WEST TOWN — For six years, expensive and unattractive scaffolding has surrounded West Town’s historic Goldblatt’s Building, but the eyesore might finally come down soon.
The city-owned historic building at 1615 W. Chicago Ave. was set to have tuckpointing and window work completed in 2015 — but it still isn’t finished. While workers are rarely seen near the scaffolding, Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) said crews were set to wrap up the work in mid-December. But again, there were delays.
“There were some fabrication issues related to it being an older landmark building, but we now expect the project to be finished by March 2021, with the scaffolding coming down shortly thereafter,” La Spata said.
Owned by the city and managed by the Department of Assets, Information and Services, the Goldblatt’s Building has sported a scaffolding canopy since 2015 in anticipation of the repairs. CBS 2 reported last year the estimated cost of the canopy itself was $12,000-$15,000, and the canopy costs $1,000-$3,000 a month to rent. That means city taxpayers have coughed up $60,000 to $180,000 in rental fees alone.
Neighbors, including McKnight, have pushed city leaders to finish the window repair work so the scaffolding can finally be removed. In the meantime, artist Sick Fisher attempted to beautify the scaffolding by painting rows of books on it.
McKnight said he and other residents have been frustrated with how long the process has taken and sought to find out how much money the city is spending to maintain the scaffolding over the years, which is when CBS 2 got involved.
In addition to the West Town Public Library on the ground floor, the Goldblatt’s Building houses the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, the Chicago Dept. of Family and Support Services and other public agencies.
The city “would never leave a canopy around the Daley Center,” McKnight said. “Not for years.”
‘Really, Really, Really Long’ History
Just west of Ashland Avenue, the building was constructed in the 1920s as the site of the Goldblatt’s Department Store.
It was designed by architect Alfred S. Alshuler, whose other work includes the London Guarantee Building, the K.A.M. Isaiah Israel Temple and the Florsheim Shoe Co. building, all designated Chicago landmarks.
When McKnight moved to the neighborhood in the 1990s, the store was still in operation.
“I bought bicycle tires there,” he said. “It was like a giant dollar store at the time, but it was busy, it was crowded, people on both levels. It goes back a really, really, really long way in the neighborhood.”
In the fall of 1996, Delray Farms bought the building for $5 million with plans to tear it down, according to the Tribune. Neighborhood activists from the East Village Association fought the proposed demolition. In 1997, the city bought the building from Delray Farms for $3.5 million, according to the Tribune.
Eve Rodriguez, a city spokeswoman, said in 2015 the scaffolding is in place to protect passersby.
“The existing windows are severely deteriorated, and scaffolding was installed for safety of pedestrians and occupants,” Rodriguez said. “As funding becomes available and restoration is completed, the scaffolding will be removed.”
That year, the city spent $135,000 to remove a water tower that once topped the building. Repairs for window were were estimated to cost $1.5 million.
McKnight walks past the Goldblatt’s Building every day on his walk to work. The building is deserving of full and complete preservation — even if it comes two decades late, McKnight said.
“It”s been a long, storied history for the building and the neighborhood,” he said.
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