Newport Landmark District – 11th hour land swap saved historic streetscape

Tipped off to the impending demolition of 823 W. Newport in the newport_lgLakeview neighborhood, Preservation Chicagopartnered with surrounding residents to organize a Stop the Demolition campaign of the stately 1890’s Victorian three-flat. Unlike other Lakeview blocks, many of which had already been marred by inappropriate development, this particular stretch of Newport had remained architecturally pristine. However, it had become clear to the residents of the block that once one demolition was allowed to occur, more demolitions would follow.Preservation Chicago advised that, irrespective of the outcome of the battle to preserve 823 W. Newport, it was imperative that the rest of the block be protected from future demolitions.

To that end, Preservation Chicago, the local community group Newport Neighbors, and others who lived on the street worked together to inform surrounding property owners about the benefits of creating a landmark district.

Alderman Tom Tunney (44th) supported the community’s desire for a landmark district and this ground-breaking neighborhood preservation effort resulted in Preliminary Landmark Designation being conferred on January 8, 2004. The 800 and 900 Block of West Newport, a total of 67 buildings, is now a designated Chicago Landmark District.

However, the real miracle of this story is that through the quick thinking of a local developer, 823 Newport was also saved. Preservation developer David Funcheon, who happened to live in the immediate vicinity, presented Alderman Tom Tunney with a risky proposal: a building swap. Mr. Funcheon approached the developer who wished to demolish 823 W. Newport. The two developers agreed to the swap so that Mr. Funcheon took possession of 823 W. Newport and the other developer took possession of a nearby plain three-flat owned by Mr. Funcheon. The 823 W. Newport building was then meticulously restored by Mr. Funcheon and is now three luxury condominiums.

Because of the actions of an organized community, The Newport Landmark District stands out in Lakeview as one of the few remaining architecturally pristine blocks. Because of that, filmmakers chose it as a location for the 2009 Johnny Depp movie Public Enemies.