What is Going On With Landmarks?
New Reopening Guidelines
Public Safety Meeting Recap
Dear Neighbors,

Our ward has 28 Landmark Districts and individual landmarks - likely the most Landmark Districts in the City of Chicago. Our residents have fought hard to keep and preserve these districts and buildings, contributing to the high quality of life in our area.

That is why it is so disappointing that the City failed to defend our districts yesterday. But I'll also show you what our community can accomplish together.

Living in a landmark district requires self-regulation and an agreement to abide by a set of rules so that properties can be preserved for as long as possible.

Many areas of the country, like Savannah and San Francisco, have strict ordinances that severely limit what can be done in landmark districts. Our laws are less restrictive, but many of us understand the general rule: in existing landmark districts, the front facade of buildings have to be preserved unless to restore them, but new additions should not be visible from the street. These rules have preserved the streetscape and overall scale of an historic area. These rules are responsible for the charm of the Old Town Triangle, beauty of Astor Street, the integrity of our rowhouse districts, as well as many others.

Imagine our dismay when yesterday, the Permit Review Committee of the Chicago Commission on Landmarks approved, for the first time in the 43 years of the Old Town Landmark District, the partial demolition of a building listed as contributing, and the construction of a front facing, 3 story visible addition on an historic building on Wells Street.

The Committee summarily rejected my week-long pleas and those of our Old Town neighbors to delay the proceedings because our input had not been heard.

Block Club Chicago reported on the story here. Click on the photo above to view the presentation I gave in opposition. The developer's presentation is here. We will post the video as soon as it is available.

The only visible additions allowed in Old Town have been dormers, which are still strictly regulated. The hundreds of residents of Old Town have a long history of arguing about these rules, but in the end, the consensus has been to prevent a wholesale change to the look and feel of District. The result has been a special neighborhood with close neighbors who work under a set of rules.

Yesterday, Landmarks upended that consensus. Landmarks' way around the rules was to change the status of the building from contributing to non-contributing on the dubious grounds that there had been significant alterations to the original building. The thing is - all those alterations occurred before 1950 and were known at the time the building was listed as contributing. So this decision was, and is, a "re-writing" of history to the benefit of a private developer, who told our community that he was going to throw out the existing tenants and convert these buildings to rentals of up to $10,000 a month.

I don't thing anyone benefits from this decision except the developer. As one of our neighbors testified at the hearing, "we redid our home and we followed the rules. Why should anyone else?" More importantly, this shatters the confidence that our community has that a building that has been listed as contributing will remain that way.

Old Town neighbors and I will be working together to consider next steps - and to rededicate ourselves to surveying Old Town and its existing contributing buildings to see what needs to be done to make sure this does not happen again. If you are an Old Town neighbor and want to help with the effort, please contact Karen Pfendler, OTTA President at kpfendler@aol.com.
Not Playing By the Rules... or Changing the Rules
The Proposal for 1810 N Wells

Many may disagree with me on this - it's a free market and people should be allowed to maximize their real estate returns. But people have known for 43 years that the people of our community agreed to be bound by a rule that has served a calling - to live in a gracious and unique village called Old Town. I don't know a person who hasn't "gotten value" from their investment in Old Town. But greed over community consensus? I'll take the community every time.
Attempts to Work Together Rejected

OTTA did meet with the developer in 2019, but rejected the proposal because the developer wanted to demolish the entire building. We thought the project would die, but at the same time, we had a new administration. Toward that end, I reached out directly to our new Commissioner, Maurice Cox, and brought him for a tour of our Ward, ending at Old Town, where he met with many neighbors at the annual Christmas Party and then came with us to look at 1810 N Wells. He remarked to me and all the OTTA members that this was a building with a remarkable history and it should be celebrated. He imagined with us many uses for the building, like an event venue or shop that honored the history of the building.

With that boost, OTTA agreed to meet with the developer, who again sought to demolish the entire building. Commissioner Cox agreed to get personally involved to attempt to mediate the dispute. Instead, we were met at the meetings with a developer insistent on demolishing the building and a Commissioner who told us that the staff thought the building should be considered non-contributing, and thus a compromise was needed. COVID interrupted further meetings for several months, until late July and August when the developer presented a new plan in which he agreed to "preserve" some of the existing building, thus changing his request from a total demolition to a partial demolition, and set back his additions to align with the neighboring buildings. When he refused to make any further changes, and remained steadfast in his decision to build an addition, we scheduled a community meeting, leading to an outcry. From that moment on, as your Alderman, I spent every waking hour calling, asking, pleading for support from the Administration - and got none.

I want to thank the Old Town Triangle Association and all of the neighbors for their emails and letters of support. You can see them here. This fight is not over.
A Playing By the Rules Example:
223 N Menonomee

Here is what we do in Old Town when we work together. The owners had some different plans in mind when they started to renovate this home. Mid-construction, the homeowner discovered that the doorway was in a different place and that there had been a porch and no second story door, as well as other hidden changes. Working with Landmarks and the OTTA, the homeowners revised their plans - and won an award from Landmarks. This building had been declared to have the same level of protection as 1810 N. Wells.
When Preservation Works

You may recall a crumbling building at 1720 N. Sedgwick. In 2016, we worked with the city to bring a lawsuit against a new owner who allowed the property to deteriorate and put it into receivership. DNAinfo reported. After litigation, the owner agreed to shore the building properly and restore it properly.

Today, a magnificently completed renovation/restoration is done, with the help of architect Burt Richmond, who resides next door at 1722 Sedgwick. After discovering pieces of earlier façade trim, Richmond commissioned a Russian craftsman to reproduce the original ornamentation. We are grateful for this support to save this home. The home is for sale today. Here is a history of the home.
Chicago History Museum
Staving Off Continuing Threats to Landmark Districts

Those of you who live in the Mid-North Landmark District know about the demolition of 2107 N. Cleveland that occurred two weeks ago. In that case, we believe an unscrupulous owner conducted un-permitted excavation on the site to undermine the building's foundation.We learned that the owner had reached a contract to sell the site - but only if the building was demolished. We immediately contacted the Department of Buildings, who delayed demolition for an investigation. We worked with a private contractor who was willing to shore the building - but the owner would not let him on site. Unfortunately, the Department of Buildings was forced to allow the demolition for safety reasons.

Again, we are working with the Law Department to file suit against these owners. In addition, I am filing a new ordinance in City Council next week to strengthen the law against those who seek to get around landmark rules by destroying their property.
The property at 2017 N. Cleveland
Damage to the Walls
Fully Demolished
Thanks for the kind words

This morning, I received the following note from OTTA Historic District, Planning and Zoning (HDPZ) Chair Karen Pfendler:

"Speaking as the OTTA's HDPZ committee chair, I want to let the 43rd Ward constituents know what a fantastic job Alderman Smith did in her appearance before the Permit Review Committee, arguing on behalf of the OTT Landmark District. Her presentation was flawless, her arguments were factual and sound, and her research material along with pictures was superb and accurate to the letter. She was so incredibly grateful to all the residents who shared their emails with her and supported her efforts to argue against declassifying 1810 N Wells. She was literally as shell-shocked as we were when as it became apparent when our entire group was thrown under the bus by the Department of Planning. As you are learning from the Alderman herself, our struggle has just begun."

Thank you, Karen and all of OTTA, for the fine work you do.
City Announces New Steps to Re-Open Restaurants,
Bars, Health and Beauty Facilities
Mask Wearing Critical To Keep Our Businesses Open

The following changes are now in effect:

  • Restaurants, health and fitness centers, and all other establishments that have been limited to 25% indoor capacity will now be able to increase their maximum indoor capacity to 40%
  • The limit remains 50 total individuals within one room or space.

  • Bars, taverns, brewers and other establishments that serve alcohol for on-site consumption without a retail food license may reopen indoor seating at 25% capacity or 50 people, whichever is fewer
  • Service remains limited to no more than two hours per party, and customers must be seated when eating, drinking or ordering – patrons cannot walk up to the bar to order
  • The establishment must partner with a food provider so that food is always available to patrons (e.g., making menus available and allowing delivery, allowing patrons to order from third-party delivery services)
  • Maximum party size and table occupancy at restaurants, bars, taverns, breweries and event venues will remain at six people (indoor or outdoor)
  • Additional food service and bar updates include:
  • When dining out at a food service establishment or bar, customers must wear face coverings while seated at all times (including when interacting with staff), except when actively eating or drinking
  • When taking reservations and seating walk-in customers, restaurants and bars should retain an email and/or phone number for possible contact tracing
  • Bars, restaurants and other establishments that serve alcohol will now be able to sell alcohol for on-site or off-site consumption until 1:00 a.m. and may remain open until 1:30 a.m. (liquor stores, grocery stores and other establishments that sell alcohol to-go through a Package Goods license must continue to cease alcohol sales at 9:00 p.m.)

  • Maximum group size for health and fitness classes, and after-school- programs increased from 10 to 15 people
  • Personal services that require the removal of face coverings permitted to reopen (e.g., facials, beard trims)
  • Services are recommended to be kept under 15 minutes and the employee conducting the service must always wear a face covering
  • All places of business should provide hand sanitizer for patrons and employees to use upon entry

  • Residential property managers are asked to continue limiting guest entry to five additional people for single-member households such that total indoor gatherings and parties do not exceed six people.

These restrictions will remain in effect until further notice. You can also visit the city's Covid-19 website for updates here.
Public Safety Meeting Recap

Thank you to the almost 300 members of our community who attended our public safety meeting.

Mayor Lightfoot shared a short video discussing how she was working with my office and other stakeholders to make our community as safe as possible.

The police provided crime statistics from 2014 through mid-2020 for the 43rd Ward and brought us up to date on their current activities. The State's Attorneys Office provided this arrest snapshot, breaking down statistics for the past 12 months for the entire 18th and 19th Districts.

The States Attorney’s office announced that 399 of 421 cases brought to its office related to looting and violence this summer have been approved for prosecution. As we previously reported, more than 100 cases have been brought to the federal prosecutors as well.

A special thanks to the our 18th and 19th District commanders, the Mayor, the 911 Call Center, and the States Attorney’s Office for their participation in this meeting.
Mayor's Office of Violence Reduction

The Mayor’s Office of Violence Reduction has released their first monthly newsletter which will share public safety and violence reduction updates. You can subscribe here. 
Census Extended
Make Sure You Are Counted

The federal courts have enjoined the Trump administration from stopping the census on September 30. This means there is one more month for us to ensure that every Chicagoan is counted. 

Our ward response rate sits at 66%. In the Gold Coast, we are at 62%. In the 2010 census we were at 85%. We must get this done or risk losing billions in federal financial aid and reducing our representation in Congress.

Please ask your friends whether they have completed the census and get it done here

Please also answer the door for US census workers and allow them access to your building to knock on doors. A census worker will always have proper identification.
With the move to Phase 4, please stay vigilant, wear your masks and socially distance,

43rd Ward Virtual Office Hours: M - F 9 AM - 5 PM 
 2523 N Halsted | 773-348-9500 yourvoice@ward43.org www.ward43.org