Lake Effect Brewing plan gets warm reception but concerns raised about adding floors to Jeff Park firehouse
by BRIAN NADIG
News that Lake Effect Brewery would be opening up inside the former Jefferson Park firehouse at 4835 N. Lipps Ave. received a warm welcome at a March 8 community meeting, although concerns were raised about plans to convert the historic two-story structure to four stories.
“This is basically a local brewery, born and raised in Jefferson Park, (and) a lot of my team lives in the neighborhood,” said Lake Effect owner Clint Bautz, who received a loud round of applause from the crowd of more than 125 people at the Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave. Alderman John Arena (45th) hosted the meeting.
Plans call for the brewery to have a taproom, an outdoor patio and eventually a kitchen on the 3,670-square-foot ground floor, which features a 14 ½-foot-tall ceiling.
Bautz said that his current facility at 4727 W. Montrose Ave. would be used for barrel aging after the Lipps location opens.
A gathering area for food trucks also is planned for along the north side of the building, and there would be six outdoor parking spaces in the rear of the site for the tenants of the nine apartments on the second through fourth floors. The projected monthly rent for the apartments would be about $2,000, said Tim Pomaville of Ambrosia Homes, which is planning to buy the firehouse property from the City of Chicago.
An audience member recommended that additional parking be located on the south side of the property.
Pomaville said that the 112-year-old building is located along the lot line and that the existing parking lot to the south belongs to Northwestern College, 4829 N. Lipps Ave. and that windows would not be allowed on the south side of the building because it is on the lot line. The college campus recently went up for sale, including its two-story building at 4811 N. Milwaukee Ave. and parking lot at 4830 N. Lipps Ave.
The city plans to sell the firehouse to Ambrosia through a negotiated sale for the market rate value of the property instead of a bidding process that would include a request for proposals. The firehouse closed in the early 1980s and then served as the 45th Ward Sanitation Yard, but the building has been vacant for the past several years.
Developer Hubert Cioromski of Troy Realty said that he also submitted a proposal for the fire station site to Arena and that it included plans for a brewpub on the ground floor and the addition of a third floor and a roof deck, with a total of six apartments. “My only concern is that an RFP (bidding process) be placed on the table,” Cioromski said.
Cioromski said after the meeting that he was working with Jameson’s Original Charhouse, which has several suburban locations, on the pub concept but that he also would be willing to include Lake Effect in his plan.
Arena said that he prefers that the property be sold through a negotiated sale rather than a bidding process because it would take less time. Arena said that he liked Ambrosia’s plan over Troy’s because it involved a local establishment and that Ambrosia’s proposal “checked off more boxes” on what he felt would make for a successful redevelopment project.
While audience members voiced strong support for Lake Effect’s portion of the proposal, some residents held up signs stating “No Extra Floors” in reference to plans to increase the height of the building.
Members of the Northwest Chicago Historical Society have expressed concern that under the proposal the building would not remain two stories in effort to better preserve the historical and architectural integrity of the firehouse, which at one time featured a decorative, triangular-shaped parapet wall on its facade. Ambrosia hopes to duplicate a similar triangle on the top of the proposed fourth floor.
Historical society researcher Frank Suerth said that more than 20 former firehouses in the city have been repurposed and that none of those projects have included a vertical addition. The uses for those former fire stations include a church, a museum, restaurants, storefronts, offices, a single-family home and a two-flat.
Under the proposal it appears that the second floor would be demolished to allow for three similar-looking floors of apartments with recessed balconies, Suerth said.
If the addition were to be part of the plan, the third and fourth floors should be set back about 10 feet front the front of the building so that they would not be easily visible to passers-by, Suerth said. The setback would help maintain the two-story feel of the original building, as current plans call for no setback, he said.
“If we can make it economically viable, I like that idea a lot,” Pomaville said of the setback recommendation. He added that a structural engineering study needs to be conducted to determine what type of addition the existing structure could support.
Cioromski said that he would be interested in redeveloping the firehouse as a two-story project.
Arena contends that the addition would be part of a larger effort to increase density near the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave. A 16-story building with 114 apartments is planned for 4849 N. Lipps Ave.
Also at the meeting, Pomaville reported that the firehouse includes a 7-foot-tall basement which has had a history of flooding problems. The proposed four-story building would be 52 feet tall, with 12-foot ceilings for the apartments.
The project requires the site to be rezoned from B3-2 to C1-3.
Ambrosia also is seeking to build a 3 ½-story apartment building on the former K House of Flowers site at Milwaukee and Foster avenues.