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City To Owners Of Vacant Zenith TV Factory: See You In Court

By  Heather Cherone Alex Nitkin and Tanveer Ali | August 24, 2017 3:53pm 

 The former Zenith plant in Belmont Cragin. Inset, a Zenith television.
The former Zenith plant in Belmont Cragin. Inset, a Zenith television.
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Chicago Fire Department

BELMONT CRAGIN — City lawyers will head to court Tuesday in an attempt to force the owner of a hulking former Zenith television factory that caught fire earlier this week to take action, a city spokeswoman said Thursday.

Weary neighbors told DNAinfo the four-block, 300,000-square-foot former plant attracts trouble and presents a danger to the area. Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) said this week the old factory needs to be torn down.

City officials have ordered that a protective canopy be installed over the sidewalk at the north and east elevations to protect passersby, said Department of Buildings spokeswoman Mimi Simon.

Officials with the city's Department of Buildings have been working for "several years to address the ongoing building safety issues," Simon said.

The building near Austin and Dickens avenues was last inspected on March 27, and the Chicago Fire Department inspected the building July 7, said Simon.

The court case is designed "to hold the building owner accountable for the conditions of the property, and to address building and fire safety violations moving forward," Simon said.

The building's previous owners gave possession of the building to Chicago Title Land Trust Co. in August 2014, records show. Company representatives did not return a call seeking comment.

An online listing pegs the price for the 14-acre site at $3.5 million. A call to Jameson Commercial Real Estate was not returned.

Opened in the late 1930s and expanded in the 1950s, the factory, called "Plant No. 1," once employed some 2,500 workers assembling radios, record players and televisions under the company's slogan, "The quality goes in before the name goes on."

The company struggled in the wake of foreign competition, and the plant, which also was once Zenith's headquarters, closed.

Taliaferro described it as "an eyesore" that should have been demolished long ago.

Neighbors said teenagers have used the former plant as a hangout.

The property is now polluted, complicating any effort to redevelop the land, which is not far from the Galewood station on Metra's Milwaukee District West Line, Taliaferro said.

People who live closest to the abandoned factory are in the 36th Ward, represented by Ald. Gilbert Villegas, who said he had asked the Buildings Department to force the owner to address safety issues presented by the building.