WICKER PARK — A Wicker Park property owner will ask city officials for permission to continue work this week after improperly demolishing the second and third floors of his historic building.
Benjamin Neikrug, the owner of 1460 N. Milwaukee Ave., will appear Thursday before the Commission on Chicago Landmarks with revised plans for the work. Inspectors from the city’s Department of Buildings issued a stop work order on the project Jan. 6 after the stories were demolished without authorization in December.
Reached by phone, Neikrug declined to comment.
Built in 1885, the three-flat is located within the Milwaukee Avenue Historic District.
Properties within the protected area can only be renovated or demolished with permission from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks and the city’s Department of Buildings.
Neikrug received permission from the commission’s permit review committee in September to renovate the property, but with specific restrictions, said Peter Strazzabosco, spokesman for the city’s Department of Planning and Development.
“The project was supposed to retain the facade at the second floor and rebuild the facade at the third floor,” Strazzabosco said. “Non-historic siding was to be replaced, along with historically appropriate windows and a new cornice, based on historic photos.”
The Department of Buildings also issued a permit for renovation in November, spokeswoman Mimi Simon said in an email.
The contractor discovered “unforeseen building conditions” that made the upper floors unstable and unsalvageable, which led to the demolition of those floors, Simon said.
Because the demolition went beyond the scope of the approved permit, the Department of Buildings issued the stop work order.
The ground floor of the building, home to the US #1 Vintage store, remained intact during demolition, officials said. However, a plywood facade encases the storefront. It’s not clear when the business will reopen. Owners couldn’t be reached for comment.
To restart construction, Neikrug must submit plans for revised work and pay associated fines and fees. Because the first floor remained intact, a revised permit would be issued for renovation, not demolition, Simon said.
Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st), who has called for stricter rules around demolitions, noticed the removal of the building’s upper stories while on a December bike ride.
The alderman said he questions the efficacy of a system to regulate historic buildings if a property owner can demolish a building in a protected district and continue work after submitting new plans and paying a fine.
“I have a lot of frustration with how our demolition process works,” he said. “The whole trend of demolition-driven development is a real scourge on our area.”
Neighbors plan to discuss the demolition during this month’s Wicker Park Committee meeting, which begins 6:30 p.m. Wednesday on Zoom.
The Commission on Chicago Landmarks will review revised plans for the building during its February meeting, which begins 12:45 p.m. Thursday. It will be livestreamed. View the meeting agenda here.
Members of the public can submit written comments to the commission by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org before 12:45 p.m. Wednesday.
People wishing to speak during the virtual meeting must complete an online form. The form, which can be found here, must be emailed to email@example.com before 12:45 p.m. Tuesday. There are only 15 slots available and speakers will be selected on a first-come, first-served basis.
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