441 Surf – The final straw that rescued 3 historic blocks of SE Lakeview

Although redevelopment had already begun in Lakeview by the mid-441-surf1990’s, it seemed that the densely-developed blocks of Surf and Pine Grove east of Broadway would be spared the tear-down frenzy of the mid-2000’s.

And then, at a South East Lake View Neighbors community meeting in April of 2006, it was announcement that the stately Queen Anne home at 441 Surf was in the crosshairs. Once demolished, it was to be replaced by a 12-unit condo complex.

441 Surf was the oldest building and only single-family home left in the immediate area. Furthermore, the surrounding historical blocks had remained perfectly intact, seemingly impervious to the bulldozer.

Because 441 Surf was rated Orange, the 90-day Demolition Delay ordinance was triggered. But unfortunately, 441 Surf did not meet the criteria for an individual landmark designation. A plan had to be enacted – and fast.

What it took started with Laura Marier, a longtime resident of Lake View who also was on the board of Preservation Chicago and SELVN.

A meeting was set up between concerned resident owners and Alderman Tom Tunney (44th Ward) and Brian Goeken, Deputy Commissioner of Chicago’s Landmark Commission. By the meeting’s end, the plan they suggested was to go for a landmark district that included both sides of the 2800 blocks of Pine Grove, and the 400 and 500 blocks of Surf – a grouping unmatched in Lake View, as it featured 30 buildings, 11 of which were Orange-rated, with only one having been built after World War II.

Understandably, Alderman Tunney wanted to see a clear majority of owner support before he would agree to move forward with the district. Laura’s mission was clear.

Knocking on doors, making calls, sending emails, handing out literature, holding informational Q&A meetings, and sending questionnaires to home and condo owners and their associations, a gradual coalition of support was built up. After 3 months, the numbers were in: 75% of all respondents voted in support of a Landmark District.

Alderman Tunney was impressed, but requested one more community meeting to both gauge neighborhood support and to allow owners to ask questions of Landmarks Commission representatives. Neighbors turned out in full force and two weeks later, the Alderman made his decision: to move forth with nominating the District for Preliminary Landmark designation. On September 7th, 2006, the Commission voted in favor of the designation.

Three months is a short time to get a Landmark District. But in truth, the effort culminated with the unconscionable threat of one more beautiful building being lost, the committed efforts of the neighborhood, and the encouragement and leadership of Alderman Tom Tunney.

The following year, on July 19, 2007, the district became law.