Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Waiting for the Skin: 400 South Jefferson Stripped to the Bones

 click images for larger view
Above is the corner of Jefferson and Tilden in February.
This was the corner of Jefferson and Tilden this weekend.

400 South Jefferson was constructed in 1946 for the Newman-Rudolph Lithographing Company.  Architect Alfred S. Alschuler II's streamlined, Art Moderne structure slipped a bit of the Bauhaus into Chicago beneath the radar of controversy,  Set within a  near West Side commercial district full of turn-of-the-century loft buildings, it was an optimistic statement for a post-war Chicago that was actually about to enter a final peak flowering just before going into steep decline.  Now it's being skinned alive of its gracious, multi-toned masonry facade.  Late 20th century printing presses could thrive bricked up like Fortunato; 21st century office workers chafe.

Newman-Rudolph Lithographing moved out in 1966. Although the building would remain home to a number of other printing companies, its most famous occupant was the Selective Service, as seen in the 1967 photo below, courtesy of the Chuckman Archive.  During the Vietnam War, thousands of inductees were processed like cattle on their way to the slaughterhouses of Southeast Asia. 
In the last decade, the derelict near-West Side has again come alive as a primarily residential district, one loft building after another converted to condos or apartments, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel still has plans to reinvigorate it as a commercial district, as well.  Last December, he announced that 400 South Jefferson is to become the home to half of the Sara Lee Corporation, relocated from Downers Grove with the assistance of $5 to $6.5 million of taxpayer assistance through the Canal-Congress TIF.   Sara Lee is splitting itself into two companies, and we're getting what's currently operating under the placeholder name of MeatCo - Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm, Ball Park, etc. The press release claimed a minimum of 500 jobs would be coming to Chicago, a number less than half the division's current employee head count.  Reports that a Mrs. Nellie Lovett of London has been contracted to manage outplacement of non-survivors remain unverified.
According to a recent Advertising Age report,  MeatCo is in the midst of a year-long process to come up with a permanent identity. Apparently Wild Onion Meats has already been ruled out.   Reportedly also falling away from the list of finalists are Dead Animal Flesh 'R We, and Beatrice.
Sterling Bay Companies acquired the 230,000 square-foot structure, on a two-acre site, in January of this year, and have entered into a long-term lease with MeatCo for 95% of the space.  "Sterling Bay began a complete renovation of the building, including: replacing the façade with a new glass curtain wall, installing new passenger elevators, updating all major building systems, and creating indoor parking for over 60 cars."  The city's Department of Community Development Report lists Gina Berndt of Perkins+Will as architect of the $30 million project, which should look pretty much like this when finished next year . . . 
[image removed]
(Note:  comments to this post from Proteus Group objected to not being credited in the rendering of the project.  It was presented at a public press conference, but we've still removed it.  Normally, we're more than happy to accept corrections, but the snarky, self-satisfied tone of their posts doesn't encourage humility.  Proteus Group is not mentioned in the official city document we cited, and Sterling Bay failed to respond to our request for the names of the architects for this project.  If you want to be properly credited, don't ignore our emails.  Or at least get your client's website to admit you exist.  The renderings there don't show your copyright either. And speaking of accuracy, you may want to fix your own website, which claims "Proteus Group focuses 100% on healthcare facilities."  And try not to be such pompous windbags.)

11 comments:

Unknown said...

AFrom the time I first saw it (in the mid '80s) I admired this building for its streamlined look. I interpreted the five story elevator tower as a preparation for addition of more floors.

Art Perry said...

Yeah, what was the point of that tower historically, and what will the point be in the new incarnation?

Also the building has support columns very narrowly spaced within which is quite different from most modern office towers. How is that going to look when finished? Probably not going to be the most open office workspace ever designed...

Anonymous said...

Gina and Perkins & Will are NOT the architects of the core and shell. Proteus Group is. P&W is doing the interior build-out...please correct the information in the blog!!

The building was never intended to be higher. The tower was hiding the water tank for the building that you see exposed elsewhere and other mechanical equipment. It will now be conference rooms most likely.

The actual architect for this project. said...

To clarify my comment above the grant money from the City is only being applied to the build-out of the actual Sara Lee space and not the core and shell that Sterling Bay is developing. Proteus Group was hired by Sterling Bay as the architects for the core and shell work. The rendering should have included our copyright on the image which is missing.

Anonymous said...

Sad to see the real architect of record not given credit for their work. Better research (say driving by the site were Proteus Group is clearly displayed) is required.

Jyoti said...

Wow someone seems angry! The anonymous, seeking name credit, should attach his/her own name to the comment [I think!] Love it when people attach names to their comments!

Elaine W said...

Are you sure that Alfred Alschuler was the original architect of a 1946 building? I believe he died in 1940 (although one or more of his sons became architects, so that may be who you are referring to).

Lynn Becker said...

Elaine,

That's why I listed the architect as Alfred Alschuler II. Although most references refer simply to Alfred Alschuler, I also noticed that the six year gap between the year of Alshuler's death and the 1946 date of the building seemed a little long, so I'm assuming it was the work of the son, who had his own practice, and who was soon to go on to work with Mies van der Rohe on 860-880 North Lake Shore Drive.

Esther said...

father: Alfred S. Alschuler (1876-1940)
son: Alfred Samuel Alschuler, Jr. (1911-2002)
son: John Haas Alschuler (1918 or 1919-2004)
[daughter: Marian Alschuler Despres (1909-2007), Chicago Architecture Foundation founder]

Anonymous said...

I wish Perkins and Will were the architects. Judging from the quality of the work on Proteus's website, the design will likely be pedestrian and mediocre.

Sterling Bay should have higher standards for a prominent location.

Anonymous said...

Leopardo Companies, Inc. is the General Contractor