Weather Updates

Owners, city seal deal for old Goldblatt’s at 47th and Ashland

Updated: April 14, 2013 6:44AM

Real estate can appeal to God and mammon — God, as represented by the interests of architecture, design and history, and mammon, as represented by developers and the intractable marketplace.

Rarely does a project serve both. It has taken some time getting through city clearances, but the preservation of an old Goldblatt’s at 4700 S. Ashland could fit that bill.

The Commission on Chicago Landmarks has recommended the building for landmark status. The legal protection, if ratified by the City Council, would guide and limit the property owners in what they can do as they convert the building to housing for seniors. The plan calls for the old discount store to become a supportive living center for the elderly. Ninety percent of the 101 units will be rented at rates deemed affordable to those earning less than 60 percent of the area’s median income. A Famsa furniture and appliance store on the first floor will continue to operate.

The owners include William Platt, president of Access Group Chicago, which has built mixed-use projects on the North Side. In January, he and partners agreed to a contract with the city that calls for issuance of $14 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds. They’ll also get a $2.9 million subsidy from tax-increment financing for the overall $33.9 million project.

Landmark protection would safeguard the former store’s Chicago-style windows and terra cotta cladding. It’s the work of Alfred Alschuler, one of the city’s best-known architects from the early 20th century. A city preservation report called it a fine example of impressive commercial structures that anchored neighborhood shopping districts.

MAKING THE LIST: The group Preservation Chicago put out its 2013 “Chicago Seven” list of endangered properties of architectural note on Tuesday. It’s always worth a look, and you can check it out at, but a couple of things hit me about this year’s edition.

One is the absence of the former Prentice Women’s Hospital in Streeterville, until recently the big preservationist cause. But the might of Northwestern University, which wants to tear it down for a jobs-rich medical research complex, was too much, so its foes have moved on.

The other was the inclusion on the list of the empty office buildings at 202 and 220 S. State. The federal government owns them and has kept them empty as part of long-standing plans to expand its footprint around State and Adams, near the old Berghoff. Will they be wrecked? Renovated? Jonathan Fine, executive director of Preservation Chicago, said no answers have been forthcoming from Uncle Sam. “We put them on the list to jump-start the conversation,” he said.

I tried to do that, too, in reaching out to the General Services Administration. Late Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the agency said it is “currently considering the next steps in potentially re-purposing these facilities.”

DATA DRUMBEAT: Building a data center, a host for computer equipment, isn’t a cheap proposition. Phil Horstmann, chief executive of Ascent, is starting on one at 717 S. Desplaines in partnership with Sterling Bay Cos., and he said the ultimate investment could be greater than $250 million. For this type of building, costs often exceed $1,000 per square foot, he said. They are refurbishing an industrial building and replacing part of it to build a data center that can be enlarged. Depending on demand, the space will range from 212,000 square feet to 560,000 square feet, he said.

Ascent has two data centers in Northlake, and Horstmann figures downtown is the best choice for an expansion. He said that unlike multi-story data buildings, his offering will be adaptable to new server designs. He plans to start construction in a few weeks and to open in about a year. The project ultimately could account for about 200 jobs, Horstmann said.

ZELL LOT: In unloading Ford City Mall to iStar Financial Inc., billionaire Sam Zell avoided a foreclosure fight. Sources said Zell’s Equity Group Investments owed iStar about $90 million on the mall at 7601 S. Cicero and opted to turn the keys over to wipe the slate clean. Zell didn’t think the mall was worth the outstanding debt.

OOPS: In my column last week about Ford City, I wrongly used the word “jet” in describing the aircraft engines built on the property during World War II. Serves me right for being one of those coddled baby boomers.

DOING THE DEALS: In a move from Glenview, Association Management Center Inc. leased 47,000 square feet at 8735 W. Higgins. CBRE Group Inc. and Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. handled the negotiations for one of the year’s larger deals in the O’Hare Airport area. . . . CBRE Group Inc. represented Revolution Inc. in its lease of 153,000 square feet at 6100 W. Howard, Niles. The company makes Revolution Dancewear. Colliers International also was involved as a broker.

David Roeder reports on real estate at 6:22 p.m. Thursdays on WBBM-AM (780) and WBBM-FM (105.9). The reports are repeated at 10:22 p.m. Thursday and 7:22 a.m. Sunday.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.