Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Going, Going....

Open windows where the original stained glass was removed
on the north-facing side of the home

The front trees come down

The stained glass window in the front has been removed
Well, it's over.  All that's left is for the wrecking equipment to arrive.

The Victorian home that stood at 4642 North Magnolia for parts of three centuries will be demolished as early as today.  The back fence has been removed; the stained glass windows have been taken out; and the mature trees on the lot have been cut down.

It's hardly a surprise.  From the first notices sent out in October, the specter of demolition was on the table.  The former and current owners repeatedly said the lot would become a "parking lot" if upzoning for a six-flat weren't approved.

In October, Ald. Cappleman said in his newsletter:  "The prospective buyer is only interested in purchasing this home if he is allowed to tear it down in order to build something else on this site.  ... If the Historic Preservation Division does not want to proceed with landmarking this building [which is what happened], the house will be torn down and the new owner will present new building plans to the Magnolia-Malden Block Club. If the new proposal requires an upzone, members of the block club will have a strong say on whether or not this would occur. If the new proposal does not require any zoning change, the new owner does not need community input to build as long as it remains within the current zoning guidelines."

As most of us know, the block club voted unanimously against upzoning, a sale did take place, and now the owners are making good on their often-stated intention to tear down the home.  We hate to see another part of Sheridan Park's history disappear, but they bought that right.

We do find it perplexing that developers are purposely creating a long-term vacant lot.  Owner Michael Finan told Chicago Magazine:  “I’ll knock it down and it will be another vacant lot in Uptown... I’m going to demo it and let that vacant lot sit there.”  Like Thorek Hospital's vast real estate holdings of empty space, we call that land-banking, not developing.

Chicago Magazine has a story published January 20th that includes interviews with many involved in this issue, called "This Old House Will Soon be a Vacant Lot."  It includes a photo slideshow of the interior of the house in its last days as well.

For 118 years, there was something beautiful there.  Let's remember it this way:

39 comments:

  1. If there's a positive side of this, it's that they're at least salvaging the stained glass to live on, since the Finans are too blind to see what this building has going for it, and where this neighborhood is going.

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  2. Something positive may come out of this yet. In addition to finding a better way to protect properties from destruction that the community believes deserve to be preserved, perhaps the local authorities will compose some legislation or regulations which would prevent land-baking. In order to have an impact, it would need to be retroactive. I'm sure similar laws/regulations are already on the books in more progressive cities which can serve as a guide. Otherwise, we'll continue to be held hostage by unscrupulous, moneyed developers who take the 'my way or vacant lots for years' approach to community cooperation. Does anyone know how long the owner of the Malden lots has been waiting for the community to roll over to his demands? I know it's been at least since 2000.

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  3. Now the Finans can pay their 525k mortgage on an empty lot. These clowns thought they could steam roll the neighborhood. Now the joke is on them as the neighborhood holds the keys to their upzone. I for one am never voting yes on that one. You can't shit in someone's hat and expect them to wear it.

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  4. I wonder if I can score some of that firewood!

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  5. Yet another positive is that I met so many of our neighbors for the first time and became better acquainted with others.

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  6. Nice I think I am going over to the pub today to have some fish and chips and a nice Pint of Guiness.

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  7. I'd bring someone along PB. Pubs are so much more fun when there's more than a a couple patrons and the staff.

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  8. I genuinely hope an empty lot doesn't stand there. However, it seems that without legislation, the options are empty lot or 6 flat. I realize that letting them build will just show other developers that tactic works, but I think a multi-family unit is better than an empty lot. Considering the issues with this property (vacant for 20 years, needs $250k rehab) I don't think this was a battle worth fighting.

    The Chicago magazine article states that the seller had received an offer for $5,000 less from someone looking to rehab the property, but chose to sell it to the people who announced their plans to tear it down from the start. At minimum the seller deserves some of the anger from the preservationists, since he had a chance to save it and chose not to. The battle is lost. I say upzone it so we don't have another vacant lot for the next 10 years.

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    1. It was only $250,000? Wow. That sounds like a deal. I have some friends that are paying way more, but paid way less for the property west of here.

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  9. There usually is a ton of people enjoying a good lunch and a pint during the noon hour.

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  10. I suspect that will change PB. There's nothing worse than a disgruntled community for a business which so heavily depends on goodwill to survive.

    Porch, there needs to be retroactive legislation and no upzoning! It could be called the "Poop or Get of the Pot" Urbanal Renewal Law.

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    1. Besides deterring future developers from deploying the strategy being implemented on Magnolia with incentives, it should tax the spit out of developers who intentionally damage a community by allowing prime real estate to like fallow (and often filthy) much like the taxes air and water polluters pay for damaging the environment.

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    2. Besides your reference to "Caligula-avarice-moral turpitude" etc now YOU want to decide what the zoning should be AND how long property owners can sit on vacant parcels? What about the vacant lot that Tangora owns? Or does he get a special dispensation from the new Lord of Uptown--Uptown Revivalist?

      You're approaching levels of assholetude that normally only I and a few others here approach.

      As for the boycott of their restaurant I doubt it will have much of an impact on their bottom line. A group of people who mostly never dined there will continue not dining there. The bottom line HORROR!

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    3. I agree with all the Pirates. Guiness on me at O'shaughnessy's!

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    4. Pirate, the Tangoras' lot is now part of their property. It's also maintained to a respectable degree. That lot is owned by someone who lives on the property and for whom it is a primary residence. The idea is to remove a weapon from developers who use it to manipulate a result. That's not in the community's interest.

      If you guys had attended all the meetings and watched and experienced how all of this unfolded, I believe we would all be on the same page. Frankly, I wouldn't eat at O'Shaughnessy's not only because of their choice to level this home, but also because of the seller's and developers' behavior throughout this experience. I agree that some of our neighbors talked out of turn and were at times quite emotional about this property, but the block club acted in good faith.

      The vote not to upzone was unanimous and should the request be made again, I would vote against it.

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    5. 2 things doomed this lot from being upzoned - 1) the house on it was admired by many and arguably one of the few SFH's left in Sheridan Park and was worth saving 2) the behavior of the past and present owners (and the present owners arrogant attorney) during the meetings (you REALLY had to be there to see it).

      Had this been an empty lot to begin with, I doubt upzoning would have been much of an issue. Perhaps the Rutherfords, who were so intent on destroying this home, should have demolished the house themselves and then sold the lot. They have a history of destoying old homes and generally pissing off their neighbors, so it would not have been surprising had they done that. This would have probably been the best way for the Finan's to have saved their reputation (in Uptown) and they probably would be finalizing plans right now for their 6 flat.

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    6. I got a solution. Let's stop talking, and let's just buy the damn house! UR has the money, I'm assuming, and I've offered $10 of my own hard-earned cash, so let's get it done. Yeah, I'm not crazy about block clubs in general. They tend to be peopled by mettlesome, know-it-all do-gooders that add little of substantive benefit to their community (other than plant flowers now and then). But I really love the people of this block club because of their willingness to put their money where their mouth is, which is so rare among people that like to tell others what they can do with their money.

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    7. GS, you really should think about accepting a role in one of the local block clubs (all of which supported preservation of the house and retaining the extant zoning regulations). Your "keep your mouth shut unless you have money" approach coupled with the initiative to find a buyer to save the house are so simple yet elegant. Too bad we didn't think of finding a buyer 20 old growth trees ago.

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  11. Knocking down the house was spiteful. Cutting down every tree on the lot was hateful.

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  12. The entire episode has revealed a level of moral turpitude and avarice that would raise eyebrows at the court of Caligula.

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  13. We get an empty lot because the block club chose that over a six-flat. It's their own fault.

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  14. No, all of us got an empty lot because the developer was so presumptuous as to present the entire community with an ultimatum and then foolishly and vindictively acted on his threat. The block club offered to find a buyer for the house so that the developer would recoup his investment. That wasn't enough for the developer.

    If business practices such as these are encouraged, we'll be at the mercy of the pecuniary ambitions of unscrupulous developers. "Oh you won't do what I ask, I'll raze it!"

    The laws have to be revised to discourage that kind of behavior.

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    1. I'm finding myself agreeing with Jason/Irish-like Pirate.

      Either he's gotten a whole lot smarter or I have early onset dementia.

      I need to rethink my position.

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    2. You probably should. If any of employees conducted themselves like the seller and developers did during those meetings, they would be fired on the spot!

      Clearly, we do need some kind of regulation to avoid having empty lots. The status quo isn't working for the neighborhood and accommodating each developer's business model for profitability isn't the answer either.

      Otherwise, I respect your disagreement.

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    3. "Clearly, we do need some kind of regulation to avoid having empty lots. The status quo isn't working for the neighborhood and accommodating each developer's business model for profitability isn't the answer either."

      Agreed. This is where the onus falls on our dear leader Cappleman. He needs to strap on his big boy pants and get to work with our fair city's government. As the Alderman, this is his responsibility.

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  15. No, we get an empty lot because the Finan's bought a home that had a lot zoned for a single family home, not a 6 flat. They could have walked from the contract. The empty lot is their choice.

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  16. Wish there had been better close up pics of the house while it was still intact. Can't really see what the stain glass looks like.

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    1. Philip - Redfin had many pictures of the stained glass and the Chicago Magazine article had a couple as well. Search by the address and you'll find them. They are probably sitting at Architectural Artifacts or some other salvage place right now. Sad, but at least they were saved. The beautiful stairway though, I'm not sure if that was removed or not.

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  17. We got an empty plot because an obnoxious developer ran into an obnoxious block club. Both sides have declared victory, and, as is often the case, the only losers here are the majority of people who put pragmatism over dogma. Uptown, an area with a dire need for investment, has another empty lot, and people are celebrating that at least they're going to teach someone (who is willing to invest in our areal a lesson? They now want to punish the Finans by boycotting O'Shaunesseys, a much-needed, much-appreciated business in this area? Well, good luck dodging the bullets, Sheridan Park.

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    1. Sheridan Park doesn't need O'Shaughnessy's. It's the other way around. Sheridan Park and Uptown have turned a corner. There are new projects in the pipeline that will make this a very different place within a year. If the developer believes he's won, more power to him. No one in the community is happy about how the process or the outcome. A historical district which permits its oldest structures to be torn down and replaced by McCondos? It's a mockery.

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    2. Considering O'Shaughnessey's is NOT in Sheridan Park I couldn't agree more. That's certainly Ravenswood.

      I doubt the "boycott" will have much of a an effect on their bottom line. JP Paulus has stated that he hasn't gone in there since Zephyr closed. Considering he moved BEFORE it closed that's undoubtedly a true statement. The loss of business from demented Uptown obsessives who live in Chatham will likely not have much of an effect on their business. Thank God Littleton is only boycotting that restaurant and not Starbucks. I'd hate to see the loss of revenue result in the closing of all our Starbucks locations.

      I also see that some vacant lots are more equal than other vacant lots. As for trying to force development on vacant lots it ain't gonna happen outside of eminent domain. In other words..ain't likely to happen.

      Getting back to Littleton is it possible for him to walk/haunt the streets of our fine vacant lot filled neighborhood(bit of an exaggeration go with me here) without a cup of Starbucks java in his hand? Is that just a prop like the phosphorous like hair and the demented smile once a camera appears?

      Inquiring pirates wanna know.


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  18. The battle for France is over and the battle of Britain has begun! I'm sorry, I'm paraphrasing Churchill.

    The house is kaput. Dead, gone, ain't coming back. It's a dead parrot.

    What we need to do now is set up a process to decide which buildings in Uptown are worthy of at least "orange" landmark designation and which aren't. There are plenty of houses in Sheridan Park that should receive at least that designation. There are also plenty that shouldn't. Take a look at that dump on Leland the Cold Stone Campbell's Soup Collectivist horde owns. Or does someone want to wax lyrically about its beauty and how it brings joy to their hearts as they walk by.

    Identify the buildings worth saving then "spot rezone" as necessary to increase the chances of those buildings surviving AND allowing appropriate zoning on the other parcels--vacant or not.

    Vacant parcels in Sheridan Park are appropriate for the zoning necessary to at least build center entrance six flats. It's possible to build decent looking center entrance six flats. On the 4100? block of Kenmore there are at least three good looking center entrance six flats on the east side of the street. Opposite are five? attached center entrance 6-8 unit buildings that are not as nice looking. The red brick ones with the overwrought and multiple arch thing going on. I mean I like the balconies and the eyes on the street, but there is such a thing as too much "arch".

    In Lakeview just west of Southport and south of Addison there is a newish single family home that looks like an old greystone 3-flat. Where they got the old stone or newly quarried stone to match I don't know, but they did.

    There's a moment in time here where with appropriate zoning we could see some serious development in Sheridan Park on the vacant parcels. Offer developers upzoning if they build something good looking.

    Insisting on strictly adhering to the five year old downzoning is stupid and counterproductive.

    There's one near surefire method to know you're on the right side in an Uptown debate. Find out what Littleton or Paulus are for and then support the other side. Or to make it easier just ask me and support my position.

    This all brings me back to my "Prayer for Our Cities"

    Now we should all bow our heads down and pray:

    Lord,

    Save us from the left wing know what is best busybodies/preservationists..

    Save us from the right wing imperial moralists/libertarians..

    Save us from those who would save us.

    AMEN

    The rant is ended go in peace. Thanks be to Pirate.


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  19. Two decades when considering moving here we were faced with concerns, to counter those I said "people come and go, communities change and hopefully for the better. But what you'll always have is architectural history, the buildings, and uptown has the most beautiful."
    20 years later the same concerns are here, some more some less, but we've seen the weber house torn down, the beautiful and once oldest home in Sheridan park on beacon torn down, and now this.
    I was wrong about what changes, but I know I'm not alone in moving here in part because of the rich history and glorious homes and buildings. I'm afraid we are losing what makes our community unique and wonderful, and once it's gone we can never get it back... No matter who comes or goes.

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  20. Actually a vacant lot will be nice. This is a very dense neighborhood and we have a lot of small wildlife that could use the safe ground to live.. I appreciate the Finans buying the rabbits a nice little field to thrive in. And should they turn the land in to a parking lot as threatened, that would be AWESOME! We have a huge shortage of available parking in the area. Finans, please consider building garages on your new parking lot. Though the food / service sucks at your pub - thus I never go there - perhaps I would rent a garage from you. As for the upzoning, I will never vote yes on principle alone.

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  21. I hate to see a vintage home torn down, but the economics of rehabbing is very poor at this time. A figure of $250K to rehab this home is far too low. I would estimate a rehab cost of $500K-$700K.

    If the community wants these vintage homes preserved, there needs to be some economic help given to rehabbers. Otherwise the economics will favor multifamily buildings.

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