As construction on the CTA's ongoing $2.1 billion Red-Purple Modernization (RPM) project shifts into high gear, crews are prepping for the most delicate maneuver of the entire operation: moving the 127-year-old landmark Vautravers Building 30 feet to the southwest.
Built in 1894 by Chicago architecture firm Frommann & Jebsen, the Vautravers property is currently located at 947-949 W. Newport Avenue in Lakeview and boasts a limestone and brick facade with copper bay windows and Romanesque ornamentation. Unlike some of its less-fortunate neighbors, the historic structure was purchased by the CTA and spared from destruction due to its inclusion in the Newport Avenue Chicago Landmark District.
The building's location places it directly in the path of new elevated Red and Purple Line tracks, which are being rebuilt and straightened between Belmont and Addison. RPM contractor Walsh-Fluor worked with specialist subcontractor Wolfe House & Building Movers to develop a plan to shift the historic structure closer to Clark Street and out of harm's way.
Starting in April, crews removed a number of historic architectural elements from the three-story building's facade and stored the pieces to prevent damage during the move. Bracing was installed around the building to keep the remaining exterior elements in place.
Workers are currently installing a grid of braces, beams, and rollers below the building in preparation for the big move. "Once the jacking frame is complete, a unified jacking system will be used to lift the building off of its foundation," the CTA announced Friday. "A series of slide beams and push rams will then be used to slide the building first west, and then south." The move itself is scheduled for August.
The Vautravers Building will then be carefully positioned above its new location—currently a pit in the ground—but won't be lowered down. Instead, the historic structure will be propped up by temporary foundations as a new concrete base is poured below. Once the Vautravers is permanently anchored in place, crews will begin restoring the structure and re-installing the historic facade elements. The CTA expects the work to finish by the end of the year.
The RPM project is the most expensive capital improvement project in the history of the Chicago Transit Authority. It includes the nearby Belmont Flyover, which eliminates a congested bottleneck where the Purple, Brown, and Red lines intersect, as well as a complete rebuild of four aging Red Line stations at Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn, and Bryn Mawr.