The property under redevelopment at 2133 W. Pershing Road includes a six-story former ice storage warehouse being overhauled by Aberdeen Development Inc.

Former Ice Warehouse Subject of Redevelopment Scrutiny

Published February 20, 2019

A major development on Pershing Road in the Central Manufacturing District is under fire from a Chicago-based preservation group, with the project's developer asserting he's been acting in good faith to legally redevelop the property. Preservation Chicago, a non-profit that champions Chicago's historic environment and buildings, issued a press release on February 13, 2019, decrying the process for demolition at the former ice storage warehouse at 2133 W. Pershing Road and pushing for establishment of mandated protections for the area.

"We need a Chicago Landmark District to protect these buildings from further destruction," said Preservation Chicago Executive Director Ward Miller. "Preservation-sensitive redevelopment can go forward with great incentives, if employed."

The press release expressed concern about the fate of the adjacent building at 2055 W. Pershing Road — the former offices of U.S. Cold Storage Co. — and alleged improper and unpermitted work taking place on the former warehouse's interior. It noted a stop work order issued by the City of Chicago on January 22, 2019, seemingly for the interior work taking place on the property.

Aberdeen Development Inc.'s Joseph Panfil, the developer of the property, said he visited Chicago's Department of Buildings the next day to resolve the stop work order and to ensure compliance. He noted the still-active construction permit issued on February 27, 2018, that granted "removal/repair of existing masonry walls" and other work on the "existing 6-story warehouse building with basement."

Little of the original walls could be salvaged, Panfil said, because decades of unchecked water damage at the abandoned structure had rotted through the walls' sandwich of brick and cork insulation, as well as deteriorated the internal metal supports holding the walls together. He also noted the difficulty of finding any contemporary use for a building completely sealed in bricks as was called for by the ice storage needs of yesteryear.

Although the City of Chicago data portal lists the status of the stop work order as open as of the time of this article's publication, no posted stop work order appears on the warehouse building, as would be standard for Chicago's building code for active stop work orders. The building prominently displays its original construction permit from February 2018.

Another issue the Preservation Chicago press release raised was a problem with application of a demolition delay since the property is orange-rated in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey. However, because the overall property is known by a number of addresses and address ranges, the City of Chicago did not catch and apply the delay for the construction permit, an oversight acknowledged by the Department of Planning and Development's Nolan Zaroff at the January 16, 2019, meeting of the McKinley Park Development Council.

Panfil said he never received notice from the city regarding an orange rating or a demolition delay. He said he's still suspended aspects of work on this project while concerns and any other issues are addressed. "There is no trickery going on," he said, adding that the project is salvaging architectural elements from the original construction, such as the building's original terra-cotta ornamentation, for re-use with the new development. "We love the history of this property," he said.

The Preservation Chicago press release also highlighted community concerns about contamination from hazardous materials resulting from demolition. However, Panfil said that Aberdeen had a complete environmental study conducted by a third party prior to their purchase of the property, and no such hazardous materials existed on the site.

In its press release, Preservation Chicago faulted the Department of Buildings for lax enforcement, saying it also "seems to be contributing to the threat" of the loss of the distinctive architecture of this area, and the unique "street wall" effect the buildings create on Pershing Road.

The release noted the current status of the Central Manufacturing District as being listed in the National Register of Historic Places, an effort shepherded by local historian Erica Ruggiero with the support of Preservation Chicago and Landmarks Illinois. "Current development projects in the HIstoric District should work to preserve this significant architectural and historic resource," Ruggiero said.

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