Vacant Building on Troubled Corner Worries Neighbors

By Benjamin Woodard on December 17, 2012 11:46am 

ROGERS PARK — City inspectors condemned a building after neighbors complained its collapsed roof posed a safety risk to the public.

Rey Matos called the city after a window was broken on the vacant building, 7312-7313 N. Rogers Ave., revealing a gaping hole in the roof.

"When I saw it," he said, "I thought, 'Something's got to be done about it. This whole building is falling apart,'" said the 45-year-old, who owns a house a few hundred feet away on Damen Avenue.

The city is searching its records for the owner of the building and preparing a case for court, said Susan Massel, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Buildings.

If the owner is not found or doesn't respond, a judge could give the department permission to tear down the building, she said.

During the inspection, the building was cited for six violations, according to the department.

Mike Land, staff assistant to Ald. Joe Moore (49th), said the property owner hadn't paid property taxes for four years and had been "unresponsive" to his office's requests to fix the building.

According to records with the Cook County Recorder of Deeds, Brian Keohane is the owner of the property.

Keohane could not be reached for comment.

Christine Kreutz, who lives nearby and drives by the building on her way to work at Loyola University, said the lot would look better torn down.

"It’s just gotten worse and worse," said the 22-year Rogers Park resident. "It’s just that whole area."

Several businesses have moved through the collection of buildings on the northeast corner of Damen and Rogers avenues over the years. All that's left now, since the Soul Food Hut closed down last week, is a corner convenience store.

Down Rogers Avenue, the Ho Tavern closed about two years ago, and on Damen Avenue, a restaurant called Mr. Burger once advertised gyros and hot dogs on its storefront windows. But now the gutted interior is full of crumbled concrete.

A city inspector posted an orange notice sign on a window of the former laundromat at 7312-13 N. Rogers Ave.

Dated Dec. 12, the sign read, "Interior Collapsed Truss Roof - DANGEROUS!" But shortly after, the sign had been covered with black spray paint rendering it nearly unreadable.

Yousif Abdulla, whose family owns the corner store, said he hopes to fully rehabilitate the former restaurant location, and then expand the convenience store into a supermarket with additional parking.

"We’re going to change the whole property around," he said. "We are not happy with the look of the building right now. We need to bring more business."

Although he said there's "lots of work to do," the building could be completely renovated within a year.

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