LAKEVIEW — Preservationists are trying to stop a developer from tearing down an old bank building in Lakeview to make way for a massive commercial project.
Crews began demolishing the Fifth-Third Bank building, 3179 N. Clark St., on Friday. The city’s Department of Buildings approved a demolition permit for the two-story building Aug. 4, records show.
This is one of several Fifth Third buildings being torn down and replaced with a mystery tenant. At least one of the projects has already been shut down because a developer wouldn’t tell the alderman which tenant planned to move in. Hubbard Street Group, the developer behind the Lakeview project and another in Lincoln Square, also are refusing to disclose to aldermen and neighbors what the anchor retailers would be.
The Lakeview building is not a Chicago landmark, but representatives from Preservation Chicago said a request to tear down the building should have triggered an additional review to see if the bank had historical features worth salvaging. They want the demolition permit revoked and the city to impose a 90-day hold, which is common for historical properties.
“This demolition could have some consequences,” said Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago.
Hubbard Street Group wants to redevelop the property into a two-story commercial building with underground parking, according to plans listed on Ald. Tom Tunney’s (44th) website. Bank officials say the branch will move back into the building once construction is complete, but the development’s other tenants remain shrouded in mystery.
Representatives from Hubbard Street Group did not return a request for comment.
Preservation Chicago leaders said any project that received federal funding must undergo a review according to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Because the bank is FDIC-insured, this Fifth Third demolition should have triggered a Section 106 review to determine whether the bank was a historic building, said Mary Lu Seidel, director of community engagement for Preservation Chicago.
“That was never done,” she said.
Miller said “there’s no reason [Hubbard Street Group] couldn’t have engaged this building into those development plans, and there’s still no reason they still can’t.”
“I think there’s still time to correct that by revoking the permit and figuring out a way to incorporate the facade in the new development,” Miller said. “There’s a lot of opportunity here for a really wonderful project that integrates the building facade. We just have to all work together toward a good outcome.”
Other neighbors have opposed tearing down the bank. A Change.org petition has more than 2,000 signatures in favor of stopping the demolition.
“I’ve lived in Lakeview for the last seven years and noticed we’ve lost a lot of buildings along Clark Street to newer developments,” said neighbor Michael Jon, who launched the petition. “This bank building has been here for about 100 years now, and I’d hate to lose it to the rapidly changing character of the neighborhood.”
A spokesman for the Department of Planning and Development said the city was not obligated to place any demolition holds on the property since it is not marked as historically significant. They would not answer further questions.
A representative for Ald. Tom Tunney (43rd) said the office still didn’t know what grocery tenant would be moving into the building. His office did not respond to questions about the preservationists’ concerns.
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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