If developer Environs Development has its way, the 1873 home at 1822 N. Howe Street will be demolished to make way for a 15,500-square-foot mega house. Built two years after Chicago’s Great Fire, the Lincoln Park home is actually comprised of two brick structures. With close proximity, similar brick, and a similar roofline, they were later connected and renovated into a single home. This interesting home is approximately 5,400 square feet and includes five full bathrooms and two half baths.
Tear-down developers are often willing and able to outspend buyers looking to live in and restore historic homes. The triple wide Howe Street lot has 77 feet of street frontage and is 125 feet deep for a total of 9,625 square feet. This site is of particular interest to developers as it is over three times wider than a standard 25-foot lot. Because of the large lot size, the proposed development can be designed “as-of-right” within the permitted zoning envelope. If no zoning change is required, aldermanic approval is not required, and almost no oversight or planning tools are available to the alderman or community.
The location is just west of the boundaries of the highly sought after Old Town Triangle Landmark District, so the Landmark District provides no protections for this building. Additionally, developers know that properties in protected historic Landmark Districts are highly desirable and add value, so if they develop close to but just outside of those districts, they can benefit from the high-desirability without restrictions.
The building was not protected by any Landmark designation, and it was not included in the Chicago Historic Resource Survey (CHRS). Had it been orange-rated on the CHRS, it would have required a demolition delay. Downzoning historic properties so that the zoning more closely corresponds to the current existing building would help to encourage reuse of existing buildings and homes. An extension of the nearby Chicago Landmark District would have provided the greatest protection and oversight for historic homes like 1822 N. Howe Street.