New proposal would save 2 downtown Chicago skyscrapers from demolition

There's a new proposal to save two historic Chicago skyscrapers from demolition.

The Century and Consumer buildings on State Street near Adams were built in early 1910.

"These two skyscrapers on that corner in the Loop tell a story about what Chicago was like back then," said Lee Bey, Chicago Sun-Times Architecture Critic.

But the story of their future is in doubt. 

The Federal Government, specifically the General Services Administration, owns these old skyscrapers and got funding to tear them down, citing security reasons.

"I think we can be a little more creative with these buildings rather than spending $52 million of taxpayer money to demolish them for a gravel lot," said Ward Miller, Executive Director, Preservation Chicago.

The problem for the skyscrapers is their neighbor. 

The Dirksen Federal Courthouse has security concerns. One worry is that people could peer into courtrooms or judge's chambers from the skyscrapers.


Now, there's a new proposal to address the security and keep the history.

"We have a new plan to use these buildings as a collaborative archive center, which we've named the Chicago Collaborative Archive Center, and the whole idea is, is that archives are light sensitive. So any windows facing the federal center, and even those beyond the federal center could be blocked," said Miller.

Miller says 20 religious archives are on board, and they want tight security, too.

"So we have so much to lose here and yet so much to gain if we just choose the right path," said Miller.

But architecture lovers worry the feds will stay on the demolition path.

"They told me that they want to create kind of an open plaza in a security posture which to me sounds like a fancy vacant lot with a fence around it. I think it's a loss for the city and a loss for State Street," said Bey.

Right now, the proposal for a national archive center is just a vision, needing a lot more backers to build it up.