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CHICAGO-Despite year-long efforts to preserve at least the facade of the former Rainbo Gardens roller rink, the last vestiges of the Uptown landmark will be torn down to make way for a $40-million mixed-use project ay 4836-50 N. Clark St. Besides 127 townhouses and condominiums, the six-building project on the 2.2-acre site will include 15,000 sf of retail space, which is expected to spur foot traffic on Clark Street north of Lawrence Avenue.

The project, to be built on Clark Street across from St. Boniface Cemetery, was recommended for approval this past Thursday by the city’s plan commission.

Developer Paul Hardej got a permit to demolish Rainbo Gardens before the city’s 90-day waiting period for landmark buildings went into effect, according to the department of planning and development. However, the developer voluntarily waited 10 months while preservation of the 122-year-old, 19,000-sf building was explored.

While estimates of renovating the building ranged up to $5 million, proponents of preservation claim the work could have been done for $500,000, suggesting tax increment financing could have been tapped.

Although Hardej is not asking the city for financial assistance, he is setting aside 13 units for the Chicago Partnership for Affordable Neighborhoods program.

Hardej scaled down his project as a result of two public meetings in the Uptown community, but a proposed zoning change will allow him to build 34 more units and 65-ft-tall buildings, 20 ft higher than current C2-2 zoning.

The property was acquired by Sapphire Development for $4.3 million in early 2001, then sold earlier this year to Skokie developer Hardej for nearly $5.2 million, according to property records. Hardej used a construction loan of nearly $4.6 million from IndyMac Bank to buy the local landmark, property records also indicate.

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