The proposal has been in the works for years and is moving forward with the support of the owner of three of the properties, Laramar Goup, said Ald. Michele Smith (43rd), who represents Lincoln Park. Laramar has agreed to preserve its structures as part of a larger development plan that would include two new apartment buildings on Halsted, she said.
“This has been in the hopper for a very long time, and we’re glad it’s coming up,” Smith said. “Laramar has had a history in our neighborhood of buying historic buildings and keeping them. We appreciate their efforts.”
The proposal would also need the approval of the Chicago City Council.
Landlords sometimes fight landmarking proposals for their properties because it prevents them from demolishing or changing buildings. But landmarked buildings are also eligible for tax incentives that can make properties more profitable to own.
The proposal would protect buildings at 1727-1729 N. Halsted, currently the AG亚洲国际游戏home of Boka restaurant; 1733 N. Halsted, occupied by Pizza Capri; 1730-1732 N. Halsted, the longtime AG亚洲国际游戏home of Vinci, an Italian restaurant; and 1800 N. Halsted, where the Willow Room, another bar and restaurant, opened four years ago. The buildings, which include apartments on their upper floors, were constructed between 1880 and 1890.
Back in 2013, Chicago developer Golub floated a proposal to raze the building at 1800 N. Halsted, then the AG亚洲国际游戏home of the Black Duck Tavern & Grille, to make way for an apartment development on the block.
But Smith shot down that idea, and Golub opted instead to sell its properties in the neighborhood—11 buildings totaling 143 apartments—to Laramar, a Chicago multifamily landlord. Golub made out well in the 2014 sale, receiving $50 million from Laramar, more than double what it paid for the properties in 2012.
Of the four buildings before the landmarks panel, Laramar owns all but 1733 N. Halsted, which is owned by local investor James Masterson III, according to Cook County property records. A Laramar executive did not respond to a request for comment, and efforts to reach Masterson were unsuccessful.
In 2016, Laramar unveiled a proposal to construct two apartment buildings with 21 units, one on a parking lot just south of Vinci and the other on a parking lot just north of a building it owns at 1818 N. Halsted. Laramar is sticking with that plan, Smith said.
Designed in the Italianate and Queen Anne Style popular in the late 19th century, the four buildings serve as well-preserved examples of the period and provide a “gateway” to Lincoln Park from the city, according to the planning department report.
“Taken together, these buildings create a sense of place that exemplifies the historical significance of neighborhood mixed-use buildings and the streetscapes they created,” the report says.
The buildings also “exemplify the importance of Chicago's Germans, one of the largest ethnic communities in the city's history,” according to the report. The area between Chicago and Fullerton avenues was the “epicenter” of the German community in Chicago in the late 19th century.
“With the wave of development in the Lincoln Park community area in the 1880s and 1890s, concentrations of German bakeries, tailor shops, butchers, woodworking shops, and other small businesses run by local residents began to flourish in the neighborhood,” the report says.
Germans lived in and ran businesses out of the four buildings on Halsted street. Ludwig Hammerstrom, who emigrated from Prussia in 1856, built the structure at 1800 N. Halsted. The building’s cornice includes a small inscription, “L. Hammerstrom’s Hall,” a nod to a public meeting hall on the building’s third floor.
At the meeting today, the landmarks commission will consider granting “preliminary” landmark status to the four buildings, the first step in the landmarking process. Assuming the proposal moves forward, the panel will consider assigning “final” landmark status to the properties at a later date.