Alderman adds Polish Triangle to landmark mix

By Stephen Rynkiewicz 

With much of Milwaukee Avenue's Ashland-Damen stretch now a city landmark district, Ald. Manuel Flores (1st Ward) now suggests that nearby properties be considered for a Polish Triangle "historic district."

Flores told East Village Association members Sept. 2 that city designation of the Ashland-Milwaukee-Division intersection could include buildings to the north and east of the Milwaukee Avenue district created in April. The Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, and other structures would represent the "Polish downtown" of the late 19th century, he said.

This summer, Flores consented to demolition of a Commonwealth Edison substation nearby, at 1510 W. Division. In a Chicago Journal commentary, Flores wrote that polychlorinated-biphenyl contamination on the site made preservation impractical. The city's 1995 Chicago Historic Resources Survey rated the power station in the "orange" second tier of significant properties.

In April EVA proposed that Division Street be designated as a "pedestrian street" with limits on curb cuts, and Flores said he agrees with that proposal. Yet he said he is "holding off" taking action while considering development at the former Pizza Hut property at 1601 W. Division. He indicated curb cuts would be held as "leverage" but did not elaborate.

A Polish Triangle district would be a higher priority than a Chicago Avenue district discussed on this website, Flores stated. Division Street was "under more stress" from development, he explained. EVA has not taken a stand on either location.

Meanwhile, Flores advised residents to be patient with city enforcement of two existing landmark districts, the Ukrainian Village and East Village districts that bookend Damen Avenue near Augusta. Flores raised his voice, citing the district's long gestation: "Years went by! And finally we got it done."

Tax breaks for remodelers are benefits of the Ukrainian Village district, created in 2002 and extended twice since then, and the the East Village district approved in 2006. Once aldermen cite an area for historic or architectural significance, any construction or alteration beyond routine maintenance require city Landmarks Commission review.

EVA has met twice this year with Flores and 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack regarding builders in the district doing work beyond the scope of city permits. Flores said he wanted to know more about the administrative process that failed to fix the problem. "At the end of the day we will have some progress," Flores said. He agreed to help secure a date for a followup meeting with city planners.

More ground was covered in an hour of Flores' remarks and responses to member questions:

• Neighborhood leaders would be invited to meet the principal of LaSalle Language Arts Academy II, 1148 N Honore. Preschool through second-grade students in the Andersen Community Academy building will be given "immersion" instruction in both Spanish and Chinese. Flores said he insisted that half the students be from the immediate area, compared with 30 percent in typical "magnet" school programs.

• The Goldblatt's building at 1536 W. Chicago is "one step closer" to housing a new branch library, Flores said. "As of today formal announcements have been made," he said, but the city was attempting to relocate city offices to make room for the library. Negotiations over the AAA Distributing Co. building at 1830 W. Chicago broke down over price, he said.

• With the city facing a $400 million budget shortfall, Flores plans for a second year to hold informational meetings as the City Council works toward a resolution. City workers are taking unpaid time off and are under a hiring freeze, and when asked about layoffs Flores said "everything is on the table."

Police Commander Judith Martin has made great progress in the 13th District since her appointment in March, Flores said, noting that she was a Bucktown resident who regularly jogs in the neighborhood. But Flores advocated working through neighborhood organizations and phone trees to keep abreast of crime. "It's not rocket science but I got to tell you it's very important to know your neighbors," Flores said.
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