Friday, January 11, 2008

Endgame for One of Chicago's Great Public Places?

The Chicago Daily News Building, Holabird and Root's elegant Art Deco skyscraper from 1929, was the first building constructed over railroad air rights. With its broad graceful plaza, it was the first project not to turn its back on the Chicago River, but to embrace it. Now the Daily News Building is threatened with being cast in the shadows, and its great plaza destroyed, by a new office tower reportedly being considered by billionaire developer Sam Zell. Read all about the building's history, endangered present, and future potential, here.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great article, Lynn. Thanks for keep us informed about this bad plan.

The views of this building from the plaza and the river and from the buildings on the other side of the river are all important. They tell the viewer that this is Chicago, not Houston. We should not cover up this building or this plaza.

Anonymous said...

When will architects get a spine and refuse commissions like this? A "first, do no harm" oath should be required to get your license.

Anonymous said...

I dont understand why so many class c office towers are being demolished or scheduled for demolition when theres clearly a market. My small firm would love to be in an old outdated class c office with fantastic views. Just what the Loop needs, another block long wall of lobby glass you cant enter without an id badge. My walks to the train were infinately more interesting before most of you could remember when there was actual urbanity and life to the city streets, not midwest offices of east coast banks with sterilized lobbies and shear cliffs of blue glass. What a waste of space this would be.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:16,
You're thinking about clergy, not architects. Get it straight.

Anonymous said...

I was actually thinking of doctors. A surgeon wouldn't agree to saw off my healthy arm if I paid him enough money. Ethics do have a role in architecture.

Anonymous said...

This would really be an unpardonable sin. I'm no activist, but if this project ever comes close to being realized, I'll participate in whatever way I can to help preserve the existing plaza. Please keep your readers apprised of any opportunity to formally state our strong objections to the potential defilement of one of Chicago's great public spaces. Zell should be held personally accountable.

Anonymous said...

If it was to go through, the intent or effect of the open plaza should be preserved - it would be possible, however doubtful, to create a public plaza beneath a high rise or extremly dramatic public space that captures the same essence of the existing - but i doubt it would be built.

Pete said...

I worked in that building for most of the last five years, before the private buyout of Equity Office put me and most of my colleagues out of a job. Though I greatly respect Sam Zell's business acumen, the timing of this whole thing seems very curious, as it comes less than a year after he implicitly acknowledged that the commercial office market had peaked, and cashed out to the tune of $1.1 billion by agreeing to EOP being taken private by Blackstone Group. This peak would seem to be confirmed by the plight of the current owners of the EOP office portfolios in NYC and Orange County, CA, who eagerly snapped up properties flipped by Blackstone but now find themselves on the brink of bankruptcy because the prices they paid simply weren't supported by the underlying economics of the buildings. There has been a huge amount of froth in the office building markets for the past several years, and Zell recognized the bubble and cashed out. Smart for him.

But now, after having spent most of this century disparaging Loop office developers for continuing to toss up new towers while demand for Loop office space remained soft, Zell apparently wants to join their speculative ranks. I guess office development was only a bad thing when developers threatened his bottom line - but now that he's not competing with them (other than his personal ownership of Two North Riverside Plaza), then it's just fine to build new office buildings even though market demand isn't there.

Why he's doing this now, I can't even begin to guess, but in this instance it's not good for the city. This plaza is an underutilized and underappreciated gem of a public space, something which is in increasingly short supply in the developer-mad Loop. Let's do whatever we can to prevent this from happening.

Dave Strong said...

As publisher of the Chicago Daily News, my grandfather commissioned this building. In addition to providing a path-breaking public amenity, the Daily News Building was conceived and dedicated as a bulwark against political corruption, irresponsible journalism, and corporate greed.
I am researching a biographical essay which will help put the building in its historical context.

dstrong@vtlink.net

Anonymous said...

Oh, NO! Please do not allow this wonderful building to be destroyed. I worked there for many happy years and the air around it was rarified. To close it in with more ugly glass buildings is to insult the great architects of the past. Is there no one left who cares? The crummy buildings in Houston have no history, nor beauty. Chicago should preserve its gifts.

Anonymous said...

As a person who as a boy used to deliver the best newspaper in the history of Chiacgo,the Daily News, I cringe at the thought of this wonderful building being modified or worst case torn down for another Trump like paly ground. The building is Chicago and as I have pointed out is more than brick and mortar.Mike Royko, where are you when we most need you.

Anonymous said...

More depressing news about the serious demise of Chicago...I truly feel that's its over for this town. There is really no respect or belief in saving the best of it's existing architectural gems. The very fact that the Daily News Mural is down and being stored some where is complete lunacy!! What other major modern thriving city in the US is doing this kind of thing- the answer NO OTHER!!! Just greedy, middle minded, middle western Chicago. It is becoming a totally banal place at time when many other cities with much less to offer are embracing their architectural heritage. The dumb, fat suburban public who walk the streets gawking at anything shinny are the audience of the future of the New City of Chicago Mall...as it should aptly be renamed.