OLD TOWN — Demolition has begun on two beloved Old Town landmarks.
O'Brien's Restaurant & Bar, 1528 N. Wells St., and the original Piper's Alley building at 1610 N. Wells are both getting torn down.
The city approved a demolition permit for Piper's Alley late last year after it was determined that damage from an Adobo Grill grease fire in 2015 was too extensive to save the building.
Peter Strazzabosco, spokesman for the city Department of Planning and Development, said at the time that it was expected that parts of the distinctive Piper's Alley facade would be retained and replaced.
As of Wednesday, the iconic witch hat turret on the building was gone.
O'Brien's demolition permit was approved by the city last month. It's slated to return as part of a 13-story, "four-star" hotel on the site in a project approved by the city last year.
Local residents opposed the project, but it won the support of 27th Ward Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. after developers agreed to cut the size of the hotel from its originally planned 18 stories.
Even so, the demolition prompted the Chicago Art Deco Society to reach out to local residents about the idea of creating an Old Town Historic District to help preserve the area.
"Several neighbors in the area have reached out to the Chicago Art Deco Society after we successfully advocated for West Burton Place to be designated a Chicago landmark district," said the society's Amy Keller. "Those individuals have voiced their concern about the rapid, new development on Wells Street, and support for landmarking Old Town. We're currently exploring whether such a designation is feasible."
A fire tore through the Second City and Piper's Alley buildings in the Old Town neighborhood in 2015. [Joe Stoner]