The property at 2317 W. Howard (the southeast corner of Howard and Claremont) that once was a Burger King restaurant comes before a Cook County Circuit Court judge in building court next Monday, September 18th. Evanston Alderman Ann Rainey and I are leading a delegation of neighbors to the court hearing to make sure this vacant eyesore gets the attention from the court it deserves.
Alderman Rainey and the City of Evanston are providing FREE round-trip bus transportation for both Chicago and Evanston residents to the court hearing. Meet us at the old Burger King site at 2317 W. Howard on Monday, September 18th, at 8:00 a.m.
If you wish to take advantage of the free bus ride, please RSVP by replying to this email before Wednesday, September 13th, at 5:00 p.m.
If you prefer to travel to the court on your own or will be downtown for work, please feel free to meet us at the courtroom.
In 2011, Vincent Rizzo, a Penske Truck Rental franchisee, proposed opening a Penske Truck Rental franchise on the site. After winning community support for the truck rental proposal and securing the requisite zoning change, Mr. Rizzo purchased the property.
Unfortunately, Mr. Rizzo never opened the Penske franchise and completely neglected the property, rarely cutting the grass or picking up trash that accumulated around the property. He ignored my repeated pleas to open the business or sell the property to someone on who would put the property to a productive use.
Finally, fed up with Mr. Rizzo’s inaction, I changed the zoning back to its original zoning designation in 2012.
Mr. Rizzo continued to neglect the property and rejected numerous good faith offers to purchase the parcel. My ward superintendent, Dan Murphy, cleans the property on a regular basis and has issued Mr. Rizzo thousands of dollars in tickets. Apparently Mr. Rizzo would rather pay the tickets than live up to his responsibilities as a good neighbor.
The owner of a popular fast food franchise recently entered into negotiations with Mr. Rizzo to purchase the property. He believed he had an agreement with Mr. Rizzo only to have Rizzo back out of the deal at the last minute.
After it became abundantly clear that, Mr. Rizzo had no intention to either sell the property or put it to productive use, I contacted City of Chicago Building Commissioner Judith Frydland and asked her to determine if the old Burger King building might be eligible for a court-ordered demolition. The City inspectors determined the building did not rise to the level of a demolition action, but cited the building for numerous building code violations.
I spoke with the city attorneys responsible for prosecuting the case and they strongly recommend concerned neighbors attend the court hearing to impress upon the judge that the property has raised significant community concerns.
Evanston Alderman Rainey’s ward is located directly across the street from the Rizzo property and her constituents also are extremely concerned about the condition of the property. Together, Alderman Rainey and I decided to organize our constituents to attend the court hearing.
Mr. Rizzo’s attorneys are likely to request a continuance, which courts grant routinely at a first appearance. Even if the continuance is granted, the court judge will see the community interest. It is likely to result in a shorter continuance, which will add up to a quicker prosecution with better results.
I urge you to join us next Monday. Regardless, I will report back to the community on the results of the hearing.