Leave the Seat Empty: 3440 North Avers Avenue

 Leave the Seat Empty consists of photos taken of buildings in Chicago in between the time a demolition permit is issued and the time the wrecking crews come.

The vast majority of the city's demolitions are vernacular residential buildings in areas that are either seeing immense new investment or immense ongoing disinvestment. In most cases, the doomed buildings are not deemed architecturally or culturally notable enough for proactive preservation efforts to succeed, where such efforts exist. They are most frequently replaced by new single family homes, or by empty land. These patterns aren't universal among demolitions, but are common outcomes of Chicago's current legal and market environment around land use, building vacancy, and new construction.

Despite its international reputation as a destination for architecture tourism, Chicago's policies around building demolitions often fail to protect historic structures. There are no easy answers to the question of which buildings should remain standing under which circumstances, but residents lack easy access to information about upcoming demolitions, leaving them unable to campaign effectively against demolitions they might oppose. I seek to document many of Chicago's doomed buildings in their final days, often with green demo fencing already up, and be present to acknowledge their disappearance.


3440 North Avers Avenue

Permit issued 07/28/2022


3440 N Avers, demolished last summer, was a two-flat with a rare fully legal third unit in the basement. It belonged to one local family for just over twenty years, who rented it out alongside several other properties in Avondale and Irving Park. Those previous owners purchased the building for $341,500 in 2001, and sold it (and its desirable double lot) to a suburbs-based developer in 2022 for $671,000. The developer tore the building down, and is currently constructing a single family home on the same basic footprint. Judging by their past projects, that home will likely market in the range of $1.2-$1.4 million when completed.


Unlike many similar demolition and construction pairings on the north side, the building that was demolished was not sold outside the public market and wasn't advertised as a teardown - it seemed to be in pretty good shape, with original details intact inside and recent updates. You can see interior photos from the 2022 sale in this old listing.

The end result earns the ire of preservationists, affordability advocates, and density boosters alike: loss of a handsome old building, loss of two family-size homes (each unit was three bedrooms and had a separate living, dining, and kitchen), and a big price bump on the site.