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Chicago’s Last Remaining Commercial Arcade Building Is In Edgewater, And It’s To Be Torn Down For Development

Woodruff- Photo Thom Greene

Edgewater is hot and developers are seeing potential. Though not every building can be saved from the wrecking ball, the neighborhood is hooked on its history and residents are ready to fight in order to save structures that represent a colorful past.

The Woodruff building at 6361 N. Broadway, which was built in 1923, is planned to be demolished to make way for a six-story development. The proposed plans call for the top five floors to be residential and commercial space on the first floor.The property is located on the busy, high-profile corner of Broadway and Sheridan.

The facade is like any other you see in Chicago with business signs dominating its exterior. However, Woodruff uses 17 (of what is known as) Chicago-style windows on the second level. Ten on the Sheridan side and seven on the Broadway side. 

“I know of  few commercial building outside of the Loop that have this, and none in Edgewater,” said Leroy Blommaert of the Edgewater Historical Society. “While there are other neighborhood commercial buildings in Chicago that have a pleasing arrangement of windows on their upper floors; few use Chicago windows to the extent that the Woodruff Arcade does, to the best of my knowledge.”

According to Blommaert, a true Chicago window is that the center window must be a single pane that cannot be opened and that it must be larger than either of the two double-hung side windows each of which must be the same size.

But what makes this building truly unique is its interior. Inside you will find a interior two-story courtyard with a grand glass skylight that runs the length of the structure. A walkway on the second floor has a walkable balcony that gives views to the floor below. Much like modern malls that were to be built decades later, Woodruff did it first and seems to be the last remaining of its kind in Chicago.

Area architect Thom Greene, who has been involved in preserving many area structures, was introduced to Woodruff several months ago on a photo shoot. He was surprised by the dramatic interior that was behind the building’s facade.

“The unique interior sky-lit arcade space that was pretty well intact. Usually, long expanses of glass skylights get tarred over as the years go by,” said Greene. “It seems like it has been a great business incubator space over the years. I was amazed at the business that little coffee shop was doing.”

In fact, businesses thrived in Woodruff’s storefronts. Everything from a Planned Parenthood office to Christian bookstore called Woodruff home. Almost 30 companies, including many small businesses resided on the property.

However, after the building was bought by a developer for $4.5 million recently from the former owner Michael Keller, all the tenants were asked to move out of their spaces by December 31, 2017. The developer, Borekci Real Estate and Algonquin Ventures Real Estate LLC (who have an office in Schaumburg but are based in Ankara, Turkey) did not return our phonecalls.

According to sources, the owner Doruk Borekci has hired a New York based architect to design the proposed 6-story building that could replace Woodruff. Original and revised plans have been submitted to the Alderman, yet there has been no green light as of yet.

The Edgewater Historical Society sees great importance in saving Woodruff from demolition. On there website they have launched a page to save the Woodruff Shopping Arcade.

“The Woodruff Arcade is a hidden gem, but a gem nonetheless,” it is written on the site. “It is a unique building type, the precursor of today’s indoor shopping mall, and it is the only one in Edgewater (we once had two). More importantly, it is the only one in all of Chicago. For that reason alone it should be preserved.”

Though preserving Woodruff is an uphill climb, many residents are poised to make it happen.

To sign the online petition to save Woodruff, click here.


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