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Photo by Steven Dahlman Light but passionate turnout at hearing to discuss Marina City landmarking

(Left) Marina City from Terrace Lounge at One Eleven on July 18, 2014. (Click on image to view larger version.)

17-Oct-15 – City officials heard no objections to Marina City being designated an official City of Chicago landmark at a 41-minute public hearing on Friday. The worst anyone could say was that the owner of Marina City’s Hotel Chicago is “neutral” on the topic.

Marina City was praised by the president of Landmarks Illinois and adored by the executive director of Preservation Chicago.

The Commission on Chicago Landmarks wanted to hear from the public before deciding if they will recommend landmarking Marina City to the city council. About 20 members of the public attended the hearing on the 11th floor of City Hall to hear the case in favor of landmarking. They included Ryan Shea, Vice President of Operations at Marina City’s House of Blues, and Richard Hogan, who has lived at Marina City since 1978.

They were told Marina City meets five of the seven criteria for landmarking…

  • Value as an example of city heritage
  • Exemplary architecture
  • Work of significant architect
  • Distinctive theme as a district
  • Unique visual feature

It also meets the “integrity criterion,” they were told, that requires the landmark to be well-preserved.

Many were curious about what the owner of Marina City’s commercial property thinks about official landmark status, as it could potentially slow significant changes to the building’s exterior. Representing LaSalle Hotel Properties, Mariah Digrino of DLA Piper told the hearing the owner of Hotel Chicago and adjacent commercial property is officially “neutral.”

“At this time, ownership is not prepared to consent or object but continues to evaluate the effect of the designation on its hotel and commercial operation,” said Digrino (below).

Mariah Digrino “Obviously, we’re not here to challenge Marina City’s place in the city’s visual landscape or its place in the city’s history. We have met with [Director of Historic Preservation Eleanor] Gorski, who’s been very informative and helpful to us understanding the effect of the designation, and we look forward to continuing to work with the [Historic Preservation] Division on future requests for approvals for the hotel and commercial spaces as they arise.”

Bonnie McDonald, president of Landmarks Illinois, repeated her organization’s support of landmarking, saying that based on a survey in 2008, most residents of Marina City are in favor of landmark designation, which she says will provide residents with financial incentives.

“Two of these incentives are the property tax assessment freeze and, due to the building’s location, the opportunity to receive capital improvement funds through the city’s adopt-a-landmark program,” says McDonald (right). “Both of these incentives demonstrate that in addition to protecting one of the city’s most distinctive buildings, landmark designation can result in financial assistance for its owners.” Bonnie McDonald

Arguably the most glowing recommendation was from Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, who said Marina City was “the spark” that began an “imaginative transformation.”

Ward Miller “Marina City showed what could be possible, opening the imagination to not only the river as a recreational waterway but as a new contemporary way of ‘city living in the heart it all,’” said Miller (left). “And located just outside the North Loop in the middle of a warehouse district and laced with railroad tracks. That area, now referred to as River North, has greatly transformed over the past 50 years into a district of many high rise apartment buildings, offices, and restaurants, as well as hotels.”

Consideration of Marina City as an official landmark was requested by 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly and signed off by the city’s Department of Planning and Development. The seven-member Landmarks Commission will meet in Council Chambers at City Hall on November 5 at 12:45 p.m. to decide whether to recommend landmarking to the Chicago City Council.

Listen to the hearing…

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