Historic Greystone at 1463 Berwyn Avenue Saved!

UPDATE: The intense, sustained and widespread opposition to the planned demolition and redevelopment of the historic greystone at 1436 W. Berwyn Avenue has yielded a likely victory.

The historic greystone at 1436 W. Berwyn Avenue is under contract to a new preservation-sensitive buyer who has plans to deconvert the two flat to a single family home and to restore its historic features. Additionally, the landscaped side yard and mature elm tree will be preserved.

The sale of this historic property removes the property from the immediate threat posed by development plans to build out the site and create six-unit building with elements of the historic façade incorporated into the new construction.

Without any historic landmark district protections and with existing zoning that allowed for a much larger, more dense building as-of-right, the path to a preservation outcome was highly unlikely. However, the extraordinary rapid response preservation advocacy efforts of Kathy Klink-Flores of the Lakewood Balmoral Residents Council, the East Andersonville Residents Council (EARC), Maureen Murnane of the Lakewood Balmoral Residents Council, and other community members and community organizations, which included well-attended public meetings, a petition drive, and other community organizing efforts deserves much of credit for this excellent preservation outcome.
Preservation Chicago applauds the consistent support and leadership of 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman who played an important role in the preservation effort and outcome.

The collective impact of the rapid response preservation efforts created the circumstances which allowed other possible outcomes to emerge, including the sale of the historic building to a historic preservation oriented buyer.

The developer, Aiden Development, initially had no interest in reselling the building, but the community organizing and persistence encouraged him to reconsider and list the building for sale. “The developer was originally against the idea of selling the property because he felt he bought the building fair and square and followed all the rules. He was a bit blindsided by the situation,” said Murnane. (Zagotta, Edgeville Buzz, 8/30/17)

Maureen Murnane said, “It’s a shame it took this kind of crisis for the community to realize that this could happen. But it’s a cautionary tale for a neighborhood the values its historic character and is hesitant to making moves to protect them.” (Zagotta, Edgeville Buzz, 8/30/17)

Preservation Chicago working diligently with community partners and Alderman Osterman to bring about a preservation-oriented outcome for 1463 Berwyn Avenue. We are thrilled that the efforts will result in a great win for the building, the Andersonville and Edgewater neighborhoods, and Chicago.
We believe that it is in the best interest of the neighborhood, the alderman, and the developers to establish clear rules that pro-actively protect Chicago’s historic homes and neighborhoods. Unlike other historic neighborhoods whose historic fabric has been permanently impacted by frequent and widespread demolition, Andersonville and Edgewater are largely intact. We will continue to encourage preservation outcomes in this historic neighborhood.

BACKGROUND: After the revised plans for the redevelopment of 1436 W. Berwyn were released the Andersonville/Edgewater community responded with strong opposition. 150 residents packed a neighborhood meeting held by 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman. The developer Aidan Dunican of Aidan Development, did not attend the meeting, and was represented by his architect and zoning attorney.

While the outright demolition of the historic Greystone has been possibly prevented, the revised renderings reveal a plan which demolishes nearly everything except the historic façade, and includes the loss of the original staircase entry, the wonderful double-bay windows on the side elevation, and includes a large addition both above and adjacent to the existing building. The revised plan would require aldermanic support for a zoning upgrade to accommodate the 6-unit, condo building with units up to 2,300 square feet and a six car garage and deck.

After a show of hands which clearly indicated the strength of opposition to the development proposal, Alderman Osterman stated his intention to oppose the upzoning…and received a standing ovation.

“I want to save the building,” said Alderman Osterman. “I will do everything possible to make sure neither proposal goes through.” (Zagotta, 6/27/17)

Preservation Chicago wishes to commend Alderman Osterman and his staff for their unwavering support and leadership.

The building falls beyond the boundaries of three proximate National Register Districts. Few, if any of the buildings in this wonderful historic neighborhood have any significant protections against demolition. In these situations, there is little that can be done except request developers to spare historic buildings that have been a cherished part of the neighborhood for over 100 years.

In this case, the best outcome would be a preservation-oriented buyer to purchase the building from the developer. While multiple interested buyers have emerged, there was no indication the developer would consider selling the property until now.

Preservation Chicago is highly concerned about the increasing number of historic building demolitions happening throughout the city. For every building save, many, many more historic homes are being lost. Developers are consistently willing to out-spend prospective home-owners and in the absence of more aggressive historic landmark protection, down zoning, or demolition fees. This structural imbalance is cause for concern and will cause many more demolition alarms in the near term.

The beautifully ornamented limestone building at 1436 W. Berwyn is nestled between the Andersonville Historic District, the Lakewood-Balmoral Historic District and the Bryn Mawr Historic District. Its double-bay windows overlook a double-wide 50’ lot. The well-maintained two–flat, and a similar but more elaborate twin building, were both 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 6-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, Landmarks Illinois, Preservation Chicago, and other stakeholders contacted 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman, organized public meetings, and created an online petition that quickly received over 600 signatures of support.

Petitions are important. Over 600 people added their names to support the effort. Click here for link to the petition.

In this case, the extra-large 50′ x 125′ lot and generous R4 zoning which allows for multi-family buildings made the historic building at 1436 Berwyn a perfect candidate for a tear-down. The building is not orange-rated, so demolition permit application would not have triggered the 90-Day Demolition Delay. In this case, the developer could have proceeded “as-of-right”.

Preservation Chicago would like to encourage conversations to begin again for a Lakewood-Balmoral Chicago Landmark District which would provide protection against demolition for the buildings, and provide oversight to the alderman, and a voice to the community.

Additional Reading
Historic Andersonville Home Survives Possible Demolition, Will Be Restored Instead, Edgeville Buzz, Daniel Zagotta, October 27, 2017

Developer Of Historic Andersonville Home Gives Community 1 Month To Find A New Buyer, Edgeville Buzz, Daniel Zagotta, 8/30/17

Fierce Opposition To Andersonville Development Draws 150 Plus Attendees To Meeting, Developer a No-Show, Daniel Zagotta Edgeville Buzz, 6/27/17

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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