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Preservation Chicago Releases Its 2017 'Chicago 7' Endangered Landmarks List

Preservation Chicago's newly released 2017 "Chicago 7" list of endangered buildings is notable because it underscores how redevelopment can threaten existing buildings and communities.

A couple of this year's additions are tied to high-profile redevelopment projects. Preservation Chicago executive director Ward Miller believes redevelopment and preservation do not have to be mutually exclusive and has suggestions to save the architecture on this year's list.

1. Jackson Park and South Shore Cultural Center Park

Jackson Park's Osaka Gardens

Designed by legendary landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in 1880, the 543-acre Jackson Park was the site of the 1890 World's Columbian Exposition and is home to the Museum of Science and Industry and the Osaka Gardens, which are popular with visitors. The nearby South Shore Cultural Center is a former whites-only country club that has been transformed by the Park District into a haven for African-American art and culture.

These parks are threatened by the pending construction of the Obama Presidential Library; a $30M professional level golf course that will connect the Tiger Woods-designed golf courses in Jackson Park and South Shore; and Project 120, a public-private partnership aiming to transform the parks into destinations featuring a music court and an art installation by Yoko Ono. Miller is concerned the private interests in these endeavors will override community input, especially since there have been few public hearings on the proposals.

2. Downtown Public Art


Downtown Chicago has one of the most diverse and largest public art collections on the planet, home to over 100 sculptures and mosaics ranging from Pablo Picasso's iconic sculpture in Daley Plaza to Alexander Calder's "The Universe" sculpture inside Willis Tower. The outdoor art installations are endangered by the natural ravages of outdoor exposure and some, like Marc Chagall's Four Season's mosaic at Exelon Plaza, have fallen into serious disrepair.

Miller said Blackstone Group's $500M renovation plan for Willis Tower does not address what will happen to the Calder sculpture, placing it in immediate jeopardy. Miller wants the Chicago Landmarks Commission to consider the artwork for landmark designation so it is incorporated into any renovations by the building owners.

3. Cornell Store and Flats


Built in 1908 by Walter Burley Griffin, this building in Greater Grand Crossing was a rare example of using Prairie-style architecture for mixed-use, featuring ground-level retail and four apartments. Named after legendary Hyde Park real estate developer Paul Cornell, the building has been neglected over the decades and fallen into serious disrepair due to a combination of economic disinvestment in Greater Grand Crossing and the death of its most recent owner.

Miller believes a savvy developer can restore the Cornell Store and Flats to its original glory, while finding a way to incorporate the building into the surrounding community, although the building is isolated by the train tracks that give Grand Crossing its name.

4. Lake Michigan Water Cribs


In Chicago's early days, the city pumped sewage directly into Lake Michigan. Water cribs were constructed as a means of transporting fresh water directly from the lake to the city. Nine of these cribs were built between 1865 and 1935; six still exist and two — the Walter Dever Crib off North Avenue Beach and the Edward F. Dunne Crib adjacent to 59th Street harbor — are still in operation.

Miller said these cribs, engineering marvels of their time, are the very definition of a landmark and should be preserved, although how they can be adapted for modern use is an unanswered question.

5. Altgeld Gardens


Built in the 1940s and named after Illinois Gov. John Peter Altgeld, Altgeld Gardens stands out as an example of what well-designed public housing could achieve. Instead of the high-rises at Robert Taylor and Cabrini-Green that epitomized public housing's failures, Altgeld Gardens' two-story flats were more in line with North Side counterparts like Lathrop Homes. At its peak, Altgeld Gardens consisted of 1,500 units over 157 acres that were home to African-American armed forces veterans who returned to work in the nearby steel mills and warehouses. Altgeld Gardens was also where former President Barack Obama got his feet wet as a community organizer.

As the steel mills and other industrial jobs left the area, Altgeld Gardens suffered from neglect and rising crime. Preservation Chicago, the Chicago Housing Authority, and state and federal agencies forged a renewal agreement for the development that involved 98% preservation. That agreement is threatened because CHA demolished buildings that exceeded the agreement.

6. Madison-Pulaski District


In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, robust retail districts outside of the downtown core arose next to streetcar routes. One of the most vibrant was in West Garfield Park at the intersection of Madison Street and Pulaski Road (then known as Crawford Avenue).

Even though the district is not what it used to be, the Art Deco and Modernist architecture that defined its heyday is still intact, though suffering from neglect. Miller said Madison-Pulaski should be designated a landmark district by the city, and there should be a plan to preserve and reinvest in the area to spur redevelopment.

7. Union Station Power Station


This small Art Deco building in the South Loop, best visible over the Roosevelt Road bridge, is under threat because Amtrak no longer deems it necessary for its uses. Amtrak is conducting Section 106 hearings, which are federally mandated to determine if a building deserves inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

Miller believes the building can find new life through a third-party utility provider like ComEd, which has facilities nearby. Preservation of this building could also spur redevelopment of the adjacent riverfront.