Rapid Response Advocacy Saves Historic Berwyn Ave Two-Flat!

The pending demolition of the elegant Greystone located at 1436 W. Berwyn has been avoided for now. This beautifully ornamented limestone building is nestled between the Andersonville Historic District, the Lakewood-Balmoral Historic District and the Bryn Mawr Historic District. Its double-barreled bay windows overlook a double-wide 50′ lot. The well-maintained two-flat was built in 1908 by two local Swedish immigrant brothers, Christ and John Christiansen.

The property was recently sold to a developer. When news broke of the planned demolition and replacement with a six-flat, the community quickly mobilized to oppose it. Community members, neighbors, the East Andersonville Residents Council, the Edgewater Historical Society, Concerned Citizens of East Andersonville, Preservation Chicago, and other stakeholders contacted 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman, organized public meetings, and created an online petition that quickly received over 500 signatures of support.

Petitions work. At time of publication, the current petition signature count was 558.  PLEASE take a minute and add your name to support the effort.  Click here for link to petition.

Preservation Chicago applauds Alderman Osterman and his staff for their support and leadership. Alderman Osterman and his staff agreed with the community and were able to convince the developer to change his plans to include preservation of the historic building.

“I agree wholeheartedly with the concerns that have been raised and that the building should be preserved,” Osterman said in a statement.

The Alderman said “the developer and architect “have agreed to put the proposed development project on hold, including the proposed demolition of 1436 W. Berwyn Ave.” and that they “have agreed to work with my office on a revised plan that would include preservation of the existing building as part of the development.” (DNAinfo, 5/11/17)

The leaderships of Alderman Osterman at 1436 Berwyn was especially important because, in this case, the developer could have proceeded “as-of-right”. The extra-large 50′ x 125′ lot and generous R4 zoning, which allows for a new multi-family building, made the historic building at 1436 Berwyn a perfect candidate for a tear-down. Despite it being a wonderful historic building, it was not included in the C hicago Historic Resources Survey (CHRS ) and has no orange-rating, so a demolition permit application would not have triggered the 90-Day Demolition Delay.

It is highly fortunate that, in this case, the community and Alderman were able to convince the developer to spare the building. The specifics remain unknown and like so many side yards in historic neighborhoods, will likely be lost to new construction.

While the outcome of this rapid response advocacy preservation effort appears positive, Preservation Chicago is highly concerned about the increasing number of historic building demolitions happening throughout the city. For every save, many, many more historic homes are being lost. Whether for renovation or demolition, developers are consistently able to out-spend prospective home-owners and in the absence of more aggressive historic landmark protection, down zoning, or demolition fees, there is little that the community can do except to “beg” developers to spare historic buildings, many of which have been part of their neighborhood fabric for over 100 hundred years. This structural imbalance is cause for concern and will cause many more demolition threats in the near term.

Additional Reading

Andersonville Residents Save Historic Home From Demolition, Josh McGhee, DNAinfo, 5/11/17
Demolition of Historic Andersonville Home Put On Hold After Community Backlash, Its Future Still Unclear

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