UPTOWN — Nick's Uptown is closed — but questions remain about what will happen to the building the 4 a.m. bar called home. Some people in the neighborhood fear the building is destined for the wrecking ball unless the city landmarks it.
The more than 7,000-square-foot building at 4015-4017 N. Sheridan Rd., built in the 1920s, was designed by architect Paul Gerhard in the Egyptian Revival style with Egyptian motifs adorning its facade.
Nick's owner agreed to sell the building earlier this month to Thorek Memorial Hospital, 850 W. Irving Park Rd. The hospital already owns vacant lots at Irving Park and Sheridan adjacent to the former Nick's that used to be apartments but have sat empty for several years.
The acquisition of Nick's sparked concern among residents in the area who say Thorek has a habit of bulldozing buildings in a southern slice of Uptown known as Buena Park, holding on to the vacant properties and then leaving them empty in lieu of less than concrete expansion plans.
"There's a lot of character that's going to be lost if something happens to this building," said Uptown resident Christopher Graham, 28. "That's a big fear in the neighborhood."
Alyssa Berman-Cutler, president of Uptown's economic development organization, Uptown United, is one of many people in the community who wants the former Nick's building saved. “It’s a really great property and we certainly want to explore seeing how it can be preserved," she said.
Thorek didn't return calls for comment.
But Bill Petty, president of Buena Park Neighbors, the block club whose area includes Nick's, said he met with Thorek CEO Ned Budd last week and got some answers — although plenty questions remain.
Thorek had been negotiating with Nick's owner Nick Novich on and off over the last few years for the property, which Petty said could fit into hospital plans for a wellness center at the corner of Irving Park and Sheridan.
The hospital doesn't have immediate plans to demolish the building or to build the center. But once plans to expand the hospital campus kick in (and there's no timeline for such a thing), officials would prefer to tear the building down, Petty said.
Petty, who also relayed his conversation with Budd to neighbors via an email last week, said Thorek is open to preserving the building if it's landmarked by the city, and that a landmark application was submitted last week to save the building.
Petty said Thorek officials promised that, "they absolutely will not destroy the facade," regardless of what happens.
If that's true, one of three things could happen: the building could be preserved with the facade intact; the building could be torn down but the facade could be incorporated into the new building; or the facade could be sold to another organization that would dismantle it and put it back together to be displayed at another location.
Thorek's relationship with the community has been a mixed bag in recent years.
Thorek is a major employer in the neighborhood with a big footprint. The hospital contributed $5,000 to the block club a couple of years ago. The money was used for various neighborhood events and community beautification efforts, according to the block club.
Petty acknowledged the donation and chuckled at the notion he said some people have in the neighborhood that the donation was "hush money," to keep a lid on neighbors objections about the hospital's idle properties. He said the money helped enrich the neighborhood.
But all the same, the vacant lots have "irritated some people," Petty said. Thorek has put in fencing and trees around the perimeter of their idle properties, "but haven't really done a super job with landscaping it," he said.
Petty said Thorek should "improve their communication to the community."
"If you don't know what's going on, and you start connecting the dots on your own, you could be completely wrong," Petty said, emphasizing that "it doesn't do me or my organization any good to alienate myself from [Thorek], because they're not going away."