Is it increased Chicago tax revenue versus preservation in the Wicker Park Landmark District?


2119 W. LeMoyne on right. Entire length of 2117 is shown

The developer has requested that their 2117-19 W. LeMoyne project be pulled from the Chicago Landmark's Permit Review Committee agenda for Thurs., Mar. 13. This is their second request for deferral.

Is it the glitter of property tax $$$$ dancing in the heads of the Chicago Landmark Commission that has them considering to violate the Wicker Park Historic Landmark District by allowing a Side Yard of an historic building to be sub-divided and built on?

At issue is the proposed sub-division of 2117-2119 W. LeMoyne St. and the new construction of a two-and-a-half story building on an historic Side Yard (2117). 

Residents are horrified and outraged


East wall detail

"That would change the whole character of the street," says Charlene Milne, who lives a few doors away. "How can they plop something in the middle of a lot that is an historic Side Yard? Is it because they want to get more taxes?" Charlene and her husband Richard have lived in their home for more than 20 years.


Note detail around windows and the face-brick east wall.

"We have lost so much green space in Wicker Park. Now they want to build on something that we all thought was protected? This is not right!" 

"The original owner spent good money on the east side of the building because they intended that wall to be exposed in perpetuity," points out Dina Petrakis, long-time Wicker Park resident who lives on Leavitt and is part of the Wicker Park Committee's (WPC) Preservation and Development Committee (P&D).

"There are clear-cut guidelines, if the side of a building has face-brick and architectural detail and a side lot then the lot is a Side Yard. Now it is not? How and when did the rules change and why were we not part of the conversation. I am confused and very disappointed." 

"We are surprised and disappointed that the developer has even proposed such a development and shocked that the staff has made a recommendation supporting this position," comments Grant Drutchas who lives close by on Hoyne Ave. and who is an attorney. 


Looking at east side from side rear

"I believe that an approval following this recommendation would be a violation of the Commission’s charter under Section 2-120-580 of the Chicago Landmarks Ordinance '[t]o safeguard the City of Chicago's historic and cultural heritage, as embodied and reflected in such areas, districts, places, buildings, structures, works of art, and other objects determined eligible for designation by ordinance as 'Chicago Landmarks' and its obligation, under Section 2-120-770, to provide preliminary approval of the application only if 'the proposed work will not adversely affect any significant historical or architectural feature of the improvement or of the district, and is in accord with the Standards for Rehabilitation set forth by the United States Secretary of the Interior at 36 C.F.R. 67, as amended from time to time, as well as the commission’s published procedures.'  


Rear buildings, furthest west on right. Part of coach house on left beyond van

"As noted in the recent Hanna v. City of Chicago et al., No. 1-12-1701 (Sept, 26, 2013) the appeals court found that this landmarks ordinance is neither vague nor arbitrary. To the contrary, the court found that it is 'sufficiently detailed under the circumstances to guide the (city landmarks) Commission in its duties and responsibilities.' 

"The proposed development of this historic Side Yard would indeed 'adversely affect any significant historical or architectural feature of the improvement or of the district.' In section 1 of the ordinance that created the Wicker Park Landmark District Wicker, the City Council specifically provided that 'all exterior faces of the structures and all the streetscapes and landscapes within the boundaries' were 'critical features that make an essential contribution to the qualities and characteristics' of the district.  


Back alley shows all buildings

"There is no question that such streetscapes and landscaping applies to an historic Side Yard of the 2117-2119 W. LeMoyne property," concluded Drutchas. 


The turret is positioned at a 45 degree angle versus toward the street

"The orientation of the building is toward the east and the Side Yard, even the turret is turned at a 45-degree angle to the east. The face-brick on the east wall with the details over the windows are further indicators of a Side Yard," explains Paul Dickman, a long-term Wicker Park resident who lives on North Ave. and is a member of the P&D committee. "The 'spite wall' on the west side of the building erases any possible question about the intent of the orientation of this building." 

"I vehemently oppose construction on the Side Yard," says Andrew Fash who lives directly across the street. "I have been on this block since Mar. 4, 1985. I have seen vacant adjacent lots on LeMoyne turned into condos over the years. 

"This will take away the last remaining open lot on the block. That is a travesty and tragedy! 


Looking east, the "spite wall" hides the 2119 and 2117 frontages

"When I decided to buy in Wicker Park, I thought 'how can I go wrong with the diverse architecture, space between buildings and mature trees?' Much of the space is gone, except at 2117 where there are also several mature trees which would also be destroyed, if this project is allowed to go through." 

"In 2001 when we began working on our house in the 1400 block of north Hoyne, the first question Dijana Cuvalo, Landmarks staff architect, asked was whether we were going to build on our extra lot. We said, 'No.' She said that was good because it would be a problem if we were," explained Gavin Campbell. 

"Brian Goeken said that he hoped we were not planning on development on the land because it needed to remain open . When we said that we believed that the land needed to be shared space with the community, he approved. 

"What makes Wicker Park and Logan Square so beautiful is landscaping around buildings as though it shared space like a park. We need to maintain that." 


Google shows property (on left) in summer with trees in full foliage

What is the background of this application
"This application came to the P&D Committee at our January meeting, " explains architect Ed Tamminga who chairs the committee and is also a long-term resident. 

"We were familiar with the presenting developer. They paid market rate for a multi-family  with a Side Yard. Now they want to make the multi-family units and make a single family, sub-divide the property  and put a new  single family on the Side Yard. 

"We informed them that we considered the lot to be a Side Yard and that Side Yards are protected under our Landmark District. Regrettably they decided to submit the project anyway. We are disappointed they chose not to listen to our recommendation.  And, we are more disappointed that there is some landmark approval. 

"Further more, we consider this project to be an attempt at economic opportunism  by a developer. This added value they are seeking is like giving them a cash grant at the expense of the Landmark District." 

What is the basis of the Wicker Park District?
In March 1989, in support of the 7th Criteria for becoming a landmark district, the Staff Analysis of Landmark Criteria Applicable to the Wicker Park District states, "It has a distinctive physical appearance and presence provided by its collection of gracious houses and exuberantly detailed smaller buildings of lesser size. As an enclave of many large, high-style single family residences, it is unique as a statement of immigrant community achievement." 

In July 1989, David R. Mosena, currently the CEO of the Museum of Science and Industry, wrote about the Wicker Park District in his Report To the Commission on Chicago Landmarks as the Commissioner of the Department of Planning. In it, he said, "This 55 acre district has 614 structures of these 68 are located on the rear of the lots. It is a pattern that contributes to the ambience of this special neighborhood. Another characteristic is the district's open spaces. With 110 vacant lots, 46 have been merged into well landscaped side yards. The District's tight urban scale has gained visual relief from the excellence of its landscaped side and front yards. 

"The design of recent new housing has mostly been sensitive to the district's architectural character. With this designation, the remaining 64 vacant lots will have the benefit and guidance of the Commission's criteria for new building. This direct benefit will ensure design compatibility for the entire district." 

What is next?
Beginning at 9 a.m. on Thurs., Mar. 13, in the City Hall Council Chamber area, the Chicago Landmarks Permit Review Committee will be meeting. On the agenda is the 2117-2119 W. LeMoyne St. property. 

Everyone interested in maintaining the Wicker Park historic character of the Landmark District is encouraged to attend. In addition, to those who would like to know about the workings of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, which is under the Department of Planning and Development, should also take this opportunity to see the Commission in action.



Didn't the community support

Didn't the community support relocating a rear cottage into a "historic" side yard on Leavitt, north of North Avenue? Maybe I'm remembering this wrong?

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