Landmark neglect draws Hopkins' attention

Ald. Brian Hopkins and EVA president Michael VanDam discuss landmark buildings at the Happy Village patio.

Ald. Hopkins asked EVA to find threatened structures that should be preserved, and gave details on his attempt to shore up the landmark ordinance.

East Village Association membership meeting
Oct. 2, 2017
Happy Village, 1059 N. Wolcott Ave.

Ald. Brian Hopkins hopes to discourage neglect of landmark buildings. East Village Association members Monday gave him feedback on his plan to add teeth to the city's landmark ordinance.

In calling the meeting at Happy Village to order, president Michael VanDam said member Rich Anselmo had proposed an EVA committee to monitor and prevent teardowns. In discussing the issue, 2nd Ward staff brought up Hopkins' draft ordinance, now in the city's Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards committee.

A damaged Logan Square landmark spurred Hopkins to action. The owner proposed that the structure was beyond saving and should be razed. The decay appeared to benefit the landlord; there were even indications of tampering. Yet willful neglect or gross negligence was hard to prove. When the East Village landmark district was organized in 2005, residents noted similar signs of landlord resistance.

Now the alderman proposes that if owners ignore a warning, the city should block demolition of an "unsafe or structurally compromised" property for 20 years. "The point of this is to let them know at the earliest stage of this process that they really have no choice but to monitor their landmark property," Hopkins said.

Hopkins contends that fines in the landmark ordinance, $500 to $1,000 a day, would keep landlords from gaming the system to get demolition permits for protected sites. Still, he admits that the city would be taking its chances that a housing-court judge would levy the fines. "You win some and you lose some," Hopkins said.

Planning chair Brian Foote suggested that the city still would have to demolish unsafe landmarks. He proposed that plans in character with the district be in place before demolition is approved. Hopkins suggested that zoning powers might not save a building, but could influence its replacement. He asked for EVA help in adding threatened structures to the landmark rolls.