Historical groups seeking changes to firehouse plan
by BRIAN NADIG
The developer of the Jefferson Park firehouse project, which would feature Lake Effect Brewing and nine apartments, hopes that the final design will incorporate recommendations from historical and preservation groups.
Ambrosia Homes is planning to purchase the 114-year-old firehouse building at 4835 N. Lipps Ave. from the city and add two floors to the two-story structure, which is located near the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal. The building has been vacant since the 45th Ward Sanitation Yard moved out about 5 years ago.
"I think it’s a neat building, (and) we want to do something really special with the building," Ambrosia owner Tim Pomaville said.
Alderman John Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said that the projected received "overwhelming" support at a community meeting last year.
"The community is excited about Lake Effect Brewery coming to Downtown Jefferson Park," Brugh said. "The builder is continuing to work through design changes in response to the concerns of the Northwest Chicago Historical Society and Preservation Chicago."
In a recent statement, Preservation Chicago urged that the historic two-story look of the building remain, with any additional floors being set back 10 feet.
"This would allow for exterior patio space on the roof as well as protecting and respecting the historic structure," the group said.
A rendering presented at the community meeting showed that the third- and fourth-floors would not be set back, but Pomaville said that he is exploring several options. The existing locations of load-bearing columns inside the building create limitations on how the upper floors can be constructed, he said.
"We are going to work with the (community), whether it’s a 10-foot setback or a five-foot setback or something else. There are structural engineering limitations," Pomaville said.
Preservation Chicago also is recommending that the front balconies be removed and that the triangular pediment and corner elements of the original firehouse "be rebuilt on the original second-floor rooflines as closely as possible to the original design based on the historic photographs." The rendering shows that the decorative elements would be along the fourth-floor roofline.
Preservation Chicago said that while the setback would reduce the amount of usable interior space on the upper floors, the enclosed balconies could be returned to interior space or a fifth floor could be considered for the project.
Considering that a 16-story building is planned for a nearby parcel at 4849 N. Lipps Ave., "the additional height does not seem to be a significant issue," the group said.
Pomaville said that he plans to have a balcony or a patio for each unit.
Preservation Chicago and the Northwest Chicago Historical Society support the overall concept of the project, "but strongly urge Alderman Arena to insist that the development team take greater care to return lost historic elements to the building. The current rendering fails to accomplish this," Preservation Chicago said in its statement.
Preservation Chicago executive director Ward Miller said that the group is meeting with Arena in late January to discuss the firehouse and other preservation issues in the 45th Ward.
Miller said that Arena has supported efforts to designate a Queen Anne-style house at 3916 N. Tripp Ave. as a city landmark, and that the Chicago Landmarks Commission could be voting on the proposal in February.
The city has placed on hold a permit application to demolish the house, which was once home to John Nuveen, a famous marketer of municipal bonds in the early 1900s, Miller said. The house is located in Old Irving Park, and a city landmark district designation should be considered for the area given its high number of buildings with architectural or historical significance, he said.
Another local concern is the future of the former Sears Department Store at 4730 W. Irving Park Road, Miller said. The store’s facades along Irving Park and Cicero Avenue were designed by prominent architect George Nimmons and should be preserved as part of the site’s redevelopment, Miller said.