‘This is Arlington Heights history’: Board rejects developer’s bid to tear down 19th-century home

A late 19th-century house — one of only three Italianate architecture style structures left in Arlington Heights — is being spared from the wrecking ball.

Siding with the earlier decision of the design commission and recommendation of village staff, the nine-member village board unanimously turned down a developer’s request to demolish the two-story red brick and frame house at 716 N. Dunton Ave. Trustees cited a provision in village code in determining that the house, built in 1878, has “significant architectural, historical, aesthetic, or cultural value.”

“This is our history. This is Arlington Heights history,” Trustee Robin LaBedz said. “And I don’t believe that to be significant you have to say ‘George Washington slept here.’ I think that common people make history, too. Regular people for investing in their community and building it up. That is why I think this does meet those criteria — that it is significant.”

Barrington-based Mastercraft Builders & Carpentry appealed the Oct. 10 decision of the five-member appointed design commission, in what was a rare public hearing before the elected village board Monday night. Dozens of neighbors who sought the home’s preservation filled the boardroom.

  The proposed teardown of this 146-year-old house in Arlington Heights garnered significant public interest in recent months, culminating with a village board meeting Monday when the elected panel unanimously rejected the developer's request. Christopher Placek/

Since a village teardown task force was convened some two decades ago, the design panel has been charged with reviewing the proposed demolition of any single-family house before a newer, bigger residence is built. In most cases, the commission approves the teardown; hundreds of structures have met that fate.

But the house on Dunton — on the Fourth of July parade route in the older part of town — was deemed by village officials to be different.

Charles Witherington-Perkins, the village’s director of planning and community development, said village design planner Steve Hautzinger told the developer verbally in May and in writing in August that village staff had concerns and wouldn’t support the proposed teardown. That’s when Mastercraft was a contract purchaser of the property but hadn’t yet owned it, Perkins said.

Vince Deligio, Mastercraft’s owner, said a different investor purchased the house but approached him when issues came up with it. Mastercraft already was developing the vacant lots on either side of the 146-year-old house.

  Construction is nearly complete on a new house next to the 716 N. Dunton Ave. property. Mastercraft Builders & Carpentry is the developer of three neighboring properties on the block. Christopher Placek/

Deligio said he tried to see if he could revitalize it, but determined the repairs — at a tune of more than $1 million — would be too costly. That includes replacing the crumbling brick foundation, which would require crews to physically lift the structure and suspend it in the air for several weeks, installing new utilities, and abating mold and asbestos, according to Deligio and his attorney, Jerome Pinderski Jr.

“We need to put a new house there,” Deligio said. “It looks great from the street. It’s a great picture. You stand on the curb or the sidewalk or across the street and you look at it, it looks great. But you don’t want to live in there. We can’t rent it. We can’t sell it the way it is. What other choice do we have? I’m not putting $1,130,000 into something, plus the land that I bought. I could build a new house for that.”

He added that he does rehabs of other old houses — including a 113-year-old home just three doors down — but argued those homes have been maintained over the years.

Trustee Jim Tinaglia, an architect by trade, said he felt sorry for the developer, “but that’s the road they chose to go down.”

“Attorneys can speak and say things in a way that makes sense to them. A developer can speak and justify and make sense so it works for them. Architects the same thing,” Tinaglia said. “But this is cultural. This is the community. This is what Arlington Heights is. You don’t have to love it. You don’t even have to understand it. But if you’re going to invest in Arlington Heights and if you’re going to take a chance about buying some empty lots and then purchasing another home from another investor, my suspicion is you better get educated really fast, because you might end up with this kind of outcome.”

Though Deligio said he would have difficulty renting or selling the property, Mayor Tom Hayes said he hoped publicity generated from the case would prompt a buyer to come forward who could rehab the home.

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