Here’s Why the Army May Scuttle Plans to Build a 51-Story Tower in The Loop

A few days before Thanksgiving, the local office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers published a notice on its web site.  It’s not one of the usual places that one looks for architecture news, so it took a few weeks for the notice to surface.

(We’ve copied as much of the thing as we could below for your convenience.  Full PDF version here.)

Rendering of 110 North Wacker Drive (Courtesy of Howard Hughes Corporation)

Rendering of 110 North Wacker Drive (Courtesy of Howard Hughes Corporation)

What it says is that the army is looking into the proposal to build a 51-story office building at 110 North Wacker Drive.

You may know the building currently in that location as the former headquarters of mega mall magnate GGP.  Or if you’re old school, you may know it as the former headquarters of Morton Salt.

Either way, the army says it may block plans to demolish the old six-story building and put up the 1.35 million square-foot tower that Goettsch Partners designed for Howard Hughes Corporation and Riverside Investment and Development.

Here’s some bullet points to explain why the Corps is getting involved:

  • The Corps believes that demolishing the old GGP/Morton building could violate the Archeological and Historic Preservation Act of 1974.
  • This is because a few months ago, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency decided that the building was eligible to be on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Why does the State of Illinois think the building is historic?  In a nutshell, because it’s Mid-Century Modern.  And even though there aren’t a lot of real MCM buildings in the Chicagoland area, MCM is still awesome.
  • Why is the army involved at all?  Because the new building needs the army’s permission to dump rainwater into the Chicago River under the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899.  And no matter what Rahm, or the politicians down in Springfield want you to think, the U.S. Army is ultimately in charge of the Chicago River.  Just like a big reason the interstate highway system was created was to move tanks around the country in an emergency.

On the surface, it appears that if the developers had just kept their water to themselves, none of this would have happened.  But it’s one of those things that makes life so interesting, and keeps the lawyers busy.

What can you do about it?  Well, if you feel strongly one way or the other, then you’ve got to let the Corps know in the next seven days.  You can put your thoughts on paper and mail them to

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Chicago District, Regulatory Branch
Attn: LRC-2017-00583, Michael Murphy
231 South LaSalle Street, Suite 1500
Chicago, Illinois 60604-1437

Or, you can e-mail to Michael.J.Murphy@usace.army.mil, which for most people will be the only chance in their lives to send an e-mail message to an “army.mil” address.

(Also, a big shout out to the people at the Corps of Engineers, who are obviously fans of this blog since they used a bunch of our pictures in their report. [The purple glass caused by using a camera with a Sony RGBE sensor was the tip-off.])

The General Growth Properties Building, soon to no longer be at 110 North Wacker

The General Growth Properties Building at 110 North Wacker


U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS CHICAGO DISTRICT

PUBLIC NOTICE

Section 106 Historic Property Review 110 N. Wacker Drive

PUBLIC NOTICE/APPLICATION NUMBER: LRC-2017-583 COMMENT PERIOD BEGINS: November 21, 2017

COMMENT PERIOD EXPIRES: December 14, 2017

APPLICANT
Riverside Investment Development 100 N. Riverside Plaza, Suite 2150 Chicago, IL 60606
The Howard Hughes Corporation 13355 Noel Road, Suite 2200 Dallas, TX 75240

PROPOSED ACTION
Applicants propose to demolish the existing structure on the project site (the General Growth Building, formerly known as the Morton Salt Building) as part of redevelopment of the site. The Chicago District has determined that the proposed demolition of the General Growth Building constitutes an adverse effect under Section 106 of the Archeological and Historic Preservation Act of 1974. This notice is part of the Section 106 process to resolve the adverse effect. The Chicago District is soliciting comments on the proposed action and potential mitigation. A detailed description of this proposed project is provided on page 2 of this notice.

LOCATION OF PROPOSED ACTION
110 North Wacker Drive in the City of Chicago, Cook County, Illinois (SE Quarter of Section 9, Township 39
N, Range 14 E Latitude 41.88378, Longitude -87.63744). See attached location map.
Interested parties are hereby notified that comments on the proposed action and potential mitigation are requested from the public. You are invited to provide your comments by December 14, 2017 on the proposed work, which will become part of the record and will be considered in the decision. This project is being reviewed under Section 106 of the Archeological and Historic Preservation Act of 1974 [see 36 CFR 800].

Electronic comments may be sent to the project manager at Michael.J.Murphy@usace.army.mil

Written comments may be mailed to:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Chicago District, Regulatory Branch Attn: LRC-2017-00583, Michael Murphy 231 South LaSalle Street, Suite 1500 Chicago, Illinois 60604-1437

It should be noted that ALL comments received by this office (via hard copy or electronic) will only be accepted with the full name and address, and email address, if available, of the individual commenting, and must be received by the close of the public notice period.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION
Applicants are proposing to redevelop the property at 110 N Wacker Drive in the City of Chicago, currently occupied by the General Growth Building (formerly known as the Morton Salt Building). The proposed development requires the demolition of the current structure on the project site. The Chicago District received a permit application for the construction of a new stormwater outfall structure in the Chicago River to service the new building on the site. The proposed stormwater outfall will require review and potential authorization under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899. Due to the need for a federal permit for the new development the Chicago District has been determined to be the lead federal agency for this project under the provisions of Section 106.

In August of 2017 the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) determined (see attached) that the General Growth Building was eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion C for architecture, making it an historic property under the definitions of Section 106. Subsequently the Chicago District determined that the proposed project will have an adverse effect on a historic property as defined in 36 CFR 800.5 (see attached). The IHPA concurred with this determination (see attached).

The Chicago District is, as the lead federal agency, required under Section 106 to explore options avoid, minimize, or mitigate the adverse effects to the historic property. Toward that end the District has issued this Public Notice to inform all interested parties of the nature of the historic property, the proposed activity, and proposed mitigation to minimize the adverse effect on the property through public comments on the proposed activity and mitigation and an invitation to participate in the Section 106 process for this site.

HISTORIC PROPERTY DESCRIPTION
The General Growth Building (formerly the Morton Salt Building) at 110 N. Wacker Drive is a five-story, glass-and-steel office building with two penthouse floors. It is prominently located on Wacker Drive and occupies a full-block site between Randolph and Washington streets along the Chicago River (see location map). An example of Mid-Century Modern architecture, the building was erected as the corporate headquarters of the Morton Salt Company, one of the city’s oldest companies and the nation’s largest producer of salt at that time. The $4 million building was completed in 1958 and designed by the architecture firm Graham, Anderson, Probst and White. Current photographs of the building are attached to this notice.

The Morton Salt Building was erected with reinforced concrete slab construction and the exterior façade includes extensive use of stainless steel cladding at the slab edge spandrel conditions. Its two-story lobby featured stainless steel glazed storefronts, and more than 4,500 yards of fiberglass were used for the beige, orange, green, and yellow window drapes of the building. Plastic paneling, containing mosaic glass and copper wire designs, were used to line the main corridors. Salt industry operations were the theme for photomurals, displays of wood blocks and etchings, and a selection of contemporary paintings on display. The interiors of the building were designed by A. Dudley Kelly.

The building was designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, a Chicago-based firm with a nationwide clientele that it inherited as the successor to D.H. Burnham & Company. During the 1920s, the Graham firm moved away from its predecessor’s repertoire of Beaux Arts styled bank and commercial buildings to offer designs that included stripped classicism, vertical Gothic, and restrained Art Deco. Such stylistic adaptability was demonstrated in the Civic Opera Building, which is located across Washington Street from the 110 N. Wacker Building, and which exhibits a masterful blend of luxurious classical and Art Deco motifs,

The Morton Salt Company occupied this building for nearly a quarter-century, during which time it expanded into new regions and new products and changed its name several times. By 1990, most of Morton International’s $3 billion in annual revenues came from the sales of airbags and specialty chemicals. In that year, the company relocated to a new skyscraper nearby.

Its former headquarters building remained vacant until 1997, when it was purchased by General Growth Properties, which undertook a complete interior renovation. The building is currently owned by the Howard Hughes Corporation.

PROPOSED EFFECT ON HISTORIC PROPERTY
The applicants propose to develop a new high-rise office building on the project site (renderings and site plan attached). The proposed development would require the demolition of the General Growth Building as a first step in construction of the proposed building. The applicant has stated that they can not avoid the demolition of the General Growth Building while meeting the site design requirements of the City of Chicago and the structural needs of the new construction. The proposed project design has been reviewed and approved by the City of Chicago and the applicants intend to begin construction as soon as January, 2018 and the major tenants for the new building have been identified.

The Chicago District Reviewed project alternatives and determined that all alternatives that meet the stated goal of constructing a high-rise office building require the demolition of the General Growth Building. Only under a no action alternative could the current structure be spared, but that alternative does not fulfill the applicant’s purpose of constructing a higher density commercial structure.

PROPOSED MITIGATION
The applicants have proposed to mitigate for the adverse effect on the General Growth Building by conducting a survey of the structure and documenting it using the Historic Illinois Building Survey (HIBS) methodology under the auspices of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. When completed the HIBS report would be made available to the public and filed with the City of Chicago and the Illinois State Museum.

The Chicago District would like to gather comments on the proposed mitigation plan and any suggestions for alternative or supplemental mitigation. The District would like feedback from the public as to the adequacy of the proposed mitigation in kind and quantity and is looking for any potential mitigation measures that are proportionate to the proposed impact and can be implemented over a reasonable time frame and cost.

Section 106 provides for the implementation of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for mitigation of adverse effects to historic properties. The Chicago District will curate a list of proposed mitigation options submitted as part of this public notice process to be included in a draft Memorandum of Agreement. This draft MOA will be presented to a meeting of signatory and consulting parties on December 15, 2017. This goal of this meeting will be to write a final MOA to be implemented by the applicant as mitigation for the adverse impacts to the General Growth Building.

The signatory parties to the Section 106 MOA are anticipated to be the Chicago District, IHPA and the applicants. Consulting parties to the MOA have not yet been determined. If you would like to be a consulting party to this MOA please let the District know who you are and why you should be included as a consulting party to this Section 106 MOA. Please submit your request by email to Michael.J.Murphy@usace.army.mil The Draft MOA Meeting will be held in downtown Chicago on December 15, 2017

It should be noted that materials submitted as part of the permit application become part of the public record and are thus available to the general public under the procedures of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Individuals may submit a written request to obtain materials under FOIA or make an appointment to view the project file at the Chicago District Corps of Engineers Office of Counsel.

Interested parties wishing to comment on the proposed activity must do so in writing no later than December 14, 2017. It is presumed that all parties receiving this notice will wish to respond to this public notice; therefore, a lack of response will be interpreted as meaning that there is no objection to the project as described.

This public notice is not a paid advertisement and is for public information only. Issuance of this notice does not imply Corps of Engineers endorsement of the project as described.

If you have any questions, please contact Michael Murphy of my staff by telephone at (312) 846- 5538, or email at Michael.J.Murphy@usace.army.mil. It should be noted that ALL comments received by this office (via hard copy or electronic) will only be accepted with the full name and address of the individual commenting.

FOR THE DISTRICT COMMANDER:
CHERNICH.KATHLE EN.G.1230365616
Digitally signed by CHERNICH.KATHLEEN.G.123036 5616
DN: c=US, o=U.S. Government, ou=DoD, ou=PKI, ou=USA, cn=CHERNICH.KATHLEEN.G.123 0365616
Date: 2017.11.21 15:12:31 -06’00’
Kathleen G. Chernich Chief, East Section Regulatory Branch

 


REPLY TO ATTENTION OF:
Technical Services Division Regulatory Branch LRC-2017-583

October 30, 2017

DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY CHICAGO DISTRICT, CORPS OF ENGINEERS 231 SOUTH LA SALLE STREET CHICAGO, ILLINOIS 60604-1437

SUBJECT: Construction in Waters of the United States at 110 North Wacker Drive on the South Branch Chicago River between Randolph Street and Washington Street in the Chicago River Watershed of the City of Chicago, Cook County, Illinois (SE Quarter of Sec. 9, Twp. 39N, Rng. 14E; 41.88378, -87.63744)

Rachel Leibowitz
Illinois State Historic Preservation Office
Illinois Department of Natural Resources One Natural Resources Way
Springfield, IL 62702

Dear Ms. Leibowitz:
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District (District) has received an application from Riverside Investment Development (Applicant) for the construction of a stormwater outlet structure in the South Branch Chicago River as part of the construction of a new building at 110 North Wacker Drive in the City of Chicago, as described above (see also the attached location map). This project has been assigned Chicago District project number LRC- 2017-583, all future correspondence with the District concerning this project must include this project number.

The District has determined that, for purposes of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act [see 36 CFR 800. 3(a) and 800.16(y)], the Federal “undertaking” which has the potential to cause effects on historic properties is limited to the issuance of a Department of the Army authorization for project activities within the permit area. Therefore, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District will be the lead federal agency for the project.

Additionally, the District has determined that the relevant permit area for the proposed project will include the entire project site for issuance of a Department of the Army authorization. Similarly, as it pertains to Section 106, the Area of Potential Effect (APE) for direct effects, is the tract upon which the undertaking will occur, and the APE for indirect effects (visual) is 1,000′ North/South along the Chicago River and along North Wacker Drive.

The District is in receipt of a letter from your office dated August 24, 2017 informing the applicant that the existing structure on the project site (the General Growth Building) has been determined to be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion C for architecture. Upon receipt of your letter, the District began a dialogue with the applicant and their agent (V3 Companies, Inc.) about the proposed project, particularly concerning the necessity to demolish the existing structure on the project site. The District is in acceptance of the applicant’s analysis stating that the only practicable alternative available to complete the proposed project requires the demolition of the existing structure on the project site.

Based on the factors outlined above, it is the District’s determination that the proposed project will have an adverse effect on a historic property as defined in 36 CFR 800.5. The District request the concurrence of the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office with this determination and invites your office to:

1. Identify any other consulting parties as per 36 CFR 800.3(f);

2. Comment as per 36 CFR 800.2(d)(3) on the District’s plan to involve the public by utilizing the District’s normal procedures for public involvement under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Department of the Army permitting process; and

3. Agree in the District’ decision that it is appropriate to address multiple steps in 36 CFR 800.3-800.6 as provided at 36 CFR 800.3(g).

Once a list of potential consulting parties (including government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and potentially affected private citizens) has been identified, it is the District’s intention to initiate the public notice process that includes those parties, to solicit comments to be used in drafting a Memorandum of Agreement between consulting parties and to determine suitable mitigation. Notice will also be given to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation as required under 36 CFR 800.6(a)(1). It is our intent to pursue this process diligently to meet our obligations under Federal law and accommodate the applicants desired project time frame as best we can.
If you have any questions, please contact Michael Murphy of my staff by telephone at (312) 846-5538, or email at Michael.J.Murphy@usace.army.mil.

Sincerely,
Kathleen G. Chernich Chief, East Section Regulatory Branch
Copy Furnished

Location: 110 North Wacker Drive, The Loop

Editor

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

Share This Post On

1 Comment

  1. I hate that GGP building and was THRILLED when I read your article on it being replaced. I see it every day and it’s an eyesore on the riverfront. It just looks dirty and tired. Nevermind that it’s a terrible use of vertical space.

    Do I get banned if I claim just because something is “historic” it shouldn’t be preserved?

    Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Human Verification: In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.