Friday, January 18, 2013

Things Change: The pulled window shades of London Guarantee; the vanishing mesa of Fulton Market

update July 3, 2013:  Crain's Chicago Business is reporting the London Guarantee is being purchased by the developer of the new Langham Hotel in Mies van der Rohe's IBM Building.
click images for larger view
No, the tenants of gently-curving, 1923 Alfred Alschuler London Guarantee Building at Wacker and Michigan haven't turned into recluses.   They've simply disappeared.  The small samples of lit windows in the facades are the offices of the last hold-outs.  As reported by Crain's Chicago Business, the building's New York owner Joseph Chetrit has been emptying out London Guarantee as leases expire, for some sort of retrofit - perhaps a hotel.  With its Corinthian columns at the door and ornate rotunda, it's already has a stage-set Grand Hotel entrance.
Maybe they should get John David Mooney to use all those window shades for a lighting event to keep awareness of the building alive while Chetrit decides what to do with it.

Hotels seem to be the answer of the moment to an increasing number of development questions.  A new hotel in Mies van der Rohe's 330 North Wabash/IBM Building is moving towards completion, while Richard Branson continues his conversion of Rapp and Rapp's slightly delirious 203 North Wabash into a Virgin Hotel.
Here's hoping Branson's marketing people have enough savvy to deploy those huge, angry birds at the top as a branding device.
The latest news concerns the Marshall and Fox designed Atlantic Bank (Federal Life) Building, constructed in 1912.
 Crain's is reporting it's about to be converted into a 145-room boutique Hotel Indigo.
 It's only about 74,000 square feet, but was constructed to accommodate an additional four floors, which the new owner is planning to add.  Here's hoping they keep the distinctive current roofline, which includes an ornate cornice, but only only on the western facade.
It's a remnant from the time when the Garland Court was a functional street rather than a dumpster-appointed alley.

Our last metamorphosis is probably the most pronounced.  Since 1920, the 5,000,000 cubic foot Fulton Cold Storage Warehouse was the architectural marker for its food market neighborhood.  The area began to gentrify, slowly at first, with galleries, restaurants and condos, but the process reached a tipping point, encased in steel, with the opening of Carol Ross Barney's spectacular Morgan Street Green Line station last fall. [Read: Instant Landmark]
Last year, Amit Hasak, the long-time owner-operator of the warehouse, saw the writing on the wall, moving to Lyons and selling off the massive structure to Sterling Bay, which is converting it to offices, with retail and/or restaurants on the first floor.
The video above shows the defrosting of the old building.  It's as if 90+ years of life, in this case contained not in blood, but ice, being drained away before the corpse is re-animated. The Perkins + Will blog has some extraordinary photographs of ice formations within the building, here.

This conversion will ramp up the Fulton Market District's escape from its grungy commercial origins, even as it effaces its character.  Office tenants, reasonably, like windows, and soon Fulton Cold Storage will look a lot like any other large loft office building in the West Loop.  The totemic quality of this unique structure, this steep architectural mesa omnipresent on the horizon, impermeable and rock solid, 10 tall floors rising to the sky with shear walls of brick, both finished and raw, will disappear into the generic.
No room for cheap nostalgia: it must be so. But it was a hell of a thing.


Esther said...

The lobby of 360 North Michigan was restored (and other elements of the building renovated) in 2001 by Lohan Associates.

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