WEST ROGERS PARK — The owner of a stretch of storefronts on Touhy Avenue won't repair or rent them, even after the city filed a lawsuit earlier this year, Ald. Debra Silverstein said Thursday.
The 50th Ward alderman encouraged residents to attend a court hearing 11 a.m. Friday that she said could help end the vacancies at 2827-39 W. Touhy Ave.
"I have been working hard to get these storefronts repaired and rented, and this court date is an important step in remedying the situation and removing this eyesore from our neighborhood," Silverstein said in an email to constituents.
Ben Woodard talks about the empty storefronts on Touhy Avenue:
Business leaders and a former tenant say the owner, Virginia Koldon, doesn't return calls about prospective tenants willing to rent her storefronts.
So they've sat untouched.
Koldon could not be reached for comment; phone numbers associated with Koldon either were no longer in service or went to voicemail.
"It’s been a problem for, gosh ... I feel like its been six or seven years since we started having problems," said Amie Zander, director of the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce.
Zander said Koldon became more and more unresponsive, and all of her tenants — a bagel shop, kosher caterer and Jewish book store — gradually moved out.
"No one really knows what’s going on," she said.
Then, in March, inspectors from the city's Department of Buildings reported several violations, which led to the city lawsuit.
Violations on the property included a lack of proper signs; water damage; excess garbage; a graffiti-covered, abandoned ambulance; rotted wood and a rusted, deteriorated iron sign post atop the one-story structure, according to city records.
A former tenant, who requested to remain anonymous, said "there's a reason why" he moved out, citing difficulties with Koldon, who raised his rent despite refusing to maintain the building.
"It's a shame," he said.
Zander said the stretch of Touhy Avenue at one time bustled with activity.
"It’s a great spot," she said. "There’s so much that could go there that could serve the community."
Zander said the case against the building owner had been postponed at an initial hearing about two months ago. She said the judge "gave her time to rectify the situation."
But nothing has happened since, she said.
The hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday in courtroom 1105 at the Daley Center, 50 W. Washington St.
"We’re really hoping that we can convince the judge that this is really hurting our community just sitting there vacant," Zander said.
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