WICKER PARK — An "architectural investigation" is underway inside a century-old wood frame, vinyl-sided building on Milwaukee Avenue after the city blocked its owners from tearing the structure down.
The building at 1501 N. Milwaukee Ave., reportedly once a butcher shop, was bought by a real estate developer for just over $1 million last month.
The two-story building at the northeast corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Honore Street is across from a future Rick Bayless restaurant.
Part of Wicker Park's Landmark District, the building was purchased for $1.05 million on Jan. 23 by a venture led by developer Steve Lipe called "1505 N. Milwaukee LLC," according to county records.
In October, the city determined that the building is a contributing building to the Milwaukee Avenue Landmark District, which would prevent any demolition. Lipe had wanted to create a development spanning two commercial lots, including vacant land at 1505 N. Milwaukee Ave. that Lipe also owns.
After the Landmark Commission's Permit Review Committee made its decision, Lipe said he was disappointed, but planned to move forward with a residential building with a ground-floor commercial tenant at 1505 N. Milwaukee Ave.
"It will be a challenge to create a project that respects what little remains of the architectural integrity of the existing building, yet enhances the vibrancy of and livelihood of Milwaukee Avenue," he said of the 1501 N. Milwaukee building.
A building permit dated Feb. 6 calls for an "interior nonstructural demo[lition] of 1st and 2nd floor for architectural investigation per plans."
"We are removing all of the interior improvements down to what remains of the original structural shell... we are opening that whole area up, and adding new windows on the Honore side," Lipe said in an email on Monday.
James Silvestro, an architect with Norsman Architects who is working with Lipe, said on Tuesday that most of the interior has been removed and work on the exterior of the building would happen once permits were obtained.
Lipe explained that the interior work involves opening up "what at one time was a larger storefront."
Constructed in 1881, the building was originally a butcher shop with apartments above it, according to Our Urban Times.
Silvestro said once permits were received for the exterior of the building, the firm would be "looking under the siding to see what is there, if it is still intact."
Lipe further explained: "Ultimately, we will be removing the two layers of exterior siding, exposing the original facade, and adding windows both where they were located originally and in a couple other locations to bring more light into the space."
The original facade of the building is unknown but Lipe believes it is wood.
Lipe's only record of what the building looked like is a photograph from 1966, when the building was already 80 years old. In that photo, the building is covered with one layer of beige vinyl siding. A second layer of siding was later added.
A building permit for the vacant land next to the building at 1505 N. Milwaukee Ave. calls for a four-story building with three residential units above a ground-floor retail storefront.