Website tracks Chicago building demolitions, teardowns

A page lists building permits issued in and near East Village.

East Village Association board minutes for Aug. 11, 2014, submitted by Catherine Garypie


Property purchases, architect discussions, permit applications: All happen very fast ... faster than neighborhood associations can keep up.

Steven Vance, a programmer and Streetsblog Chicago blogger, developed a database of construction activity at Vance gave a presentation with Daniel Ronan, program coordinator at the National Public Housing Museum, and Ryan Lakes, an architect at Solomon Cordwell Buenz.

The database includes building violations and permits. The idea is to give more power to residents. The site's adding Special Service Area boundaries, and may track Tax Increment Financing dollars spent.

EVA boundaries have been added to the database. A subscription service provides weekly e-mails and allows tracking of an individual company (developer, owner, expediter, etc.)

Update: The site is now Discussion at this meeting led to a new feature: When you click on a place like the East Village page, you'll see a small link under the heading that says, "List all addresses and historic resources." This shows every address in the boundary, based on Cook County property tax billing information, and whether or not it's orange or red rated.

Chicago's updating its building database. The hope is that city will place application in the data portal as soon as it is accepted, not only when the application is approved.

When a developer submits an application, they come in with a new company, usually named after the address of the development. That makes it difficult to track what developers are doing. It may be possible to track by tax ID.

City databases have triggers: A liquor application will trigger a notification to police, alderman, etc. Maybe that notification system can get onto the site.

The database can be filtered in different ways, such as cost or type. Lists can be printed, exported in Excel format or put on your clipboard.

Possible future feature: a teardown finder. "Recent Teardown Permits" could list a demolition permit and new construction permit issued for the same address within 180 days of each other. Multiple building violations also signal a probable teardown. Multiple police reports sometimes are indications.

Also, if floor area ratio on structure is low relative to the zoning, particularly R4 in East Village, it is likely a teardown risk. Search results could explain the risk: "Given this data, it is 60% likely that this building will be demolished in the next 2 years." This may be a complicated algorithm.

The database needs help from EVA: Zoning Board of Appeals & Planning Commission need to make agendas more accessible. Can EVA request this? More transparency is needed.

Ideas for database:

  • Not sure whether a comment section be helpful. Vance may consider allowing a neighborhood association to provide additional info. Comments and notes would need to be screened. Maybe a discussion forum? Maybe search for "Demolition averted" or "upzoning denied."
  • Encourage city discussion of design and development.
  • Maybe making a tracking system for decision makers (like, compare aldermen, for example). Also tracking contributions to the decisionmakers from developers would be helpful (alderman).
  • Maybe track electronic billboards.
  • Maybe track mass property purchases by one party.

EVA would like to track what was missed in the historic building survey.


May move Renegade Craft Fair and also Fashion Fest & New Orleans Fest. Neal McKnight is concerned and will follow up.


Rehab Polish Triangle station: McKnight is working with Scott Rappe. Waiting to hear what CTA has planned.


EVA will co-sponsor 1st and 2nd Ward debates with many different neighborhood associations (CGNA, UVNA, etc). 2 debates for each ward in mid-November and January 2015.


St. Boniface is in danger of demolition. Alderman's not returning calls, developer's not returning calls, city's not returning calls. McKnight will talk to Rappe.


A "changing image sign" is coming to 2000 W. Chicago, above Red Apple.


Literary Charades (teams will guess book titles) with competing teams of 4 people. We have some really good prizes already for the winners.

Food will be provided. Cash bar. Ticket to attend. Ticket price break for charade team members. Ticket prices to be set soon by fundraiser committee.


EVA will follow up.

Meeting starts 6:42pm, adjourns 7:45pm at West Town Bakery & Diner, 1916 W. Chicago Ave. Attending: McKnight, Alcazar, Garypie, Anselmo, M. Van Dam, M. Isaacson, A. Hauser (dnaInfo reporter).
Tom Tomek business card
Anselmo @properties business card,
Ask Nagel business card.

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