Looking for a place in Lake View? Don’t bring your car.

diversey flickr user paul morganIs Chicago’s Lake View neighborhood poised to be the quintessential urban walkable community? With services like iGo, Zipcar, Lyft and other car-share startups, young people are finding it hard to justify owning a car in the city. Who can blame them when parking tickets range from $50 to $180 on top of city registration fees and zoned parking passes, not to mention the ever-lurking meter maid.

Lake View is Chicago’s second largest community area, but the most dense, with roughly 95,000 people living in about three square miles.

Neighborhoods like Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine, or OTR as the locals call it, are experimenting with less parking and its effects on community building. This article tells the story.

Cincinnati’s mayor is passing an ordinance which impacts parking, zoning, and in a much larger sense, density. The word is out that density and the resulting face-to-face interaction is real, and needed, and helps spark ideas and form collaborations. Many believe that in the future, where you live is going to be more important than it ever has before. Density and walkability are two of the largest factors impacting our consumption of natural resources and ecological footprint. These are things that younger generations care about. Chicago’s Lake View community has  one of the highest populations of 18-34 year olds in the country.

How old are the properties in Lake View? That depends on where you go. You can find whole streets of 1890s Italianates, greystones and various other walk-ups. Almost 20,000 houses in Lake View were built before 1939. For comparison, the area has seen more than 5,000 homes built in a decade only once in the last 70 years. It is safe to say that most of Lake View’s building stock is of the older variety – back when they used to build the character in.

Lake View is the neighborhood of choice for Chicago’s college students so there are a lot of small two and three bedroom multi-unit buildings along main streets that they occupy. To balance that out there are a fair number of single family homes on interior streets and town houses within a few blocks of the lake. Over the last year the number of single-family homes listed has dropped by 23%. Average sale price for single family homes has come up almost 5% over the past year. Condo units, of which there are many in highrises along the lakefront, have seen a 10% increase in new listing over the past year with an increase of 40% in closings in the past year. Average and median sale prices for condos have been nearly unchanged in the last year. Those who wish to keep their car and live in Lake View do best living along the lake with Lake Shore Drive providing easy access to downtown.

belmont stop

The neighborhood is well connected to the ‘L’ with a brown line stop at Diversey, a red/brown line stop at Belmont and a red line stop at Addison. The Clark bus and the Ashland bus run north-south through the middle of Lake View and make it even easier to navigate the city without a car. Bordered by the Uptown neighborhood to the north, Lincoln Square to the northwest, North Center to the west and Lincoln Park to the south, the nightlife options are nearly endless.

And we can’t be a preservation blog in Chicago talking about the Lake View neighborhood without mentioning one of the biggest projects happening in the whole city.

wrigley flicr user dgphilliWrigley Field is due for a facelift! As the Restore Wrigley website details, the owners agreed to do a sensitive restoration of the ballpark. The main objectives are to clean up the locker rooms, improve food preparation spaces and provide more restrooms. It will be interesting to watch the project unfold and to see the second oldest ballpark in the country get some new life breathed into it.

Friday Filing: Rural Property

"I don’t want to live in a museum." - Daryl Hall      source

“I don’t want to live in a museum.” – Daryl Hall

In rural America property rights are different and people maintain their properties with however much or however little money they care to. Someone like Darrel Hall of Hall & Oates has money to do an extensive restoration like he did on his rural New York home. Hall hosts a monthly web series from a Great Room that he built to connect two historic barns that he brought in from a different state. He also modernized the kitchen with high-end appliances and arrangements to entertain a crowd. This is a house that a lot of people might dream of living in. Some may think it is a bad idea to move two historic barns from the 18th century away from where they were first built. Others, like this article suggests, think it is a good idea to breathe new life into a barn that may very well be left to fall or burn down.

Any significant historical building in a rural area should be documented and inspected for further significance. If it is an important building your State Historic Preservation Officer can help you get it on the National Register of Historic Places. Once your building is on the National Register it opens you up to a variety of tax breaks.

Someone like Daryl Hall may not be concerned with tax breaks. Other historic homeowners might be interested to learn that Nation Register listing opens them up to tax breaks based on the money that they invest in their property. Some states incentivize historic preservation more than others and offer a variety of tax breaks that can help with the cost of maintenance and improvement on a historic property.  No state is trying to tell you what to do with your property but they will encourage you to maintain the exterior if you are listed on the National Register. You can do whatever you want to on the interior to make the home fit your needs and to improve its value.

The cover photo of Field Guide to New England Barns and Farm Buildings by Thomas Visser.

The cover photo of Field Guide to New England Barns and Farm Buildings by Thomas Visser.

One would hope that owners would be sensitive with something like a barn from the 1700s – we don’t have many buildings in this country that are older than that. The goal is not to turn historic buildings into museums but rather places that can be appreciated for the stories they tell and their place in history, all while being used and appreciated by their owners.

A professor of the Historic Preservation program at the University of Vermont wrote a fascinating book titled Field Guide to New England Barns and Farm Buildings. The variety of barn styles and how they tell the stories of the immigrants who built them, bringing their various construction techniques from the old world, is a rich history you wouldn’t necessarily think such a vernacular building type would carry.

Have a deeper interest in preserving barns? This link will give you all the technical information that you need to know to preserve them.

Another major legal matter concerning rural property are easements. An easement of a driveway or lease road is often granted in order to gain access to neighboring land in which the shortest route is through part of an adjacent property. This happens often with oil companies and other natural resource companies and it is often the biggest intrusion on rural property owners.

In the city there are various ordinances and codes in place which bring the city and the property owner together. Due to the density of people in and around buildings, the city must have some control over building owners in order to ensure safety. If the building is a landmark it is expected that the exterior will be maintained and the facade is regularly inspected to make sure pieces of the building aren’t going to fall off an hit someone.

The point comes back to location. Owning property in the city sets you up for much more scrutinization from local interest groups and nearby property owners, not to mention the local government. There is much more freedom and room for creative interpretation in rural areas simply because there are not as many eyes on property out there.

Can Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood make a rebound?

The Chicago Transit Authority is investing in a $203 Million reconstruction of the Wilson Red Line Station in the Uptown neighborhood. The arch above the clock over this entrance will be rebuilt after being down for approximately 50 years.  Image courtesy of the CTA's website about the project: http://www.transitchicago.com/assets/1/planning/Wilson_Rendering_2012_looking_northwest_at_Wilson_and_Bway.jpg

The Wilson Red Line station circa 1923.

There has been a lot of talk about Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood over the past few years. This article from a few months back gives claim that the area has been up-and-coming for years now. However, the question everyone is still asking is “Is it going to happen?”.

The Chicago Transit Authority is investing $203 Million in the reconstruction of the Wilson Red Line Station in the Uptown neighborhood. Many are very optimistic about what this will mean for the neighborhood. The station is just a block north of a Target, the new beacon of gentrification, that went in a couple of years ago.

A rendering of what the station reconstruction will look like with a current view of the station inset.  Image source: http://www.transitchicago.com/wilson/

A rendering of what the station reconstruction will look like with a current view of the station inset.
Image source.

Mayor Emanuel  has expressed his interest in seeing the Uptown neighborhood revived since shortly after his election.

The Uptown Theatre is obviously a major piece of the puzzle to rebuilding the neighborhood. At the turn of the 20th century the intersection of Lawrence and Broadway was on the edge of a growing Chicago. By the 1920s the area had become a major theatre and retail district with a variety of building types. The Green Mill is a remaining example of a building type that existed to accommodated concert goers after the show. The economy of Uptown was strong and supported tens of thousands of customers both day and night. The neighborhoods surrounding the intersection of Lawrence and Broadway contain a mix of small 3 or 4-flats, large apartment buildings, single family homes and mansions. A lot of the larger buildings have been subdivided throughout the various economic downturns since the 1920s. However, a lot of the well-built housing stock from that time remains. This rehab project is particularly exciting – a pool from the 1930s!

A close-up of the Uptown Theatre's terra cotta-clad grand entrance.   Photo courtesy of flickr user Anne Rossley.

A close-up of the Uptown Theatre’s terra cotta-clad grand entrance.
Photo courtesy of flickr user Anne Rossley.

The Uptown Theatre has been closed since 1981 but still has strong support from locals. In 2008 JAM Productions purchased the building and seemed to put a fresh light at the end of the tunnel towards restoration. Landmarks Illinois put the Uptown on their 2010 ’10 Most Endangered’ list in an attempt to rally support under the new owner. That energy has not yet come to fruition, although Ald. James Cappleman (46th) has been quoted recently in an article that included the Uptown Theatre along with the Aragon Ballroom and Riveria Theatre as restoration cases and pieces of the puzzle to reviving the neighborhood.

It seems as though the entire city is behind a revitalization of the Uptown neighborhood. Some are skeptical that it will happen, others are optimistic.  A shooting at 6pm on Wilson Avenue last night makes it hard to make the case that this neighborhood is safe and livable.

One article makes the summation that Mayor Emanuel is going to solve Uptown’s problems with music. Although that is not a terrible idea, since Uptown is one of the most diverse areas of Chicago, the plan doesn’t solve gang issues. Controlling gang retaliation is not something that the Chicago Police Department have proven to have a firm grasp on. It doesn’t matter how many cards are stacked in the built environment’s favor, if people don’t feel safe in the area they won’t come.

Historic Districts: Friday Filings

Last week we started our legal section off by giving some case studies to show the impact law has had on the field of historic preservation. This week we will dig a little deeper into property rights and clarify where that line is between citizen and government when it comes to historic properties.

To be clear we are not talking about intellectual property rights, a topic that has been getting a lot of press lately. We are talking about real estate. For sake of clarity we will focus on buildings in this post rather than open land or nature preserves.

The Armitage-Halsted Historic District in the Lincoln Park neighborhood holds on to 1890s Queen Anne ornamentation on upper levels but allows first floor retail spaces to be altered somewhat to accommodate a vibrant boutique retail district.  Image courtesy of flickr user wjcordier.

The Armitage-Halsted Historic District in the Lincoln Park neighborhood holds on to 1890s Queen Anne ornamentation on upper levels but allows first floor retail spaces to be altered somewhat to accommodate a vibrant boutique retail district. Image courtesy of flickr user wjcordier.

As we established last week, local landmark ordinances were founded on a law referencing property rights. The idea of a “taking” found presence in the Penn Station case, the reaction to which was the forming of landmark commissions. The goal of any landmark commission is to preserve significant buildings and maintain the historic character of neighborhoods.

There are many different factors that influence how a property is regulated. As with all real estate, the most important factor is location!

If a property is located in a historic district it is going to have a set of guidelines tied to what you can and can’t do with it. In most cases your real estate agent will tell you when a property is located in a historic district, and the best ones will use it as a selling point – more on that later. If the building is located in a historic district it is associated with a theme. The job of the local historic preservation commission is to ensure that the district retains its character and exemplifies the theme, therefore they review any and all work done to properties within the historic district. The thing that allows them to review work done on your property is the landmark ordinance.

What are 5 things, concerning your historic property, that will likely prompt a rejection from your local landmark commission?:

1. Putting an addition on the public-facing facade of your building

2. Change roof lines on the public-facing facade of your building

3. Change window configuration on the public-facing facade of your building

4. Paint your building a color that was not able to be produced at the time your building was built

5. Change the cladding material on the public-facing facade of your building

This is not an exhaustive list, but you get the point. The common theme here is what can be seen from the public right-of-way shouldn’t be messed with. Historic Districts are usually based on themes such as a great example of such-and-such architectural style or exemplary of this time frame or building type.  The main things that give buildings character are their windows, roof lines, cladding material, ornamentation and paint, so changing any of those is not cool with the commission.

Last season's project on This Old House transformed a traditional Queen Anne into something modern and appealing to 21st century home owners. If you missed it you can find full episodes here.

Last season’s project on This Old House transformed a traditional Queen Anne into something modern and appealing to 21st century home owners. If you missed it you can find full episodes here.

What does this list not include? Interiors. You can open your kitchen into your dining room into your living room for an open concept. You can combine that tiny 5th bedroom into that tiny bathroom to create a master bathroom.

And what happens if you don’t follow the word of the preservation commission? Nothing. Well… almost nothing. Your neighbors probably won’t be very happy with you. Your property will likely be excluded from the historic district, causing you to miss out on tax incentives.

Oh, did we forget to mention that? That is the whole point of landmarking buildings (besides protection) – to incentivize their upkeep. More on that next week.

New Legal Column: Friday Filings

Penn Station in 1911 at 7th Avenue and 33rd Street in New York City. For more great historic pictures and a detailed history of the building visit http://keithyorkcity.wordpress.com/2012/10/07/penn-station-the-greatest-architectural-loss-in-new-yorks-history/.

Penn Station in 1911 at 7th Avenue and 33rd Street in New York City. For more great historic photos and a detailed history of the building visit this site.

Today is the first day of a new column here at I Speak Vintage. The idea for this column is all things legal that are tied to what is known in the United States as Historic Preservation. I know what you are thinking…how boring. But wait! This is typically the point at which people butt heads about the idea of saving something versus demolishing it or replacing it with something else. So when you see that article in the paper about that beautiful building downtown that somebody wants to tear down, this is where you are going to end up if you want to try to help save it, so how about a little background.

The seminal case in historic preservation in the United States was Penn Central Transportation Co. v. City of New York. This case, decided in 1978, set a precedent that is the legal justification for most historic preservation ordinances in the country today. It deals with the rights of an owner to develop a property versus the right of a city to review and regulate the development of a designated historic property. The loss of Penn Station set the field of Historic Preservation into motion and caused citizens to think proactively about their surroundings, what is kept and what is lost, and how they can have a say in the matter.

The meat of this landmark court case dealt with the Fifth Amendment clause of “takings” which comes from the phrase, “nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation”. The debate continues today about property rights and how to maintain a balance between the rights of society and the rights of property owners. The burden of this issue often falls on historic preservation commissioners. More on that later.

As was the case with Penn Station, the loss or threatening of a historic structure birthed a historic preservation movement. It is often argued that the building that set the field in motion in Chicago is the Glessner House. After seeing several architectural masterpieces come down in the 1960s era of Urban Renewal, citizens came together to take a stand. Find the full story of Chicago’s historic preservation movement here.

Courtesy of http://www.american-architecture.info/USA/CHICAGO/CHIC-SW/CHIC-SW-002.htm.

The Glessner House. Designed by H.H. Richardson. Photo courtesy of a.a.

In Europe the field is often called Heritage Conservation. Professionals in the US have commented on how Historic Preservation is a misnomer, carries an elitist stigma and that Heritage Conservation is a more accurate term. The strongest argument for that can be found on Vince Michael’s blog here and here. And if you want some real knowledge dropped on you, here.

So why do people care, you ask. Why does a whole field of people think they should be able to have some say on other people’s property?

The answer to this is very deep and well thought out. Saving sites, structures, green spaces and landscapes that have a history and that tell a story allow for successive generations to see part of the past somewhere other than in a book or online. The foundation of this effort to save things is that people can learn from their past, and having something tangible to help illustrate the story paints a better picture and helps it stick in our minds.

Please follow along as we take a more technical look at the field of historic preservation in our Friday Filings.

Tuesday Selection: Religious Structures cont…

st basilOur Tuesday column continues this week with a deeper look at the preservation and reuse of religious structures. The Nation Trust for Historic Preservation continued their ’10 on Tuesday’ selection with this post. I thought it would be interesting to answer their concluding questions by offering some examples from the Chicago area as part of our parallel series.

The first suggestion in the Preservation Nation blog is to find other congregations to use the space. Chicago has a long history of this, especially on the near south and west sides when Jewish populations were replaced by African American populations. The image on the left shows the former Anshe Sholom Synagogue, built in 1910 for the Jewish population that lived near Polk Street and Ashland Avenue. In 1927 the building was converted to a Greek Orthodox Church, which it remains today. You can still find some original Hebrew script carved in the pediment over the main door. A more in-depth history can be found here.

A good example of a community combining tips number two and three in the Preservation Nation blog, consider cultural or educational purposes and listen to the neighborhood, is the Oak Park Arts Center.

Hemingway MuseumOriginally a 1st Church of Christ, Scientist church, the congregation had dwindled in the 1980s and decided to sell the building after realizing they could not afford to maintain it. Luckily, the buyer at that time was sensitive to the structure and thought broadly about how it could best benefit the community and continue to be used for decades. The basement of the building became the Ernest Hemingway Museum and the upstairs became a performance space for concerts, allowing it to serve the community and tourists alike.

Finally, to show that regardless of how many resources are out there and the will of the community, religious structures can meet their fate. That is the case in a south side neighborhood of Chicago today.

st jamesThe Archdiocese of Chicago decided to demolish the historic St. James Roman Catholic Church and this beautiful old building is being dismantled a little more each day. Advocacy groups rallied to try to convince the archdiocese otherwise, but in the end they are the building owners and have the ultimate say. Unfortunately, Chicago is losing a 133-year old building that told the story of several populations that lived in the area. The original congregants rode carriages to church and lived in nearby brownstones and mansions. Later congregants included African Americans who had made their way up from the south, settling in what would later be named Bronzeville. This history will be one step closer to being lost when this building is gone, and that is one of the primary reasons to save religious structures – they hold the stories and the history of an area even though the inhabitants change.