Will Midway Airport project bring down an historic 1920s Clearing neighborhood building?

February 12, 2012

These are rough times, as of late, for buildings designed by architect Edward G. McClellan.

This month, the city demolished a beautiful but vacant three-story corner building designed by McClellan at 79th and Halsted after a portion of the structure collapsed and injured four passersby. And now, an occupied corner commercial building--designed by the same architect--in the Southwest Side neighborhood of Clearing would be razed under a plan to create a safety buffer around Midway Airport.

The 84-year-old Crane and Moreland building, 63rd and Central, sits across from the western edge of the airport. City officials fear that proximity places the building--and four properties surrounding the airport--in danger of being hit by planes landing or taking off. Six years ago, a plane at Midway overshot a runway and struck a car killing a six-year-old boy.

In a Chicago Sun-Times report last November, a city aviation official said acquiring the building "is quite critical — not only for runway protection zones, but also to improve the navigation approach path for aircraft to that runway." The building was completed the same year Midway opened. 

Clearing neighborhood residents are protesting the planned demolition and it's easy to see why. The three-store Baroque Revival building is rich in architectural details. much like McClellan's now-gone 79th and Halsted building. A drugstore anchors the building's corner and there are a variety of other small businesses there. And look at this entrance to the apartments above:

The building is rated "orange" in the city's Chicago Historic Resources survey, which is good news for preservationists. The rating means the building has "potentially significant architectural or historical features" and if a demolition permit is pulled, the application is subject to a 90-day review in which the city's Housing and Economic Development department can--if it chooses--seek away to preserve the structure, including landmarking.