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This Thursday, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks will consider bestowing official landmark status on the Wrigley Building, the gleaming cream terra cotta pair of towers that are one of the crown jewels of Chicago architecture. Designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, the two linked buildings - the main structure completed in 1921, the annex in 1924 - ended nearly a century serving as the high-profile headquarters of the Chicago gum maker last summer when the company, now a subsidiary of global candy behemoth Mars, announced it was dumping 100 Chicago area employees, and pulling out of the Wrigley Building, shifting the last 250 workers to its research center in the ritzy confines of Goose Island.
In September, a deal was finalized to sell the structure for $33 million to an investor group led by BDT Capital Partners. Earlier this month, the new owners announced their intentions to redevelop the buildings, and now the first new business on Thursday's Landmarks agenda is preliminary landmark designation for the Wrigley. The second agenda item is a recommendation to the City Council to approve a Class L Property Tax Incentive that would substantially reduce taxes on the building for the next 12 years, in exchange for renovations that would equal at least 50% of the complex's value.
While the actual terms of the ordinance had not been posted on the Commission's website as this is being written, it's reasonable to suppose that it will protect all exteriors facing Michigan, the river, and on the west facades. What is not clear is how the ordinance will address - if it all - the exterior of the two buildings facing the wide plaza between them.
in this photo essay, in August of 2010, the Mars subsidiary undertook a bargain-basement renovation of the plaza that saw, on the plus side, the removal of a dilapidated fountain and planters, versus, on the minus side, leaving behind an ugly motley of paving, and the installation of new generic and cheap-looking storefronts on the annex side of the plaza that gashed an ugly scar across the elegant terra cotta ornament of the historic facades.
In either case, the landmarks ordinance for the building needs to be written to protect the Wrigley Building plaza from further insensitive assaults on its distinctive architecture. We've already seen, in the Mars renovation, how not to do it, but there are any number of ways to do it correctly, and the ordinance should make sure the new owners, whose hearts seem to be in the right place, are encouraged to adopt one of them in meeting their own needs.
trashed Hoerr Schaudt's distinctive landscaping for a cheaper and more generic alternative.
Outside of the landmarking process, there needs to be more planning between Trump and Wrigley management in helping the plaza and promenade realize its full potential as a vibrant civic amenity. In this case, the Wrigley could actually take the lead. Imagine, on a warm summer day, people taking a break from their workday or shopping watching the world go by as they sit at a Wrigley Plaza table enjoying a leisurely meal or sipping coffee. It's a large space, and a lot can be done with it, both with permanent retail installations, and with event programming throughout the year.
The monthly meeting of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks takes place Thursday, February 2, in City Hall chambers, room 201-A, 121 North LaSalle, at 12:45 p.m. It is open to the public.
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