125-year-old house on Kenneth to be demolished for Northwestern Medical project in Old Irving Park; the residential lot may be used for underground stormwater retention tank
by BRIAN NADIG
Several neighbors are upset about a plan to demolish 125-year-old house in the 3900 block of North Kenneth Avenue to accommodate the upcoming construction of the block-long Northwestern Medical Group facility along the south side of Irving Park Road between Kenneth and Kilbourn Avenue.
At a July 13 virtual community meeting, a resident said that the project was intended for a commercial street and that the pending demolition of the house extends the reach of the project.
“This is a very important conceptional line being crossed,” the resident said. The house is the first residential property on the west side of Kenneth, just to the south of the block-long development parcel on Irving Park.
The residential property is being targeted for an underground stormwater retention tank, and the structural integrity of the house could be compromised if it were left there during the digging of a hole which is needed for the storage system’s installation, according to Northwestern officials.
Plans also call for construction office trailers to be housed on the residential property during the project.
Northwestern director of planning and construction Charles Cloutier said that the Northwestern did not purchase the house for the purposes of the underground stormwater system but that the city later expressed concern about using the alley behind the development site for underground infrastructure.
“You’ll never know it was there,” Cloutier said of the tank. “It’s completely underground.”
Cloutier added that after the construction of the project is completed, the residential lot could be used as a green space or small park and feedback from the community will be sought but that a new house will not be built there.
Some residents questioned whether the site could be used for a commercial project given its RS-2 zoning, which is intended primarily for single-family homes, but Cloutier said that the city has indicated that the underground system can be installed there.
A resident expressed dismay that Northwestern was building a “giant glass building in an historic neighborhood” and is now also being allowed to demolish a house on a residential street. The facility, which will include a parking garage, will measure about 320,000-square feet, with four levels above grade and two levels below grade.
Other residents said that the architect of the house, which has a 3936 N. Kenneth Ave. address, also designed a nearby house on Tripp Avenue that is a Chicago landmark.
The meeting was hosted by Alderman James Gardiner (45th) and was intended primarily to provide residents with a construction schedule for the project. Excavation is scheduled to start in August, with the building being ready for occupancy starting in the spring of 2023.
In addition, two lanes of traffic in each direction on Irving Park will be maintained during the construction, and southbound traffic will be allowed on Kilbourn and northbound on Kenneth.
All trees on the site (not including the parkway) will be removed given that the building will be from lot line to lot line. Some additional trees are planned for the parkway.
At the end of the meeting, Gardiner said that “all concerns” will be addressed.