WIN: Developer Withdraws Demolition Permit Application for Superior Street Rowhouses, and 38 Additional Buildings Proposed for the Historic Landmark District

Near North Side Multiple Property District Report. Photo Credit: City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development

The developer has withdrawn the demolition permit application for the Superior Street Rowhouses. This removes the Superior Street Rowhouses from immediate demolition risk. A pending demolition application request forces a highly compressed process. However, with the pending demolition permit application withdrawn, the Preliminary Landmark District can slow down to the standard designation schedule which generally takes approximately one year to work its way through the formal process.

The Near North Multiple Property District may be significantly expanded to protect more historic buildings. During a Commission on Chicago Landmarks hearing, the Commission requested that Preservation Chicago conduct a wider survey of the buildings within the district boundaries to ensure that no buildings of merit were overlooked. Preservation Chicago quickly mobilized and conducted a thorough survey of the district. We presented to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks a list of 38 additional properties for consideration of inclusion in the Near North Multi Property District in addition to the original list of 15. The survey, list and supporting research was compiled by Ward Miller, Mary Lu Seidel, Amy Lardner and Matt Wicklund. A secondary list of larger-scale commercial buildings was also compiled for use at a future time.

The timing of the preliminary designation of the Near North Side Multiple Property District was fortunate and is the culmination of years of advocacy by Preservation Chicago. The future now seems bright for the Superior Street Rowhouses. However, this preservation-sensitive outcome was far from certain. The approval of the preliminary designation of the Near North Multiple Property District occurred on the final day before the expiration of the second 90-Day Demolition Delay hold for the Superior Street Rowhouses. Without the protection of this preliminary Landmark District designation, the City of Chicago would have been obliged to release the demolition permit the following day. And even without an approved development plan for the site, it is likely that the developer would have wasted no time in demolishing the historic buildings.

Nearly any low-rise historic building with a downtown high-rise zoning designation is at risk for redevelopment. However, these more abstract concerns were confirmed during the Commission of Chicago Landmarks testimony on March 7, 2019, when owners or owners’ representatives of three separate buildings protested the inclusion of their historic buildings in the preliminary Landmark District as this status would prevent them from moving forward with demolition plans for their respective historic buildings. The year- long process is now underway to finalize this Landmark District. No demolitions can take place during this process.

Near North Side Multiple Property District (Initial List)

  • 642 North Dearborn Street
  • 14 West Erie Street
  • 17 East Erie Street
  • 110 West Grand Avenue
  • 1 East Huron Street
  • 9 East Huron Street
  • 10 East Huron Street
  • 16 West Ontario Street
  • 18 West Ontario Street
  • 212 East Ontario Street
  • 222 East Ontario Street
  • 716 North Rush Street
  • 671 North State Street
  • 42 East Superior Street
  • 44 East Superior Street
  • 46 East Superior Street

Preservation Chicago was deeply engaged in the advocacy effort to save the Superior Street Rowhouses and proactively worked on the ground with neighborhood organizations and other stakeholders to generate support for the Landmark District. When during the Commission on Chicago Landmarks hearing the Chairman asked the position of the public, we were able to present our Change.org petition with over 5,000 signatures and over 20 pages of comments in support. Additionally, Preservation Chicago researchers worked long hours to discover and assemble as much historic material as possible about these and the handful of other similar surviving buildings in the neighborhood.

Preservation Chicago wishes to recognize and applaud the leadership of 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly and the professionalism and efficiency of his office and staff. Additionally, Preservation Chicago wishes to recognize and thank The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Chicago Department of Planning and Development historic preservation staff, Landmark Illinois and all of the community members who contributed to the protection of these architecturally significant Chicago buildings.

“Walking past these structures, one experiences both the history and story of the neighborhood over time, and a sense of place. They have a beautiful human scale to them, a sense of charm, and have always made the community more livable with their fine craftsmanship and green spaces,” said Preservation Chicago Executive Director Ward Miller. (von Buol, Loop North News, 10/24/18)

“These are all really wonderful buildings and they could make part of a landmark district,” said Miller. “This is ‘McCormickville.’ This is where the McCormick family lived before and after the Great Chicago Fire. And with the continued demolition of other shorter, older buildings in the area, there are only a handful of the original McCormickville buildings left. We need to value every inch of space where there are historic buildings that tell the story of the neighborhood.” (Jay Koziarz, Curbed Chicago, 12/8/16)

“These buildings also provide unique opportunities for small businesses and provide ‘an envelope’ for all sorts of creative things to happen from within these historic structures. They really do encourage unique small businesses and add a livability quality to the community. At one time, there were many such small elegant restaurants and shops housed in these types of buildings from the Chicago River to Oak Street. As a matter of fact, it was often these beautifully crafted buildings that initially gave Oak Street its unusual character and success. Some of those buildings still exist, but they are becoming more and more rare. Once they’re gone, they’re gone forever!” Miller said. (von Buol, Skyline)

Additional Reading
Join over 5,000 supporters and Sign the Petition to Save These Victorian Rowhouses from Demolition!

New landmark district would preserve downtown’s dwindling historic architecture, The move would protect 16 post-fire structures on Chicago’s Near North Side, Jay Koziarz, Curbed Chicago, 3/4/19

Chicago Fire-Era Mansions In River North Saved Again From Demolition — For Now: Preservationists hope to include the buildings in a proposed Near North Side historic district, Linze Rice, Block Club Chicago, 3/11/19

Alderman moves to downzone River North site; Ald. Brendan Reilly yesterday moved to reduce the zoning allowance at 42 and 44-46 E. Superior St., hamstringing a development group, Danny Ecker, Crain’s Chicago Business, 11/1/18

Can preservationists save these River North buildings? A New York developer wants to raze two buildings at 42 and 44-46 E. Superior St., where it planned a 60-story condo-hotel tower—until it was rejected by Ald. Brendan Reilly., Alby Gallun, Crain’s Chicago Business, 10/10/18

19th century Superior Street row houses threatened with demolition, Peter von Buol, Loop North News, 10/24/18

Developer Behind Failed High-Rise Plan Moves To Tear Down Historic Row Houses Near Mag Mile… Again; The row houses “add a distinct character, quality, craftsmanship, history and elegance to the community,” preservationists say, Taylor Moore, Block Club Chicago, 10/30/18

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