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Uptown Developer's Solution 'to Satisfy Everybody' Doesn't Satisfy

By Adeshina Emmanuel | December 23, 2013 8:40am
  The five-bedroom house still contains a hand-carved wood staircase, stained-glass windows and two fire places on the interior   —   but is largely gutted and in need of restoration.
The Victorian at 4642 N. Magnolia Ave.
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UPTOWN — One of the developers waging an uphill battle for a zoning change to replace a Victorian house in Uptown with apartments said she has "a solution that should satisfy everybody" — a land swap with a neighbor.

However, the neighbor said he is not interested in the deal.

Liz Finan and her husband Mike have a deal with the current owners of 4642 N. Magnolia Ave. to buy the vacant, fire-damaged Sheridan Park home for $525,000, contingent on the city granting the couple a demolition permit, which Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said is likely.

The Finans, Uptown residents who own a Ravenswood pub, also seek a zoning change to build a six-flat apartment building on land designated for single family homes — much to the chagrin of neighbors in Sheridan Park who want the home restored and have opposed "upzoning" in an effort to preserve the historic district's character.

On Friday, Liz Finan emailed Martin Tangora, who owns a 121-year-old house directly south of the Victorian, Magnolia Malden Block Club President Kathy Cook and Cappleman with "a solution that should satisfy everybody."

The developer — who rejects the prospect of giving the house an expensive rehab — proposed that Tangora swap the nearly 8,000 square foot yard he owns next to his house for the Victorian property.

"The community gets to keep the house, and a vacant lot is replaced by a quality building that pays tax and provides affluent tenants homes," Liz Finan wrote. "There are no more meetings and arguing or angst. Everybody wins."

The deal depends on Tangora's endorsement of their zoning request. Tangora is the historic structures expert on Cappleman's zoning advisory committee.

Liz Finan urged Tangora's swift response, while taking off the table a previous offer to wait six months before destroying the house to allow time for a buyer to save it.

"This is not a solution for us," was Tangora's reply.

Tangora told Liz Finan he would continue "looking for another solution." He said that if the house is put back on the market and advertised, it would be bought by somebody willing to rehab it.

Tangora is not a fan of an apartment building sitting next to his home, because the south side of his house contains "our dining-room bay, our bedroom bay, our sun porch, and our sunlight in general."

Also, he wrote: "Your proposal requires an upzone, which is not acceptable."

The Magnolia Malden Block Club last week voted against the Finans' zoning request after an emergency meeting that followed a split vote the previous week.

Cappleman, who had been on the fence before the latest vote, promised not to support the zoning change.

Referring to the last-second block club vote, Liz Finan's email explained that the Finans' latest position "is due to the distrust we feel after the sham orchestrated in the 'eleventh hour.'"

Magnolia Malden Block Club President Kathy Cook, however, told DNAinfo Chicago her group's last-second vote "was above-board."

"I know of a number of residents who voted in favor of upzoning at the previous week's meeting but were uncomfortable with recent developments in the process or swayed by the preservationists' arguments and changed their vote," she said.

Cook said she hopes the Finans still wait six months after getting the demolition permit for a buyer to step in and save the home.

Liz Finan mentioned the possibility of somebody buying the Finans' contract to purchase the home before they close on the purchase, but said that scenario has a "slim to nil" chance of happening before a demolition permit is issued and the Finans own the property.

"If we own a derelict house, we will tear it down," she said in her email.

The Finans have said they might leave 4642 N. Magnolia Ave. a vacant lot if they don't get their zoning change. Then, they said, they would wait until market conditions and other factors make building within the current single family home designation better for their bottom line.

For previous coverage of Sheridan Park's endangered Victorian home, click here.