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Neighbors Hope to Block Pritzker Parking Garage With Landmark Designation

 Don Gordon and others plan to attend a Wednesday hearing before the Commission on Chicago Landmarks.
7331 N. Sheridan Rd.
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ROGERS PARK — In the hopes of putting the brakes on a proposed parking garage development on Sheridan Road, some neighbors are petitioning the city to designate the Shambhala Meditation Center as an official historical landmark.

If they're successful, the designation would preserve the Prairie School-style house that proponents say has served as a private residence, a synagogue, a daycare center, women's health center and finally a Buddhist meditation center.

Recently, the house was sold to a group representing billionaire Col. James Pritzker.

Pritzker's development team, Tawani Enterprises, has proposed tearing down the structure at 7331 N. Sheridan Road and erect a four-story parking garage in its place, but the development requires City Council approval and consideration under the Lakefront Protection Ordinance, two hurdles yet to be overcome.

"For no other reason, the Pritzker issue aside, [we should] try to preserve the character of Sheridan Road before it's all totally gone," said Don Gordon, a long-time Rogers Park activist and former 49th Ward aldermanic candidate.

Gordon and members of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce, a recently formed pro-business organization, plan to attend a Wednesday hearing before the Commission on Chicago Landmarks to plead their case.

The preliminary hearing at 3 p.m. is open to the public.

Peter Strazzabosco, a spokesman for the commission, said suggestions from the community would be considered on "an advisory basis."

Gordon and the chamber hope to convince the city, however, to begin the stringent process of landmark designation, which would at least temporarily save the structure if Tawani moved to raze it.

"All along Sheridan to the lake, there were single-family homes," said Autumn Davids, an official with the chamber. "This is one of the last few that has been converted for business purposes."

During a public meeting about the parking garage proposal, Mary Parthe, Tawani's chief of staff, said that the building was in disrepair, which was one of the reasons the Shambhala Meditation Center had sold the building and moved to a larger location in the West Loop.

Tawani is known in Rogers Park for spending millions on restoration projects of rundown buildings, such as the Mayne Stage, Farcroft by the Lake and Frank Lloyd Wright's Emil Bach House, a Sheridan Road mansion that was granted landmark status by the city in 1977.

Gordon said he's hoping to save yet another historic building from the wrecking ball.

"I’m also committed to the idea of just trying to preserve what we have in this community," he said.

He mentioned development ideas that have failed at the expense of historic structures, like at the site of the former Adelphi Theater on Clark Street. The theater was demolished in 2006 and, as a result of the real estate market crash, the community has been forced to live with a hole in the ground since 2008.

"There’s a certain point where you draw the line," he said. "We’ve gone over that line."

Gordon and the chamber invite others to meet at the Morse "L" station at 1 p.m. Wednesday and travel alongside them to the 3 p.m. hearing at 33 N. LaSalle St., Room 1600.