Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Cold reception

The new owners of 1056 N. Damen, the former tavern with the gangster cartoon sign, invited the neighborhood to cozy up to a space heater tonight at the vacant taproom, notwithstanding the hot buffet awaiting a few blocks away at the monthly East Village Association meetup that usually mediates zoning issues.

Attorney Lawrence M. Lusk promised in handbills to explain the proposed use for the space (the rumor was there was restaurant interest). But he told the chilly crowd the new owners had no plans, except that the bar had reverted to residential zoning and they wanted consent for business zoning. The bar space was impossible for residences, Lusk claimed, because the building's maximum allowable seven apartments were already upstairs.

I did the geometry in my head while my wife did the arithmetic, and neither way did the math add up: Investors buying into Condo Central, who didn't see residential potential in seven shoebox apartments with adjoining vacant space, did not seem ready to take on much development work. A landowner across the street, who seemed to be thinking along the same lines, observed that the street hadn't been shoveled till today,

We went on to spell out how the owners had much more yet to spell out. Ald. Ted Matlak leaned against the bar in a hooded parka and took in this "Fargo" scene. After an hour in the chill he was asked if he would put off the owner's zoning request. The answer sounded something like, "You betcha."

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