Established in 2003, West Ridge Bungalow Neighbors is a voluntary group of neighbors in Chicago who desire to assist each other in preserving and appreciating the homes in our neighborhood; educating each other and the broader public in the value and the story of our neighborhood; and providing resources to each other to improve the quality of our homes, enrich our lives and assure our neighborhood's future.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Taming the Teardown Trend in Edgewater

The National Trust has a series of great publications. This one, titled Taming the Teardown Trend seems particularly relevant to me this week.

On Tuesday I had a phone call from a local reporter who had been contacted by a woman who lives in Edgewater. She explained that there was a bungalow teardown pending on Olive Street and a woman was seeking support to stop it. She wanted to know if I could talk to her.

I called this woman, Mary Ann, and had a long conversation about what's going on. The story was all too familiar. A developer has purchased a 1914 frame bungalow in a block of homes all built in the same style and designed by architect Nels Buck and has plans to tear it down. In its place will be a new hulking structure that will literally cast shadows on the remaining homes. The neighbors are not happy.
There are 2 heroes in this saga - the first is Mary Ann. She's doing the hard work of rallying and educating her neighbors (and herself) in a very short time period to fight the teardown. She's smart, calm and determined. She's done her homework, learned about zoning, and has built a good support group.

Which leads me to our second hero - 40th Ward Alderman Patrick O'Connor. O'Connor brought the Olive Street neighbors together with the developer and asked the developer to consider rehabbing the home rather than tearing it down. He said if that wasn't possible, the architect needed to come back with a scaled-down version of the new structure.

I'll keep you posted on how this unfolds. In the meantime, swing by the 1700 block of Olive Street to check out these little frame bungalows. Also, consider contacting Alderman O'Connor to thank him for working with his constituents to preserve the character of this Chicago neighborhood. It doesn't happen often enough.

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