Chicago Avenue: Next Chicago landmark?

1620 W Chicago Ave

When the City Council named Milwaukee Avenue to Chicago’s landmark roll in April, it recalled a decade-earlier EVA success, the Goldblatt’s building on Chicago Avenue. The city property anchors a stretch of century-old department stores and movie theaters.

Surrounding buildings still feature their Jazz Age ornamentation and still serve their original purpose as commercial magnets for immigrant families. Are they worth marking as their own landmark district?

The EVA board thinks the idea is worth discussing among members and local officials. With several Chicago Avenue buildings now up for sale or lease, owners and potential owners could benefit from early and even-handed consideration. When EVA members reviewed a developer's proposal last year for 1916-24 W. Chicago, the prospect of demolition was as much a point of contention as were parking and traffic.

Watch a slideshow of Chicago Avenue properties here. Then leave your comments on landmarking below, or join us for the next membership meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Happy Village Tavern, 1059 N. Wolcott, where Ald. Manny Flores (1st Ward) is featured speaker.


  1. Landmark and downzone Chicago Ave. Lanmarking has done wonders for property values.

  2. I can't think of a more boneheaded idea than to try to landmark a commercial strip that is in need of attracting new development and retailers. Why would you want to hamper the developement to the point of providing an incentive for businesses to go somewhere else. On top of that the tensions created by the last landmarking effort in the area have not subsided. What a foolish and shortsighted idea.

  3. Mr. Anonymous-

    How exactly would landmarking "hamper the developement to the point of providing an incentive for businesses to go somewhere else"? In the twenty years I have lived in EV, Chicago Avenue has steadily declined from a neighborhood oriented shopping district to the pathetic state it is currently in. I'mm having a hard time understanding what 'development' would be hampered by landmarking?

    Anyone curious about the effect of landmarking commercial areas need look no further than the Milwaukee Avenue district. A burst of renovation and restoration began as soon as Milwaukee Avenue received its "preliminary designation" a year before it was declared a district . These owners didn't even wait for the district to be created- it demonstrates the difference between informed owners and those who are susceptable to fearmongering. Sophisticated commercial property owners know that the Class L tax incentives available to them are far more valuable than TIFF & SSA money.

    The real threat to a classic shopping district like Chicago Avenue are auto oriented franchises and national chains. A decade ago, Goldblatts was saved from just such business, a now-defunct produce chain surrounded by a sea of parking. Instead of a boarded up one story building, we have a landmark that will soon be home to a new neighborhood library!

    Mr. Anonymous: give me an example of a commercial district that has suffered from landmarking. Everyone is welcome to their opinions, but irrational fearmongering is not productive.

  4. I agree with the prior anonymous post. I don't think landmarking Chicago Ave. is a good idea at all. There is nothing special about 95% of the buildings on Chicago Ave. and this is just a way for the landmarkers to try to make themselves feel important again. What this neighborhood needs is people who will work toward positive things, such as getting our library and working on getting more green space, not trying to make neighbor hate neighbor again.

    As much as I understand why some people are trying to argue for landmarking, Chicago Ave is nothing like Milwaukee Ave and can't be compared. No one makes Chicago Ave their destination, while Milwaukee Ave has been a hipster destination for over a decade, well before landmarking became an issue there. If you want to promote business, as you apparently claim you do, let's let free enterprise clean up Chicago Ave has started to happen and not tie their hands with silly restrictions on buildings that have no business being "protected".

    What I think is that this is the old school EVA members' way of trying to alienate the "new people" in the neighborhood so they can go back to having their clique of haters.

    You asked for our thoughts, and these are mine, signed:
    A Disgruntled and Disenfranchised EVA member, afraid to put my name for fear of hatemonger retaliation from those with nothing but horrible things to say about others.

  5. There is so much negativity in your message(perhaps anonymous #2 and #4 are the same person) that you obviously feel slighted that property values have gone up in the areas that were land marked, just as predicted.There is nothing to fear with more landmarking if you are not planning on demolishing one of the existing buildings.And you were unable to name an area where land marking has not helped a commercial district so perhaps that is what you are considering. Go with the flow---go landmarking. Signed:Sick of Negative People

  6. On one hand, I think that the many inaccurate and histrionic statements made by “anonymous” need replying to, but on the other hand, I’m so disheartened by the aspersions I don’t even want to start. I guess I will leave it at saying I’ve found there will always be issues that even well-intentioned people have differences of opinion about. Part of living together as a community is finding the best ways to deal with those differences. And anonymity is not conducive to this process.

    margie Isaacson

  7. And just a historical note: Anonymous mentioned the importance of working for a new library for WestTown. The site currently being floated is in the Goildblatt’s building, which would be great. We have this option because back in the 1990s, EVA had a leadership role in saving this building from proposed demolition. The opposing plan, promoted by the business community and others, was to tear it down so a produce market could be built. A new library was one of uses of this site we suggested at that time, the City wasn’t willing to do this then, but perhaps the time has come. Alderman Flores reminded us last night to continue to lobby for this capital improvement; my letter to Commissioner Demspey is in the mail.

  8. We should all back up for a second and recognize that there is currently no formal landmarking proposal. The notion of discussing Chicago Avenue was raised by an individual (incidentally not an EVA member, nor someone known previously to any of the EVA board members) concerned about vacany and deterioraration of several attractive buildings on Chicago Avenue. This person approached EVA looking for support. The board took no official position or action, but simplied discussed the matter.

    To dismiss the possibility of discussing the protection of these buildings out of hand is premature and silly. Even one of the 'Anonymous' posts inadvertently acknowledged that 5% of the buildings might be something 'special'.

    Personally, I think that number is a little low, but I suggest that we let the professionals at the Commission on Chicago Landmarks determine what is and is not worthy of preservation.

    By the way, I share your concern about negativity and hatemongering around contentious issues. Hiding one's identity behind "Anonymous" makes it very easy to use words like "boneheaded",
    label people as 'landmarkers' and
    characterize their motivations as trying "to make themselves feel important again".

    I think it would be very uncomfortable for anyone to say such things if their identity was known, and certainly not face to face.

    I choose to identify myself knowing I will be held accountable. It helps me keep my temper in check and makes me choose my words carefully. I respect the wishes of those who do not want to be identified, but suggest that they watch their language and tone very carefully.


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