The Commission on Chicago Landmarks (CCL) has approved preliminary landmark status for the Illinois Bell Building in The Loop. Located at 225 W Randolph Street, the building stands at the corner of W Randolph Street and N Franklin Street. The tower rises 427 feet over 31 floors, and was constructed in 1965. The building was originally home to the headquarters of its namesake tenant, the Illinois Bell Telephone Company, while most recently home to AT&T offices.
According to the report, the Illinois Bell Building meets three criteria for landmark designation. The building meets Criterion 1, which is its value as an example of city, state, or national heritage. The second qualifying criteria is Criterion 4, which is the project as exemplary architecture. The Illinois Bell Building is one of the few examples of New Formalism applied to a skyscraper, and would become the first New Formalist landmark. The marble and granite façade is key to New Formalism. The tower is distinguished by its strong vertical columns, projecting roof slab, cantilevering first floor colonnade, and first-level street plaza. Additionally, the building meets Criterion 5, which is an important architect, who in this case was Holabird & Root, a longtime Chicago firm.
The project also meets the Integrity Criterion. The building exterior possesses a significant degree of historic design integrity as changes to the structure have been limited. Skybridges and concourses that once connected it to its neighboring building have been removed. A 1980s renovation altered the lobby, lowering the ceilings and adding wood paneling. The elevator lobbies on the upper floors were also modernized in the 1980s renovation. Retail tenants were added in the corners at ground level.
Under this landmark designation, all exterior elevations including rooflines, the first floor lobby, and exterior plazas with the granite planters on the N Franklin Street and W Randolph Street elevations will be protected.
As part of this landmark designation, a potential developer was seeking a Class L incentive for the building. The development of the project is contingent on the landmark designation and the approval of the Class L tax incentive.
The Class L property tax incentive is a special real estate tax assessment that is used to encourage preservation and rehabilitation of landmarked buildings. Developers must invest a minimum of 50% of the assessed value in rehabilitation and CCL must certify that the rehabilitation meets historic standards. It will also require support from Chicago City Council.
The scope of work on the exterior includes marble and granite repairs, façade cleaning, and curtain wall repairs as necessary. The plaza pavers will be repaired and planters will be modified.
On the interior, the lobby will be rehabilitated, replacing the non-historic wall panels with stone and replacing the 1980s era ceiling. There will be a new stair constructed to access the basement from the lobby and a new entrance in the center bay of the W Randolph Street elevation. On the upper floors, there will be demolition of the interior non-load bearing walls and finishes. Elevator lobbies, common corridors, and bathrooms will be renovated. Elevator cores will also be renovated and restored.
The Class L incentive includes sustainability requirements, where the new development must exceed energy code by five percent. There will be interior water use reduction and proximity to transit and the inclusion of bike parking is required. During construction, 80% of waste must be diverted from landfills.
The closing on the sale of the building to the developer is contingent on the approval of the Cass L incentive, and construction will begin as soon as the sale of the building has closed. The project aims to be completed in March 2024 at an estimated cost of $342 million, which includes purchasing the property.