Saturday, May 29, 2021

Sun-Times: Altgeld Gardens Commercial Building

Via WisconsinHistory.org

Since I mentioned Altgeld Gardens a few days ago on this blog, I found this Sun-Times article on an architecturally significant building in that part of town called the Altgelt Gardens commercial building:

Completed in 1945 — and a decade or two before the rise of south suburban shopping centers — Altgeld Gardens was more than 3 miles from the Roseland neighborhood, where the nearest major commercial strip was located.

Given Altgeld’s remoteness, it would make sense that a shopping center would be part of the development’s original plan. When it opened, the commercial center featured a grocery store, beauty and barbershops, a laundry, a doctors office, a pharmacy — even a delicatessen.

“This building was then planned — to be privately owned and financed — for the prominent location in the project, to house these essentials and help create the full community,” a 1948 article in Progressive Architecture said.

Architects George Fred Keck and his brother William designed a long, graceful curved brick and glass building. Its overhanging curved roof has the panache of a 1940s hat.

But over the years, shops and services left the the center, and the building’s private owners haven’t done much to keep the structure in good repair or lure new tenants. Most of its floor-to-ceiling glass windows have been sealed up or removed. The building looks every bit of its 75 years — and then some.

Altgeld residents deserve far better. But for once, the CHA isn’t at fault. The shopping center, built to be privately owned, remains that way. And it’s a problem.

“We agree that the current condition of the building is an eyesore and unfair to the community,” the CHA told us in a statement. “We strongly encourage the owner to fulfill his obligations as a property owner to improve the situation.”

The CHA acknowledges the building has “significantly deteriorated” in recent years, but the agency said it lacks the money to step in and buy a non-residential structure.

The first paragraph noted the future red line extension. Here's hoping that old community center is one project that can get off the ground much sooner.

Guess what I found Google Street Views picture of this building at 131st & Ellis. It does look rough.