Monday, February 26, 2007

Endgame: Is the Fix in for the Farwell?

In January, to general astonishment, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks flashed a bit of backbone and voted down a Planning Department proposal to demolish the landmarked Farwell Building on north Michigan Avenue.

Well, we can't have that, can we?

A special session has been set for 9:00 A.M. on Thursday, March 8th to reverse the January vote. Read all about how power works in this city, including the developers and architects who are cutting the big checks to the local alderman promoting the Farwell's demolition here.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lynn,
Multiple engineers and architects have recommended removing the skin in order to save it. What are the technical credentials that give you the authority to question them?

Lynn Becker said...

Multiple in this case means two. And I dont question that the facade needs major attention. What I question is the phony way that this has been inextricably linked to the idea of demolishing the building. At the January hearing, the testifying engineer, in answer to a question, admitted that the replacement of the facade could be done on the existing building. The developer insists on tearing down the building because the adjacent site is too small for the 40 story tower they want to build on it They want to demolish the Farwell to get a staging area for construction and more space for parking.

Anonymous said...

If I'm not mistaken, there's the owner's architect, the owner's engineer, the landmarks commission's architects, and the landmarks commission's engineers. That's 4 separate organizations with multiple bodies each that probably have a dozen or more masters degrees. And your degree is in what?

Lynn Becker said...

I'm not aware of either the Landmarks commission having either architects or engineers on staff, unless you count the actual Commission members who are architects, who did not conduct a survey - the paid consultants did. You seem to be very good at not actually reading what I write. No one who testified has claimed the building itself is structurally deficient. The discussion of the state of the facade is being used a smokescreen for a proposal to demolish a legally designated landmark because the developer finds it convenient to do so.

Anonymous said...

There's at least 2 registered architects on the landmarks commission's staff, and I thought I read that they also used a consulting engineer. All I'm saying is that if you're going to trash professionals, get your facts straight.
Now it sounds like your position is drifting, or maybe just now getting more specific. Taking down and re-installing the facade material is ok as long as the original steel frame remains. Can they modify the steel frame? or is it sacred in its entirety? And if it is sacred, why? It will always be covered inside and out. No one will ever think about it again, ever. Is it really some hidden beams and bolts that you worry about, or is it that you just don't want it to be used differently, and you just don't want a new big building next to it? Are we talking about nimbyism here, or are we talking about historic preservation and what is or isn't practical.

Anonymous said...

When the Commission first rejected this application, the media portrayed the vote as a rejection of the City's position. In light of the defeat of Ald. Natarus, was the rejection simply deference to the wishes of incoming-Ald. Reilly? He is said to be more receptive to the concerns of the neighbors.

Anonymous seems to be in awe of degrees. However, he fails to recognize that if the same experts were asked how to repair the facade, as opposed to being asked how to permit the construction of a new tower on the site, that those experts would almost certainly have come up with ways to make those repairs.

Anonymous said...

"the concerns of the neighbors...
of a new tower on the site"
You answered my question. This is more of a nimby issue than a preservation issue.

Lynn Becker said...

I really don't think it's being perceived by anyone as a nimby issue because:
a. all manner of other high rises have gone up and will go up in the same area
b. I really don't think the Commission was deferring to Brendan Reilly since I don't think anyone really expected Ald. Natarus to lose.
c.. SOAR, which is the major community group in the area, actually testified in favor of the motion to demolish.

dan gath said...

As Lynn has eloquently argued in previous posts, the main issue of concern here is Chicago's Landmark protection ordinance. If one of the relatively few buildings given landmark designation is allowed to be demolished for a parking garage, are any other landmark buildings safe from a similar fate?

Buildings in far worse shape than the Farwell have been successfully rehabilitated - both from an aesthetic and economic standpoint. The Reliance building, for example, was largely reconstructed. Much of the facade was replaced and the interior was reconfigured as a hotel- with full support of preservationists. No one suggested tearing the building down and reapplying the facade to a new structure.

Finally, I think its important to note that the Farwell was a landmark long before Prism Development acquired it. They knew the constraints that the designation entailed. Presumably they also had the building inspected beforehand. Any claim of economic hardship is completely without merit.

Anonymous said...

yeah, slippery slope. we get it. you preservationists should just tatoo it to your foreheads.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone really believe that Prism will replace the facade? Prism already claims that the facade is crumbling. Prism will claim that during demolition the facade was irreparably harmed. There will be no facade to paste back on, or so Prism will claim. It is far cheaper to build a replica than to remove and reinstall the real thing.

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with a replica? Isn't a tour of the European city created at Disneyworld better than a tour of Europe?

the doctor is in said...

I just received this email from the Landmarks Commission:

"Your email will be forwarded to the landmarks commission as part of its review of the project.

As you may know, after much deliberation over the last year the Landmarks Division staff is recommending the proposed plan to dismantle and reconstruct the building. The exterior cladding is in very poor condition and has significant deficiencies in the original structural design, limiting in-place repair options which cannot be deferred. Both the developer's engineer and an independent engineer hired by the city are recommending that the exterior of the building be removed in its entirety so that the problem backup system can be replaced and the facades reconstructed. Given the significant cost of such extensive repairs, Landmarks staff believes that the proposed project is the best chance for preserving the building.

In the revised proposal, the parking has been reduced and reconfigured, with most relocated out of the historic building into the adjacent new tower. Retail is proposed for the first two floors, office on floors 3-5, and residential uses on floors 9-11. The building will not be a parking garage; only three of the upper-level floors (floors 6-8) will be used for parking, and the parking will not be visible from the street.

We have not arrived at this recommendation lightly, but we can understand the differing viewpoints regarding the project. Thank you for your comments.

Landmarks Division"

blech... it's over