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Former Double Door Space Gets Downzoned As Fight Between Landlord & Wicker Park Alderman Reaches Turning Point

By Stephen Gossett in News on Oct 12, 2017 4:51PM


The contentious saga over the former Double Door property reached a major turning point on Wednesday, when the City Council voted to rezone the building that housed the legendary music club for more than 20 years. The so-called downzoning move adds news limits to how landlord Brian Strauss can use the building and and gives Wicker Park Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st) more say-so in terms of potential changes.

The new zoning reclassification would make it more difficult for Strauss to pursue a large-scale commercial development at the property, and it adds restrictions to how residential units can be sized. As noted by DNAinfo, who first reported the story, the property, at 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave., would shift from a zoning district that favors larger stores and retail centers, and is common to major streets and intersections, to a mixed-used district that would allow for either retail or apartments at the ground level.

A Zoning Committee agreed to the change in September, setting up yesterday's full Council vote. Two aldermen—James Cappelman (46th) and Patrick O'Connor (40th)—bucked so-called aldermanic privilege and voted against the rezoning, according to DNAinfo.

Strauss' lawyer, Jim McKay, told Chicagoist that previous moves to change the zoning had a "tremendous" damaging effect on the property's value. Strauss lost two contracts as a result of earlier downzoning proposals and has seen two contracts to sell fizzle while also losing tenants, McKay said.

The downzoning vote is "further proof of the illegitimate legislative action taken by city officials to enable one of their own, who abused his authority for personal reasons rather than any community benefit," McKay said.

Strauss filed a lawsuit in January against Moreno over his attempts to restrict the property, which is in the midst of renovations. It also names the City of Chicago and the Zoning Committee. Strauss alleges that Moreno carried out a "vindictive and irresponsible attack" against the property owner, claiming that Moreno's "spot zoning" proposal was motivated by "a personal and financial relationship" with Double Door ownership. Strauss argues that the zoning change precipitously damages the value of his property. Moreno denies any financial relationship with the Double Door camp and has called the lawsuit frivolous.

A clip emerged in May of a heated argument between Moreno and Strauss taking place outside the old club on the day Double Door was evicted, last winter. "You can't sign new leases for your tenants. It's going to be an empty building with no income for you or your family. End of conversation," Moreno is seen saying. Moreno told Chicagoist in February, "What started out as an amicable conversation, became an intense one because we are both adamant about our stances."

The Double Door was finally evicted from its longtime location in February after several months of legal fighting between Strauss and club ownership.

Moreno was not immediately available for comment.

Former Double Door property under renovations, October 2017 / Photo: Jim Kopeny

[H/T DNAinfo]

This post has been updated.