CHICAGO — Despite preservationists’ hopes that the long-vacant, 95-year-old Washington Park National Bank building would be restored, the Cook County Land Bank Authority voted Friday to accept a developer’s proposal to instead demolish the property and replace it with a new building.
The building at 6300 S. Cottage Grove Ave. is owned by the Cook County Land Bank Authority, who announced in the fall it would seek a developer to transform the site into a mixed-use building with amenities that would benefit the community as part of an overall effort to revitalize the Woodlawn neighborhood, particularly near 63rd and Cottage Grove.
When Cook County Land Bank Authority released a request for proposals to solicit ideas for the space in September, it was with the intention of attempting to save at least part of the former bank, which in 2016 was listed among the city’s most “endangered” buildings by the nonprofit Preservation Chicago.
“Without intervention, the fate of the building eventually would have been demolition,” land bank executive director Rob Rose said at the time.
In the “objectives” section of the request for proposals, the land authority said it recognized “the sustainability benefits of adaptive reuse and historic preservation.”
Such reuse would “in many cases provide the most comprehensive method of sustainable development,” provided renovations didn’t “compromise or constrain the best redevelopment solutions.”
A structural assessment report on the building found “the existing framing system of the building is structurally sound, intact, and still in good condition.”
“We believe that the building is salvageable and can be repaired to restore its full structural integrity,” the report noted.
Of the three proposals considered finalists at Friday’s meeting, only one plan included razing the building completely. That proposal, from DL3 Realty’s Leon Walker, was ultimately approved by the land bank authority.
Only one board member, Jeffery Sherman, voted against the plan, which includes ground-floor retail and a bank, a YWCA and co-working space, according to Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, who attended Friday’s meeting. The University of Chicago is collaborating on the space, he said.
“We made an impassioned plea for them to defer this,” Miller said, adding that his group had “high expectations for” the land bank.
“It’s a really disappointing outcome with the building being demolished,” he said. “I think there are still a lot of questions to be asked… I really think they need to re-think these strategies and issues, and I think they need to be a little more sensitive on this topic.”
The 95-year-old building was formerly owned by the Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church and the Woodlawn Community Development Corporation.
The Cook County Land Bank Authority acquired it in 2017. It’s been vacant for more than 25 years, largely because at the time of the land bank’s purchase, the building had accumulated about $3.7 million dollars in unpaid taxes, land bank executive director Rob Rose said.
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