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Wicker Park Landmark District Project Draws Ire From Neighbors

By Alisa Hauser | March 12, 2014 12:53pm
 2117-19 W. LeMoyne St. in Wicker Park.
2117-19 W. LeMoyne St .
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WICKER PARK — A local developer's plan to build a single-family home on what members of an influential neighborhood group say is a "protected landscape" within a landmark district is sparking controversy in Wicker Park, even as the city has given preliminary approval to the project.

"There is every legal evidence that the property designated as 2117 W. LeMoyne is a side yard, and not a vacant lot," said Ed Tamminga, a Wicker Park resident and chairman of the Wicker Park Committee's Preservation and Development Committee.

Tamminga's group is arguing that the yard — which borders an alley just west of Hoyne Avenue and LeMoyne Street — cannot be used for development, while Mark Kupiec, a lawyer for the developer, said on Tuesday, "We don't agree it is a side yard. It is a single empty lot available for development."

 Renderings of a proposed single-family home at 2117 W. LeMoyne St. in Wicker Park
2117 W. LeMoyne St. Conceptual Renderings
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Lemoyne Acquisitions, a MCZ Development-backed venture owned by Michael Lerner, owns both the yard at 2117 W. LeMoyne St. and an 1890s-era multi-unit home next to the yard at 2119 W. LeMoyne St.

The properties, each of which have separate property tax identification numbers, were purchased together in a $1.2 million transaction from one seller on Oct. 17, according to county records.

Lemoyne Acquisitions wants to convert the multi-unit home at 2119 W. LeMoyne St. into a single-family residence and build a brick 2½-story, 3,500-square-foot single-family home with a basement designed by architect John Hanna at 2117 W. LeMoyne St.

The permit review committee of the city's Landmarks Commission was scheduled to present its recommendation to approve the plan on Thursday, but the matter was pulled from the agenda on Wednesday and deferred until April, confirmed Peter Strazzabosco, a spokesman for the Landmarks Commission.

Todd Mullen, a project manager who is working with Lerner, said he pulled the application off the agenda at the request of 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti.

Fioretti said on Wednesday that he requested the deferral because more time is needed to "address community concerns."

Members of the Wicker Park Committee's preservation and development committee, who voted unanimously against the project in January, are arguing that the home's eastern wall, which faces the yard, has "face brick construction with ornate masonry," which has typically been a principal criterion for establishing a side yard. 

Also, a turret on the 1890s era Queen Anne building is tilted at a 45-degree angle facing the side yard, rather than the street.

"Face brick is a higher quality brick, a purer clay; it costs a lot more. Everything says this lot was supposed to be a part of the property. If we put a building there, we will lose the detail on the eastern side of the  greystone (at 2119 W. LeMoyne, facing the yard). It will lose the fabric of Wicker Park," said Dina Petrakis, a Wicker Park resident, home renovation coach and member of the Wicker Park Committee.

Petrakis said that she was "broadsided by Landmark's permit review committee putting a preliminary stamp of approval on this [project.]."

The staff of the Landmarks Commission recommended that the proposed project move forward because the construction of a single-family home "will not have an adverse effect on the significant historical and architectural features of the landmark property and district," according to an online agenda for the permit review committee.

The permit review committee has put some conditions on the project, however, such as reducing the size of a window and using a door that is in the style with the architecture of the period.

The Wicker Park group is not opposed to the multi-unit building becoming a single-family residence, only that the land at 2117-19 is proposed to be subdivided into two single family homes rather than one, which Tamminga considers to be "economic opportunism."

"It is a money grab. This added value of building on the side yard they are seeking is like giving [the developers] a cash grant at the expense of the Landmark District," Tamminga said.

The Cook County Assessor's Office describes 2117 W. LeMoyne St. as "a residential garage" in a 2013 tax assessment. 

While Kupiec said his clients do not need landmark approval to convert the multi-unit building at 2119 W. LeMoyne St. into a single-family home, they "do need approval from the commission on their application to build a new single-family home on the vacant lot."

In an email, Landmarks Commission spokesman Strazzabosco said the city's "permit review staff recommended approval of the project, provided the conditions in the recommendation are met. It remains to be seen what the permit review committee does."