LINCOLN SQUARE — Despite objections from neighbors and Ald. Matt Martin (47th), a new medical office will replace one of the neighborhood’s most beloved cultural institutions, the Chicago Brauhaus.
The former German restaurant at 4732 N. Lincoln Ave. was serving up schnitzel, beer and live music for 52 years until its closure in December of 2017. GW Properties is slated to convert the former restaurant into an office for Northwestern Medicine.
Though the inside of the building will be overhauled, Mitch Goltz of GW Properties said the building’s “exterior character” will be preserved because it fits so well with the rest of the neighborhood, Goltz said.
But that has not appeased some neighbors, or the alderman.
“At least they’re trying to preserve the facade. But as far as we’re concerned this office would be more appropriate elsewhere,” said Josh Mark, Ald. Matt Martin’s (47th) director of development and infrastructure.
Paige Worthy, co-founder of the Heart of Lincoln Square neighborhood association, agreed.
“I think the developer’s heart is in the right place if they want to preserve the facade, but what was special about Chicago Brauhaus wasn’t on the outside,” she said. “It was the community and what was inside, so preserving its look kind of misses the point.”
Northwestern has not returned calls for comment and Goltz could not say whether the office would be administrative or a medical office where patients could see doctors.
“The final decisions haven’t been made yet. But we wouldn’t need a zoning change from the city to move forward,” Goltz said, adding that construction is expected to start in the spring.
The old Brauhaus spot on Lincoln Avenue is mainly surrounded by shops, bars and restaurants. The cobblestone streets are decked out in lights for the holiday season, and attract people from across the city.
A medical office will “stick out” and not be appropriate for the area, Martin said.
“Northwestern doesn’t need that spot. It already owns crazy vast swaths of the North Side,” said neighbor Matt Chandler Smith.
Smith called the strip of Lincoln Avenue the “crown jewel” of the area and said the office would “seriously injure” its personality.
Another neighbor, Darinka D’Alessio, said she hoped a “vibrant tenant” like another restaurant would take over the building.
But Worthy said she has also spoken to other neighbors who were also okay with the idea of an office over a vacant building.
“If this location is so desirable for another restaurant or bar or brewery, why hasn’t the landlord been able to find a tenant in almost two years of vacancy,” Dan Morisette asked.
Since the restaurant’s closure, its unique facade has been featured as a stand in for London when crews filmed Fox’s “Empire” in Lincoln Square last summer. The sign from the previous owner Harry Kempf announcing the restaurant’s closure in 2017 can still be found next to the entrance.
“We buy a lot of buildings like this. We’re attracted to old and interesting buildings in Chicago,” Goltz said.
Goltz understands the desire to bring another restaurant to the space, he said, but building’s large size, layout and age would make opening a new restaurant there difficult, he said.
“This building had been on the market for a while and was looked at by every restaurateur in Chicago. But this building is challenging in today’s restaurant climate,” Goltz said. “We believe an office is a good use for this building.”
The interior will be completely redone to meet Northwestern’s needs. However the building’s “exterior character” will be preserved.
While developers don’t currently need zoning approval to move forward with their plan, Martin’s office said they’d be keeping a close eye on the project.
“If they have a request that could alter Lincoln Square’s retail and pedestrian character, that is something we’d look with disapproval on,” Mark said.
The office should be operating by next year, Goltz said.
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