By Bob Uphues
The head of the Cook County Land Bank Authority says that he's given the green light for homes to be demolished in Riverside Lawn and that as soon as permits are in hand from the county, houses will begin to be demolished in groups of about four.
Rob Rose, the authority's executive director, told the Landmark last week that he expects demolitions to begin in October, beginning with homes closest to the Des Plaines River.
However, there's one home out of the 21 the Cook County Land Bank Authority has purchased that won't face the wrecking ball just yet. The stone home at 3744 Stanley Ave., built more than a century ago by Alexander Watson, who was responsible for the development of Riverside Lawn, has gotten a brief reprieve.
The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency is requiring the Cook County Land Bank Authority to conduct a more extensive review of the building before it will OK the use of federal funds for its demolition.
Watson's house, which largely survived intact through the decades, was one of four homes on which the state agency asked the county to conduct historic research prior to demolition. Three of the homes have been cleared for demolition.
But 3744 Stanley Ave. was different, according to the research done by the Public Service Archaeology and Architecture program at the University of Illinois. Researchers concluded that Watson's house was eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
The state's historic preservation agency asked the Cook County Land Bank to see if it would be feasible to physically move the home to a location within Riverside proper. Such an operation would have been impractical, said Rose.
"We told them it would not be cost-effective," Rose said.
According to Rose, purchasing a lot in Riverside and then moving the home would have cost the county between $500,000 and $700,000. And the county would not be able to use any of the federal funding it obtained to purchase the flood-prone Riverside Lawn properties for such a purpose.
The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency responded by requiring the additional review of the home to see if there are architectural elements from the home that should be preserved.
"I fully anticipate after that they will give the go-ahead to tear it down," Rose said.
But it's going to take about six weeks for that review to be completed, so 3744 Stanley Ave. will be bypassed in the first wave of demolition. Because of its location close to the river, it likely would have been one of the first homes to go.
Rose said the county would give notice of the demolitions once the permits are secured from the Cook County Department of Building and Zoning.
Once demolitions are complete later this fall, just a handful of homes, most of them closer to 39th Street, will remain in Riverside Lawn, which is an unincorporated section of Riverside Township.
The wedge-shaped neighborhood is located south of Riverside, between a bend in the Desplaines River and 39th Street.