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River North Victorian wedged between high-rises to become office space

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The home’s new owner plans to rehab the existing building and utilize it for offices

Photo courtesy of Gabriel X. Michael

The old Italianate row home at 154 W. Superior Street in River North is a very clear standout for many reasons. Wedged in between two high-rise buildings, the two-story residence is not only a lovely piece of Chicago architecture, but it’s also become a very visible portrait of the changing streetscape throughout Chicago’s greater downtown. Buildings of its vintage in River North are becoming increasingly rare as developers scoop up older properties to replace them with taller, denser, and more profitable structures. And with the flurry of demolitions happening in this latest development cycle, it’s understandable that preservationists would be alarmed at the possible demolition of the old Superior Street residence.

It’s no accident that the home has survived this long. Often compared to the Edith Macefield House in Seattle, the inspiration for Pixar’s Up, the small building stands meagerly between two newer towers that feature luxury condo units. Gregory Cooper, the home’s previous owner, had turned down all offers to sell to developers and even invited friends over for drinks while crews constructed the new buildings around him. Cooper passed away in December 2015 and then last year, the home was marketed and sold as vacant land. The property listed last April with a $1.279 million price tag, but eventually sold for $900,000 in August.

The home was nearly completely obscured by a tree, which was recently removed.
Google Street View

While it seems like an obvious target for demolition and redevelopment, Alderman Brian Hopkins’ (2nd) office tells us that there are no such plans. Last summer, the alderman introduced a downzoning measure from DX-7 to DX-3 to prevent any developers from demolishing the old home and building a taller, denser building by right, but eventually the alderman settled with the property’s new owners at DX-5, Christian Ficara, Alderman Hopkins’ Director of Public Affairs explained.

And as for current plans for the building, Jim Passios of Ceres Partners says that his team plans on turning the Victorian row house into office space. “There have been others that have tried to purchase this building to raze it and replace it with condominiums, but that is not our intentions,” Passios told us. “You will see no difference other than how much better it will look.”

Passios says that the building will be gut rehabbed but the Italianate facade and its matching carriage house will remain intact. There will be no new floors added or demolition of the existing structural walls of the home, Passios tells us. However, the programming will change as it’ll become new office space for Ceres Partners, an Indiana-based firm that manages 90,000 acres of corn and soy bean properties, and Hop Head Farms, a Michigan-based grower of hops for craft breweries.

River North residents will see crews on site in the coming weeks as Passios expects renovation work to begin in March.