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Historic Fullerton Bank Would be Redeveloped as Housing Under Proposal

By  Alisa Hauser and Paul Biasco | March 14, 2014 8:18am 

 A developer is seeking to turn the historic landmarked Fullerton State Bank Building into an eight-unit residental building.
Fullerton State Bank Building
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LINCOLN PARK — A developer is proposing turning a landmarked former bank on Fullerton Avenue into an eight-unit residential building.

The former Fullerton State Bank building at 1425 W. Fullerton Ave. was built in 1923 during a "golden age" of bank architecture during the prosperous 1920s, according to its listing in the city's landmark's database.

The 15,000-square-foot building cost $150,000 to build back in 1923, according to the city.

The former bank shut its doors on June 6, 1931, during the early stages of the Great Depression and was eventually sold to Perfection Burial Garment Company.

The building has been vacant for five or more years, and developer Steve Livaditis is seeking to turn it into an eight-unit residential building.

 The Fullerton State Bank building, 1425 W. Fullerton Ave.
The Fullerton State Bank building, 1425 W. Fullerton Ave.
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DNAinfo/Paul Biasco

The plan would also involve a four-story addition to the building in a vacant lot between the former bank and Via Carducci restaurant, 1419 W. Fullerton Ave.

"A complete interior gut rehab will be part of the project," said Tim LeVaughn, of LeVaughn & Associates, the architect on the project.

The project would include a one-story rooftop addition on top of the current three-story bank building.

The proposal went before the city's  Landmarks Permit Review Committee Thursday and was approved under a number of stipulations meant to protect the historical and architectural features of the building.

Once the developer submits a permit application to the Buildings Department, the Landmarks staff will review the application to ensure the project is in compliance with what the committee approved, said Peter Strazzabosco, a spokesman for the Landmark Commission.

One of those provisions requires the city's historic preservation staff to review exterior wall materials, including new brick and stone, and that the rooftop addition be set back so that it is not visible from the public right-of-way.

The developer is also requesting a zoning change.

The building, which was designed by architect Karl Vitzthum, was designated a Chicago landmark in 2008 along with four other neighborhood bank buildings.

A landmark recommendation for the four banks in late 2007 described them as centers of commercial and economic life in the neighborhoods.

The monumental buildings conveyed "a sense of permanence and trust," according to the 2007 landmark recommendation, and were often built of high-style architecture with expensive materials and craftsmanship.

In 2008, a developer proposed a plan to build a 299-seat Lincoln Park Theater at the site, which was initially approved by the Landmark Commission, but was never constructed due to the downturn in the economy.

Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, spoke at Thursday's hearing and warned that the current proposal for the old Fullerton bank would result in a "loss of some historic integrity."

"We think this is a really beautiful building. So many are intrigued by the building," Miller said. "A lot of people have always been worried about this building and what may happen."

Miller said the project will involve removing the bank's safe, calling that effort "quite a big project."

"We realize this is really a gut rehab," he said. "Most of this building will be demolished on the inside with a rather severe approach to keeping the facade in place."

One feature Miller said he hopes the developer will preserve is a skylight that currently lights the big lobby of the former bank.

The rooftop addition would mean the removal of the skylight. 

"After waiting for so long for this project to be developed I don't want to see this building gut-rehabbed into a bunch of apartments that can be anywhere in the city," Miller said.

Alan Mellis, a neighborhood activist, thanked Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), a Landmarks committee member, for deferring the item to give neighbors a chance to review it. 

"It has been vacant for a very long time and we are pleased to see developer is looking to sensitively restore the building," Mellis said.