Renovation project at Lawrence-Elston
by BRIAN NADIG
A new owner of a two-story mixed-use building at the southwest corner of Lawrence and Elston avenues is renovating the 95-year-old structure and is seeking a zoning change that would allow two additional apartments in the building.
Nicholas Yassan of Rany Management said that he purchased the building earlier this year and that his first effort will be to correct building code violations which resulted from years of neglect. Yassan said that he is seeking to buy other properties in the area and that he hopes to open a brewery in Mayfair some day.
"I’m in this for the long haul," Yassan said at the Sept. 10 meeting of the Mayfair Civic Association. "I’m going to have the building for 50 years, so it’s okay to spend a little more upfront."
Yassan said he has lived on the Northwest Side for 10 years.
Alderman Margaret Laurino’s director of economic development John Riordan told the association that Yassan’s other buildings which he visited are well maintained and that Yassan is making a sincere effort to fix the 14,800-square-foot building at 4459-67 W. Lawrence Ave.
Violations on the Lawrence site have included defective guardrails on a porch, washed-out mortar on a chimney and the improper installation of a rooftop signboard, according to the city Department of Buildings.
The building has seven storefronts, six of which are occupied, and 14 parking spaces in the rear of the property, with the possibility of adding three more spaces, Yassan said. The second-floor apartments are vacant.
The B3-1 zoning of the site permits a maximum of five apartments, but the building was nonconforming because it had six residential units for a long time, according to project officials. However, in recent years two of the apartments were combined into a larger unit that had 10 people living in it, officials said.
Yassan said that he plans to reconfigure some of the units to allow seven apartments and that he is seeking to have the property rezoned to the less restrictive B3-2 to accommodate the change.
Association president Ron Duplack said that while the building’s density would increase, the average apartment size would be smaller. "It’s pretty much a wash in terms of the number of people coming into the building," Duplack said.
While no objections to the zoning request were made at the meeting, some residents sought assurances from Yassan that he would not seek to re-install a billboard that was once located on the roof. According to several residents, the previous billboard there was ugly and had tasteless content.
Association Zoning/Development Committee chairman Chris Lambesis said that the association could ask for a written agreement, such as a restrictive covenant on the property’s deed, that would prohibit a new billboard. Lambesis said that the association has "some leverage" in the matter because Yassan is seeking community support for a zoning change.
Yassan said that he could not commit to a covenant but that he has not considered installing a new billboard on the building.
It also was reported that the association will open a new Web site, and concerns were expressed that many taxicabs are being parked on some of the side streets in the area.