Building vies for landmark status

Breanne Gilpatrick

Residents and developers have been arguing about zoning issues and development plans since Kendall College finalized plans last November to move to a newer facility in Chicago. But now the issue of preservation has officially entered the debate.

The Evanston Preservation Commission held a public hearing Tuesday night to listen to a nomination to have the Kendall College administration building at 2408 Orrington Ave. designated as an Evanston landmark. The Northeast Evanston Historic District Association submitted an application in June to obtain landmark status for the building because a change to residential zoning needed to develop the property could force the demolition of the building, said Judy Fiske, a board member of Northeast Evanston Historic District Association.

If the city were to declare the Kendall College building a landmark, the building could qualify as a unique-use building, which would allow it to remain on the property even if the city changed the zoning in the area, Fiske said.

Lawrence Gustave Hallberg designed the building to serve as the Swedish Methodist Episcopal Theological Seminary in 1907. It became the Kendall College administration building in 1934. At the public hearing, Fiske read from the group’s application, which states that the building deserves to be a landmark because of its association with the history and social development of the city and because of its association with historic figures, such as Harry R. Kendall.

Fiske also said that because the Kendall building sits on the border of the Northeast Evanston Historic District, it helps anchor the district.

“Boundaries of historic districts should be maintained as much as possible because they are supposed to be the visual entrance to the historic district,” she explained the afternoon before the meeting.

Fiske said designating the Kendall building as a landmark would benefit both the neighborhood and the developer because the developer could convert the building into several condominium units while retaining the historic site.

Robert Buono, the principal developer for Smithfield Properties, the company that now owns the Kendall property, was unavailable for comment. At the hearing a Smithfield representative asked the preservation commission to hold the discussion until the next regular meeting, scheduled for Aug. 17.

Local preservationists also have been working to preserve The Georgian, an 88-year-old former hotel at 422 Davis St. The building is now a retirement hotel owned by Mather LifeWays. A special Planning and Development Committee meeting will be held at 6 p.m. July 29 at the Evanston Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave., to discuss the issue.

At the Evanston City Council meeting on June 28, Alds. Arthur Newman (1st) and Steven Bernstein (4th) said the moves to have The Georgian and the Kendall building declared landmarks only after developers announced plans for the properties seemed like attempts to slow development.

But Fiske said the reason Northeast Evanston Historic District Association had not pursued landmark status for the building when Kendall owned the property was because there was no risk of the building’s demolition as long as the land was zoned for university use.

“This had absolutely nothing to do with making things more difficult for the developer,” Fiske said. “In fact, it makes it easier for the developer. This is not an attempt to slow things down at all.”

City Reporter Breanne Gilpatrick is a Medill junior.

She can be reached at [email protected]