Resolve to play a role

The work of this year’s EVA board is almost done. EVA bylaws require a new slate to take office April 1.

The president appoints a nominating committee of at least three members at the February general meeting. An election follows at the March meeting.

The president is EVA's principal spokesperson, runs its meetings and appoints its board. The vice president assists the president. A secretary takes minutes of the general meetings, and the treasurer is in charge of receipts, disbursements and an annual report on EVA’s finances.

All are charged with accomplishing the good works outlined at left. Resolve to play a role this year: Contact one of the current officers from the email links on the lower-left corner of the page.

Throwing out Christmas tree? Chip in for garden

Chicago residents can recycle their Christmas trees by turning them into mulch.
Humboldt Park Boathouse, 1400 N. Sacramento, is the closest dropoff point, according to the office of Ald. Manny Flores (1st Ward).

From Jan. 3 through 16, trees can be dropped off at any time. Mulch can be picked up Monday through Saturday starting January 9, from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. For other locations, call (312) 744-7606.

Trees also can be left with the trash and will be picked up on the regularly scheduled day.

Daily permit cost rises

Beginning Jan. 1, 2009 the price for daily permits in restricted parking areas will increase to $8 per booklet. Annual and daily permits for Restricted Parking Permit Zones are available on the City Clerk's Web site: Online purchases are processed in two to three days. There is no service fee.

The city is also taking applications for sidewalk repair. The city and applicant split the cost. Apply by calling 311. When the budget is exhausted, the program will close for the year. For more information, call Jerry Gabrielatos at the 1st Ward service office, (773) 278-0101.

Rising property taxes? Learn how to push back Jan. 6

Think your property taxes are too high? It's time to do something about it:
City properties get reassessed in 2009.

Guests from county government explain property assessments and how to lower them at the Tuesday, Jan. 6 meeting of the East Village Association. The meeting is at 7 p.m. meeting in the Happy Village tavern, 1059 N. Wolcott.

Dana Marberry, community relations manager for the Cook County Assessor's office, will describe the process, outline the tax exemptions available for residential properties, and suggest how to make a successful tax appeal.

If the county raises your tax assessment, you may file an appeal with the assessor's office if you believe it's too high. The assessor's office says you should think about an appeal if the new assessment is higher than similar properties in your neighborhood or there is an error in the assessor's data — although not all changes end up lowering tax bills.

The assessor's office is not the only route to lower property taxes. Carmen Berrios, from the Cook County Board of Review outreach program, will make a brief presentation to EVA members and help homeowners file appeals. The Board of Review is now accepting applications to appeal 2008 taxes payable in 2009.

Evidence useful in a tax appeal include recent sale prices of homes similar to the home of the taxpayer who is appealing, real estate appraisals, assessed valuations of comparable properties in your neighborhood, or evidence of a flood, fire or demolition.

Also at the Jan. 6 meeting, Sister Anne Schafer will make a presentation on the St. Stanislaus Kostka soup kitchen, 1351 W. Evergreen. Homeowner James Boatman will take questions on his property at 1744 W. Augusta, one of two zoning variances up for a vote. And the latest news on the state of St. Boniface Church will be discussed as well.

Chicago Avenue property back for EVA vote

A building that a developer wanted to raze in 2007 is the proposed site of a dry-cleaning plant. A proposal to allow onsite cleaning is one of two zoning requests that East Village Association members will consider at the Jan. 6 meeting.

Cleaners Depot, which operates the CD One Price Cleaners discount cleaning chain, has signed a lease at 1916 W. Chicago, said attorney Thomas S. Moore. The business is asking the East Village Association to support a zoning change to commercial zoning to allow a dry-cleaning plant on the premises.

EVA expended great effort to rid the area of such zoning years ago, said Scott Rappe, EVA's planning and zoning chair. Moore contends the Cleaners Depot process is more environmentally friendly than typical commercial methods.

In October 2007, EVA turned down a proposal from Ranquist Development to demolish the building for condominium construction.

In another zoning request, Jim Boatman requests support for a zoning change at 1744 W. Augusta. Boatman has revised his original request and is seeking RM5 zoning so that he can legally rent out the building's garden apartment.

Votes are planned for the 7 p.m. meeting in the Happy Village tavern,
1059 N. Wolcott. Both properties are in the 1st Ward, where Ald. Manny Flores suggested that property owners seek EVA review.

Anyone age 16 or older who has been an EVA for the past month may vote on these issues. Members who do not attend but wish to vote must submit their votes in writing to a board member.

To arrange to deliver a proxy vote, contact any of the board members named at the left of the page by email.

St. Boniface preview: Another date with wrecking ball?

Closed for nearly two decades, St. Boniface Church again is in danger of demolition.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago rejected a purchase offer from Egyptian Coptic Christians and in December put the site at Chestnut and Noble on a three-month track toward demolition.

A representative of the Coptic Assembly of America told neighbors that her congregation is still willing and able to restore St. Boniface as a house of worship. Support for reuse of the building across from Eckhart Park is on the agenda of the East Village Association's Jan. 6 membership meeting at Happy Village tavern, 1059 N. Wolcott. (Update: Concerned residents were asked to contact Ald. Walter Burnett Jr.)

When the Roman Catholic archdiocese attempted to tear down the church and school nearly a decade ago, EVA fought for its preservation. Its research traced the parish to German immigrants who first developed West Town. Its buildings were the design of Henry J. Schlacks, a noted church architect and director of Notre Dame's architecture program. The school was razed in 2003.

According to a Dec. 17 Chicago Tribune article, Egyptian Coptics offered a $100,000 donation to take over the 104-year-old church for a renovation partly funded by supporters in Egypt. The archdiocese had been seeking upwards of $2 million.

Pledges to work toward resolving the conflict have come from Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) and Jonathan Fine, executive director of the group Preservation Chicago, who led the EVA preservation initiative in 1999.

"From what I have been able to find out from the Planning Department, their proposal was woefully incomplete; their words not mine," Fine said. "I have requested that the Coptics resubmit their proposal so it addresses all of the concerns that the archdiocese raised and provides missing information."

St. Boniface history

The website makes the case for preservation with text from the East Village Association newsletter of December 1998. An excerpt:

Rising majestically from its corner location, St. Boniface stands guard over Eckhart Park as it has for almost 100 years. It was constructed in 1902-04 and designed by architect Henry J. Schlacks. The park itself acts as the church’s forecourt and thereby creates its northern wall. Viewed across the park from the south, the full dimension of this important structure becomes apparent. Rendered in a solid Romanesque style, the church and its adjacent school building dominate the block on which they sit.

The church is defined by its three soaring bell towers; their steeply pitched clay tile roofs provide an instantly recognizable symbol for the surrounding neighborhood and are visible for miles around. The base is made of rusticated ashlar block intersected by canted buttresses that extend down to the sidewalk. Its brick exterior is in excellent condition with no significant cracking or mortar loss. Detailing includes arcades, as well as intact rose window frames although their stained glass has long since been removed.

St. Boniface Church was established for German immigrants in 1865. With roots in Chicago history that predate the great Chicago Fire of 1871, St. Boniface played an integral role in helping to reshape and rebuild its neighborhood and city by providing makeshift housing within the church buildings as well as clothing and meals for people whose homes had been destroyed in the conflagration.

St. Boniface was an early commission in Schlacks’ career. The current building replaced the church’s original wooden structure in 1903. Father Evers, the parish priest, spearheaded an effort to condemn the 10 acres adjacent to the church, which is now Eckhart Park.

St. Boniface is colored-coded orange in the Commission on Chicago Landmarks Historic Resources Survey: “…a structure possessing historical and architectural distinction in the context of the immediate community.”

M. Isaacson

Architects tour St. Boniface, find it in promising condition

This article originally appeared in the EVA newsletter in 1999.

By Scott A. Rappe, AIA
Principal, Kuklinski+Rappe Architects

In a welcome gesture towards finding a mutually agreeable approach to saving St. Boniface, the Archdiocese of Chicago extended an invitation to Alderman Jesse Granato and five community representatives to tour the church on May 5, 1999. Several representatives of the Archdiocese, including Father Baldwin, Thomas Brennan and Gregory Veith joined the Alderman, representatives from the Eckardt Park community, respected preservation architects John Vinci and Ward Miller, and myself on the walk‑through.

We were prepared for the worst, having been warned of structural damage and being required to sign releases prior to entering the church. I am pleased to say that our worst fears were not realized. While weather, pigeons and the lack of an ongoing maintenance program have left their mark, the building has survived a decade of abandonment with little apparent irreversible damage.

Our first stop was the nave, an impressive multi‑story space in the form of a latin cross, with a shallow central dome. The dome is supported on large arches which span the width of the space and is adorned with a ornate, but peeling mural. Predictably, the plaster on the exterior walls (which was probably applied directly to the masonry) is showing signs of deterioration. In addition, a slender plaster colonnette (a decorative column applied to the structural piers to reduce their visual massiveness) has deteriorated and fallen to the floor. Suprisingly, with its original stained glass windows removed, the worship space is now light, airy and filled with promise.

Next we walked throught the main floor of the rectory, which has several formal spaces and parlors. They were very impressive, with natural oak woodwork, pocket doors, built‑in seating and bookcases and a beautiful roman‑brick fireplace. Some items, such as the mantle piece have been removed for salvage. The most striking space in the rectory is the stairway, which features several massive oak newel posts and ornate railings and is capped by a skylight in the form of the Star of David.

In search for the structural damage we were warned about, we descended to the basement area beneath the nave. Here, the heavy riveted lattice columns (similar to those seen on old bridges throughout the City) are visible standing on stone step footings, supporting the church above. The concrete floor structure of the nave is visible from beneath as well.

Our final destination was the school, where we finally saw the results of mixing water, weather and time with buildings: two collapsed classroom floors. Although unfortunate, the collapse demonstrates the enduring structural integrity of the complex, despite neglect. The wood floor joists acted precisely as they were designed to act in case of a fire or other catastrophe. When built, the ends of each joist were cut at an angle (‘fire cut’) to allow them to pull cleanly from the supporting masonry without toppling the walls above. This is exactly what has happened.

Ironically, the missing stained glass windows and degradation of the interior plaster decoration and murals may be a blessing in disguise. If these items were in better shape, they would severely limit the potential uses to which the building could be put and would certainly require a significant amount of money to restore. As John Vinci noted during the walk-through, of the $5 million spent on the restoration of Holy Family church, only one million was spent on remediating structural damage and making the building habitable again; the rest went to restoration of interior finishes.

The value of St. Boniface transcends the condition of its plaster and paint. It is a religioius, cultural and architectural landmark that conveys meaning to our community across ethnic, nationalistic, linguistic and even religious lines. Weather and neglect can erode plaster and mortar, but can never diminish the memory and meaning of such a magnificent edifice to our community. I have no doubt, that in its next life (if blessed with a stay of execution), St. Boniface is suited to continue to serve its community as a library, museum, community center, school or other institution as faithfully as its has served as a building for worship.

Christy Webber on NPR

Longtime East Village landscaper Christy Webber was interviewed by National Public Radio senior correspondent Ketzel Levine for her Morning Edition series "American Moxie: How We Get By."

The Dec. 22 report tells the history of Webber's business and her business' challenges in the current recession. The interview includes appearances from her son Oliver Webber and partner Jennifer Rule.

The following day's story focuses on Webber rebound from a challenging contracting job, the installation of Millennium Park.

The series on surviving economic setbacks has its own back story. NPR laid off Levine before the reports aired.

Times change, community endures

President Message by John Scheer 

Change and tradition. So many things change in our lives. Seasons change, and we are into a cold one now. Politicians change — at least they change offices. The stock market sure has changed. The East Village Association has changed, and I want to believe that this change mirrors the neighborhood's growth.

EVA membership has added a number of new residents while losing a few older ones. While it may be difficult to say goodbye to those longer-term members, it's exciting and energizing to say hello to new members who have recently located to the East Village neighborhood. Their fresh excitement, new expectations and personal views keep our community group fresh and current.

And then we have the traditions: the EVA holiday dinner and our family and friends celebrating the holiday festivities. As individuals, we reach out to neighbors that may be older or in need of help for either snow removal or helping them with daily activities that become so much harder in cold weather.

Another tradition is EVA's donation to the works of St. Stanislaus Kostka parish, 1300 N. Noble. This year, a representative from St. Stanislaus is scheduled to join the January EVA meeting to share how they support members of our community and how EVA can help them help others. Please join the EVA general meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 6 at Happy Village Tavern, 1059 N. Wolcott. You might be surprised to see how good it feels to help others.

Don’t forget that January is time to renew your EVA membership. I hope you find your membership in EVA to be both informative and supportive. The membership dues remain the same, so do not break the tradition. The real value is the contribution that you make when you come to EVA meetings.

Opinion: Zoning change at 1744 Augusta

By Greg Nagel

In last month's article the owner of 1744 W. Augusta, Jim Boatman, announced his request for a zoning change from R4 to RT4.5. However, since his lot is 40 feet shorter than the requirement, he actually needs a zoning change to R5. Since the lot will be downzoned back to R4 and the need for the additional R5 verse Rt4.5 zoning is a mere technicality in my estimation.

I believe I represent a moderate voice on the board and within the community. I'm pro- development and growth, but I want it done in a responsible way and balanced with the need to maintain a neighborhood that preserves quality of life. This project does exactly that. Its a more livable space for the tenant, its upgrading a 100+ year old building into a upscale rental property with all new mechanicals while preserving the historic orange brick exterior, its a green rehab which is good for the environment, and lastly it will raise property values within the community.

There are arguments that can be made against this rezoning in regards to precedence and yes Jim Boatman knew the unit was illegal when he bought the building. However, he could of continuing running it illegally with a tenant living in a space that did not have proper ceiling height. But instead, he came to the community and said lets make this a win - win situation. Alderman Flores was supportive of the idea based on the fact that Jim did not contribute to the over building of this property, and referred it out to the community for them to decide.

I am friends with Jim Boatman and I encouraged Jim to come to EVA with this request. Further, I would support this project even if did not know Jim Boatman. And I urge you all to vote for this zoning change this upcoming EVA meeting on 1/6/09. As you all know residential development has dramatically slowed down and this Green rehab is just what the doctored ordered. It's good for the future tenants, good for East Village, good for the environment, good for you!

Happy New Year!
Greg Nagel, 1040 N. Winchester Ave.

The board of the East Village Association has not taken a position on this issue.

Library books a 2009 move to Goldblatt's

Goldblatt's office building border=

The Goldblatt Bros. Department Store was declared a Chicago
landmark in 1998 with active East Village Association support. It
was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.

By Aaron Bilton 

Despite the city's financial problems, Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey confirms that the West Town branch will move in 2009 to the Goldblatt's Office Building at Chicago and Ashland avenues.

The small storefront branch at 2300 W. Chicago will be closed and folded into the new library.

"We are prepared to move ahead in 2009 on the new West Town Library and I understand that Consumer Services is planning to vacate in early 2009 so that we can do our buildout and get in there," Dempsey said in a letter. "I'll know more about a timeline probably after the first of the year. We are anxious to be in there as soon as possible."

The full service branch library will be about 20,000 square feet, roughly 5,000 square feet larger than the new Bucktown-Wicker Park library at Milwaukee and Hoyne. As I understand it, the library will take one floor of the Goldblatt's building.

The branch will be moved from the Eckhart Park fieldhouse at Chicago and Noble. I do not know if there will be any type of special collection housed at the library.

It is not clear if the Consumer Services agency will remain elsewhere in the building. The city renovated the 167,000-square-foot former Goldblatt's department store in 2000. The four interconnected buildings were built 75 to 85 years ago, according to the Public Buildings Commission.

Make it happen: Join your neighbors in East Village Association

By Greg Nagel 

It has been another successful year for the East Village Association and we are proud of our accomplishments and contributions to the neighborhood. We have received official word that a new West Town library should open next year in the Goldblatt building. EVA was instrumental years ago in saving this building at Chicago and Ashland from demolition.

We have sent a loud message regarding the desires of the community to Walgreens and continue to influence the nature of the development of the old Pizza Hut site at Ashland and Division.

We have had numerous great speakers in our meetings from the police commander to master gardeners, environmental speakers, and Aldermen Flores and Waguespack. And we have had some very fun events, including a great summer barbecue and a holiday dinner at The Boundary.

We do need everyone to renew their dues for the year. We know that economic times are tough, which is why our dues remain unchanged.

This little bit of money helps us enrich our neighborhood in so many positive ways that we hope you feel it's a worthy investment.

Our dues are as follows:
$20 Family
$15 Individual ($5 for seniors)
$30 Business

Feel free to log onto our website at and you can join and pay your dues online.

Please note that if you paid your dues last year online, you will be auto-billed for your dues this year as a convenience.

We want more than your money: We want your ideas, your friendship, and your energy to make our neighborhood as vibrant and healthy as possible. Please come to our monthly meetings on the first Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Happy Village tavern on Wolcott and Thomas. Also feel free to come to our board meeting to discuss issues or concerns or just to sit in. The board meetings are the following Monday after the general meeting, at 6:30 p.m. in the Happy Village.

It looks like 2009 will be a tough year for our country and I feel that makes it even more important for us as neighbors and friends to support one another and our community. Your neighbors and friends at the East Village Association wish you a happy and healthy New Year.