ROGERS PARK — A neglected Howard Street property that has been out of use since it last served as a Burger King in 2007 will be the subject of a court hearing Monday.
The property at 2319-21 W. Howard St. has been all but abandoned by its owner, Vincent Rizzo, who bought the property in 2011 with the intention of transforming it into a Penske Truck rental location.
In support, 49th Ward Ald. Joe Moore changed the zoning on the property. But Rizzo's plans never came to fruition. After the building and its parking lot became neglected, Moore changed the zoning back in 2012.
In the five years since, Moore said Rizzo has "continued to neglect the property and rejected numerous good faith offers" to buy the land, including a fast food chain that had begun negotiations with Rizzo, though he again backed out "at the last minute," the alderman said.
Frustrated and finding Rizzo unresponsive, Moore said he contacted the city to see if the building was eligible for court-ordered demolition.
Though inspectors found the property to be sound enough to save it from a forced demolition, the building was ticketed in May for a handful of violations: open electrical boxes, boarded-up windows, damaged shingles, a portion of a wall bowing in, failure to register the building as vacant and failure to post an owner's name and information.
The violations weren't dealt with, so in August the city filed a formal complaint in housing court against Rizzo and any other "unknown owners."
Rizzo could not be reached for comment.
Now Moore and Ann Rainey, an Evanston alderman who oversees the north side of Howard Street, are urging residents from both cities to attend Monday's hearing — so much so the pair are providing a bus to haul neighbors Downtown.
"I spoke with the city attorneys responsible for prosecuting the case, and they strongly recommend concerned neighbors attend the court hearing to impress upon the judge that the property has raised significant community concerns," he told constituents this week.
The hearing will be at 9:30 a.m. Monday in Room 1103 of the Daley Center, 50 W. Washington St.
Moore said he expects Rizzo to ask for a postponement of the hearing, but said he was confident a large turnout would still help expedite the process by demonstrating to the judge how invested community members are.
Moore, Rainey and 50th Ward Ald. Debra Silverstein, who all have a stake in Howard Street, have been working on a collaboration between Chicago and Evanston to improve the busy street, including tackling some of the neglected properties and brightening the area's aesthetics.
The alderman said he has tried to get Rizzo to either sell or maintain the property over the years, but to no avail. Ward Supervisor Dan Murphy cleans the site regularly, Moore said, and Murphy has issued Rizzo "thousands" in tickets.
"Apparently Mr. Rizzo would rather pay the tickets than live up to his responsibilities as a good neighbor," Moore said.
One possible distraction from the Howard Street property could be Rizzo's involvement in another venture: He's been working for months to open a bar and restaurant on Clark Street in Wrigleyville.
This month, Rizzo's Bar & Inn opened at 3658 N. Clark St.