Historic buildings across from Wrigley Field closer to demolition despite neighbors' protests

The owners plan to demolish three century-old buildings to make way for new apartments with rooftop pickleball courts and parking.

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Close up of the buildings at 3633, 3631 and 3627 N. Sheffield Ave., showing rooftop seating and a billboard on the center property.

The ownership group of the buildings at 3633, 3631 and 3627 N. Sheffield Ave. are proposing to tear down the properties to construct a new apartment building.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Three century-old buildings across from Wrigley Field — that once offered rooftop seats to view the stadium — could soon be demolished to make way for a five-story apartment building.

Despite neighbors’ efforts to preserve the properties, the City Council’s Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards approved plans to rezone the trio of buildings at 3627, 3631 and 3633 N. Sheffield Ave. so the ownership group can build a 29-unit apartment building.

One of the buildings is best known for the Eamus Catuli sign, which is supposed to mean “Let’s go, Cubs” in Latin. The sign, atop 3633 N. Sheffield Ave., has hung beyond Wrigley Field’s right-field wall for more than 20 years.

The buildings, like others surrounding the ballpark, used to offer rooftop seats looking into Wrigley. A massive video board added to the stadium in 2015 blocked the buildings’ views, so there are no viable commercial uses, Ald. Bennett Lawson (44th) said. Currently, two of the buildings have outdated seats, and one has a billboard sign.

Nearby, the Cubs-owning Ricketts family have installed signs on two of their properties, one for paint-maker Benjamin Moore at 3623 N. Sheffield Ave and a Coca-Cola sign at 1040 W. Waveland Ave.

The owner of the Sheffield Avenue properties, Wrigley Baseball Group LLC, plans to build a 29-unit property with six affordable apartments as well as two rooftop pickleball courts and a roof deck. The company agreed to no rooftop seats or other commercial uses, according to Lawson.

It will also have 11 parking spaces and 21 bike spaces, if approved. The project heads to the City Council for a final vote.

Rendering of the five-story apartment project that would replace three buildings across from Wrigley Field.

Rendering of the 29-unit apartment building that would replace 3627-3633 N. Sheffield Ave.

Provided

A Change.org petition by longtime Lake View resident Lisa Sorenson is seeking to preserve the buildings, calling for other residents to help “save the spirit of Wrigleyville.” It garnered more than 2,300 signatures ahead of the Tuesday’s Zoning Committee meeting.

Sorenson told committee members that the buildings should be landmarked, not demolished.

“Every single person I encountered had no idea of this project,” she said. “What … I want you all to do is to consider this rezone and the historic relevance of these buildings.”

Sorenson, who has lived near the Sheffield buildings for 18 years, said Lawson has been “hiding this project” after introducing it in February to the East Lake View Neighbors group. The February meeting had a small audience, according to Sorenson, and a meeting in March drew about 60 members. But she said many residents couldn’t make the community meetings due to work or having to care for their children.

The majority of the petition’s signatures are from ZIP codes in Lawson’s ward, according to Sorenson.

Change.org lists the top three ZIP codes of supporters as 60657, 60613 and 60614 — areas encompassing or adjacent to Wrigley Field.

The properties at 3633, 3631 and 3627 N. Sheffield Ave. across from Wrigley Field.

The properties at 3633, 3631 and 3627 N. Sheffield Ave. across from Wrigley Field.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Preservation Chicago expressed its disappointment in the planned demolition of the buildings.

The organization’s director of development and policy, Patrick Grossi, said Preservation Chicago rarely opposes zoning amendments. But in this instance, the organization encourages a design that maintains the buildings’ historic exteriors and maintains the “Wrigley experience” and ambiance surrounding the nation’s second-oldest ballpark.

Lawson said a number of revisions were made in response to community feedback.

He said in an emailed statement that after months of community feedback and meetings, he chose to support the project.

“The area surrounding Wrigley Field holds so much significance for many people across our city, and I am pleased that the proposal reflects feedback expressed by neighbors and will bring additional housing to the 44th Ward,” Lawson said. “I look forward to seeing the development receive approval from the full City Council in the weeks to come.”

The proposed building, designed by Chicago-based DXU Architects, is meant to mimic surrounding properties through its stone facade. Decorative designs were added to the ground floor, according to Lawson’s website, and the building’s three arches are meant to mirror those at the existing buildings.

The engagement process has been “robust,” Lawson said, in response to a question from Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd).

Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) praised the development as one of the most “handsome” non-planned development items that’s come before the committee.

“There’s a lot of character built into what’s in front of us here, and I really appreciate it,” he said.

This story has been updated to reflect that the Benjamin Moore and Coca-Cola sign is on the Ricketts’ buildings.

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