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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

21st Ward Preservation Review at Work

One of the first legislative actions of Antonio French, the newly elected alderman of the 21st Ward, was to institute preservation review for his ward. Preservation review means that the Preservation Board reviews proposed demolitions in participating wards. Currently, most wards participate. Those that don't are located on the North Side, with the exception of the 14th Ward (Bevo).

In January, the Preservation Board reviewed a proposed demolition at 4125 Turner on an intact North Side block. According to live Tweets by Michael Allen, the home was spared demolition by a unanimous vote. Here is a capture of the Cultural Resource Office's staff report showing the house (circled in blue) and adjacent structures:

A North Side block is now to remain intact due to Preservation Review. Most certainly, this situation would have been entirely different if this demolition request had occurred a year or two earlier. The owner would have gone to the Building Division, requested a permit, and that permit, in all likelihood, would have been granted with no opportunity for public comment or oversight.

While the house is certainly not a work of architectural genius, it's an attractive contributor to a unique streetscape. I sincerely hope, now, that its owner can shore up the financing to rehab it or sell it to someone who can.


Rick Bonasch said...

Why was it proposed for demolition?

Matt M. said...

From the Cultural Resources Office report:

On November 16, 2009, the applicant, B and D Wrecking, applied for a demolition permit for the
house at 4125 Turner. After contacting the owner, staff learned that there had been a fire at the
property. The owner stated that his insurance had paid $60,000.00 for the damage to the building
and that he had used the insurance funding to pay off his mortgage of $45,000.00, leaving him
with insufficient funding for rehabilitation of the house.

Upon inspection of the site, staff made the decision that the condition of the building did not
meet Ordinance criteria for approval of the demolition permit application on a staff level. Staff
denied the application on December 20; 2009.The owner appealed the staff denial.


The CRO Staff Report goes on to say that there have been numerous complaints about the property since the owner acquired it in 2002. I'm pretty sure the CRO is alleging this one to be a demolition by neglect scenario.

One thing that stands out, to me, in the report is that the CRO says this property is National Register eligble; that fact would "bring down" rehabilitation costs to ~$65k. That's a substantial investment in a neighborhood that's not entirely stable--and especially risky considering the National Register nomination process could take a while or even be rejected.

Still, as I said in the post, I believe our city is better off not leaving gaping holes in its fabric at every opportunity. No one wants to live on a mostly vacant block, but at least the infrastructure is there to improve in the future.

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