CHICAGO — A West Loop building known as the birthplace of house music is one step closer to becoming a Chicago landmark.
In the late ’70s and early ’80s, The Warehouse at 206 S. Jefferson St. in the West Loop was home to dance parties hosted by legendary Chicago DJ Frankie Knuckles, who helped create house music and popularize it around the world.
The building — today home to a law office — has been at the center of a recent push to recognize Chicago’s contributions to house music, as well as the numerous LGBTQ+, Black and Latino Chicagoans who helped define the genre.
City Council’s Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards approved landmark status for the building during its Tuesday meeting. The designation must now be approved by the full City Council, which is set to meet Wednesday.
The zoning committee also approved several West Loop residential towers, two controversial apartment buildings in Wicker Park, the redevelopment of a now-closed Englewood public school and numerous other projects across the city.
The road to landmarking The Warehouse started earlier this year when thousands of people signed an online petition calling on the city to “save” the West Loop building. The landmark designation would protect the building’s facade and roofline from being altered by the current owner.
The Commission on Chicago Landmarks approved landmark status for The Warehouse earlier this month, thanks to the backing of preservation groups, local officials and house fans from the around the world.
That support was on display Tuesday, as supporters and alderpeople spoke in favor of making The Warehouse an official Chicago landmark.
“It was at this club, with the iconic DJ Frankie Knuckles at the helm, that house music was developed. From The Warehouse this new sound spread from Chicago living rooms to the rest of the world,” Max Chavez, the director of research and special projects with Preservation Chicago, said at Tuesday’s zoning meeting.
“This landscape of world music, because of The Warehouse, because of Frankie Knuckles and because of Chicago was changed forever.”
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), the zoning committee’s newly-appointed chair, said that as a gay man and Chicagoan, house music — and therefore, The Warehouse — was “near and dear” to his heart.
“House music is one of the many gifts that Chicago has given to the world,” Ramirez-Rosa said. “And it was born at The Warehouse with DJs like Frankie Knuckles, openly gay men, lesbian women, queer people, trans people, who were expressing resilience in the face of hostility and hate, who refused to be put down and who chose instead to celebrate love and life.”
And Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) remembered his own time dancing at The Warehouse, where he said he became friends with Frankie Knuckles himself.
“It was a place where everyone felt safe. It was a place where everyone felt that they weren’t discriminated against,” Burnett said. “You go all over the world you hear Frankie Knuckles’ music being played in every country. So I’m in full support of this landmark.”
West Loop Towers
The zoning committee also approved a series of West Loop towers that could bring more than 1,000 new residential units to the neighborhood.
At 1300 W. Lake St., a $250 million, 46-story building that could replace Peoria Packing Butcher Shop would include 593 residential units. According to documents submitted to the city, 119 of those units would be affordable and built onsite.
Burnett, whose ward includes the site, said the project was vetted at a community meeting where the main concern of neighbors wasn’t parking spaces or the building’s height, but rather what was going to happen to the beloved butcher shop, Peoria Packing.
Burnett said the company is relocating to the West Side’s 24th Ward, which includes most of the North Lawndale neighborhood.
“That’s where everybody’s been getting their meat for a long time,” Burnett said Tuesday. “Fortunately for the alderman in the 24th Ward, Peoria Packing is moving to the 24th Ward, but we are encouraging them to also have a satellite office over here, and I guess those conversations are going on.”
A few blocks north of the Lake Street project, the zoning committee advanced a proposal by developer Sterling Bay to build two mixed-use buildings at 1300 W. Carroll Ave.
The first building would include a maximum of 361 residential units and some office space and be 42 stories tall. The second phase of the project could include up to 380 dwelling units, zoning attorney Richard Klawiter said at Tuesday’s committee meeting.
Twenty percent of the units will be affordable, including 72 onsite units in the first building, Klawiter said.
Wicker Park Residential Buildings
Two controversial Wicker Park residential developments were also advanced by the zoning committee Tuesday after the local alderperson submitted letters of “no objection” earlier this month.
Grand Properties Acquisitions, LLC is seeking zoning changes to build two five-story buildings at 1235-37 and 1257-1301 N. Ashland Ave., the current home of Mike’s Furniture.
The developer hopes to build 16 units with ground-floor commercial space at 1235-37 N. Ashland Ave., according to plans submitted to the city. At 1257-1301 N. Ashland Ave., the company envisions 24 units, also with ground-floor commercial.
Eight units across the two buildings would be affordable, meeting the city’s 20 percent affordability requirement.
The developments were temporarily held up this spring after some neighbors, including the Wicker Park Committee, objected to their height, design and other issues.
But after conducting community feedback, Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) allowed the developments to move forward this week. His office said out of about 100 digital responses from neighbors in the West Town area, more than 70 were in favor of the projects.
The buildings will replace “approximately 5 existing residential units” on the 1200 block of North Ashland Avenue, 1st Ward chief of staff Nicholas Zettel said in an email last week.
Englewood Community Center
A plan to transform a closed public school in Englewood into affordable housing, a health clinic and a community center is also moving forward.
The project will repurpose the former Woods Elementary building at 6206 S. Racine Ave. into 48 affordable units, a 22,000-square-foot health center and a community center. Chicago Public Schools closed the Englewood elementary school in 2013, along with 49 other schools.
The Go Green On Racine team — a collective of organizers led by Teamwork Englewood, Inner-City Muslim Action Network, E.G. Woode and the Resident Association of Greater Englewood — is leading the project.
The converted school is one piece of the larger Go Green on Racine initiative, which includes the $5 million Go Community Fresh Market at 1207 W. 63rd St. Organizers are also fighting to reopen the Racine Green Line, which closed nearly 20 years ago.
Known as “The Regenerator,” the converted school will have 48 one- to two-bedroom units, laundry facilities and storage units, developers have said. All apartments will qualify as affordable housing.
The zoning committee Tuesday also approved a mixed-use building with 44 residential units at 1868 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Bucktown, two all-affordable housing buildings in the South Loop and the landmarking of Edgewater’s Epworth Church.
Archie’s Iowa Rockwell Tavern, 2600 W. Iowa St. was granted a zoning change to re-hang its Hamm’s Beer sign after the city made the bar take it down last year due to lack of a permit.
Block Club’s Atavia Reed and Melody Mercado contributed.
Listen to the Block Club Chicago podcast: