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What Does It Mean to Be a Chicago Landmark?

21 Jun 2017 12

Sitting outside on Marina City’s sunny plaza, listening to the tour boats go by and talk about Bertrand Goldberg’s famous Chicago towers, you would never know that Marina City – one of Chicago’s most unique and recognizable buildings – only received Chicago landmark status last year.

As a City of Chicago designated landmark, the city strives to recognize the historic significance of Marina City and preserve it for future generations.

What does being a Chicago landmark actually mean?

As a landmark, any desired changes to certain parts of the building, including the roofline, plaza and lobby area visible from the river, must first be approved by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. For Marina City, this includes changes not only the two towers but to the two restaurants (Dick’s Last Resort and Smith & Wollensky), the House of Blues theater and the Hotel Chicago.

In addition to the preservation of the visual details of the building, landmark status also offers benefits to the neighborhood and its residents. Landmark buildings help increase an area’s prestige and can even raise property values in the area. The City offers landmark buildings certain economic incentives to help them maintain the property; while the incentives vary a bit depending on the property type, they include tax credits, tax freezes and facade rebates.

How are Chicago landmark preservation projects funded?

The city also offers a Citywide Adopt a Landmark Fund which holds money contributed by developers who are looking to increase the height of their buildings past what zoning codes allow. These funds can then be granted to landmark buildings in the area to help with needed repairs and upkeep. Last year Marina City was a benefactor of some of these funds, receiving just over $1 million. This money was used to help with preventative maintenance and repairs on balcony railings.

It’s important to note that the funding shared with landmarks can only be used on specific types of projects outlined in the Commission on Chicago Landmarks standards and guidelines. A residential landmark like Marina City can’t, for example, use funding to complete renovations to a residential floor hallway or other section of the building that isn’t visible to the public. The funding is intended to ensure that everyone is able to view the preservation efforts made, regardless of whether they are a tourist walking by or a resident of the landmark.

Interested in learning what other buildings in Chicago have received landmark status? See the full listing of Chicago landmarks here.

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