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Lincoln Park Bird Sanctuary Could Be Replaced With Million-Dollar Condos

By Mina Bloom | August 19, 2016 5:46am | Updated on August 19, 2016 8:38am
 A rendering of the project at 441 - 447 W. Arlington Place.
A rendering of the project at 441 - 447 W. Arlington Place.
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DNAinfo/Mina Bloom

LINCOLN PARK — A pair of developers are trying to get a zoning change to build a row of million-dollar condos in place of an overgrown bird sanctuary in one of Lincoln Park's landmark districts.

The proposal at 441 - 447 W. Arlington Place calls for rehabbing a historic home and building a four-story condo building with 14 parking spaces next door in place of the owner's bird sanctuary.

In the 1970s, when commodities trader and "bird benefactor" Eugene Chesrow bought the properties, he fought to protect the sanctuary from developers who wanted to build everything from a parking lot to a supermarket on the land, according to a 1986 Tribune article. 

But the developers behind the project told neighbors at a community meeting Thursday evening that Chesrow was the one who put the properties up for sale this time. Chesrow did not appear to be at the meeting.

A rendering of the project generated by the project's architecture firm Booth Hansen. [DNAinfo/Mina Bloom]

"He put it on the market. We're buying his house and the property," Rolando Acosta, an attorney representing the developers, said at the meeting held at Gaslight Bar & Grille, 2450 N. Clark St.

Built in the late 1880s, the historic home "will always stay" because it sits in the protected Arlington & Roslyn Landmark District, according to Michael Breheny, principal of Contemporary Concepts Inc.

"We're going to renovate it," Breheny told neighbors. "It's in pretty good shape. We're going to keep the facade and fix what's crumbling."

Breheny and his partner, Lizzie Kaplan of Boutique Properties, are seeking city approval to convert the entire site — the historic home and the sanctuary — into one zoning designation.

If the zoning approval is granted, the developers are aiming to begin construction on the building next summer and finish the project by fall or summer of 2018, Kaplan said.

The proposal calls for three- and four-bedroom condos, offering a range of 2,400 - 3,100 square feet of space, at $550 to $850 per square foot, Kaplan said.

"The market is a bit of a moving target right now," Kaplan said.

Neighbors at the meeting were mixed over the developers' proposal. Some said the modern condos don't fit into the historic district, which is lined with homes built between 1894 and 1910 in a number of different architectural styles, including Gothic Revival and Queen Anne. 

"To me, this is going to look like an albatross," one neighbor said at the meeting. "This street is one of the most beautiful streets in Chicago."

Others cheered the development, saying the sanctuary — referred to as a "vacant lot" by Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) in her newsletter — is an "eyesore."

The 75-by-100-foot sanctuary is home to hundreds of birds, including cardinals, woodpeckers, red-winged blackbirds and house sparrows, according to the Tribune

When Chesrow bought the land in 1974, he "literally transplanted the daylights out of it with white pines, lindens, pin oaks, sugar maples, blue spruce, white cedar, river birch and Chinese junipers," according to the Tribune

At one point, the Chicago Audubon Society owned the land. A representative for the Chicago Audubon Society didn't return a message late Thursday.

Today, those tall trees hang over the sidewalk, creating a canopy of sorts.

The development proposal has to be approved by Smith before it heads to the city's Zoning Board of Appeals. Since the project sits in a landmark district, it will also need approval from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks.

A padlocked gate guards the bird sanctuary, which is situated on Chesrow's private property. [DNAinfo/Mina Bloom]

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