Landmark status could delay Hancock Center renovations

Chicago officials have started to marshal documents to protect the tower against planned architectural changes.

July 15, 2015 |
Landmark status could delay Hancock Center renovations

Owners of commercial portions of the tower envision adding tall triangular prisms, glass walls, and video screens to the skyscraper's sunken plaza. Photo: Achim Hepp, Creative Commons

While improvement plans are in the works for the plaza of the John Hancock Center, the Chicago Tribune's Blair Kamin reports that the city's Department of Planning and Development is pushing to make the building a protected landmark, which would delay or halt the revamp plans.

Owners of commercial portions of the tower envision adding tall triangular prisms, glass walls, and video screens to the skyscraper's sunken plaza. The goal of the estimated $8 million to $10 million project would be to reestablish the Hancock Center as an attraction at the north end of the Magnificent Mile, in counter balance to Maggie Daley Park and Millennium Park a little over a mile south.

Landmark status, though, would give city officials the legal authority to control alterations to the exterior (and possibly parts of the interior) of the Hancock Center.

The building was opened in 1969, and while the National Park Service suggests that additions to the National Register of Historic Places be at least 50 years old, it's not an absolute rule. The 860-880 N. Lake Shore Drive apartments (designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe) achieved Chicago Landmark status in 1996 despite being open for only 45 years at the time.

The 100-story Hancock Center could follow Marina City’s lead. The complex with the corncob-shaped residential towers near the Chicago River was granted preliminary landmark status on July 9. The landmarks commission will consider a final proposal next year for Marina City, after which the City Council would vote on it.

Hancock Center is the fourth tallest building in Chicago, the seventh tallest in North America, and the 36th tallest in the world. If the tower does become an official landmark, it would be Chicago’s tallest protected structure.

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