Announcing.... Southside Preservation Action Fund

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A new support group. Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference serves as fiscal agent. Organizations include Hyde Park Historical Society. A broadly based advisory council has been established.


-- Announcing --

With a generous grant from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation we are establishing the Southside Preservation Action Fund. The Fund gratefully acknowledges this generous grant and the work of Driehaus grants administrator Sunny Fisher.

The fund will make small financial contributions to cover expenses and/or professional services for a variety of preservation project needs. For instance:

* historic research
* photographic documentation
* public lectures & tours
* historic structure reports
* seminars & study groups
* emergency stabilization & board-up
* engineering studies
* recorded interviews & oral histories
* archival collection and storage
* surveys & mapping
* mediation
* architectural studies
* wooden window preservation
* copying, duplication and printing

Our intention is to quickly provide small amounts of money, when and where it will really help.

For more information please contact:

Jack Spicer
5536 S. Kimbark
Chicago, IL 60637

In January 2009 HPKCC Board approved SPAF as a Committee of the Conference and agreed to act as its fiscal agent. A board of organization representatives and interested parties was formed and meets occasionally, doing most of its considerations via internet.


Actions and disbursements (amounts will be carefully accounted for and available as for nonprofit filings in the future)

1. Grahm Balkany was engaged to research in New York the architects and architectural/historic importance of key Michael Reese Hospitals buildings. This property, with many buildings involving work by Walter Gropius, is being sold to the city for the Olympics 2016 Village. Two buildings, the older Main Reese, and tentatively the Miesian Singer Center, have so far been set aside for preservation. At least 7 other Mies buildings are thought to deserve preservation-- and are recommended by at least one government body-- but demolition proceeds even though the Olympics are gone and there is no buyer in sight.
Mr. Balkany is a preservation expert and scholar who as formed The Gropius in Chicago Coalition (seeking adaptive reuse and National Register status for the Gropius buildings). Visit and Note: the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency has ruled that the structures are landmark eligible, and voted to nominate them to the National Register of Historic Places in Dec. 2009. The city has not deemed the structures worthy. As of early December, 2009 4 of the 89 buildings were demolished. Coverage.

2. SPAF has joined in request to two organizations asking they send letters to the University of Chicago requesting access to structural studies done on the condition of the Harper Theater/Herald buildings. (Done June 2009). The firm that did an earlier assessment for the former UC-appointed developer was commissioned and has done a structural study, which was shared with and is under review by the University as of December 2009. In time the study will be published in the Herald.
Read outcome.

3. SPAF underwrote in 2010 with support of HPHS, HPKCC and others documentation and recording of properties on both sides of Woodlawn Avenue and the east side of University Avenue 55th to 58th Streets, in light of University of Chicago purchase of Chicago Theological School and (most of ) Meadville School of Theology's Hyde Park campuses, which increased the one institutional control of the majority of properties particularly in the 5700 blocks. A professional was hired to document and prepare a record in format preferred by the Landmarks Commission. The fund also helped underwrite documentation by photographer David Schalliol of the structures and social and institutional life of Meadville, at Meadville's request. In order to work toward a mechanism to manage or mediate change on these blocks, and because it is part of a larger area which had been informally assessed for district consideration and containing the largest remaining area of architecturally and historically important structures in the city not considered yet for landmarking, SPAF with partners "suggested" the Woodlawn district for designation at the June 2 2011 Commission meeting.


Meetings and opportunities


Coverage and information on the Walter Gropius Michael Reese Hospital complex buildings

In fall 2009 only 1 or 2 Gropius buildings, besides the older Main Reese building were slated to be saved. The area is undergoing demolition, including the historic landscaping.

The Michael Reese Hospital Campus is the threatened and highly significant repository of Modernism on Chicago's near South Side. With a master plan by Walter Gropius and several buildings executed with his heavy involvement, it is the only site in Illinois to bear his work. The understanding of Gropius's role in the site has only recently been brought into focus by on-going research, primarily from unique and heretofore-undocumented sources.

The entire hospital campus is presently threatened with demolition by the City of Chicago 's proposed Olympic Village, but the important Gropius buildings could easily be adaptively reused as part of the Olympic project. Even if the Olympics don't come to Chicago , the City’s stated intention is to demolish all but one structure on the site, resulting from a lack of awareness of these masterpieces of Modernist architecture. Demolition could start as soon as this summer.

Focusing on the Chicago works of Gropius, but also discussing most of the 32 buildings at the site, its planning, and landscape, the tour will be a highly informative, first-hand look at a prime and overlooked work of art. Topics of interest include urban renewal and social change on the Near South Side, changing trends in medical design, and Gropius's pioneering ideas in contextualism and climate-driven design. The similarly threatened Lake Meadows housing complex (by SOM) will also be discussed and viewed to a certain degree.

Architects and designers discussed on this tour include: Walter Gropius; The Architects Collaborative; Hideo Sasaki [Sasaki and Novak]; Lester Collins; Reginald Isaacs; John T. Black; Loebl, Schlossman, and Bennett; A. Epstein and Sons; Friedman, Alschuler, and Sincere; Gordon and Levin; and Schmidt, Garden, and Erikson.

For more information, please see the following:

The Gropius in Chicago Coalition
Chicago Bauhaus and Beyond
Preservation Chicago and one in the New York Times.


Harper Theater Structural Engineering survey and report

SPAF (already a Committee of the Conference) joined in request to Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference and Hyde Park Historical Society asking they send letters to the University of Chicago requesting access to structural studies done on the condition of the Harper Theater/Herald buildings and undertake and contribute a small amount in addition to the funding by SPAF of a new structural study based on those for the former selected developer. (All done June 2009). Stearn-Joglekar Ltd., the firm that did an earlier assessment for the former UC-appointed developer was commissioned and The University of Chicago, owner of the buildings, was notified. The structural study was done in summer-fall 2009 and the document and conclusions shared with the University as of December 2009. (The firm was not given access to the structure for this study and told SPAF that this was not essential.) The University asked for time to absorb, indicating that under consideration is commissioning historic tuck pointers for masonry repairs (reputable firms were forwarded and the University is said to have accepted or at least taken bids), after which the scaffolding, of serious concern in the community, would likely be removed. And meanwhile, the University continues to pursue tenants for both buildings and holds open historic adaptation. In March, simple work was done on the 53rd St. side and its scaffolding was removed. In mid-June, the University and the contractor (Klein and Hoffman) were reviewing "true costs" of the full work.

While the committee meeting with University representatives- Jay Ammerman, HPKCC President; Ruth Knack, Hyde Park Historical Society President; George Rumsey, immediate past president of HPKCC; a member of a leading historic restoration and adaptive reuse firm Gunny-Harboe PC, and principals of Stearn-Joglekar Ltd.- offered the option of a joint announcement with the University, the resolution was that key persons from the SPAF and affiliated team met with the Hyde Park Herald and the University lead spokesman Steve [Kloehn] commented on the record to the Herald, not about the study but about intent of the University, confirming that it is indeed undertaking facade repairs (which need only to be minor), looking to removing the scaffolding, and making every effort to find tenants and keep the buildings.

In December 2010 the University sent a letter to SPAF stressing its commitment to rehab and re-lease both the theater and stores buildings. It has resumed facade work and has leased parts on temporary bases for pop up gallery workspaces.

A major finding of Stearn-Joglekar is that additional floors could be supported in the theater structure, reducing need for its demolition.

Hyde Park Herald, February 17, 2010. Harper Theater OK: HP-K CC study finds the historic site sound

The Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, or HP-K CC, made public last week a document that rates the Harper Theater and its adjoining commercial and retail space "in sound structural condition."

"Routine maintenance is required for the exterior walls including tuck pointing of masonry walls and inspections and on-going repair of terra cotta decorative elements," according to Stearn-Joglekar Ltd. heads Howard C. Stearn and Milind R. Joglekar. Stearn, a licensed architect, and Joglekar, who has a doctorate in civil engineering, concluded, based upon their study of the buildings, that "the existing structure can be effectively renovated and... the existing structure is capable of supporting additional interior floors..." This last finding refers to the Harper Theater in particular, which some thought might have to be gutted to be adapted for use by a new entity other than a theater operator. Instead, stearn and Joglekar demonstrate in their report a technique whereby additional interior floors might be constructed.

While releasing this report to the Herald last week, HP-K CC representatives said they had also shared the report with representatives from the University of Chicago, or U. of C., the buildings' owner. While U. of C. spokesman Steve [Kloehn] declined to comment on the study, HP-K CC President Jay Ammerman describe the conversations as "encouraging." None of the HP-K CC representatives would divulge the names of the U. of C. officials they spoke to on the record. [divulge for the record the names of...]

[Kloehn] confirmed the study's conclusion that the only safety considerations on the exterior of the building were superficial and said the U. of C. was was looking for a company to repair the facade so as to remove scaffolding that has been wrapped around the property for months -- a source of alarm for many Hyde Parkers. Former HP-K CC President George Rumsey said he originally commissioned the report because the scaffolding had sent rumors of "imminent demolition" rippling through the community.

[Kloehn] said, in addition to the repairs, the university wanted to bring new tenants to the property. "We're doing everything we can to find tenants for that building," he said.


Woodlawn Avenue District

August, 2010.

The Committee has agreed to a proposal to conduct research and analysis of the east and west sides of Woodlawn Avenue and the east side of University Avenue between 55th and 59th Streets. Jean L. Guarino, architectural historian with an extensive record including work on National Register and other landmark nominations, will undertake intensive research on architectural and historical significance of the district and its structures to result in essays, document collections, and an analysis of relationship of the district and structures to landmark criteria including benefits and liabilities and likely future if landmarking is not pursued. Initial payment has been authorized on a maximum of $4,000 (an additional specified expenses not to exceed $300 is also allowed).

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