Lengthened Demolition Delay

Lengthened Demolition Delay



The Chicago Demolition-Delay Ordinance (2003) establishes a hold of up to 90 days before the issuance of a demolition permit for buildings rated “red” and “orange” in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey (1996). The delay can be extended for a second 90 day delay by mutual agreement between Applicant and the Chicago Department of Planning and Zoning. 

(Source: Department of Planning and Zoning website)


Commonly used throughout the country, demolition delay ordinances help to prevent potentially significant buildings and structures from being demolished without some degree of oversight and community review. In Chicago, the 90 Day Demolition Delay offers a short window of time for the preservation community and/or the Department of Planning and Development to research and review threatened buildings to better understand their significance and to explore potential options to preserve them, including possible landmark designation. 

(Source Julie H. Miller, “Protecting Potential Landmarks through Demolition Review”)

(Source: Department of Planning and Zoning website)

Current Limitations

  • The current 90-day hold is typically too short a time period for preservation community/city staff to conduct a comprehensive review, feasibility analysis, and exploration of alternative preservation options.
  • Under the current ordinance, the 90 Day Demolition Delay is only triggered if the building is included in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey and is classified as “red” or “orange” rated within the survey. Because of the narrow criteria for these two categories, less than 10,000 buildings in the city of Chicago require a hold before a demolition permit can be issued. 
  • The Chicago Historic Resources Survey  survey has not been updated in over 25 years and does not include any structures built after 1940. Because there is no provision requiring demolition reviews for buildings over a certain age, historically significant structures missed by the survey can currently be easily and quickly demolished.
  • No historic resource survey can be entirely complete due to time and resource limitations. Without a required demolition review for all buildings over a certain age, Chicago lacks a safety net to prevent potentially important and historically significant buildings from being overlooked and subsequently demolished. 

(Sources: Demolition-Delay Ordinance, Chicago Historic Resources Survey)


  • Ensure that the burden of proof falls to the owner to demonstrate that their building is not significant for any building listed in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey. The burden of proof should require documentation from certified historic consultants to substantiate these claims.  
  • Lengthen the demolition delay to 365 days for all buildings classified as “red” or “orange” within the Chicago Historic Resources Survey.
  • Extend the 90 Day Demolition Delay to all buildings classified as “yellow”, “yellow-green” and “green” within the Chicago Historic Resources Survey.
  • Update the Chicago Historic Resources Survey to provide a comprehensive, up-to-date inventory of historic and architecturally significant buildings, including those built after 1940.
  • Update the Demolition Delay Ordinance to require demolition reviews for any building or structure older than 50 years similar to the best practices established in Boston, Boulder, and Washington D.C.