LOSS: Meitus House Demolished to Reduce Land Banking Costs

Meitus House, 1927, Roy Walter Stott, 6740 S. South Shore Drive. Demolished September 2023. Photo credit: Susannah Ribstein

“After outlasting three proposals to replace it, a historical house on a prime site in South Shore has been demolished along with its latter-day neighbor, but there doesn’t seem to be any plan to build something new on the site.

“Because the property, at 6740 S. South Shore Drive, is across the street from a narrow piece of golf course, a multifloor property would have expansive views of Lake Michigan over the trees, and in the past 15 years, developers have attempted to capture that advantage, pitching first a building of 30 stories, then 19 and later seven.

“All three plans fizzled, and the group that bought the foreclosed site in 2019 has now cleared the land without filing any construction plans with the city, Chicago’s Department of Buildings confirmed Wednesday.

“‘Another giant vacant lot right at the entrance to the neighborhood is insulting,’ said Susannah Ribstein, a South Shore resident and agent with Living Room Realty. South Shore, like many other parts of the South and West sides, has a surfeit of empty lots after decades of disinvestment.

“Crain’s has been trying to determine what’s planned for the site since April, when the city imposed a 90-day demolition delay. There’s been no reply to multiple messages left for Naser Odeh, an Orland Park real estate agent and developer listed by the Illinois Secretary of State as the head of South Shore & 67, a limited liability company that owns the three-tenths of an acre site.

“Before the Mediterranean-style house was demolished last week, the house had been empty for an unknown number of years. Handsome with its tile roof and terra cotta trim, it was built in the early decades of the 20th century, when what’s now the South Shore Cultural Center down the block was the South Shore Country Club, a golf and socializing playground for an elite crowd. (Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 10/12/23)

Per the research conducted by Preservation Chicago, 6740 S. South Shore Drive was built for Hyman S. (H.S.) Flaxman in 1927 and designed by architect Roy Walter Stott.

Harold Meitus, his wife Edith, and their three children lived at 6740 S. South Shore Drive in the 1950s. He served as the vice president and a trustee of the Rodfei Zedek synagogue in Hyde Park. Meitus was the founder and president of Superior Match Company where he pioneered the idea of using matchbook covers as a miniature billboard for advertisers. Promotional matchbooks used in hotels, restaurants, resorts and all types of businesses throughout Chicago. Several other matchbook businesses were acquired over time giving Superior Match Company access to clients across the county.

With his financial success, Mr. Meitus and the Meitus Family became prominent philanthropists. After relocated to the Near North Side in 1968, Mr. Meitus donated his property and home to the Akiba Jewish Day School. He financially supported the construction of the school building on the southern half of the property, and continued to provide ongoing support for school operations.

When the school eventually closed due to dwindling enrollment, Meitus supported the transition of the buildings into a school for children with special needs. This provided essential services for children that needed support beyond what Chicago Public Schools could provide at that time.

Since being added to the 90-Day Demolition Delay in late March 2023, Preservation Chicago had been working with urgency to advocate for the building. We conducted historic research, outreached to community partners, contacted elected and city officials, and worked towards a preservation-oriented alternative that could spare 6740 S. South Shore Drive from the wrecking ball.

The foreclosure proceedings and building code violations suggest that the owner sought to demolish the historic building in an effort reduce holding costs while land banking this large parcel with potential for a tall building with lake views.

Preservation Chicago strongly opposes demolition of historic structures for land banking. We have long advocated for the City of Chicago to issue demolition permits simultaneously with construction permits.

Read the full story at Crain’s Chicago Business


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