Stabilization work has been ordered on the Laramie State Bank Building located at 5200 W Chicago Avenue in Austin. As a part of one of the Invest South/West sites, the bank will see a new life as an incubator, cafe, and blues music museum as work progresses over the coming years. Sitting on the northwest corner of the intersection with N Laramie Avenue, the bank has been vacant for nearly a decade and is in dire need of work to assure its long-term feasibility.
The bank was built in 1929 by local banker Carl A. Mueller and designed by Meyer and Cook Architects in a period when Austin’s population had grown by over 75 percent. Rising three floors tall, the Egyptian-inspired Art Deco style structure is adorned by highly revered polychrome terracotta ornamentation depicting symbols of American wealth. Images of industry, agriculture, and technology wrap the building, considered the best work from the Northwestern Terracotta Company who brought in craftsmen from the 1925 Paris International Expo.
Although the bank only lasted one year before closing in 1930, the building saw some form of use until the 2000’s when it was foreclosed on in 2012. It became a Chicago Landmark in 1995, however the years of neglect caused the roof to cave in 2018 along with extensive water damage destroying most of the interiors. Yet the future remains bright as the site become part of an Invest South/West proposal, planning to bring 72 residential units along with the aforementioned amenities designed by VDT Associates and Latent Design.
To prepare for the work, Cook County has ordered a $500,000 emergency stabilization project on the aging structure. Funded by Tax Increment Financing (TIF), the work will restore the watertight building envelope by replacing the roof and its structure, as well as adding a proper drainage system, repairing walls, and cleaning up interior debris. Once completed the bank will be ready for new interior work and should allow for the long term preservation of the nearly century old building.
The multi-million dollar addition to the bank is part of the investment the nearby Warner House which is pursuing landmark status is trying to capitalize on. Hoping to revitalize the neighborhood, the work will be led by court-appointed CNR Advisors to oversee the repairs, and although no timeline has been established for any of the work, the step forward bodes well for the longevity of the overall project.