Nine years ago, Chicago billionaire and real estate mogul Sam Zell weighed the possibility of tearing down the sphinx-shaped office building at 400 W. Madison St., which for years has been known as 2 North Riverside Plaza.
Then, in early 2008, shortly after assuming control of Tribune Co., the owner of this newspaper, Zell pondered whether to cram an office tower onto 2 North Riverside’s precedent-setting, riverfront plaza.
This time, the recession intervened.
Instead, Equity has begun what it characterizes as “a multimillion-dollar renovation” of the 26-story building, whose location next to the Ogilvie Transportation Center and near Union Station makes it convenient to rail commuters.
The work, due to be done early next year, includes nuts-and-bolts fixes meant to appeal to prospective tenants, from replacing old windows with double-paned, energy-efficient models to converting the building from steam heat to electric heat. Nearly 18 percent of the building is not leased, said Shannon Finnerty, an Equity Office senior property manager.
Former DCTC Plaster student Marcin Sasulski with RG Construction
Aesthetic enhancements are also part of the package, including a cleaning of the building’s soot-covered limestone exterior and a renovation of its striking art deco lobbies, with their flower-inspired, metal decoration.
The ground-floor lobby, closed to the public since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, has been reopened and is being renovated. It offers such visual grace notes as a U.S. Air Mail box with a silver depiction of an old-fashioned propeller plane.
In the second-floor lobby, ornate crown moldings and sleek nickel trim were discovered above drop ceilings as interior demolition began. The crown moldings were too damaged to be restored, said Carrie Fitzpatrick, project manager for Chicago architects Solomon Cordwell Buenz, so new molds were created to replicate the plaster originals (above). The nickel trim is being restored in place.
Its sleek vertical look marked a shrewd attempt by the now-defunct Daily News to one-up the ornament-encrusted, neo-Gothic Tribune Tower of the rival Chicago Tribune. (The Daily News left the building in 1960 and ceased publication in 1978.)