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Could Historic Stock Yards Bank Be Turned Into New Age Power Plant?

By Joe Ward | September 22, 2017 6:16am | Updated on September 22, 2017 10:28am
 An undated photo of the Stock Yards Bank (left) and Helmut Jahn's idea to turn it into an
An undated photo of the Stock Yards Bank (left) and Helmut Jahn's idea to turn it into an "energy bank."
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CANARYVILLE — The historically significant and long-vacant Stock Yards Bank building could be repurposed as a renewable energy plant under a design concept by one of the city's leading architecture firms.

Helmut Jahn's firm, JAHN architects, has developed a proposal for the massive building at 4146 S. Halsted St. to be turned into an "energy bank" that would store and provide renewable energy for businesses in the stock yards industrial area.

Its proposal is a play on the building's longtime use as the Live Stock National Bank. Only now, the bank would store and disperse clean energy.

"In the way community banks leverage financial assets to help local clients, an Energy Bank functions similarly," the firm's proposal reads. "By providing a depository for energy, the Bank responds directly to the requirements of the community, providing energy security to the manufacturing, commercial and residential districts and incentivizing local power generation."

The proposal would redevelop a building that received city landmark status in 2008, but has remained vacant for more than three decades. Built in 1925 and modeled after Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the building served as the official bank of the stockyards until the complex shuttered in 1971.

After the bank closed, the building was used for some time as hotel furniture warehouse, according to the Tribune. City officials saved the building from potential demolition when the city bought it in 2000 for $200,000, according to the 2006 Tribune article.

The Stock Yards bank building as it currently stands. [DNAinfo/Joe Ward]

Its efforts to sell the building since then have been unsuccessful. A developer nearly bought the building in the early 2000s, but an estimated $7 million renovation bill helped the deal fall through, according to the Tribune.

Since then, the city rehabbed the building's facade and replaced its roof in 2012. The building would require "complete rehabilitation and reinstallation of salvaged terra cotta pieces and pressed metal cornice," according to the city's planning and development office.

A number of proposals have been considered for the building. There was the unsuccessful deal that collapsed in the early 2000s, and community leaders tried to open it as a steakhouse in a sort of tribute to the area's meatpacking days, the Tribune reported.

Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th) called during his campaign for the building to be turned into a two-story banquet hall, museum and restaurant.

Interior photos of the Stock Yards Bank building show the work that would need to be done in the building. [City of Chicago]

The energy bank proposal was developed as part of the Chicago Architecture Foundation's "Between States" program, which as part of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, called on the city's leading design firms to conceive of a project in each Chicago neighborhood that would revitalize or reuse a dilapidated community resource. An exhibit with each of the 50 concepts is on display at the Chicago Architecture Foundation at 224 S. Michigan Ave.

JAHN's concept was inspired by an energy bank built this year in London. The Low Carbon Energy Centre opened in an industrial part of London and has boilers that by 2030 will provide heat energy to 15,000 homes and 3.5 million square feet of commercial space.

The London project features a striking flue stack, but the local proposal calls for the retrofitting of the existing bank building. It's design does add some modern flourishes to the building, including decorative lighting of the roof and tower.

"This serves collectively to shape not only the future of energy usage but also to establish a new train of thought on sustainability for future generations, making a new history."

The bank building undergoing facade work in an undated photo. [Flickr/Eric Allix Rogers]