Alderman Mary O’Connor hopes crackdown will lead to repairs and tenants in some of the empty storefronts in Edgebrook, Norwood Park
by BRIAN NADIG
Alderman Mary O’Connor (41st) has recommended that the city crack down on the owners of several commercial buildings in Edgebrook and Norwood Park in an effort to get improvements made to the properties and to fill any vacant storefronts.
“When I came into office, I was noticing that there are commercial buildings that have been vacant for years, decades, and that seemed to be by the choice of the property owner,” O’Connor said. “It is not that I was looking to have the city take them to court, but I tried different ways to reach out to them, and none of them have responded to me or my office.”
In some instances, the alderman’s office called phone numbers which were posted on faded for rent signs in the storefront, but calls were not returned, O’Connor said. “Our goal is to have them bring their buildings up to code, and start renting them, or sell the property,” she said.
Efforts to revitalize a shopping district can be stymied by owners who do not maintain their properties or actively seek tenants, and the city has an obligation to the other area owners to address the problem, O’Connor said. The city Department of Buildings has inspected the exterior of the properties being targeted in the crackdown, and the city will seek a court order at a June 13 hearing that will grant them access to the interior, she said.
In Edgebrook, the department in March issued 15 citations to the owner of a property at 5418-22 W. Devon Ave. The alleged violations included the stockpiling of junk and debris in the storefronts, trash and weeds in a rear lot, failure to register a vacant building with the city, and failure to maintain chimney in a safe and working condition, according to the inspection report.
The city also took the owner to court in 2008 in effort to get repairs made to his building, and about 2 years ago the city reportedly towed several abandoned vehicles that were parked being the building. The owner once owned other storefronts on the block, but he sold them about 10 years ago.
In Norwood Park, citations were issued to the owners of properties at 6129-31 N. Northwest Highway, 6135-39 N. Northwest Highway, 7052 W. Higgins Ave., 7100 W. Higgins Ave., 7138-42 W. Higgins Ave., 7144-48 W. Higgins Ave., and 7150-54 W. Higgins Ave. Not all of the storefronts in some of the buildings are vacant, but at least eight alleged building violations were reported at each property, according to the department.
If a multi-storefront building has a single Property Index Number from the Cook County Assessor’s Office, the city files its complaint against the entire property instead of differentiating by storefront, according to an aldermanic aide. In some instances, concerns were raised about the interior condition of an occupied storefront, the aide said.
Construction permits have been issued to replace the roof and install a new steel railing on a porch at 7100 W. Higgins Ave. and to replace the roof on a 1,500-square-foot retail building at 6139 N. Northwest Highway.
The Edgebrook and Norwood Park chambers of commerce have sent e-mails to their members encouraging them to attend the court hearing in support of the city’s efforts.
The hearing was scheduled to be held in Cook County Circuit Court at 9:30 a.m. Friday in Courtroom 1105 at the Daley Center, 50 W. Washington St. The property at 6135-39 N. Northwest Highway will not be addressed at the June 13 hearing because an attorney for the owner filed a motion for another court date, according to the alderman’s office.