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Building houses varied hopes for community

Submitted on Tue, 08/07/2007 – 12:51.
Story by Jamie Morgan

For the past 20 years, the six-story Morris B. Sachs building at 2800 N. Milwaukee has gone largely unused, except for the Payless Shoe Store outlet and nail salon on the first floor.

The boarded-up and broken windows on the other five floors are an eyesore to many Logan Square residents and community groups, who are anxiously waiting to see this triangular art \-deco building restored as an integral part of the community.

It once was a fine clothing department store run by entrepreneur Morris B. Sachs, said Ward Miller, vice president of  Logan Square Preservation. The top three floors were filled with medical and dental offices.

The store closed in the 1960s and floated between different owners until 2005, when Gary Poter, owner of Poter Construction and Development, and his partner Anthony Ruh bought the building in 2005 for $3.3 million.

Poter than bought out Ruh and began working with Ald. Rey Colon (35th Ward) on developing market-rate condominiums.

Colon worked with the city to have the six-corner intersection at Milwaukee, Kimball and Diversey avenues landmarked, which waived parking requirements that Poter would have had to meet in order to put up residential units.  In return, Poter would set aside 20 percent of the units as affordable housing, a popular choice with many aldermen.

However, just as plans were under way, Poter was stabbed in the chest and killed by an angry employee, Tom Tuduj, in May 2006.

“The Poter family is ready to liquidate that asset,” said Colon.

The city’s Department of Planning and Commission is in the process of buying the building, according to spokeswoman Constance Buschemi. And according to a source close to the family, the property will go for about $4 million. After the city buys the building, it will issue a request for proposal and different development companies can then put in bids for a development plan. Colon says that may happen later this month.

Last November, Colon held a community meeting about the building, and many residents and organizations already have come to the alderman with different ideas.

“Some people have talked about having residential for veterans, artists’ lofts and artists’ work space, market-rate condos, rental units because there’s no parking, transit-oriented development and things like that,” says Colon.

Colon wrote a letter of approval backing a Humboldt Park social services group’s proposal for supportive housing with wraparound services, such as job counseling, educational training and addiction treatment.

He also says that because there is no parking, it would be ideal to house residents who rely on public transportation rather than cars. Three buses, the No. 82,  No. 76 and No. 56 pass through the intersection, and the Blue Line train stops only a few blocks away.

The Logan Square Neighborhood Association is also in favor of developing the Sachs building as the community’s first supportive housing property for singles and families, rather than turning it into condominiums.

However, the supportive housing idea received little support from residents who see it as a homeless shelter, rather than long-term housing.

A more popular idea within the community is affordable housing, and companies like Brinshore Development have already come to the alderman with viable plans.  Vice President Adam Natenshon says his company is known for developing affordable housing in landmarked buildings.

The company won an award last year from the Landmark Preservation Council of Illinois for their Rehabilitation of the Sala Flats in Rock Island, where the firm removed asbestos, created 33 residential units and maintained the exterior of the building.

A request for proposals hasn’t been released yet, so Brinshore doesn’t have a set proposal, but Natenshon says “creation of affordable housing is really our specialty.”

“People who work in the community and have worked there for years are getting priced out of the community,” he says.

And as a Logan Square resident, Natenshon says his interest in the Sachs building goes beyond business.  “Instead of it being this eyesore on the street, it will help create a real vibrant street life in that community,” he says. “It has commercial opportunity.  It’s a shame it’s been vacant so long.”

Ward Miller, an architect and spokesman for Logan Square Preservation, also is eager to transform the property into a useful community asset, but hopes that the city uses the space wisely.

He says that because of its high ceilings, unique wedge-shaped corner and location at a six-point intersection, residential units, whether supportive or affordable, may not be ideal for this space.

Instead, he wants to see it converted into a space for local artists, like Chicago Ballet, which is based in Logan Square, on the first two floors and office space for local non-profits on the upper floors.

“It could really create a dynamic, viable building that would be busy morning, noon and night,” says Ward.

Planning & Development Public West Side
alderman rey colon department of planning and commission logan square logan square neighborhood association

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