The meeting was organized by Forgotten Chicago, Preservation Chicago, Logan Square Preservation, and the Northwest Chicago Historical Society at Revolution Brewing to raise awareness of the issue (Revolution Brewing, incidentally—built in a 110-year-old former timber warehouse—was featured in the September issue of Chicago Architect). According to an in-depth article in Our Urban Times by Patrick Steffes last month, the plan appears to be to raze the former brewery buildings to make way for a Hhgregg, a big-box store chain selling appliances and electronics that opened 14 stores in the Chicago suburbs in September. Steffes points out that not only are there plenty of other big-box stores within a quarter mile of the proposed building site that sell the same type of products (he's even got a chart), there are also plenty of vacant lots and empty buildings in the area that don't date back to the 19th century.
But while that technically means the buildings can be demolished at any time, the site they're built on is zoned for manufacturing, Kaplan says. If Hhgregg wants to build a store on the site, they'll have to get the zoning changed to retail—and Moreno has promised to block that zoning change unless the developers commit to using the existing building rather than leveling it. I wasn't at the November 21 event (which sold out, with more than 120 people attending), but Kaplan sent me a transcription of some of Moreno's remarks. An excerpt is below.
The current prospective developers need a zoning change, from me, from the community, in order to build their big box, in my opinion unattractive, store lot, OK? So, what I'm committing to do is . . . I am not going to give them that zoning change, so they cannot build that building. I would like to work with them to see if they could perhaps reuse this beautiful building. . . . If we can save one last remnant of our past on that stretch [of Elston Avenue], I think it's worth the effort.
Incidentally, Lee Bey wrote about the complex and its possible demise on the WBEZ blog back in September, and has some nice photos. And Bruce Mobley, who collects vintage beer bottles, has a couple fascinating photos of Brand Brewing bottles on his website.
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