UPTOWN — A notorious Uptown building could get a multi-million dollar makeover from a local businessman who said an extensive renovation is the only way to bring the property up to code.
Mike Krueger, managing partner of the Barry Building at 4660-68 N. Broadway, has plans to renovate the building he owns at 4635-41 N. Broadway, a property whose past is rife with gang activity and building code violations. He plans to renovate the apartments and commercial storefronts there.
Backed by Ald. James Cappleman (46th) and the Truman Square Neighbors block club, Krueger also seeks a zoning change that would allow him to add a fourth floor to the three-story building. The city council's Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards is scheduled to review his request on Thursday and recommend whether or not to forward it to City Council for a final decision.
Krueger estimated the project would cost more than $2 million, and said "there's no timeline right now," for the project. Once things get rolling, however, Krueger said it should be a yearlong affair.
While the east side of Broadway between Wilson and Leland has more commercial activity than the west side of the street, it still has its share of empty storefronts. Krueger said his development will help breathe new life into the corridor.
"I think it really will revitalize that stretch between Wilson and Leland," Krueger said. "And with this new Wilson 'L' station coming, it will definitely make the appearance of a more friendly environment for commuters to want to get off the train."
It was "very lax building management," that enabled the rampant culture of gangs and drugs in the building before Krueger bought it out of foreclosure in 2012, according to Abby Sullivan, a Cappleman aide.
"It's a rather notorious building for sure," Sullivan said.
The city declared the building a "Drug and Gang House" in May 2010, and brought former owner Muhammad T. Siddiqi to city buildings court complaining about criminal activity on his property.
Police shut down a Vice Lords street gang party in one tenant's apartment in February 2010 and arrested numerous gang members, while confiscating drugs and guns.
In December 2011, federal agents and police were locked in a six-hour standoff with gang members who barricaded themselves inside an apartment in the building to avoid being questioned about an Indiana murder.
Aside from issues with criminal conduct, the building itself was in shoddy shape.
City records show the building has failed 11 city inspections since 2002, including an inspection in April where inspectors found parapet walls with "lose, spalling bricks and washed out mortar," in the building, and a rear porch with loose guardrails, a missing support post and a questionable foundation.
Krueger "changed a lot immediately after he purchased the building" out of foreclosure in 2012 and tightened management to keep criminals out, Sullivan said.
When Krueger bought the troubled building, it was obvious that only a major rehab effort could bring the place up to code, he said.
Right now, the building has 16 apartments, but Krueger wants to reduce that number by one. The extensive rehab would make it impossible to keep residential tenants in the building during the makeover, and Krueger couldn't say for sure if current tenants would be able to return to their apartments once the rehab is over.
He also plans to rehab and reconfigure about 4,100 square feet of commercial space now occupied by a handful of tenants, including a clothing store and two beauty salons. Krueger said he would be seeking potential retail tenants to join the building.
Sullivan said Krueger might be eligible for a city Small Business Improvement Fund grant, which could provide a maximum of $250,000 to renovate the retail space.
She said Krueger "might end up with just one big tenant" in his retail space.
Owners of businesses in Krueger's building were not immediately available or did not return calls for comment.
But an employee at Afrikoko Hair and Fashion Boutique worried that his boss, the shop's owner, would be stressed out if she ends up having to move. She's been there for about a decade, is attached to the shop and "would really be affected," by Krueger's plans, the employee said.
At this point, however, Krueger said "it's hard to say," if current retailers would have to leave or not, but "the idea is not to just kick everybody out" and say "good luck."
He said he will try to fit retailers into his plans for the building, but that nothing is set in stone.