In 2017, the intense, sustained and widespread opposition to the planned demolition and redevelopment of the historic greystone at 1436 W. Berwyn Avenue yielded a preservation victory. The Greystone was sold to a preservation-sensitive buyer who is deconverting the two-flat to a single family home and restoring its historic features. Additionally, the landscaped side yard and mature elm tree will be preserved.
The outcome was extraordinary because 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 tempting candidate for a tear-down. The building was not orange-rated, so a demolition permit application would not have triggered the 90-Day Demolition Delay. In this case, the developer could have proceeded “as-of-right” without input from the alderman or the community.
Unlike other historic neighborhoods whose historic fabric has been permanently impacted by frequent and widespread demolition, Andersonville and Edgewater are largely intact. In particular, the historic East Andersonville neighborhood bordered by Foster, Bryn Mawr, Clark and Glenwood is highly intact, but it is also facing a significant and growing challenge from tear-downs and new development.
The underlying RT-4 zoning does not conform to the existing historic building stock and neighborhood fabric. Whenever zoning allows for the construction of larger multi-story condominium buildings where a single-family home currently stands, developers will seek to monetize that gap. In these neighborhoods, developers are often consistently willing to out-spend prospective home-owners. Particularly vulnerable are homes in RT-4 zones with extra-wide 50 foot lots like the historic greystone at 1436 W. Berwyn.
Already this spring, three East Andersonville properties are being cleared for new construction. “Developers are working quickly to obtain properties in East Andersonville to take advantage of the hot market there and the RT-4 zone status. In fact, the real estate listing for the 1430 W Summerdale listing emphasizes the zoning by advertising, “Lot for development in the heart of Andersonville.” RT-4 zoning with ability to develop three units with a duplex down.” (Zagotta, Edgeville Buzz, 5/23/18)
This structural imbalance is cause for concern and will likely cause the loss of many historic homes in the near term. Preservation Chicago strongly supports the community taking steps to address this imbalance in the form of more proactive historic landmark protection, right-zoning to RS-3, or potentially demolition fees.
A meeting was held by the East Andersonville Residents Council (EARC) and 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman on May 10, 2018 to discuss the possibility of rezoning East Andersonville. “According to a flyer circulated about the event, changing East Andersonville to RS-3 may help preserve the charm and character of the neighborhood while preventing inappropriate developments. Other benefits would be maintaining architectural footprints, protecting existing setbacks/green space and ensuring neighbors general quality of life.”
“I am hoping to help preserve the character of the buildings in Andersonville as they are now,” said Klink-Flores. “Last year’s events encouraged me that if the community stands together, they can create change for the good of that community. I feel that rezoning is connected to landmarking and historic preservation. This will allow another layer of protection to preserve the character of the neighborhood.” (Zagotta, Edgeville Buzz, 5/8/18)
Additionally, Preservation Chicago encourages the conversations regarding establishing a Lakewood-Balmoral Chicago Landmark District. A Designated Chicago Landmark District would provide protections against demolition for the buildings, and additional development oversight to the alderman, and a greater voice to the community. The current listing on the National Register of Historic Places does not provide any protection against demolition, whereas as a Chicago Landmark District would provide some protection against demolition and require building permit review.