The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Sneaky Condo Deals In Bucktown? What Gives Us That Idea?

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 6, 2006 5:59PM

2006_01_dodger.jpgMonths back while writing a post about the now-defunct BOS Distilling Company we lamented briefly on the then-recent closing of the Artful Dodger. Folks with fond memories of the Dodger knew that it was being consigned to memory long before it finally closed its doors, with whispers floating around that the building at 1734 West Wabansia with the Queen Anne style architecture was slated to be sold, razed, re-zoned and turned into condos.

Well, that's now quickly becoming a reality. As evidenced by this series of articles and editorials in the Chicago Journal, the Artful Dodger building was placed on the city's 90-day demolition hold list on November 18th, which is used to inform residents of pending plans to tear down buildings on the city's historic register. The building is listed on the register, but is not listed as an official landmark. It also resides outside the boundaries of the historic Wicker Park landmark district. Now the architectural organization Preservation Chicago is organizing efforts to save the Artful Dodger building.

The Bucktown Community Organization held a special meeting December 18th to discuss the planned teardown, following a 28-2 vote by the Wicker Park Committee against razing the building on December 14th. The BCO's zoning and planning committee said that it was never given plans for the Artful Dodger building's demolition and only learned of the project a month ago, after the City Council approved the 90-day hold.

In the middle of all this is 32nd Ward Alderman Ted Matlak, who isn't exactly pulling a Pontius Pilate and washing his hands of the situation. It was Matlak who supported a proposal to upzone the property from RS-3 to RS-4 to allow for more condo units, noting that after the demolition of the building the property will hold two single-family homes, parking spaces for both units, and the removal of a tavern on a residential street, which of course would make His Elective Majesty happy ("His Elective Majesty" is not a registered trademark of Gaper's Block's Ramsin Canon, but should be). Alderman Matlak conveniently notes that he'd feel differently about the proposed demolition if the Dodger were a landmark, that "standard notification requirements were met" regarding the plan, and that he hasn't heard any objections from area residents to the plan.

That's probably because the Chicago Journal isn't necessarily a household paper. Never mind the old memories some of us have of hanging at the Artful Dodger; this building has character that cannot be replaced by any new building that rises from its rubble. The neighborhood isn't the same as when Chicagoist was younger, but this building still has some purpose, even if a tavern isn't in its plans. If you live in Bucktown and are concerned about this demolition, click the links to Preservation Chicago, the WPC and the BCO and get involved. And click the link to Alderman Matlak and let him know what a tool he's being.

1/6/2K6 Update: Katharine Grayson of the Chicago Journal comes through again with this article detailing a petition drive held at the Damen Avenue/Wicker Park "L" station last week that garnered over 1,000 signatures. Preservation Chicago is sponsoring a community meeting to discuss the fate of the Artful Dodger building at the Lincoln Tavern (1858 W. Wabansia) Saturday, January 7th at 11:30 a.m.