The Commission on Chicago Landmarks approved a preliminary recommendation to designate Marina City an official landmark.

Board Members Present: Chairman Rafael Leon, Ernest Wong, James Houlihan, Tony Hu, Andrew Mooney, Commissioner of Planning and Development

Others Present:
Matt Crawford, Architectural Historian for City of Chicago
Bonnie McDonald, Landmarks Illinois
Adam Natenshon, Preservation Chicago
Eleanor Gorski, Director of Historic Preservation for the Department of Planning & Development
Gabriel Dziekiewicz, board nominee
Carmen Rossi, board nominee

Commissioners gave the okay after hearing details about the structure’s historical significance from a 54-page report commissioned by the Department of Planning and Development (DPD). The two 60-story cylindrical towers, adjacent theater, office building (now a hotel) and commercial base that comprise Marina City on the north bank of the Chicago River, meet five of the seven criteria needed for landmark designation, according to Matt Crawford, the city’s architectural historian.

(Brief summary of the criteria from the report)

  • Criteria 1 – Value as an Example of City, State or National Heritage: Marina City is “an icon of Chicago urban planning” and it was built at a time when no one wanted to live in downtown Chicago. It was also one of the first residential buildings in the city to house middle-income singles or childless married couples, a point that Chairman Rafael Leon called “groundbreaking”.

  • Criteria 4 – Exemplary Architecture: The Expressionist Style residential structures were the tallest reinforced concrete structures in the world.

  • Criteria 5 – Work of Significant Architect or Designer: Marina City was Bertrand Goldberg’ first large-scale commission and it made him internationally famous.

  • Criteria 6 – Distinctive Theme as a District:  “Marina City was a bold response to the threat of suburbanization and disinvestment in Chicago’s downtown in the decades after World War I.

  • Criteria 7 – Unique Visual Feature: Location on the riverfront and the “distinctive shape and rhythmic pattern of curved concrete balconies” make it a Chicago icon.

Yesterday’s approval was just the beginning of a lengthy process that must occur before the the riverfront towers get historical designation.

The Department of Planning and Development now has 90 days to commission and submit another report to determine if landmark status meets the city’s plans and goals for the area. If the City’s landmarks commission approves that report, DPD will start sending consent letters to all property owners who would be affected by designation. Owners will then have to return consent forms to the city within 45 days, a timeline that can be extended by request through the local Ald. Brendan Reilly (42).

Since Marina City is comprised of five structures–two 60-story residential towers, a theater, an office tower, and a 4-story commercial base–it is unlikely that there will be unanimous support for historic designation and public hearings will have to be held, says Eleanor Gorski, the Director of Historic Preservation for the Department of Planning and Development.

Gorski anticipates that a final recommendation for landmark status will be introduced at the beginning of next year.

After the discussion of the Marina City Designation, the Commission approved to schedule a public hearing on a permit application to modify a residential home in Wicker Park. They also approved all projects the Permit Review Committee reviewed and approved at their June 4th meeting.

Chairman Rafael Leon then thanked Commissioner Mooney for his time served with DPD (he is retiring) and announced that Tony Hu and Anita Blanchardresigned from the Committee. Their replacements await City Council approval.