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Lincoln Park, Old Town

Lincoln Park Neighbors Have More Time To Save Victorian-Era House After City Extends Demolition Ban

A Lincoln Park coach house would be torn down if sold to developers, but neighbors are trying to preserve the home built in 1894.

Developers have withdrew their offer to buy the Lincoln Park coach house at 1932-34 N. Seminary Ave.
Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago
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LINCOLN PARK — Some neighbors who want to preserve a 19th Century, Victorian-era home in Lincoln Park now have more time to try to save the house after the city postponed any possible demolition.

The home and coach house, located at 1932–34 N. Seminary Ave., was built in 1894 and has been on the market since last year. An unnamed developer is interested in buying the property, but its sale is contingent on builders getting approval to tear down the properties, according to its Redfin listing.

Some neighbors have opposed the demolition, arguing the buildings have historic qualities that should be preserved. Residents also have shared concerns about the type of construction that would replace the historic structures.

A demolition ban on the property, slated to expire Monday, was extended for another month.

“I’m optimistic this delay could mean there’s a path forward that appeases everybody’s interests,” said Alex McGhee, who lives next to the property and has fought its demolition. “I hope this delay indicates the parties involved are open to considering alternative options [to demolition].”

The two-story, 5,500-square-foot property in the Queen Anne style is being offered for about $2.5 million, according to the listing. Tucked into a corner between Armitage and Clybourn avenues, it sits across from a playground park and a few blocks from the North Branch of the Chicago River in the Sheffield Historic District, which itself made Landmarks Illinois’ list of most endangered historic places in the state in 2019.

Owner Sarah Howard and her brother inherited the home from her father after he died in 2013, Howard said. The home first came into her family when her aunt bought it in early ’70s and then sold to Howard’s dad in the mid-’80s.

She said they’re selling the home because it’s unlikely either of their families will ever move into it.

A demolition permit for the buildings was requested in December 2020, according to city records. But the property was placed under a 90-day demolition delay because it’s rated “orange” in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey, meaning it possesses “some architectural feature or historical association that made them potentially significant in the context of the surrounding community.”

Demolition delay holds are placed on certain buildings to allow time to consider whether they should and can be preserved, according to the city’s Department of Planning and Development website. Howard confirmed the hold on her property was extended until March 31 so she and the developers could continue “looking for an option that preserves the house.”

McGhee said she hopes the delay will give the developers more time to engage the community in its plans.

“We were all surprised that none of us got any notice about the demolition happening, so it wasn’t an amazing first sign in terms of how communication with us might go,” McGhee said. “There’s a big unknown if the developers will be good neighbors while their building over the next few years.”

McGhee said she also wants to know more details about the developers’ plans for the lot.

“We don’t know that what they build will be fitting for the neighborhood,” McGhee said. “It’s a total unknown, which is a huge concern for us, whereas this Victorian home is clearly one of the oldest homes in the neighborhood, it sits right across from the park and it contributes to the family feel of this neighborhood.”

A representative for Platinum Homes, who submitted the building’s demolition application, said the firm was hired to apply for the wrecking permit on behalf of another developer, but did not say who the developer is.

Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.

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