The Chicago Transit Authority voted last week to put a vacant, historically significant property in the Armitage-Halsted Landmark District at 939 W. Armitage Ave. back on the real estate market.
The Queen Anne-style property in Lincoln Park, which is adjacent to the Armitage station’s east side, was partially demolished in 2006 as part of the CTA’s Brown Line expansion to make way for a wider platform. The center part of the property – which is also listed on the National Register for Historic Places – was demolished and renovated, said CTA spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney.
The 5,100-square-foot property was originally put on the market in March, and a local restaurant and bar owner, Bobby Burleson, presented the CTA with the highest bid of $850,000, which it accepted in August. However, after plunking down $10,000 in earnest money, Burleson still needed to come up with a 10 percent deposit. Instead, he didn’t execute the contract and forfeited his $10,000, Gaffney said, leading to the CTA board’s Dec. 9th vote to put the property back on the market. Burleson could not be reached for comment.
“We’re just interested in selling the property,” said Gaffney, adding that the money from the sale will go back into the Brown Line.
The expansion work at the historic Armitage station began in 2006, and early construction included partially demolishing the property at 939 W. Armitage, a masonry building with an ornamental, pressed-metal front façade and zinc panels. Because it is a contributing structure in the Armitage-Halsted Landmark District, the building was required to be at least partially preserved, so its west half was demolished and its east half saved.
Jonathan Fine, executive director of Preservation Chicago, said the CTA “kept the essence of the building,” and that it would “make a good anything.”
“There is always a need for modest, perfectly-scaled building in that kind of a district,” Fine said.
The Armitage station re-opened in June 2008, and the building has sat vacant even though the work was completed.
Paul Dawson, project manager for Jones Lang LaSalle, which is marketing the property, said at this point, it will be up to the CTA to decide how long a second bidding process will stay open. Meanwhile, neighborhood businesses say with many stores already closing on the tony Armitage Avenue, a restaurant or café would be a welcome sight.
“There are not a lot of great places to eat in the neighborhood,” said Sibyle Gander, manager of Art Effect, 934 W. Armitage Ave. “Something that opens up to the street would be great.”
Chuck Eastwood, chief of staff for Ald. Vi Daley (43rd), whose ward the property lies in, said he’d like to also see a restaurant, but “active retail” would work, too.
“Anything but a bank,” said Eastwood. “A bona fide restaurant, not a restaurant posing as a bar. I don’t think anybody wants a bar there.”
Jeff Price, president of the RANCH Triangle Association, said assuming that the building will not be torn down, it could be used for a multitude of purposes.
“I’d like to see a successful retail store on the first floor and perhaps some offices or apartments upstairs,” Price said.