WICKER PARK — Almost a year after it sold to a Maryland-based real estate firm, renovations are finally coming to the former Continental Furniture building, which will be converted into retail and offices.
The trio of adjacent buildings at 1421-1427 N. Milwaukee Ave., which were built in the 1880s, are almost 23,000 square-foot and comprise one of the largest empty spaces on the street between Damen and Division.
Realterm bought the properties for $3.7 million last August. The sale included a vintage water tower atop the building that could be used for advertising. The acquisition did not include the southern portion of the massive store, which also remains empty at 1417 N. Milwaukee Ave.
“We saw it as an opportunity to take a beautiful building from the late 1880s and restore it back to its original glory,” said John Tsiskasis, vice president of acquisitions for Realterm.
If everything goes as planned, the renovations to the building will start this summer and be completed by spring 2019, Tsiskasis said.
“We’ve been working through designs and landmark commission to get [the renovations] approved,” Tsiskasis said.
A construction permit for an estimated $1.5 million worth of renovations was issued to Realterm in late June, city records show. It calls for putting retail on the first two floors and offices on the third and fourth floors of the existing 4-story brick and wood building. The work includes repairing the brick facade and replacing the storefront windows.
“It’s going to look very different from what it looks like now. When we get new windows in, the storefront will look a lot taller,” Tsiskasis said.
Continental Furniture closed in early 2015 after 63 years in business, and has sat empty since then.
While no tenant or tenants have been tapped yet, Tsiskasis said there’s been “a lot of interest from fashion apparel on the ground floor and office tenants on upper floors.” The building remains for lease on the Baum Realty website.
The upper three floors of the building have been used as storage for many decades.
In the 1950s the storefront was home to Meyer’s Furniture, which later became Continental Furniture, Tsiskasis said.
Decibel Audio, a turnable and audio store next to the former furniture storefront at 1429 N. Milwaukee Ave., will not be part of the planned renovations, as the former owner of the furniture store still owns the portion of the building rented by Decibel and the southern half of the furniture store.
Tucker Harper, a longtime worker at Decibel, said on Wednesday that he’s glad to see renovations are getting underway soon.
“It’s disappointing to have all these vacancies up and down the block. It’s too bad it’s been so long. We’d love to see some businesses back in the area,” Harper said.
Acknowledging the empty storefronts, not just at the former furniture site but in other surrounding buildings, Tsiskasis said “a lot of the vacant storefronts are committed [with new leases]” that have not been announced yet.