Old Irving Park is a historic neighborhood, developed as a railroad suburb of Chicago in the late 19th century. The neighborhood features single family homes and two-flats, situated on oversized city lots, a unique and lovely area of backyards and greenspace that owners and renters alike cherish. The homes feature a variety of architectural styles, including Queen Anne, American Four Square, Italianate, Victorian and Craftsmen. We are proud of our multiple City of Chicago landmark structures and architecturally significant homes, as well as one home on the National Register of Historic Places, built in 1856, known as a possible shelter on the Underground Railroad.
In the 1950’s zoning code, Old Irving Park was zoned RS-3 in anticipation of projected patterns in urban development. The construction of the Kennedy Expressway (Northwest Highway) did indeed have a negative impact on the neighborhood, including destruction of many beautiful homes. However, the neighborhood rallied and rebounded, so that in the 1990’s, when handsome homes started to be demolished and replaced with McMansions or two homes on one lot, the neighbors banded together to save the character of the neighborhood.
Hundreds of residents, working with two aldermen and the Old Irving Park Association, undertook a multi-year project to down-zone more than 60 blocks to RS-2 zoning, in order to save the character of the neighborhood. This process was very inclusive and open, featuring many meetings and forums. The more restrictive single family zoning was supported by a wide majority, specifically to prevent developers from splitting lots and overloading parcels with massive structures. In effect, the residents voted to have control over what meant most to them, so that new development would maintain the greenspace and architecturally pleasing cohesiveness of the neighborhood.
Since the downzoning, OIPA has worked hard to defend this mandate on behalf of the people who live in the neighborhood. We work with the alderman to reject requests to upzone or spot zone properties for financial gain. In rare instances, we support hardship exceptions for residents who basically want to maintain their home’s footprint, but run up against a technicality.
We encourage the preservation, renovation and adaptive re-use of the existing housing stock. We urge that new or rehabbed properties reflect the character and context of adjacent properties, comparable in quality, scale, density and materials. Split-faced block, cinder or cement block and Dryvit are expressly discouraged. Brick structures will have face brick on all elevations. We view favorably the retention of expansive rear and side yards that are open, permeable and green. We believe that the longevity and desirability of Old Irving Park is based upon our neighborhood character, and that maintaining the essence of that character is our trust for the future.