As the building boom in Chicago continues well into 2017, developers are rushing to keep up with the pace of demand for new housing. However, periods of rapid growth in construction generally also spell trouble for older homes. And neighborhoods like Lincoln Park and Lakeview—areas that attracted investment largely thanks to their lakefront location and their historic housing stock—are seeing developers demolish 19th century buildings at an alarming rate.
Chicago’s high-demand lakefront neighborhoods are not strangers to teardown activity. In the last several years, hundreds of single family homes and multi-unit buildings have been demolished throughout Chicago, but neighborhoods like Lakeview, North Center, and Lincoln Park are leading the way. And often times to clear the path for a pricey new mansion, older, smaller homes dating back to the 19th or early 20th century are torn down.
Architecture blog Chicago Patterns has recently identified and highlighted a handful of such 19th century buildings located throughout the North Side that are doomed. A lovely and well-maintained Gingerbread Gothic at 1944 N. Sedgwick in Lincoln Park, an Italianate multi-unit at 231 W. Scott in Old Town, and a classic brick two-flat at 742 W. Buckingham in Lakeview all appear to be slated for demolition. And because none of the homes highlighted by Chicago Patterns are orange rated on the Chicago Historic Resources Survey (CHRS), there are no protections for the homes and they will not be added to the city’s Demolition Delay Hold List.
Chicago Patterns highlights the real estate listings for these residences, which often times include language that attempts to lure investors. Often times, listing agents will suggest that such properties are being sold at land value or that the property is under-utilized. For example, in the listing notes for 742 W. Buckingham, the listing agent emphatically suggests in all-caps that the property’s zoning makes the building teardown potential.
As long as there is demand for new luxury housing, it’s very likely that the demolition of Chicago’s historic housing stock will continue. Last year saw the erasure of many many historic worker cottages in neighborhoods like the Gold Coast and Lincoln Park, and it’s safe to say that these types of buildings are now endangered species.