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Jefferson Park, Portage Park, Norwood Park

Judge Denies Copernicus Center’s Attempt To Block Sale Of Jefferson Park Firehouse For Brewery Project

City Council agreed Jan. 27 to sell the vacant firehouse to a developer despite attempts by the nearby Copernicus Center to buy the building.

Rendering of plans for the brewery taproom and new apartments at 4841 N. Lipps Ave.
Ambrosia Homes
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JEFFERSON PARK — A judge Wednesday shot down the latest attempt by the Copernicus Center to block the city from selling an old firehouse to a developer that wants to build Lake Effect Brewing Company’s first taproom on the first level. 

Developer Ambrosia Homes has been working with the brewery since 2016 to acquire the long vacant firehouse at 4841 N. Lipps Ave. in Jefferson Park.

The developer plans to build a brewery, restaurant and taproom for Lake Effect on the first floor and nine rental loft apartments on the floors above.

City Council agreed Jan. 27 to sell the firehouse to Ambrosia for $1 despite repeated attempts by attorneys for the Copernicus Center to get the city to accept its rival bid. 

Attorneys for Copernicus asked Cook County Judge Anna Helen Demacopoulos for a temporary restraining order Feb. 4 to block the city’s already approved sale of the firehouse to Ambrosia.

John Chitkowski, an attorney for Copernicus, argued during a virtual hearing Wednesday the restraining order would allow his client to get information on why the city denied their bid in favor of Ambrosia’s proposal. 

Copernicus’ bid was rejected because its application was incomplete, city officials said.

Specifically, it didn’t have a plan for cleaning up the lead paint at the property, didn’t identify where funding for the construction and remediation costs would come from, didn’t show how the nonprofit would generate property tax revenue at the address and didn’t say who the first floor tenant would be, among other issues, according to city attorneys at the hearing. 

“There’s no dispute that the city reviewed this proposal and sent plaintiff a letter informing it that the city was not accepting the proposal,” said Peter Cavanaugh, the city’s assistant corporation counsel.

Ambrosia’s bid was accepted because its $2.4 million project — which includes lead paint remediation — answered all those questions and more, city attorneys said.

Chitkowski pushed back, saying Copernicus’ application was incomplete because the city only allowed Ambrosia to enter and assess the firehouse before the sale.

The restraining order, Chitkowski argued, would give him extra time to get sworn depositions from Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th) and James Wheaton, project manager for the city’s housing department, and information from other city officials about why Copernicus’ bid was denied by the city.

“Judge, all this could be accomplished in 60 days. Maybe less,” Chitkowski said.

In her denial of the restraining order Judge Demacopoulos said the city was within its rights to refuse the sale to any party since it has complete discretion to do so for any reason it choses. 

“You are now asking me, after the City Council has already voted, already passed this [sale],” Demacopoulos said. “You’re asking me to undo what a legislative body has already done when I gave you the opportunity to do that back in December. Why didn’t you? Why now? Why after they voted?”

Chitkowski said his client was now asking for a restraining order because all other attempts to stop City Council from approving the sale had failed.

After the judge’s denial of the temporary restraining order Chitkowski said he’d need to consult with his client.

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