THREATENED: Sheffield-Belden Group, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered

Sheffield-Belden Group, northwest corner of Sheffield and Belden Avenues. Four freestanding townhouses, 2308, 2310, 2314 and 2316 N. Sheffield, John Morrell and others, 1890-1893. Photo Credit: Serhii Chrucky / Esto
Sheffield-Belden Group, northwest corner of Sheffield and Belden Avenues. Four freestanding townhouses, 2308, 2310, 2314 and 2316 N. Sheffield Avenue, John Morrell and others, 1890-1893. Photo Credit: Max Chavez / Preservation Chicago
Sheffield-Belden Group, northwest corner of Sheffield and Belden Avenues. Freestanding townhouses, 2314 and 2316 N. Sheffield, John Morrell and others, 1890-1893. Photo Credit: Serhii Chrucky / Esto
Sheffield-Belden Group, northwest corner of Sheffield and Belden Avenues. Courtyard building, 1000-1012 W. Belden and 2300-2302 N. Sheffield Avenue, Maher & McGraw, 1926. Photo Credit: Serhii Chrucky / Esto
Sheffield-Belden Group, northwest corner of Sheffield and Belden Avenues. Courtyard building, 1000-1012 W. Belden and 2300-2302 N. Sheffield Avenue, Maher & McGraw, 1926. Max Chavez / Preservation Chicago
Sheffield-Belden Group, northwest corner of Sheffield and Belden Avenues. Four freestanding townhouses, 3308, 2310, 2314 and 2316 N. Sheffield Avenue, John Morrell and others, 1890-1893. Ward Miller / Preservation Chicago
Decorative cornice of 2314 N. Sheffield Avenue. Sheffield-Belden Group, northwest corner of Sheffield and Belden Avenues. Four freestanding townhouses, 3308, 2310, 2314 and 2316 N. Sheffield Avenue, John Morrell and others, 1890-1893. Max Chavez / Preservation Chicago

 

Decorative cornice of 2316 N. Sheffield Avenue. Sheffield-Belden Group, northwest corner of Sheffield and Belden Avenues. Four freestanding townhouses, 3308, 2310, 2314 and 2316 N. Sheffield Avenue, John Morrell and others, 1890-1893. Max Chavez / Preservation Chicago

Sheffield-Belden Group

(NW corner of Sheffield and Belden)

Courtyard Building

Address: 1000-1012 W. Belden/2300-2302 N. Sheffield

Architects: Maher & McGraw

Date: 1926

Style: Renaissance Revival

Four Freestanding Townhouses

Address: 2308, 2310, 2314 and 2316 N. Sheffield

Architects: Attributed to John Morrell and others

Date: 1892, 1890,. 1890, and 1893

Style: Romanesque Revival

Neighborhood: Lincoln Park

Overview

For over 130 years, four freestanding brick and stone Romanesque Revival townhouses have fronted the 2300 block of N. Sheffield Avenue in the Lincoln Park Community Area. In 1926, these townhouses were joined to the south at the northwest corner of Sheffield and Belden by a beautifully-scaled courtyard building containing 40 apartments. The freestanding townhouses were later converted to apartments while some in recent years have been transformed into DePaul University offices. The courtyard building has provided reasonably-priced housing for the community, as well as DePaul students, for decades. Together, these five historic structures comprise a half-block along Sheffield and Belden Avenues.

All of the buildings are “contributing” structures in the Sheffield National Register Historic District while two of the historic houses, 2310 and 2316 N. Sheffield, are rated “Orange” in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey (CHRS), deeming them important to the City of Chicago and the community in which they are located. In the past year, DePaul University has proposed these five buildings be demolished and replaced with a new multi-story athletic center. This development would completely change the character of the block and adversely impact the few remaining historic structures nearby.

Preservation Chicago supports the growth of this amazing Chicago institution of higher education and recognizes DePaul University as a tremendous asset. However, we are also of the opinion that the demolition and loss of these five buildings will adversely impact the streetwall, historic character, and human scale of both this block and the Sheffield National Register District, which has experienced a tremendous onslaught of demolitions and new construction in recent years, often by DePaul University.

Threat

In the past year, DePaul University has proposed these five structures, ranging in age from 98 to 134 years old, be demolished and replaced with a new athletic center building. The building would be of the same general scale and size as other nearby DePaul athletic facilities constructed over the past two decades, offering a sense of what could potentially be built at this corner. The current athletic buildings form a two-block stretch on the east side of Sheffield between Webster and Fullerton Avenues and are of a completely different scale and style than the historic structures that visually define Lincoln Park’s finer buildings. This process of acquisition and demolition by DePaul University is a worrying pattern that continues to accelerate, demonstrated by the eastern side of the 2300 block of North Sheffield Avenue, which has been completely lost to new developments over the past two decades

Demolition of these five historic buildings would cause tremendous and irreparable damage to Sheffield Avenue and the local community. Concerned groups who oppose this plan include neighborhood community organizations and even current DePaul students who are unhappy with this development and the impact it may have. The proposed demolition of these buildings has since generated multiple media stories, leading to it becoming a high-profile preservation concern for North Side Chicago.

Recommendations

Preservation Chicago very much supports and understands the need for DePaul University to expand its programs and footprint on an as-needed basis. If such a facility is desired, there are many alternative options for expansion. Preservation Chicago believes this athletic center should be relocated to the nearby, underdeveloped surface parking lot a block away at Sheffield and Fullerton. This would be an ideal site for the proposed athletic building as it would not harm the architectural fabric of the community and would sit much closer to the CTA Red Line station for ease of access to games by students and visitors. Likewise, an expansion of the university’s facilities could also be accomplished by adding additional floors on top of the two existing athletic center buildings located across the street from the proposed site, possibly even extending over the adjacent parking garage structure.

It is our understanding that the Sheffield/Fullerton surface parcel was first proposed as the site for a much larger athletic center and fieldhouse building in 2018 with support from DePaul’s leadership. There have also been suggestions that the land may be under future consideration for a hotel and convention center, but those plans have not yet been unveiled. The university has officially stated that they would like to use the Sheffield/Fullerton site for an academic building, but that may be years in the future. A deferral of formal use of the site for more than a decade could easily be considered “landbanking.” DePaul could also explore the possibility of an athletic facility in the South Loop, given their established presence in the Loop already. In any case, DePaul University has multiple options for a new site for their athletic center which should all be given greater consideration.

Given DePaul’s history of demolition, we are very concerned about other historic Lincoln Park properties near the campus that could one day be replaced by future university proposals. These include Cortelyou Commons (1929) designed by architect Dwight Wallace, St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church and Rectory (1897) by architect James Egan, the former DePaul Academy (1907), Sanctuary Hall (1883-1889), and several rowhouses at the southeast corner of Belden and Sheffield (1891) by Harold M. Hansen. All of these historic buildings could be considered worthy of Chicago Landmark designation and should be bestowed with that honor to prevent demolition in the future. Preservation Chicago is confident that DePaul, the Lincoln Park community, and organizations like ours can all collectively craft a sensible vision for growth, while also respecting the university’s and surrounding neighborhood’s historic assets.

Sheffield-Belden Group, a Preservation Chicago 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered Chapter

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