Lincoln Square businesses gain reprieve

Ald. Eugene Schulter (D-47th) backed away from a controversial plan today that would have authorized the city to seize properties occupied by some Lincoln Square businesses as part of a redevelopment effort.

The businesses include about 20 stores in the 4800 block of North Western Avenue. They include Chicago Soccer, as well as a furniture store, a comic book store, a small cafe, an H & R block, and a dress store. Many of the businesses are small, immigrant-operated concerns.

Under a revised plan detailed in a press release issued today, Schulter said the city will only redevelop properties north of 4807 N. Western if the owners agree to sell.

“As I have stated from the beginning, this is going to be a collaborative process," the release said. "Language is now being changed in the ordinance to assure many of the property owners and other stakeholders that we are in this process together. "

The release said the city may attempt to gain control of the Walgreen's store, 4801 N. Lincoln, even if the pharmacy does not cooperate.

The properties along Western represented the first phase in the Western North Redevelopment Project, which encompasses 70 blocks and 437 buildings in Lincoln Square and Uptown.

Schulter's move came after he met with a group of business owners today.

Last Wednesday, 200 residents turned out for a meeting at which business owners denounced the plan and said Schulter's plan had hurt their sales. After the meeting, a large contingent of residents marched to Schulter's office to protest the proposed property seizures.

The ordinance will not be going before the full City Council on Wednesday, as originally planned. Instead, it will be revised and reviewed again by the Housing and Real Estate Committee.

Nick Tomo, who purchased a boarded-up building on the block last year, said he is not sure whether he will go ahead and sell to the city.

Tomo paid $1.2 million for the building last year with plans to restore it to its 1930s-era glory and outfit it for retail stores on the first floor and four condominiums on the second floor.

He had to stop work on the building in July and lay off his construction crew after the city refused his request for work permits. At that time he learned that the property was on the city's acquisition list.

Tomo is considering his options. He said the city has reassured him that it will pay him fair market value for the building should he decide to sell.

“If the city will not give me the papers to go ahead, it's not worth the delays,” he said.

He is also hoping that he will be reimbursed for the money he lost as the building sat vacant.

“It's been almost six months since we stopped work,” he said. “It could have been done by now.”

Kim Le who, along with her husband, established Decorium Furniture six years ago after immigrating to Chicago from Vietnam, remains uncertain about the future.

“I'm a little relieved,” she said, in response to the alderman's statement. “But it [her store] is still in the acquisition zone in the city's plan. I'm not sure what that means for the future.”

Discuss

TOM MANNIS, 12-13-2007

This story misses the point. It is NOT over. Schulter said he would reintroduce it in January. Furthermore, this is not just about Lincoln Square. Which ward, which other city, where else in America will this be tried - and completed - again? See http://www.pioneerlocal.com/newsstar/news/690148,SN-EminentDomainLatest-121007-s1.article