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Preservationists push to save critically endangered shopping arcade

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Edgewater’s Woodruff Arcade is the last of its kind, preservationists say

Ward Miller/Preservation Chicago

The booming development cycle has translated to billions of dollars invested in new projects across the city, bringing thousands of new units of housing, hotel rooms, and hundreds of new retail spaces. However, in Chicago neighborhoods, one of the biggest concerns with new development is the effect new buildings and projects will have on an area’s existing character. All too often, treasured buildings and locations are lost to make way for a new development, and the old Woodruff Arcade at 6361 N. Broadway Avenue in Edgewater appears to be playing this same story we’ve seen happen many times already.

A petition which seeks to raise awareness of the building’s critical status was created by the Edgewater Historical Society at the end of May. Since then, it has gained nearly 300 signatures. According to the Edgewater Historical Society, the new owners plan to replace the Woodruff Arcade with a new six-story mixed-use development. The plan to demolish the old shopping arcade not only represents a loss of neighborhood history and identity, but it means the displacement of 14 businesses, the Edgewater Historical Society pleads in their petition to save the building.

Residents first caught wind of a possible redevelopment of the site earlier this year when the building was sold and the new owner announced to tenants that they had to vacate by the end of this year. However, despite the sale of the building and non-renewal of leases, residents are still not sure what is planned for the property. Multiple outlets, including DNAinfo, Loyola University’s student newspaper The Phoenix, and Edgeville Buzz, have in previous stories reported reaching out to the building’s new owners, but have not heard back from them.

A more recent story from the hyperlocal site Edgeville Buzz mentions plans for a new six-story development for the site. According to the report, plans have been submitted to 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman but no determination has been made yet.

Built in 1923, the brick building with its sprawling glass arcade is a unique piece of Chicago’s architectural and neighborhood history. According to the Edgewater Historical Society, the Woodruff Arcade is the last of its kind in Chicago—a building which predates modern malls by a few decades.