Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Eyesore Bank to Be Bulldozed

New homes set for 55th/Narragansett 

By Tim Hadac
Managing Editor
Southwest Chicago Post

One of the Southwest Side’s most notorious eyesores—the
old Garfield Ridge Trust & Savings Bank, 6353 W. 55th St.--will be bulldozed in the next year or so, replaced by a cluster of single-family homes.

The announcement was made June 18 at a public meeting of the Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch, held at Bridgeview Bank, a stone’s throw from the vacant bank.

Plans call for seven homes to be built on 55th Street, between Mulligan and Narragansett; and two more homes just south of Pticek’s Bakery in what is now a parking lot.

A Garfield Ridge gem when it opened in 1971, the bank changed owners several times over the years, finally shutting down in 2004. It was purchased about a decade ago by Gregg Chentnik, owner of the nearby Kid’Z Colony Daycare, 6287 S. Archer.

Chentnik and two business partners were at the meeting.

Repeated efforts by Chentnik to sell the building to a variety of commercial enterprises and non-profits fell short, and the building continued to deteriorate inside and out.

At a public meeting two years ago, GRNW President Al Cacciottolo said, “That building is a total wreck inside. They’ve had major damage. I was in there about a month ago. It’s really bad inside. They had 20 feet of water in the basement, so there are mold issues. It’s going to take a lot of money to refurbish that building. I would rather see it just knocked down and something brand-new go up.”

Agreeing with Cacciottolo’s assessment is 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn, who said Monday night, “I was getting sick to my stomach over the property. It was dilapidated.”

For most of its life as a vacant hulk, the old bank building was in the 23rd Ward. The latest ward remap took it out of 23 and into 13. That’s when Quinn took it on as a project.

About 2 ½ years ago, I reached out to Gregg,” Quinn told the
Alderman Quinn (right) and GRNW VP Mike Doherty
audience of about 40 Garfield Ridge residents. “In the past several years, I’ve pitched anyone I can think of--Culver’s, Panda Express, Starbucks, anyone you can imagine—and they all problems with the configuration because any particular driveway would not lead back to Archer.”

Quinn said his appearance at the GRNW meeting was to  “open up a discussion, be transparent and have real community dialogue…so all of us can have a say in terms of what’s going to be there next.”

“I can tell you what it won’t be, at least not on my watch,” the alderman added. “It won’t be a car wash. It won’t be apartments, and I turned thumbs-down on office space.”
Quinn, whose track record of neighborhood success—in concert with Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan (D-22nd)—includes the booming redevelopment of Cicero Avenue south of 63rd Street, said that the plan to bring single-family homes to 55th and Narragansett may spur redevelopment of other vacant properties in the Archer corridor.

The audience seemed generally receptive to the plan to build new homes. Cacciottolo said, “I think it’s a very good idea. I think it will work.”

Quinn’s openness was praised by GRNW board member Arlene White, who said she found it refreshing that people would have some say in what comes to the neighborhood. 

“So often, you see these things going up and you wonder what it is and who decided on that. I applaud you, Alderman Quinn,” she said, as the audience applauded in agreement.
Exactly when the old bank will be torn down is a question mark right now, though the hope is it will occur in 2019.

Chentnik was for years a successful real estate broker, and he and his partners—Family Craft Builders--have a history of building homes, most notably the acclaimed Stonebridge Woods development in suburban Homer Glen.

The price tag on the Garfield Ridge homes is expected to be at least $475,000 each—prompting one woman in the audience to wonder aloud if anyone would pay such a high price.

A man in the audience said he has lived in the neighborhood for 30 years, “and every time somebody has built new homes, somebody always predicts that the homes won’t sell because they’re priced too high.

“But they’re always proven wrong,” he added. The brand-new homes on the old Soukal greenhouse property all sold. The new homes built near St. Dan’s all sold. The new homes on the old Yugoslav Hall property all sold—and they’re right across the street from a firehouse. These homes at 55th and Narragansett will sell, too. After all, this is Garfield Ridge. People want to live here and are willing to pay the price.”

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