The Commission on Chicago Landmarks is considering a proposal that would affect about 125 properties along parts of Fulton, Lake and Randolph streets, an area considered one of the city's major culinary destinations.
Roger Romanelli, executive director of the Randolph/Fulton Market Association, said landmarking the area would make it difficult for investors and businesses to improve buildings and hinder the neighborhood's economic growth.
"People do not want an unnecessary layer of government bureaucracy. People here support high property values and they already have every incentive to maintain high-quality buildings," Romanelli said after a news conference on the issue. "We have seen no support for the landmark district."
In a community meeting in April, Eleanor Gorski, director of Chicago Landmarks and Historic Preservation, said the landmarking would focus more on preserving those buildings' exteriors with the opportunity for additions to the existing structures.
Romanelli's organization is instead asking City Hall to expand the Kinzie Industrial Corridor tax-increment finance (TIF) district to include the neighborhood, which will shift area taxes to neighborhood development.
While Romanelli contends that the neighborhood was "blindsided" by the proposal in April, Peter Strazzabosco, deputy commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development, said landmarking is consistent with goals already outlined for the neighborhood.
"The proposed designation is relatively new, but the preservation of area buildings has been a formal goal since the creation of the Kinzie Corridor TIF District in 1998 and the Near West Side Plan in 2000," Strazzabosco said in a statement. "Both plans formally address the need to preserve the market area as a defining component of the neighborhood’s economy and identity, which is especially important today given ongoing real estate speculation and related development pressure in the area."
Strazzabosco said the city would spend at least the next six months working with business and property owners about why the city is looking to landmark the area.
"We want to maximize the area's potential as a 21st century business corridor," said Strazzabosco, who added that landmarking is only one component of a broader plan aimed at the "unique neighborhood."
"Part of it comes by bringing urban authenticity to the environment which has been there for the last 150 years."
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