February 4, 2009

The Chicago Landmarks Ordinance and Uptown

The Chicago Landmarks Ordinance provides individual buildings, sites, objects, and even entire districts with legal protection. As of April 2008, 309 Chicago Landmarks have been designated by the City Council, including 259 individual designations and 50 landmark districts. Some 9,000 properties are protected by the ordinance. The Commission is responsible for reviewing any proposed alteration, demolition, or new construction affecting individual landmarks or properties in landmark districts as part of the permit review process.

Last week, a court ruled the ordinance was unconstitutional because it found the seven standards used to determine whether a building qualifies for landmarking are "too vague." Lynn Becker at ArchitecturePlus Chicago discusses this disturbing news in some detail. Read his article and see if you can make sense of the rationale behind the court's decision.

How could this affect the Uptown area? Well, there are a number of buildings and districts in the area that fall under the ordinance. These include the Uptown Theatre, which was designated a Chicago Landmark in 1991. Alta Vista Terrace became a landmark in 1971, The Bryn Mawr and Bell Shore Apartments in 1999, Essanay Movie Studios in 1996, Hutchinson Street in 1997, Immaculata High School in 1983. The very history of the neighborhood is at stake.

We'll keep you up to date on what we learn of the continuing court battle.

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