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Arcade Building Seeks Landmark Status with Petition

Julie Whitehair | The PHOENIXShopping arcades consist of a group of stores under a covered passageway. The Woodruff Arcade Building is the last shopping arcade in Chicago, according to the Edgewater Historical Society.

The Edgewater Historical Society has created a petition to help grant landmark status to the nearly century-old Woodruff Arcade Building in the hopes of saving it from demolition.

The Woodruff Arcade Building is located next to Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus and houses several businesses, including a Planned Parenthood, a Bank of America ATM, Halsey Onstage Costume Design, The Mustard Seed Christian Bookstore and The Coffee Shop.

The building was sold in December to a new owner and the businesses leasing the space were told they have until the end of 2017 to leave. The building is set to be replaced with residential apartments with retail space on the first floor, The PHOENIX reported in February.

But if the Edgewater Historical Society’s petition works, it could save the building and its businesses.

Michael McDevitt | The PHOENIXThe petition to save the Woodruff Arcade Building, created the Edgewater Historical Society, hopes to persuade Alderman Harry Osterman to support its effort at landmark status.

The Commission on Chicago Landmarks grants landmark status to a building, structure, area, district or work of art if it falls under two of seven criteria, according to the Chicago Landmarks Ordinance.

The criteria includes a structure’s historic significance, its significant architectural style, its creation by a known architect, its unique location and its distinct appearance, according to the ordinance.

The Edgewater Historical Society’s preservation committee co-chair LeRoy Blommaert said the building has to meet an additional integrity criteria, meaning most of the building’s original construction remains unaltered.

“This building no question meets the integrity [criteria]. It’s actually very well maintained. I was surprised,” Blommaert said.

When he submitted the application for landmark status in February, Blommaert said he listed the building’s importance to the city and its importance to the Rogers Park community as its two criteria.

“This is the only [shopping arcade] of the early 20th century or even latter part of the 19th century that survived in the city of Chicago,” said Blommaert. “This is the last remaining one. So it’s a unique building.”

A shopping arcade refers to a shopping center with an arched or covered passage, similar to a mall. The Woodruff Arcade has been in its location since 1923, according to the Edgewater Historical Society.

The Coffee Shop, which has called the building its home since 2011, is one of the businesses that’s being forced out due to the sale. Co-owner of The Coffee Shop Tammie Mann said the ownership group plans to close May 15 and will assume landmark status won’t be granted.

“You can’t just wait and then one day be evicted on the street,” Mann said.

Mann doesn’t think the petition will offer much help, either.

“I’m not sure how much [the petition] will help,” Mann said. “I know the alderman is not on board for keeping the neighborhood the way it is, but it’s just wonderful to know that people care about it [and] so it’s been very heartwarming.”

The petition, which Blommaert said has more than 250 signatures, calls on 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman to take action to defend the building.

“We’ve been told, unofficially, … that regardless of whether a building meets the criteria, it doesn’t advance to the [landmark] commission itself unless the alderman whose ward the building sits is in favor of it,” Blommaert said.

Osterman was unavailable for comment as of publication. His Chief of Staff Dan Luna said the alderman’s office would support landmark status for the building if the current property owner wanted it.

Reed Redmond, a Loyola senior and barista at The Coffee Shop, said he’s loved working there since his first year and is sad to see it go.

“This is a business that means a lot to me. I’ve been working here since I started at school and I love the family that owns it,” the 21-year-old English creative writing major said. “They really care about this community and so I was surprised and disappointed they’re going to have to close.”

Blommaert said he made a presentation to the Landmark Commission’s program committee in early March, but without the alderman’s support he said it’s unlikely the building will be seriously considered for landmark status.

Blommaert added he’s not sure if the petition will ultimately be successful in persuading the alderman.

“I don’t know [if it’ll be a successful petition], but we’re trying to show that there’s community support for it, that there are many more people who want to see it saved than see it torn down,” Blommaert said.

News Editor

Michael McDevitt is a junior journalism major from Quincy, Massachusetts and the news editor for The PHOENIX. He started out as a news writer for The PHOENIX in 2015 and then worked as an assistant news editor in 2016. When he's not editing stories, Michael's probably watching “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”