Rainey, Chicago counterpart continue push to clean up vacant Howard Street property

Nora Shelly, In Focus Editor

A push from aldermen on both the Chicago and Evanston sides of Howard Street to address a vacant property on the street continued Monday in a court hearing attended by 15 residents.

Hearings about violations on the property will be continued into January of next year, but the parking lot and building have been cleaned up a bit as a result of efforts from Chicago Ald. Joe Moore (49th) and Evanston Ald. Ann Rainey (8th).

The property at 2317 W. Howard St. in Chicago once housed a Burger King and has been vacant for several years. In 2011, it was bought by Vincent Rizzo, who intended to open a Penske Truck Rental franchise on the site. According to a September news release from Moore, Rizzo never opened the business and neglected the property, allowing trash to accumulate.

Rizzo also refused several offers to purchase the property, according to the release. Moore said he contacted the Chicago Building Commissioner to ask for court-ordered demolition of the building. Although the request was denied, city inspectors identified other building code violations, which were addressed in the hearing.

Moore and Rainey led a group of residents to the hearing in downtown Chicago, as they have for previous hearings with the building. Evanston provided a bus to and from the courthouse for those who attended.

Both Rainey and Moore have said they hope the court hearings will make Rizzo keep the property clean. Rainey said Rizzo had already complied with several of their requests, including taking down an old sign and cleaning up the yard and parking lot.

“We can’t make him sell it, we can’t make somebody buy it, we can’t make someone tear it down,” Rainey said. “But if he can maintain this type of compliance, we can’t ask for any more.”

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