Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Another Upzoning Request From The Owners Of 4642 N Magnolia

Well, this should be interesting.

A RECAP:  Many readers remember the high emotions surrounding the fate of an 1896 Victorian house at 4642 N Magnolia (above).  Last winter, it was sold by the only family who had ever owned it to developers, who proposed building a modern six-flat on the double lot.  The property is zoned for a single-family home (RS-3), so the new owners applied for a zoning change.

Many lots in Sheridan Park have been downzoned in past years to preserve the historic character of the community, and to discourage developers from demolishing single-family homes to build higher-density homes in their place.  Much spirited discussion about what the best course of action should be took place among neighbors, preservationists, the original owners, and the new owners over the course of several months.

Because the price of the proposed development was less than ten million dollars, the decision on whether to approve the proposed upzoning didn't go before the 46th Ward's Zoning and Development Committee, but instead fell to residents living within the boundaries of the house's block club, Magnolia Malden Neighbors.

The new owners of the property said that if residents didn't vote in favor of the requested zoning change, they would knock down the house and leave the lot vacant for years. When the residents at two different community meetings voted against upzoning the property, the new owners kept their word.  In February, the house, garage and several trees on the lot were demolished.  What remains is an empty lot.

PRESENT DAY:  We are hearing that the new owners are requesting another zoning change for the lot, this time to an RS-3.5 designation.  They propose splitting the lot into two parcels.  On one, they want to build a single-family home, and on the other, a three-flat.

Once again, the community will make the decision on the upzoning.  This time it will be made by residents of all of Sheridan Park, who will hear the proposal and vote.  The meeting should take place in a couple weeks and will be announced when a date and location have been determined.

If you live in the areas covered by Magnolia Malden Neighbors, Graceland Wilson Neighbors, Dover Neighbors and Beacon Block Club, start thinking about hearing the presentation from the vacant lot's owners on why their latest upzoning request should be considered and what your vote will be.

You can see all UU's posts about 4642 Magnolia here.

Update:  As of 6/12/2014, the owners of the property have withdrawn their request for upzoning.


  1. It sucks the house is gone, but it's just that - gone. Let them build something decent so there's not just an empty lot. Sure this was their strategy all along, and good for them, it worked from my perspective.

    1. I'm sad too that the lot is empty, but this is not just about the one lot. Other beautiful historic houses in Sheridan Park are inevitably going to come on the market in the next few years, and if developers think that the neighbors can be bullied, they're going to fall one after another.

      The behavior we saw this winter must not be rewarded. If the new owners want to build, they can build to the existing R3 zoning.

    2. Couldn't have said it better Charlie.

    3. It only worked if you're quitting the fight. From my perspective, I see 2 single family homes on the two lots, developers be damned.

    4. When is the meeting on this? The Finans want to squeeze that lot for all it is worth. Why not toss in a carriage house and campground while they are at it? The answer is easy, "No". That lot is not big enough for a single family and 3-flat. I agree with Charlie, can't let them set the bar low.

  2. This would probably be welcome news for any of the other long empty lots in Uptown. Unfortunately, there was so much documented manipulation and deceit surrounding that property and its future that the neighborhood must tread very carefully. After the house was demolished and the old growth trees were removed, the new owners left an illegal eyesore. From February through the end of April, that empty lot grossly violated Chicago's building code. It became a convenient toilet for the neighborhood as the back fence remained partially intact leaving a great place for people to drink, pee, hang out, sleep etc. There were no rat abatement measures taken in accordance with the building code, which may also explain why we've got more rats than usual. Although better than it was, the lot remains in violation of the building code. In short, this developer cuts corners and ought to be closely monitored.

    I personally would retain the existing R3 zoning which the developers encountered and the community voted to retain repeatedly over the years. Sheridan Park should also review its historic district status and make sure that a Phillips house disaster doesn't happen to Sheridan Park again. We need to discourage the kind of land banking that this group of developers threatened the community with if they didn't get their way with the upzoning. We also need to make sure our City inspectors are doing their job. The Building Code is quite clear about how developers may demolition buildings and maintain an empty lot. The City should not have allowed this lot to become a refuge for the neighborhood’s addicts and criminals basically until someone complained about it.

  3. That lot isn't big enough for a single family home and a three flat. Vote "No".

  4. Glad to hear the entire neighborhood gets a say. Will only solidify our position on this. The Finans are money grubbing opportunists. Why stop at a single-family home and 3-flat, they could also squeeze in a coach house while they are at it? The answer is simple for me and my household, "No". Charlie is right, we can't let them set the bar low on this issue.

    UU, please post the meeting date and location as soon as known so we can get the word out. Last time this was dropped at the 11th hour.

  5. Charlie is right on the money. The community holds all the power. Don't give it up.

  6. I don't understand the idea of "preserving the character of the block" most of this particular block is flats so why would it be so outrageous for these owners to sale there property and upzone this parcel?

  7. Huh?! My bedroom looks out on to this empty lot and I am dumbfounded as to how the space could possibly fit a single family home AND a 3-flat.

  8. Deceitful / insane tactics aside from the meetings back in the fall, I think circumstances were different with this house than most other historic houses in the area, in that this house was gutted by fire (pictures corroborated that).

    So, while charming on the outside, the amount of investment needed to retain the character and make it "livable" at the same time would have been more than the market would bear.

    Point being, that the community needs to take a more realistic approach in weighing these types of zoning proposals (again, insane tactics aside).

    Now, the question today is whether it's practical to split that lot -- I guess that will all be hashed out at the zoning meetings, which I hope--for everyone's sake-- that they dont turn into a circus.

  9. There are no heroes in this situation. The Finans and Rutherfords have acted like poo poo heads. There I said it............poo poo heads. Let's see if that gets by the UU censors.

    Many of the neighbors opposing any change in zoning aren't a whole lot better. For some of them it's about their sunlight and/or "revenge" on the Finans. For others it's a sincere belief than every stinking home in Sheridan Park should be preserved no matter its condition or economic viability. The belief is sincere, but wrong.

    For others like Littleton it's about being able to stand up at a public meeting and garner attention to oneself by making a public ass out of oneself. For some like the Uptown Uprising crowd it's a chance to oppose any market rate housing and assist the doomed campaign of "Public Figure" Denice Davis.

    They'll oppose any upzoning, but let the parcel be zoned for a halfway house, subsidized housing, or some other non market rate use and they would support a highrise. "Ya know, 70 stories of housing with a meth clinic is entirely appropriate for that location." Throw in some crayons and an art "studio" and Littleton would twerk with joy.


    "I wonder if the Emperor Honorious watching the Visigoths coming over the seventh hill truly realized that the Roman Empire was about to fall? This is.......just another page in history isn't it? Will this be the end of our civilization............turn the page." Identify that quote from popular American culture and enter a contest for a free adult spanking from our moral betters over at JPUSA. Perhaps an ex member of JPUSA will have to administer the prize as JPUSA seems to be shrinking in size. What they may lack in numbers they make up for in self pity and overwhelming self regard.

    This city and neighborhood desperately needs economic development and market rate housing is one key to that. Times change. Neighborhoods change. Blocks change.

    The idea that entire blocks in Sheridan Park should be zoned only to allow SFH or two flats is wrong. Go through the neighborhood building by building and "preserve" the ones that are truly worth saving and spot zone the others parcels appropriately. Sheridan Park is dominated by center entrance six flats--glorious old six flats. The building just north of this now vacant lot goes nearly lot line to lot line and only SFH's are appropriate?

    There are single family homes in Sheridan Park worth preserving because of their beauty or historic nature. There are others that need to be knocked down.

    Decide which are worthy and which aren't and zone appropriately.

  10. I'm a retired person living in a in a historic house which i can't afford to maintain Do know there are city benefits for people who own a bungelow style houses not so for my home. Unless you can champion the city to provide realistic resources to ordinary people only the wealthy will enjoy the luxury of living in a historic house (I'm not one) while you get to pass by it and say how nice it looks. That being said isn't it upsurd to waste ones emotions on whether a wealthy person has enough housing to chose from.

  11. Speaking of new developments and zoning changes...There's development plans/drawings that were released for that new apartment building on broadway. It's designed by a very talented architecture firm, studiodwell:


  12. There should be some accountability on the former owners. Why couldn't they have sold it to someone who actually wanted the house? It was beautiful with a great amount of green space for a family.

  13. well, at least the original owners made the decision about the home, whatever that might mean.