NOBLE SQUARE — The future headquarters for renowned architect Jeanne Gang, a vintage Art Deco structure that was once home to the Polish National Alliance, was designated a Chicago landmark Thursday.
The Commission on Chicago Landmarks moved to protect the Depression-era limestone structure at 1514-20 W. Division St., designed by Joseph Slupkowski, and also granted Gang's firm, Studio Gang, a Class L tax break in rehabbing the landmark.
"This building is a great building, anchoring the neighborhood," said Commissioner Victor Ignacio Dziekiewicz.
The local aspect also played a role in Studio Gang's decision to relocate there. "A key consideration was staying in this neighborhood," said Gregg Garmisa, the Studio Gang attorney.
Both the designation of the building as a landmark and approval for an estimated $716,000 worth of tax relief through a Class L incentive on the $3.1 million renovation were approved Thursday.
Garmisa estimated the total cost, including the purchase price for the building, at $6.4 million.
The project will benefit from a Class L incentive, a special property-tax assessment classification to encourage the preservation and rehabilitation of landmark buildings.
Located near the geographical center of “Polish Downtown,” Chicago’s largest and oldest ethnic-Polish neighborhood, the building was recommended for landmark status by commission Research Director Terry Tatum as exemplary architecture and an example of the city's heritage.
From 1938 to 1976, the building served as the headquarters of the United States’ largest Polish-American fraternal organization, the Polish National Alliance, also known as the Zwiazek Narodowy Polski.
Most recently, the College of Office Technology used the building, but the vocational school moved out about nine months ago, and the property was sold to a venture led by Gang in April.
Provided everything works out as planned, Studio Gang hopes to relocate from its existing offices at 1212 N. Ashland Ave. and move into the building next year. A modest renovation maintaining the building's architectural integrity is expected to begin later this year and take nine months.
In March, Studio Gang architect Harry Soenken said that many of the firm's 50 employees walk to their current office, which they have outgrown. Garmisa estimated the firm would add 10 more permanent positions with the move.
Last year, Gang and her firm were awarded a top prize for overall architectural design from the Smithsonian, which cited her Lincoln Park Zoo Nature Boardwalk, among other Chicago projects.
The judges of the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt Museum's 2013 National Design Awards called the zoo work, a 14-acre biodiverse habitat, not only a practical storm-water infrastructure, but an "engaging public space."
"Gang uses architecture as a medium of active response to contemporary issues and their impact on the human experience," they said. "Each project resonates with its specific site and culture while addressing larger global themes such as urbanization, climate and sustainability."
Gang also has a role in designing the new wetlands project at Northerly Island.
Gang is probably most famous for designing Aqua, an award-winning 82-story skyscraper at 225 N. Columbus Drive that serves as the cover model for the most recent edition of the American Institute of Architects' "Guide to Chicago."