Recession Saves 1929 Daily News Building from Wrecking Ball

The recession has thwarted real estate billionaire Sam Zell’s plans to raze the art deco, 80-year-old, 26-story 2 North Riverside Plaza building that housed the Chicago Daily News until 1960 and replace it with an office tower.  Instead, Zell’s Equity Group Investments is beginning a multi-million dollar renovation of the building, which the advocacy group Preservation Chicago placed on its “Chicago Seven” list of endangered buildings in 2008.

The renovation includes basic fixes that appeal to prospective tenants, such as replacing old windows with energy-efficient ones and converting to electric heat from steam.  Aesthetic improvements include cleaning the sphinx-shaped building’s limestone exterior and renovating the art deco lobbies with their metal decorations inspired by flowers.

Writing in the Chicago Tribune, Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Blair Kamin expresses some disappointment in the building’s renovation plans, although he is pleased that the building is being saved for the time being.  According to Kamin, “Another reason for disappointment is that the renovation will introduce generic design elements, like the curving, vaguely art deco light fixtures that will hang in the historic lobbies.  And, as currently designed, the project will obscure dazzling, first-floor elevator-door decoration behind new walls meant to control pedestrian flow.  Why bring back precious art deco decoration on one floor if you are going to hide it on another?  Despite such faults, architecture buffs and historic preservationists should be pleased that they have won at least a temporary victory by staving off either a demolition or defacement of 2 North Riverside.”