West Town home could be demolished after key town committee overrules local alderman

WEST TOWN — A couple who want to demolish their longtime family home in a historic neighborhood and sell the property could get final approval from city council on Wednesday, despite objections from the local alderman.

The council committee on zoning has approved plans to demolish the two West Town apartments at 843 N. Wolcott Ave. was not a “contributory” building to the historic district.

Only Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) sided with the local Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st), who cited neighborhood opposition in asking the commission to vote against the demolition on Tuesday.

Residents Nicole Ortegon and Andrew Roback said they spent 18 months researching the house’s history. Ortegon’s grandparents bought the house and it has been in the family since 1968, she said. The family wants to sell and says the land is worth more if the house is demolished. A future home should adhere to development guidelines set by the historic district.

“The property has been in my family for 53 years and three generations have known it as their home,” Ortega said. “My family has worked to maintain the property to the best of their abilities, but the owners, now elderly, are no longer physically or financially able to do so.”

The house sits between two houses that contribute to the historic district, although they themselves are nonconforming.

The East Village Landmark District was established in 2006 and comprises 197 buildings, comprising mostly 19th-century residential housing spread over four non-contiguous sections bounded by Chicago Avenue, Division Street, Damen Avenue, and Hermitage Avenue.

A large geographic historic district was first proposed for the area, but was scaled back to its current boundaries due to the number of non-contributing houses in the original proposal.

The Wolcott Avenue house was sandwiched between two contributory houses in the later historic district. The landmark commission was not historically significant because it “did not exhibit any significant historical or architectural features” was constructed of different materials than the predominant number of buildings in the neighborhood and significant alterations to the building could not “be easily reversed or deleted.”

La Spata said a group of local neighbors, East Village Association, opposed the demolition. He said the split committee’s vote showed it was not a ‘black and white problem’ and could inspire a ‘demolition epidemic’ in West Town if allowed to go forward.

Reading a letter from the East Village Association, La Spata asked the committee to consider an expanded definition of what contributes to a historic neighborhood.

“This modest house allows observant passers-by to envision an alternative narrative to that told by the ubiquitous red-brick Victorians and contributes to a richer understanding of the history of our neighborhoods,” he said.

The committee rejected La Spata’s reasoning and sided with the panel of monuments and owners. It is common for council committees to defer to the position of a councilor on zoning matters.

Aldus. Ray Lopez (15th) said the committee should not allow the neighborhood group to take the house “hostage”.

The Ortegons have “paid this neighborhood their due, they’re trying to make decisions based on the needs of their families, and the historical commission has stepped down and it’s time for the city council to step down as well.” “, Lopez said.

Aldus. James Cappleman (46th) accepted.

“I find it truly embarrassing to go against the expertise of those who are committed to maintaining the architectural integrity of Chicago’s neighborhoods, so I feel compelled to agree with the decision made by the landmarks commission,” Cappleman said.

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