WIN: Preservation-Sensitive Jefferson Park Fire Station Adaptive Moves Forward

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Revised Jefferson Park Firehouse Adaptive Reuse Rendering, 4835 N. Lipps Avenue. Rendering Credit: Ambrosia Homes
Original Rejected Jefferson Park Firehouse Adaptive Reuse Rendering, 4835 N. Lipps Avenue. Rendering Credit: Ambrosia Homes

On July 14, 2020, the City of Chicago Community Development Commission approved the sale of the historic Jefferson Park firehouse at 4841 N. Lipps Avenue for $1 to Ambrosia Homes. The developer will purchase the building from the City of Chicago and adaptively reuse it as a micro-brewery for Lake Effect Brewing Company with nine apartments above. The project is estimated to cost $2.4 million. A new floor will be added to the structure setback from the front facade of the building. The Jefferson Park Firehouse has been vacant for five years and previously was used for the 45th Ward sanitation office.

There was significant concern regarding the original redevelopment proposal for the Jefferson Park Firehouse presented in February 2018. However concern shifted to enthusiasm as the revised adaptive reuse plans embraced and enhanced the historic character of one of Chicago’s oldest surviving firehouses.

Preservation Chicago applauds developer Tim Pomaville for this preservation-oriented direction. A dedicated advocacy effort and the willingness of the developer to consider preservation-sensitive alternatives resulted in an excellent outcome. As part of this effort, Preservation Chicago partnered with local neighborhood organizations, community organized, conducted a focused social media campaign, and advocated directly to the developer, alderman and other key decision makers.

Built in 1906, the two-story brick fire station at 4835 N. Lipps Avenue originally had elegant beaux-arts detailing including strong horizontal base elements, a decorative cornice and a projecting triangular pediment. In a very welcome change, the developer is now planning to reconstruct the lost elements.
“Using reference photos of what the firehouse used to look like, Pomaville said the new plans aim to restore as much of the original ornamentation that was removed from the building over the years. Some of this includes restoring the triangular ornamentation from the front of the building and installing stained glass windows which historic photos show the firehouse used to have.” (Hernandez, Block Club Chicago, 3/28/19)

“We really want to compliment the city’s original design of that building. That’s the main theme,” Pomaville said. “So wherever we can, we’re going to try to make it like it was. And I think it’s pretty neat, it’s going to be a very pretty building when it’s done.” (Hernandez, Block Club Chicago, 3/28/19)

The revised redevelopment plans for the historic Jefferson Park Firehouse embrace the building’s history, character and authenticity. Preservation Chicago believes that embracing the historic character will not add materially to the project costs, but it will contribute significantly to the success of the micro-brewery once the building is open.

The Northwest Chicago Historical Society and Preservation Chicago encourages ownership and City of Chicago to seek a Chicago Landmark Designation for the building. This could be considered as an individual landmark or as an extension of the thematic Chicago Fire House Landmark District.

Preservation Chicago applauds current 45th Ward Alderman James M. Gardiner for his support. We also applaud Ambrosia Homes and Lake Effect Brewing for listening to the community, integrating the comments and changing the trajectory of the development. A special thanks to the dedicated and outstanding advocacy of the Northwest Chicago Historical Society, Susanna Ernst, Frank Suerth, and Jacob Kaplan.

Additional Reading

After Years Of Waiting, Lake Effect Brewing’s Plan To Open Taproom In Old Firehouse May Get OK Next Month;If the city gives final approval to the plan this summer, construction could start the fall, Alex V. Hernandez, Block Club Chicago, 6/29/20  

Lake Effect Brewing Aims To Bring Historic Firehouse Back To Its Former Glory, Revamped Plans Show

Taking input from community groups like Preservation Chicago and Northwest Chicago Historical Society, the new plans attempt to bring back as much of the building’s history as possible, Alex V. Hernandez, Block Club Chicago, 3/28/19

Brewery, apartments proposed for oldest firehouse building in Jefferson Park, Jay Koziarz, Chicago Curbed, February 28, 2018

Lake Effect Brewing unveils taproom plans for 112-year-old Jefferson Park firehouse, Alex Nitkin, Chicago Curbed, March 9, 2018

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