Saturday, October 18, 2008

Uncle Sam: State Street Slumlord?

I know times are tough, but this is ridiculous. Who would have thought the Federal government would be channeling the spirit of Lou Wolf to become the blightmasters of State Street?

Read the sad story of the GSA's neglect of Holabird and Roche's once proud 1916 Century Building, 202 S. State Street - and see all the pictures - here.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Watch things like this get fixed as the city starts getting some presidential attention.

Stephan said...

McCain is not from Chicago, old sport.

rjj said...

Great article Lynn.

Too bad with the TIF district going away at the end of the year and retail difficulties, it is going to take a lot to restore this building to its splendor.

Until then, enjoy a nice piece of Detroit - a gorgeous building neglected and abandoned part way through rehab plans.

Anonymous said...

Theres no excuse for this whatsoever. rjj I think the TIF is the cause of this type of blight. By funneling, err, subsidising giant class A office space on wacker drive the TIF artificially lowers demand for offices which otherwise would be able to support these old buildings and possibly drive them to being rehabbed into class B and maybe even A offices spaces. Throw the G and what a perfect market mess.

Anonymous said...

I seriously doubt this space would become class A office space. The location is not great (West Loop near commuter trains is the best) and the building is very narrow which is not what large companies want. The best options would be residential conversion or to become part of a larger GSA structure.

rjj said...

Once you have an understanding about how a TIF program works, then perhaps you can comment on it. TIF is not the cause of blight. No one being able to afford to do the project is the cause of blight. The city runs through each project that is considered for TIF financing - in all cases their is a budget gap between what it takes to build a building downtown (including residency requirements, MBE/WBE which raises the prices of some really great minority firms who are a lock for the project because of their great work, and safety/logistic issues associated with building downtown) and what can be gotten in rent. The city does not want developers cutting corners and wants to remain one of the architecture capitals of the world. So somehow the money has got to appear. Thus, TIFs. Love them or hate them, it eliminates blight, empty lots in the city, etc., and gets property taxes and jobs back to the city. (Assuming everything works properly)

With a historic renovation, it is even tougher. Not only do you have the above issues, but now you need to rehab to previous splendor, which is even more expensive. And most likely the building will not be a Class A building due to the infrastructure of the building. (Building class has nothing to do with location) So now you've got a decision - take a wrecking ball and destroy the history of Chicago for another steel and glass tower or find a solution to get the money to rehab.

Anonymous said...

The TIF has nothing to do with this building folks. It's owned by the federal government and they would pay for any renovation work. Getting such money is not easy, as it requires federal appropriations from Congress. But perhaps the negative PR will help push the case to get a renovation project funded.

Lynn Becker said...

rjj's description is how TIF's should work. unfortunately, in Chicago they've become gigantic slush funds that are enablers for connected developers and for such public policy disasters as the mothballed $200 mil "superstation" under block 37. In siphoning off such a huge portion of tax revenues as to leave the city slashing essential services in the time of a major economic downturn, Chicago could well become the place where TIF's DO clause blight.

In terms of the Century, everyone acknowledges that the building is in bad shape, and at least some would say it's not worth the cost of saving. That issue is still to be decided, but the city deserves better in the meantime. We're not talking about a huge expenditure here - just enough to turn the appearance of the street level facades and scaffolding from a slumlord's delight into to something reasonably attractive. Developers do it all the time with scaffolding and lower floors of new buildings under construction. There is no good reason the feds can't do the same here.

rjj said...

I'm confused as to how the TIF program directly caused CTA's mothballed station? On the surface, the two don't seem related at all. Additionally, I'm curious as to what connections the original developer of the station, Mills, had over prior developers with significantly more experience.

I love your idea for something to make the Century palatable during the recession, but yet this still costs money - where's it coming from and how's it being recovered? Is there another shoe store that you can stick there?

Boy I wish this was easier...

Anonymous said...

RJJ - What I meant by the TIFF causing blight, or at least in this case this building's blight, is that by using TIF money to help fund new towers along Wacker or the Dearborn and Monroe tower, it broadens the amount of new class A space, so more businesses move up to better space than smaller firms move up and out of older buildings like this to fill the void. The TIF is causing demand softening for older buildings who then fall into disrepair. I should know because I used to work in 220 S. State - part of the FED block and neighbor of the building above. We wanted to stay but the FED was losing money so the mothballed the whole complex. Now we can never move back to the loop depsite all the vacancies.

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of federally-owned buildings that need repairs and alterations. A large part of the federal budget is paying for a war right now, so this section of State Street will not be redeveloped until our elected officials make it a priority.

Anonymous said...

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beanqueen said...

I am interested in the history of this building as Pop-Up Art Loop has given our arts collective this location for a project. Thank you for the great photos and history! I hope to find images from it's "crappy lunch buffet" days the guys from the Berghoff were telling me about.

Anonymous said...

Horrible building image.
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