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As Goldblatt's Building Continues To Crumble, Water Tower OK'd for Removal

By Alisa Hauser | October 22, 2015 6:44am
 A water tower atop the Goldblatt's Building, 1615 W. Chicago Ave., is scheduled to be removed, according to a permit.
A water tower atop the Goldblatt's Building, 1615 W. Chicago Ave., is scheduled to be removed, according to a permit.
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Kevin Miske/Building Blocks

WEST TOWN — A wooden water tower atop the historic Goldblatt's Bros. Building — home to the Chicago Public Library's West Town branch — is scheduled to be removed and replaced with a replica sometime before 2018, city officials said Wednesday.

Chicago Cityscape shared news of the water tower's impending removal in a tweet on Tuesday. 

Just west of Ashland Avenue, the Chicago Landmark building at 1625 W. Chicago Ave., constructed in the 1920s and the site of the original Goldblatt’s Department Store, has been sporting construction scaffolding for more than two years.

Eve Rodriguez, a city spokeswoman, said on Wednesday the scaffolding is in place to protect passersby.

"The existing windows are severely deteriorated and scaffolding was installed for safety of pedestrians and occupants. As funding becomes available and restoration is completed the scaffolding will be removed," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said the city would spend $135,000 to remove the tower, likely in the near future though no date had been set.

Scaffolding in front of the Goldblatt's Building. [Kevin Miske/Building Blocks]

In March, members of the city's Landmark Permit Review Committee unanimously approved plans to remove the tower, as well as replace it with a replica sometime before 2018, or "as funding becomes available," according to meeting minutes.

Rodriguez said an estimated cost for the restoration project including the new replica water tower was not readily available.

Leland Elder, a Chicago Public Library spokesman, said Wednesday the water tower suffered a lot of damage over past few winters and the goal was to remove it as soon as possible.

In 2013, a similar water tower, also atop a Chicago Landmark building, fell to the ground and injured several people.

Meanwhile, members of the East Village Association, a neighborhood group, discussed their displeasure with the ever-present scaffolding and lack of any work being done at a meeting earlier this month.

Neighboring property owners said they are impacted by the unsightly scaffolding.

"I suspect the city does not have the money to perform work on the facade, windows and terra cotta," said Kevin Miske, whose development firm is located across the street from Goldblatt's at 1620 W. Chicago Ave. in a similar 1920s terra cotta building that Miske restored.

In an email accompanied by a photo of cracked and crumbling windows, Miske said, "Windows are rotting and window heads are displaced showing possible structural attachment failure."

Miske said he would be interested in buying the Goldblatt's building and turning it into "an awesome adaptive reuse project" if the city was open to selling it.

Rodriguez said Wednesday the city did not have any plans to sell the building.

The Goldblatt’s Building was designed by architect Alfred S. Alshuler and built in the 1920s. Alshuler's other work includes the London Guarantee Building (now the Crain's Communication Building), the K.A.M. Isaiah Israel Temple and the Florsheim Shoe Co. building, all designated Chicago landmarks.

In addition to the Chicago Public Library and a senior center on the building's first floor, the site also houses offices for the city's Department of Family Services and Support and Independent Police Review Authority.

An up-close look at deteriorated windows on the Goldblatt's Building. [Kevin Miske/Building Blocks]

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