A city was supposed to be repairing a historic gas station. Instead, it cost the city $400,000 to patch up and restore the 1920’s’ Joy Oil gas station. But as the repairs were nearing completion, the place began to leak—and the city has done nothing to fix it.
It is difficult to understand why when you go to the station that something is wrong with the building. The exterior has appeared to be missing bricks, plus there are piles of broken pieces of plywood piled up inside.
After turning on the station’s pump you see a hole in the wall that spells out L-I-A on the walls.
Most of the original fixtures are there, including the soda machine and the jukebox.
A neighborhood resident told I-Team reporter Joel Grover that he had “watched dozens of people drive by this place and had no idea what was going on inside.”
I-Team cameras were there when the City of Chicago deemed the station unsafe and called a contractor in September to repair the station and have it ready for the neighborhood in time for the holidays. In a statement to the I-Team, the City said it had spent at least $500,000 to repair the structure.” It didn’t call it a gas station because it was deemed to be unsafe, but because a contractor had contracted to dismantle it and remove the exterior, which would be opened to the public and used for storage or possibly new housing,” the city said.
The building had been vacant for the last decade or so before it was purchased by an unlicensed Chicago developer.
In a statement, the man who built the station, Donald Miley, said the city didn’t notify him about the repair work, and he didn’t know about the city’s plans to tear it down. In December, he got back in touch with the city, which hired an architect, and provided a letter from the city’s inspector that had his blessing to rebuild the gas station.
Miley told Grover that the city never contacted him to get approval, and that his plans were accepted as part of the repair effort, but that he’s never seen the letter.
Grover tried to reach out to the building’s owner and more than a dozen people who have listed the building as their address with the city’s 311 call center, but was unable to reach them.
Grover made at least a dozen requests for comment to Chicago’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, and received three responses by phone and one in writing.
In response to Grover’s request for information, the department said the paperwork about the repairs was never received. It went on to say that because the station was opened within four months of that letter, it was considered “obsolete” and thus ineligible for city funds and declared it eligible for redevelopment assistance.
The department told Grover that in order to open a gas station or restaurant, it must apply for such an assistance program.
Despite all this, the gas station remains closed, and it has since been sold to a new owner, who declined to comment on the repairs to the existing station.
The city’s Department of Buildings said it is working with the new owner on a relocation agreement, but the road to the restoration is far from clear.
Neighbors are hoping something is done soon.