Thursday, March 08, 2007

Natural Order Restored - The Farwell is Toast

In a a dazzling display of raw political power and overwhelming self-deception, The Society for the Protection of Wealthy Developers, formerly known as the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, voted this morning to demolish the landmark Farwell Building on North Michigan and remount the surviving elements of its facade on a new structure.
Voting in favor the motion were Chairman David Mosena, John Baird, Lori Healey, Lisa Willis, Ernest C. Wong, Phyllis Ellin, Christopher R. Reed and Ben Weese. The sole commissioner not to drink the Kool-Aid and voting no was Edward I. Torrez. The other commissioners kept repeating the mantra of "This is not a precedent. This is not a precedent" as if trying to convince themselves that it could actually be true.

More to come


Anonymous said...

There is still the City Council. If it follows the tradition of aldermanic prerogative the decision is now in the hands of Brendan Reilly.

Anonymous said...

The Landmarks commission is a joke that needs to be replaced ASAP before more banal beige Lucien Lagrange towers take over the city.

Anonymous said...

Although I agree with anonymous regarding about Lagrange, I strongly disagree with you both about the Landmarks Commission. Look, the facade of the Farwell building is in serious bad shape. One way or another it was coming down. The interior was never even in play for preservation (this follows national and local landmark standards). In the previous scheme you could read parking structure through the windows. This is not acceptable and the Commission shot that down. The design has been modified so that real uses offices/condos will be read through the windows. What you will have in return is a beuatiful restored facade that retains its historic significance and preserves the streetwall. I'd be curious as to what people think of the McGraw Hill Building, now Nordstroms? A similar process was used there. I think most people think it works fine.

Anonymous said...

They are replacing one boring banal beige building with another, who cares--at least the new one is tall. We should be much more concerned with gross boring (I heart louvers) Renzo Piano tearing down the fabulous Paul Rudolph in Boston--not because his facade system of a building is going to be built in its place, but to make room for the plaza.

Anonymous said...

I recently gave a sizeable donation to the Museum of Science and Industry along with my annual membership fee. While my donation doesn’t exactly rank enough to etch my name into the zinc wallplates near the entrance, I did notice that the Museum President, David Mosena, “thanked” me for my contribution. Is this the same Mosena that is on the Commission?

Lynn Becker said...

It is, indeed, the same Mr. Mosena.

Anonymous said...

You can also thank Mr. Mosena in part for the current state of another dilapidated Chicago landmark, the CTA. He was CTA president in the early 1990s under Richie Daley.

Anonymous said...

Oops, make that "He was CTA president in the mid-late 1990s..."

Anonymous said...

If Prism was smart (which one can assume they have some intelligence for finding out a way to stealthily bribe Lori Healy, perhaps buying her a lifetime supply of tacky make-up?)then why not just sell that property to someone who would want to actually rehab the whole building for retail or something that would actually fit better into the existing retail landscape of N. Michigan Avenue. Why not try and get Harrod's of London involved again - they tried in the 90's to bring their trademark mall to Chicago - or even Printemps of Paris?? There could be so many more productive, interesting and lasting uses for that building that wouldn't set a bad precedent for destroying the City's built history. The fact of the matter remains that the head of the Building Dept. (Healy) is not an architect, designer, planner or preservationist - yes she was a principal at Perkins + Will for a few years and having met her once, she is incredibly intelligent, capable and focused, but she is first and foremost a business person, who's main focus is dollar $ign$ and how the building dept. can benefit from anything regarding construction in the City - she doesn't and never will give two s**ts about preservation, protection, adaptive re-use because in her mind (and I'm sure in the minds of other cronies in the Building Dept.) anything regarding preservation is perceived as too expensive, risky and potentially painstaking. Preservation is not a logical option for someone like Healy and her ilk.

Anonymous said...

In response to the previous comment - Retail space more than two stories up is worth far less than condo space. Condo space becomes more valuable as one goes up. Thus, the ecomonics are not as favorable for your suggestion as for Prism's plan.

Does Prism own this site? Everyone seems to assume so. However, from its own website Prism appears to be two ne'er-do-well guys with no real substance. Could they have afforded to buy the site?

Anonymous said...

Prism Development is not even the real developer. Rather an entity known as 670 N. Michigan, LLC is.

"The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Chicago, Magnificent Mile are not owned, developed or sold by The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, LLC. 670 N Michigan LLC uses The Ritz-Carlton marks under license from The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C."

Wonder who is really behind this project.

Anonymous said...

^^ It would be nice if more potential buyers were aware of that distinction, so as to potentially discourage many who would otherwise be buying primarily because of name/brand recognition and the quality product that goes with that name. Spread the word anonymous! :) By the way, I was told by someone at Preservation Chicago that Prism is the primary owner of the building - that LLC baloney could be some sort of legalistic front.

Anonymous said...

Landmarks law is now meaningless. Why even bother with the facade? It'd be better to just tear the darn thing down than waste our time with a fake facade.

Wabash and Jewelers Row will likely be next to go.

Anonymous said...


Tear the old suckers down! It's about time! I'm 50 years old, and I'm so sick and tired of looking at historical buildings I could scream. Everywhere you look, it's the same old, same old, same old. Decorative doodads here, ornate furbelows there.. Where is the "Futuristic Buildings Zone"? When will Chicago make it a crime to build anything that's not original and new? When will the city demand to see some styles from at least the year 2200 or later?

Did Chicago develop its architectural heritage by building buildings that looked like barns or stockyards or chicken coops from the Stone Age because some backwards, sentimental, group-thinking, fearfulful, conformists demanded it? No! It built new buildings that look new. Why build new buildings to look two hundred years old?

Where is the Future Landmarks Commission? Does the City even have one?

Great start!

Lynn Becker said...

If you really believe Lucien Lagrange's design for Ritz-Carlton is anything other than "backwards, sentimental, group-thinking, fearful, conformist" please send me some of what you're smoking.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Again, both the old and the new buildings are completely ordinary/boring. At least the new one is tall, and really lets be honest, when it comes to ordinary/boring, size is the only thing that matters--am I right ladies?

Anonymous said...

^^^So, to the poster who is 50 and gung-ho about destroying the Farwell, since you're getting up there in age, perhaps not as old as the Farwell but closing in, should we put you out of commission as well, just like the Farwell, since, well, you're not functioning the same, and presumably things are falling off and you're starting to decay? Should you have done to you what is being proposed for the Farwell? Or perhaps you can have a facelift/general plastic surgery, like what is being proposed for this building?? Didn't think so buddy.

Anonymous said...

Someone said that Preservation Chicago said that Prism is the owner of the building. However, it is unlikely that someone buys a building like that until the necessary approvals are obtained.

Also, the Prism boys look kind of phony. The current project on the Prism website is the Millennium Centre. However, the website for the Millennium Centre shows American Invesco, not Prism, as the developer. I wonder what the people at Invesco have to say about these guys?

On the Prism website they identify City Place (Omni Hotel) as one of their projects. However, that was a Fifield project. How many of the other projects are really those of other developers?

My point is that these guys do not seem like they would be capable of coming up with the cash to buy the Farwell. Who are they fronting for? Who is 670 N. Michigan? Why do the other people involved need to keep their identity secret?

Anonymous said...

The Trib had a story on March 17 that said the Terra Museum owns the building, not Prism.

From the rents mentioned in the building it would seem that the economic hardship argument would be very difficult to support.

Anonymous said...

This is not a precedent, or so claimed the Commission. However, Crain's has the following story on 3/23. It is the last paragraph that is scary.

"Under the landmark ordinance, Hamilton would build the on the site of 29 S. LaSalle, a vintage tower that would be demolished. The new tower would cut into 39 S. LaSalle, but preserve the exterior and portions of the lobby."

Start of story:

Developer gets short-term Allstate loan for 29 & 39 S. LaSalle

Allstate Corp. has issued a $26-million, short-term loan on 29 and 39 S. LaSalle St., where developer Hamilton Partners has proposed building a hotel/office skyscraper.

The proposed 51-story tower would accommodate landmark protection given to 39 S. LaSalle St., which was designed by William LeBaron Jenney, a pioneer of skyscraper design, and built in stages between 1893 and 1903.

The three-year, floating-rate loan doesn’t have “significant prepayment restrictions,” which gives the developer flexibility if the project moves forward, says M. W. “Sam'' Davis, senior managing director of real estate for the Northbrook-based insurer.

Such short-term loans, geared to “transition properties,” are a growing part of Allstate’s commercial real estate lending business, accounting for about 25% of the $2.2 billion in loans Allstate issued last year.

“We are able to put our real estate analytical skills to work and be paid a little bit extra (in interest) for those loans by taking some risk on these deals that have leasing or redevelopment plans.”

While Hamilton waits for the site to be caught up in the development boom, most of the existing tenants in the two buildings have lease that expire over the next couple years. Combined, 29 & 39 S. LaSalle had a 24% vacancy rate in December.

In the most noteworthy lease, Starbucks Corp. last year signed a 10-year lease for a 2,380-square foot storefront at a gross rent of $100 per square foot. Whether Hamilton has cancellation option on the lease could not be determined. Robert Klauseger of Hamilton could not be reached for comment.

The loan is less than 75% of the value of the site, according to the mortgage, which would mean the financing values the property at about $35 million, a 45% increase in value since 2004.

In July of that year, a venture led by Hamilton paid $24.1 for the properties in 2004, buying them from a partnership that included the Pritzker family, property records show.

A portion of the 29-39 S. LaSalle is owned by the University of Chicago, which leases the land to Hamilton under an agreement that expires in 2103.

Under the landmark ordinance, Hamilton would build the on the site of 29 S. LaSalle, a vintage tower that would be demolished. The new tower would cut into 39 S. LaSalle, but preserve the exterior and portions of the lobby.

Anonymous said...

Why have any of the old wooden structures of our past been torn down. Think of all the one two and three story wooden buildings that have been torn down to put cities like Chicago,San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia etc. I cant iimagine that all of them needed replacement. I think people found a scam job that produces nothing by way of landmarks preservation. If there is a building that our constitution was signed in or house that a beloved president lived in, or any structure that has SIGNIFICANT meaning to all, then it should be preserved. I think most of the landmarks people get paid too much for doing nothing. You didnt save the farwell so what good are you anyway?

Lynn Becker said...

Hey, doc, another of your old patients died, so what good are you, anyway?