The architecturally significant orange-rated Hanson Park Field House located at 5501 N. Fullerton Avenue will soon be demolished. An important fixture in Hanson Park since 1936, this elegant brick and limestone field house building with arched floor-to-ceiling windows and limestone columns was designed by John C. Christensen. A $12 million Cook County health clinic will be constructed on the site in the park.
According to the recent report issued by Bailey Edward Architects, the building was stable and could be reused.
“Though the squirrels had set up residence and the evident signs of distress, structurally the building is in good shape. The center portion of the building, which is the most historically significant, appeared to be in good repair and with modest repairs to stop water infiltration issues, the building can be utilized for many years to come, but not by the squirrels.” (Bailey Edward Architects Report)
The Hanson Park Field House is listed as orange-rated on the Chicago Historic Resources Survey (CHRS). Due the significant historic value orange-rated buildings, the designation requires up to a 90-Day Demolition Delay to provide an opportunity for alternate plans to emerge that might protect the historic building from demolition. The historic structure could have been incorporated into the new construction plans either through adaptive reuse or incorporating the historic façade. The 90-Day Demolition Delay is designed precisely to allow the voice of community members and other stakeholders the opportunity to be heard.
The demolition permit was received on Tuesday, June 27th. The demolition permit was released 48 hours later on Thursday June 29th. There was no urgency for the early release of the Hanson Park Field House from the 90-Day Demolition Delay list as approximately three months passed before demolition work began.
From the City of Chicago, Department of Planning & Development, Demolition Delay List (2017)
“This wonderful historic building could have been a beautiful component of the new heath center and proved a great asset to the Belmont Craigin community,” said Ward Miller of Preservation Chicago. “Orange-rated buildings are supposed to have a 90-day hold to explore reuse possibilities. Expediting the demolition of historic buildings really defeats the purpose of having the Chicago Historic Resources Survey.”
Preservation Chicago urges the City’s Department of Planning and Development/Historic Preservation Division and staff to allow the 90-Day Demolition Delay for orange-rated structures to be implemented according to the ordinance and the full 90-Day Demolition Delay allowed to run its course. There are many examples where the demolition delay process worked as designed and the process resulted in better outcomes for all parties including the historic building, the developer, the community and the City of Chicago. Early release of demolition permits for significant orange-rated buildings should be rare and reserved for instances where there is a clear health and safety risk which can only be resolved by an emergency demolition.