LOOP — City attorneys agreed on Tuesday to hold off on their push to demolish the vacant Zenith television factory — a 300,000-square-foot facility that has caught on fire at least three times this year — while the property owner makes safety improvements.
After the most recent fire on Aug. 22, the city filed an emergency motion to force the Dickens 6001 Building Limited Partnership to raze the hulking factory, which has been vacant at Austin and Dickens avenues for at least two decades.
In the fire's aftermath, police blocked off the four-block stretch of Dickens Avenue between Austin and Melvina avenues, saying "concerns remain over the structural integrity of the building."
Several neighbors told DNAinfo last week that they hoped to see the building torn down, fearing that future fires could endanger students at the next-door Burbank Elementary School, 2035 N. Mobile Ave.
Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) also called for the factory's demolition, describing it as an "eyesore."
In a criminal complaint submitted last week, city attorneys called the building "imminently dangerous and hazardous," adding that its owner "cannot show that he/she/it has readily available and sufficient assets to make all necessary repairs."
But in a Downtown court hearing on Tuesday, an attorney for the property owner asked the city to hold off, saying that his client had made "significant attempts to secure the building" by hauling truckloads of flammable tires and mattresses out of the facility.
Under the agreement reached Tuesday, the owner has one week to tear down the building's fire escapes and erect a fence to keep trespassers out. A plan will be developed by the owner to remove any remaining "combustible materials" from the building and a 24-hour security guard will be posted to watch for vandals and skulking teenagers, the attorney, Michael Schmahl said.
Dickens 6001 Building Limited Partnership has been "actively marketing the property," according to Schmahl, adding that the trustees have been "in discussion" with the Cook County Land Bank, a county office that obtains vacant properties in an attempt to stabilize neighborhoods through redevelopment.
Land Bank administrators will tour the facility next week with the property owners and fire officials, Schmahl said.
An online listing pegs the price for the 14-acre site at $3.5 million.
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 with foreign competition, and the plant, which also was once Zenith's headquarters, closed.
The next court hearing on the property is scheduled for Sept. 12.