Chicago To Lose 1948 Storefront
By Margaret Foster | Online Only | Feb. 16, 2011
In Chicago, a 1948 facade designed by Holabird, Root & Burgee for Chandler's Shoes will soon be lost.
The building is being remodeled by its new owner, Thor Equities LLC, and the unique curved, recessed facade will be altered to accommodate two tenants on the ground floor.
"This is an early example of progressive modernist retail design," says Anthony Rubano, project designer at the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. "In retail architecture, you have to keep up with the times. The fact that it has survived is really remarkable."
It won't survive for long. Work is underway in the interior of the building now. A sign in the window announces that the remodeled Bakers Shoes will reopen this fall. Nothing stands in the way of Thor's redevelopment plans: Although the building is a contributing structure in the National Register-listed Loop Retail Historic District, it is not a city landmark and is therefore not protected.
"This one is quite beautiful. It would be a real shame if we lose it," says Jim Peters, president of Landmarks Illinois.
When the city's Commission on Chicago Landmarks heard of the impending alterations last month, it contacted Thor Equities. "We did talk to the developer about the incentives that are available for National Register properties, but they weren't interested," says Peter Strazzabosco, spokesman for the commission. (Thor's spokesman could not be reached for comment.)
Three years ago, Thor Equities completed the meticulous restoration of the Palmer House, located on the same block as the 1948 building.
"The preservation community—and everyone in Chicago—was very pleased with the renovation of the Palmer House," says Chris Morris, program officer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Midwest Office, based in Chicago. "It turned out beautifully, and was a wonderful refreshing of a historic hotel that was deserving of the detailed treatment that Thor lavished on it. We would hope that they would do the same here. It could be a real show-stopper."
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