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Moreno, Ex-Double Door Landlord War Escalates With Proposed Zoning Change

By  Alisa Hauser and Patty Wetli | June 8, 2017 1:17pm 

 First Ward Ald. Joe Moreno, Double Door and building owner Brian Strauss
First Ward Ald. Joe Moreno, Double Door and building owner Brian Strauss
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

WICKER PARK —   Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) has fired the latest salvo in his ongoing battle with Brian Strauss, owner of the Wicker Park building that formerly housed the Double Door.

Neighboring property owners have been informed of a public hearing set for June 22 in which Moreno will initiate proceedings to change the zoning of the building at 1570-1572 N. Milwaukee Ave. from a commercial to a single-family residential designation limiting future uses of the structure.

Raymond Valadez, Moreno's chief of staff, declined to comment on the motivation for the zoning change to the four-story, 17,000-square-foot building.

James McKay, a lawyer for Strauss, called Moreno's maneuver "arbitrary and capricious and in violation of the Strauss family's rights to due process." 

Currently, the commercial zoning for the building is the same as that for its surrounding properties. Neighbors living within 250 feet of the closed music club have been notified of the proposed zoning change.

McKay said no one would want a single-family residence on the busy block packed with restaurants, bars and retail shops.

"Moreno is a vindictive and irresponsible public official who's not doing what's best for the community. He's doing it to get even with an honest man [Strauss] who wouldn't play ball with him," McKay said.

In February, Moreno, angry about the eviction of Double Door, told Strauss in an argument caught on videotape, "You are not going to get a dime out of this building. It's going to be an empty building with no income for you or your family. End of conversation."

A real estate source previously told DNAinfo that Strauss is trying to finalize a deal to sell the 113-year-old building to a private developer. Though the source said Target is among the retailers interested in the prime location near the busy intersection of Milwaukee and Damen avenues, Strauss denied that Target is interested in the building.

Strauss said that "several prospective tenants" have looked at the property for renting it out, and he also is talking with folks who want to buy the entire building, which has entrances on Milwaukee Avenue as well as Damen.

If Moreno's proposed zoning change is approved, new owners or tenants would have to go through a lengthy process, including community meetings, in order to switch the zoning back to commercial use in order to open a restaurant, bar, music venue, retail shop or other non-residential establishment.

Moreno previously threatened a zoning change in 2016, when Double Door was still battling Strauss during a 1½-year eviction case, but that motion was tabled.

The zoning tactic is typically deployed when an alderman wants to control what can go into a controversial property.

In 2014, Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) changed the zoning on a mixed-use property in order to hinder illegal nightclub operations at a problem building.

Notice of proposed zoning change. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]

The Milwaukee and Damen-facing sides of the former Double Door. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]