Ald. Burns, reconsider on Kenwood B&Bs

Editor’s note: The following letter was sent to Ald. Will Burns (4th).

Dear Alderman Burns:

Two of Chicago’s architectural treasures are in danger of decaying: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Blossom and McArthur houses. If they could be saved by permitting their use as bed-and-breakfasts, this should be allowed to happen. To let these buildings waste away or be torn down would add to Chicago’s already existing reputation as a destroyer of important historic architecture (the Stock Exchange, the Bertrand Goldberg building at Northwestern University Hospital, etc.).

Two B&Bs are located on my street in the 4th Ward (Ellis Avenue). The traffic that they generate is so unobtrusive that some of my neighbors don’t even know that they exist. The concern about increased traffic is a red herring. As for transients wandering around the neighborhood, people who can pay $300 a night to stay in a B&B are unlikely to be undesirables —another red herring. 

Let’s check with the Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development about allowable uses in zone RT4 (formerly R4) before we worry about rezoning. B&Bs are probably already an allowable use. Chicago’s zoning code permitted small, unobtrusive businesses to operate in areas designated R4, and it is probably also true of the newer designation, RT4. 

For sure – let’s rethink using these houses as B&Bs. They are potential economic and cultural assets to Hyde Park/Kenwood and to Chicago.

Richard Sessions