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Modern Condos Pitched For Historic Caton Street Slammed By Wicker Neighbors

By Alisa Hauser | September 7, 2017 10:57am
 Industrial one-story building at 2105 W. Caton St. could be replaced by 7 or 8 condos.
2105 W. Caton St.
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WICKER PARK — Members of an influential neighborhood group in Wicker Park on Wednesday slammed a plan to demolish a 103-year-old industrial building behind a Milwaukee Avenue strip mall to build eight modern condos.

But an attorney for the proposed development at 2105 W. Caton St. said it would bring to life a spot that has been dormant for more than a decade.

James Smith, a resident of Caton Street, told a group of about 25 people at the Wicker Park Committee's meeting, "This is a very nice, small 1900s building" and he's put his "heart and soul into Caton Street for 32 years, and I do not feel starter condos are appropriate."

"It's a historic building," he told the group, which met in the field house in the neighborhood's namesake park at 1425 N. Damen Ave.

The Caton Street building is located along a two-block stretch that both Bucktown and Wicker Park boosters claim.

Ed Tamminga, chairman of the Wicker Park Committee's preservation and development subcommittee, said that earlier this month that the Wicker group's seven-member subcommittee approved the condo plan. After the subcommittee supports a proposed project, the plan must be voted on by the group's larger membership base.

After several emotional testimonies by residents of Caton Street, many of whom like Smith live in historic homes just west of the site and who are dues-paying members of the Wicker Park Committee, the majority of the members at the meeting voted against the plan.

Sara Barnes, a zoning attorney, pointed out that the building is separated from the rest of Caton Street because the CTA "L" tracks run behind the building.

"It will revitalize a site that has been dormant for 15 years," Barnes said.

Shapiro & Co., which is planning to buy the building contingent on getting a zoning change, wants to demolish it and build a four-story, eight-unit condo building with nine on-site parking spaces, according to a site plan by Laszlo Simovic Architects.

After the meeting, Tamminga said, "It got kind of emotional. I don't know if there is a compromise that can be worked out or if the project is going in a different direction."

Tamminga added that the Bucktown Community Organization also has weighed in on condos, and recently Hopkins dismissed the opinions of the Wicker group and green-lighted projects that the group opposed, such as a 37-unit studio apartment building at 1665 N. Milwaukee Ave.

"We will write a letter to [Hopkins[ to say there is no support for the condos and will ask that this not go ahead," Tamminga said.

Hopkins said on Thursday that he has not decided if he will support the project.

"It's still very much under review," Hopkins said, adding that he yet to hear from the Bucktown Community Organization on their support or opposition and he needs to get more details from the Wicker Park group on the nature of their opposition.

A representative from the Bucktown Community Organization's planning and development subcommittee was not immediately available for comment.

The building, once a car radiator shop and most recently a recording studio and music venue named AAA that closed several years ago, is owned is Sean McKeough, Riot Fest's co-founder and owner of Cobra Lounge who died in December 2016.

McKeough bought the building for $180,000 in February 2014, county records show.

Over the years, McKeough was known to host parties and music shows in the building prior to buying it. His family declined to comment on what he had planned for the spot.