Historic Berwyn Ave Greystone Remains Endangered

UPDATE: After the revised plans for the redevelopment of 1436 W. Berwyn were released the Andersonville/Edgewater community responded with fierce opposition. 150 residents packed a neighborhood meeting held by 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman. The developer Aidan Dunican of Aidan Development, did not attend the meeting, and was represented by his architect and zoning attorney.

While the outright demolition of the historic Greystone has been possibly prevented, the revised renderings reveal a plan which demolishes nearly everything except the historic façade, and includes the loss of the original staircase entry, the wonderful double-bay windows on the side elevation, and includes a large addition both above and adjacent to the existing building. The revised plan would require aldermanic support for a zoning upgrade to accommodate the 6-unit, condo building with units up to 2,300 square feet and a six car garage and deck.

After a show of hands which clearly indicated the strength of opposition to the development proposal, Alderman Osterman stated his intention to oppose the upzoning…and received a standing ovation.

“I want to save the building,” said Alderman Osterman. “I will do everything possible to make sure neither proposal goes through.” (Zagotta, 6/27/17)
Preservation Chicago wishes to commend Alderman Osterman and his staff for their support and leadership.

The building falls beyond the boundaries of three proximate National Register Districts. Even if it were in a National Register Districts, only a Chicago Landmark District provides any protections against demolition. Few, if any of the buildings in this wonderful historic neighborhood have any significant protections against demolition. In these situations, there is little that can be done except “beg” the developers to spare historic buildings that have been a cherished part of the neighborhood for over 100 years.

In this case, the best outcome would be a preservation-oriented buyer to purchase the building from the developer. While multiple interested buyers have emerged, there is no indication if the developer would consider selling the property.

Until more Chicago Landmark Districts are established, these rapid-response efforts will continue as neighbors and alderman fight to protect their neighborhoods from tear-downs and inappropriate new construction. National Register Districts are often the most desirable and therefore the most vulnerable to demotion and redevelopment.

Preservation Chicago is highly concerned about the increasing number of historic building demolitions happening throughout the city. For every building save, many, many more historic homes are being lost. Developers are consistently willing to out-spend prospective home-owners and in the absence of more aggressive historic landmark protection, down zoning, or demolition fees. This structural imbalance is cause for concern and will cause many more demolition alarms in the near term.

The beautifully ornamented limestone building at 1436 W. Berwyn is nestled between the Andersonville Historic District, the Lakewood-Balmoral Historic District and the Bryn Mawr Historic District. Its double-bay windows overlook a double-wide 50′ lot. The well-maintained two-flat, and a similar but more elaborate twin building, were both built in 1908 by two local Swedish immigrant brothers, Christ and John Christiansen.

The property was recently sold to a developer. When news broke of the planned demolition and replacement with a 6-flat, the community quickly mobilized to oppose it. Community members, neighbors, the East Andersonville Residents Council, the Edgewater Historical Society, Concerned Citizens of East Andersonville, Landmarks Illinois, Preservation Chicago, and other stakeholders contacted 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman, organized public meetings, and created an online petition that quickly received nearly 600 signatures of support.

Petitions are important. PLEASE take a minute and add your name to support the effort. Click here for link to the petition.

In this case, the extra-large 50′ x 125′ lot and generous R4 zoning which allows for multi-family buildings made the historic building at 1436 Berwyn a perfect candidate for a tear-down. The building is not orange-rated, so demolition permit application would not have triggered the 90-Day Demolition Delay. In this case, the developer could have proceeded “as-of-right”.

Preservation Chicago would like to encourage conversations to begin again for a possible greater Lakewood-Balmoral Chicago Landmark District which would provide protection against demolition for the buildings, and provide oversight to the alderman, and a voice to the community.

Additional Reading

Fierce Opposition To Andersonville Development Draws 150 Plus Attendees To Meeting, Developer a No-Show, Daniel Zagotta Edgeville Buzz, 6/27/17

Andersonville Residents Save Historic Home From Demolition, Josh McGhee, DNAinfo, 5/11/17

Demolition of Historic Andersonville Home Put On Hold After Community Backlash, Its Future Still Unclear

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