This is the cover story from the Winter 2017/2018 RMIA newsletter.
In 2007, when Ravenswood Manor was being considered for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, an architectural survey found that 91 percent of its 520 buildings “contributed to the character” of the proposed historic district.
Today, just a decade later, that figure has dropped to 83 percent, due to the demolition—or major exterior alterations—of a number of historic buildings in the 60-acre neighborhood, which is roughly bounded by the Chicago River, Lawrence, Montrose, and Sacramento avenues.
In the past four years, for example, three of the area’s original “Model Homes,” which were built in 1909-10 by pioneering real estate developer William E. Harmon, have been demolished or seriously altered. Several other controversial projects, including 4432 N. Mozart St., have brought attention to the fact that existing zoning controls are insufficient to address some redevelopment projects.
As a result, in November 2017, the Ravenswood Manor Improvement Association Board voted to commission a study of the neighborhood’s potential for designation as a Chicago Landmark District. This action followed an earlier recommendation by the RMIA’s Zoning Committee to consider local landmark protection as a way to help regulate major exterior alterations and building demolition.
Following are some common questions and answers relating to potential Chicago Landmark designation.
What are the chances that Ravenswood Manor will meet the standards for designation as a Chicago Landmark District?
Preliminary indications are the neighborhood should meet at least two of the required criteria for landmark designation: “Distinctive Theme as a District” and “Exemplary Architecture.” The Ravenswood Manor subdivision was developed following the extension of the Ravenswood Branch of the Northwestern Elevated Railroad (CTA Brown Line) in 1907.
Ninety-six percent of the buildings in Ravenswood Manor were constructed between 1909 and 1933, according to the National Register nomination. The neighborhood also features standard lot sizes and building setbacks. A consistent historic character is defined by such early-20th century architectural styles as American Four Square, Chicago Bungalow, Colonial Revival, Craftsman, Free Classic, and Tudor Revival.
How long does the landmark designation process take?
Creating a Chicago Landmark District usually takes about a year—from the drafting of a research report to a preliminary designation by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks (CCL) to an official listing by the Chicago City Council.
When will residents be able to comment about the potential landmark designation?
The RMIA plans to hold a couple of public meetings, including the Semi-Annual Meeting on April 2nd (after the research report is prepared) and at least one during the designation process itself. We also will solicit comments from residents via a dedicated email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If the CCL determines the district meets the landmark criteria, it will vote a preliminary determination, after which a “request for owner consent” would be mailed to each property owner in the proposed district. After those consent forms are received, the CCL will hold a public hearing. If, following that meeting, the CCL recommends landmark designation to the City Council, the Committee on Zoning, Landmarks, and Building Standards will hold a final public hearing.
What type of building alterations will need approval if the Manor becomes a local landmark district?
Once the CCL determines the district is eligible for landmark designation, all exterior changes requiring a City of Chicago building permit—including demolition, new construction, and additions visible from the public right-of-way—will be subject to review by the city’s Historic Preservation staff. Paint colors and landscaping do not require city permits and interior alterations are not subject to review in a landmark district, although they may be in an individual landmark, such as the Chicago Board of Trade Building or a design by Frank Lloyd Wright. (Note: If the CCL decides, following its public hearing, not to recommend landmark designation to the City Council, temporary review of exterior changes would be dropped.)
Are any financial incentives available for owners of Chicago Landmark properties?
The main incentive for a residential property owner in a Chicago Landmark District is a “building permit fee waiver” for rehabilitation projects, which is approved through the local alderman’s office. Ravenswood Manor already is eligible for a Property Tax Freeze Program (see Manor News, Winter 2016), due to its listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
What is the impact of landmark designation on property values—or on real estate taxes?
Virtually every economic study has shown no negative impact on property values following landmark designation. In fact, some studies have shown a slight increase in property values, because of the certainty that local landmark protection provides. Real estate taxes are not directly affected by district landmark designation.
Where are some other Chicago Landmark Districts?
The city has more than 50 landmark districts. Some of the best known are: East Lake Shore Drive, Michigan Boulevard, Old Town Triangle, Pullman, and Wicker Park. The closest residential landmark districts to the Manor are: Alta Vista Terrace (3800-block, north of Wrigley Field), Dover Street (4500- to 4700-blocks), Logan Square Boulevard, Old Edgebrook (south of Devon, west of Central), and the Villa (north of Addison, east of Pulaski)
Where can I get more information?
Please check out the Historic Preservation section of the City of Chicago’s web site, which includes a list of Chicago Landmarks, the Landmarks Ordinance, the Rules and Regulations of the Commission for Chicago Landmarks, and “Q&As for Owners of Proposed Chicago Landmarks.” You also are invited to send your comments or questions to email@example.com.
Last modified: January 14, 2018