From the President

Vol. XIV No. 4 - FALL/WINTER 2003-4

By: Kathy Gemperle

During the past five months the crisis in historical preservation has increased as three developers have stepped up to announce projects that involved the demolition of some of Edgewater’s oldest and largest historic homes on Winthrop and Kenmore.

The 48th Ward Zoning and Land Use Committee has approved the project to demolish the home at 6117 N. Winthrop, once the home of Barb Stanley, former ECC president and her husband Paul Uhl and their children. The developer, Jim Byrne of the BARGE neighborhood. says he is willing to give the house away if someone will move it. He has not advertised this offer anywhere that we know of.

Another developer, Tim Kerins, before making a presentation to the Zoning and Land Use Committee, applied for a demolition permit on September 23, 2003 for the home at 6022 N. Kenmore (notice was sent to the 48th ward office). He then put the house back on the market as he told EHS representative LeRoy Blommaert he would even as his demolition permit was moving forward. LeRoy contacted him to report on his research that proved that the home was an early work by prairie architect, George Washington Maher in 1897. Despite having no approved plan for the site Mr. Kerins saw to the demolition of the home on October 16, 2003.

A third developer, Fred Barder, proposed to demolish the home at 5416 Winthrop. This is one of four historic buildings that remain from the original Edgewater development. The Edgewater Beach Neighbors Association voted against the demolition and asked Alderman Smith to rezone this group of homes in order to preserve them. At this writing an ordinance has been introduced in committee but the City Council has not taken action.

Alderman Smith has called for a task force to meet to develop a plan for the area. On the agenda is first,

  • A Stop Demolition Ordinance which would be a temporary solution. No action has been taken.
  • The second proposal is a rezoning ordinance for all the blocks of Kenmore and Winthrop. Research is being done on how to create a plan. Although Alderman Smith proposed that this rezoning to R3 could be introduced and held in committee many of the investment property owners adamantly opposed this temporary action.

Moving forward with a plan to preserve the single family homes, two flats and three flats is a small group of preservationists who live on Kenmore and Winthrop along with members of the Edgewater Historical Society. Taking the leadership in researching the problem is Matt Rogers who has produced informative charts that show how some of the smaller properties are grouped together. We will exhibit these in our next exhibit, “Endangered Edgewater” which opens February 1, 2004. When the committee met in November with a zoning expert from the City of Chicago it became clear that clusters of historic properties that should be at lower zoning can be rezoned.

The question before us is whether preserving existing historic buildings by lowering the zoning is taking value away from these property owners. Should their homes have been zoned by the city at R6 or R5 which allows for high density development? When was this done and for whom? This high zoning has caused the demolition bonus which an individual owner can receive when selling to a developer. Is the individual property owner owed the increase of some $200,000 over the market value of the home for the zoning which they had nothing to do with creating?

A second issue follows on this one, that of tax assessment. The current tax structure is set up to tax by the livable square foot area of a home and to tax single family homes at a higher rate than multi unit livable space. In the case of an area like Kenmore and Winthrop these properties are rare and yet are set up to shoulder a higher tax burden than the multi unit properties like the four plus ones. What’s wrong with this picture? What can be done to preserve the single family homes and smaller buildings and make the tax burden more equitable? The tax burden on the single family home and small building owners puts the American Dream out of reach for too many in our community and across Chicago.

The Edgewater Historical Society was founded in 1988 to educate the community of Edgewater about its history and to promote the preservation of historical structures. This effort has taken the direction of rezoning in all the neighborhoods of Edgewater. Please join us in our effort to preserve the last remnants of the original Edgewater.