if they cannot find a way to renovate and reuse a building on a prime site on one of the world's grand shopping streets. Not only that, but by price per square foot, this is either the most or second most expensive building in Chicago, so yes, Chicago deserves better.

ChicagoJason said...


I challenge you to name one "preservationist" who thinks that everything old is worth saving, hates adaptive reuse, and hates the Shedd addition. Since you are too chicken-s**t to even give yourself a unique pseudonym for commenting, I seriously doubt you can produce any real person who fits the cartoon "preservationist" stereotype that Lynn so rightly derided as a straw man.

Troll elsewhere, please.

Anonymous said...

That's easy. Look no further than the Tribune's standard go-to guys, Jonathan Fine, Jim Peters, David Bahlman.

JB Powers said...

The Maher wing of the Art Institute got knocked down for (in my opinion) a cancerous and hugely priced add-on.

Now either/or:

1) The preservationists do not have much to say about this sort of thing.

2) The Maher Wing was not all that hot (it wasn't but it was better than the new wing being built)

3) If a quasi public entity does the development, it gets and easier ride than a private enterprise.

I think all of the above, which also negates anon 7:33 argument.


Lynn Becker said...

to JB - forgive my ignorance, but when you're talking about the Maher Wing are you talking about the Howard Van Doren Shaw Goodman Theatre, which is the only structure that I know having been knocked down for the new Piano Modern Wing?

If that's what you're referring to, the structure was on Preservation Illinois's Most Endangered List, although you're correct that it wasn't the subject of a pitched battle. This may, as you suggest, have something to do with the fact that it's a semi-public entity (although the AIC of Chicago is, at last definition, a private organization), but it may also have a lot to do with factors such as the fact that it's namesake tenant had abandoned it, that booking theatres is a tough business, and the AIC doesn't really want to be in the theater business to begin with. If anything, it indicates that preservationists do, in fact, pick their battles, and don't try to preserve everything. i.e, the LaSalle Garage.

anon733 said...

My original point was that the Tribune does an awful job of reporting on preservation issues.

As for the question of just how much influence the activists have, and whether they ever exercise restraint, my feeling is this:
Yes, they do pick their battles, but only to avoid humiliating defeats; and one thing they understand is Chicago politics. They know better than anyone that the Landmarks Commission has orders to uphold 'aldermanic prerogative' at all costs, and the activists are informed in advance of their chances of success. If they hear that the alderman has no opinion, then they throw judgment and restraint out the window.

These guys have conflicts of interest. They are full time activists who raise money for their organizations, and therefore their own salaries, by pandering to zealots. Furthermore, I'm not an attorney, but it is clear that they are getting paid to influence legislation, and I think that puts them in violation of state law since they have not registered as lobbyists.

Anonymous said...

Is anon 733 Jon Rodgers, one of the developers?

Anonymous said...

Well, to all of you preservationists, why dont you go find a tree to hug. Go to the forest where you might do some good. That building is a crumbling wreck and that has been proven by two seperate engineering firms. One firm was hired by the proposed developer (Prism development) and the other was an unbiased third party firm hired by the city. Both agreed that the building is in dire need of help. It's held together by metal pins because of poor comstruction techniques used when it was originally built. The roof is being held on with chicken wire. This building may appear to look nice from a distance but upon closer inspection it's junk. This is what you are wasting your time in trying to save? You act like the building is a living entity and it will be sad if it is REDUCED to a parking garage. The building should be glad that someone is going to fix it up and use it for ANYTHING. Prism was going to spend 8 million dollars to incorporate that piece of junk building into a 1920's themed luxury condo with shops and eateries. This would have BLENDED perfectly into the existing structure. When the old facade would have been put back on it would have been done with todays strict building codes and also done with new techniques and materials. You would have had your 1920's style building back with another 1920's style addition to it done by a company that put a lot of thought and effort into keeping that style. The building would have been the Ritz Carlton, a world renowned company that's been around for 100 years, actually, longer than the farwell building! Ritz would have been adding its style and quality to the decrepid structure you're all so attached to. Maybe Chicago doesnt deserve something that nice. What building was torn down to put up the farwell building?? Wasnt the Farwell building NEW at one time also?? Were people at that time bitching about THAT NEW structure then?? I know all of you have had new things in your life. When a new item is built with quality, like the Ritz would have been, it's the best. Walking into your new house or driving your new car. That feeling you get comes from new "STUFF". Retro has fairly recently made a comeback the NEW mustang that looks like an old one. The new Ford Thunderbird that looks like an old one. Clothing with new materials that looks retro. The difference is that it's new. Old cars have old brakes and antiquated suspension and steering, no antilock brakes or airbags plus many more features. I would rather have an old "LOOKING" building that is actually new. That is exactly what Prism was going to do, build an old LOOKING tower that was actually cool!!! I hope someone else buys it and turn it into a hooters or a strip club and it falls apart and looks like hell...but the building will feel good because someone is inside it.

Anonymous said...

Just a note for those who think the landmarks preservation committee are a bunch of great do-gooders. Check the article on Arenda Troutman, the chairman (woman in this case) of chicago city council committee on historical landmarks preservation. She was arrested on bribery charges in connection with the building of a shopping mall. She would give it the go ahead for 5000.00 and contributions to her campaign to be re-elected fund. I can bet the mall was NOT by her house, however, the church that she would have protected with her life in front of bulldosers was. You really should read the article and see what kind of trash this woman is.