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Three cheers for Alderman Reilly!

Finally, the forces of historic preservation and civic tradition have their day.

Brendan Reilly, freshman alderman of downtown's 42nd Ward, came out against the demolition of the old Lakeshore Athletic Club, saying the "historically significant" building can be saved. His opposition could kill a developer's $41 million contract to buy the property at 850 N. Lake Shore Drive.

It also puts him at odds with Northwestern University, the building's seller. A mandate to keep the 19-story building lowers its resale value.

The decision was Reilly's first involving a controversial and high-profile project in his high-rise ward. Last February, he beat nine-termer Burton Natarus in part by arguing that the incumbent had gotten too close to developers.

Somehow, I imagine Northwestern will survive the likely loss of a few million, and Fifield will find countless other buildings to tear down and toss up bland glass towers in their place. I'm not entirely anti-development, but Lakeshore Athletic Club is a gem that's undeniably worth saving.

Update: Lynn Becker has some appropriately sobering commentary on the powerful institutional resistance that Reilly is likely to face in his preservation efforts. But for now, I'm just going to keep wallowing in today's (perhaps momentary, perhaps moral) victory.

July 11, 2007 in Chicago Observations | Permalink