Bitter feud between Preservationists and Homeowner in Edgewater

On Tuesday, the Sun Times profiled a homeowner who is suing the local Historical Society over lost income from their interference with a sale of her property to a local developer.

6018 N. Kenmore is a large Victorian on an oversized lot near Loyola University.  The neighborhood has evolved into an area with more condominium development, rather than the stately elegant mansion that this home once was.  Renovation costs would probably have run into the hundreds-of-thousands. 

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When the owner put the home up for sale, the most lucrative offer was from a developer who wanted to demolish the house and build new construction condominiums.

The Edgewater Historical Society intervened, maintaining that the house on North Kenmore was unique in the neighborhood and was listed on the city landmark map as “orange-rated” – eligible for city landmark status.  Reportedly, they pushed Alderman Mary Ann Smith to oppose demolishing the house and delay zoning changes “if the developer does not drop his plans for demolition.”

After some long delays in the approval process for the condominium development, the developer cancelled his contract to buy the property.

Property owner Brigitta Riedel says she lost out on more than $1 million when the sale went south and is suing to the historical society and four of its board members, accusing them of carrying off a "calculated, sophisticated attack" to kill the sale.

The board members say the suit could hurt community activism — and, if they’re ordered to pay damages, perhaps cost them their own homes.

"It could happen, and it certainly impacts how you plan the rest of your life," said LeRoy Blommaert, who’s being sued along with fellow historical society board members Elizabeth Mayian, Thom Greene and Kathy Gemperle. "You worry what that life would be like if you had to sell your condo or give up a number of your assets."

In the “Letters to the Editor” section of the paper today, a reader from Edgewater commented:

Owners continue to feel that they can do anything they like with their property, at whatever cost to the community.  While many houses or older apartments may not be architectural masterpieces, the community and the city have a clear interest in maintaining properties on a block at similar scale or of a certain historical quality.

So often, we see rampant development obliterating neighborhoods and disrupting social patterns, all for the sake of profit.  That Riedel, who made $550,000 on the property, should think of suing members of a small nonprofit board for the remaining $600,000 that she “lost” is outrageous.

Developers serve profit, not public good.  For this reason, we need citizens, organizations and politicians to help balance the equation so that the public good is also served.

Are you kidding me?

  • How many times do I have to say this?  Hey – Preservationists!  If you want to save a piece of property, BUY IT!  When you impose your standards on someone else forcing them to lose value because they can’t sell or have to preserve an antiquated property, you are stealing from them.
  • Just because a property looks beautiful, doesn’t mean it’s not a piece of junk.  Sure, it’s gorgeous.  But who wants to live in it?  The house has small bedrooms, no closet space, no air conditioning, a kitchen far removed from the living space,   Great if you want to re-create a Victorian diorama, but pretty awful if you’re a modern family that wants a nice place to live.

Can I answer the letter-writing response line-by-line?

Owners continue to feel that they can do anything they want with their property…”  HELLO?!  Where do we live?  This is a capitalist society, last time I checked.  The whole IDEA of owning property is so that you can do whatever you want with it!

…the community and the city have a clear interest in maintaining properties on a block at  similar scale…”  Buddy, they already do.  It’s called ZONING.  There are laws in place to maintain the character of a neighborhood.  This is why you don’t see truck loading facilities next door to schools.  But building new condo’s where old houses used to stand is perfectly reasonable.  And your notion of “Community” really reads to me like a bunch of meddling neighbors.

“So often, we see rampant development obliterating…”  Obliterating?  That’s what we’re going to call an entrepreneur who is willing to take a risk on the market, shell out over a million dollars on acquisition and construction, and then wait to sell a product that there is no guarantee will sell? 

What about these “rampant developments”: 

  • Sandburg Village that bridged the gap between the Gold Coast and Cabrini Green to the west; thereby making Old Town a viable neighborhood where people actually want to live.
  • Dearborn Park in the near south loop that practically created a new desirable neighborhood from scratch in a desolate wasteland of railroad yards and abandoned printing factories.
  • And more recently the development along the Chicago River encompassing the old Montgomery Ward headquarters and warehouses. 

“Developers serve profit…”  Just because developers are in it for the money, doesn’t make it BAD.  In fact, it’s the America Way.  I would suggest that allowing community groups to hold properties hostage and begging local government to take over property that is rightfully owned by private citizens is the start of the slippery slope to “Socialism.” 

And as far as the neighborhood is concerned, here is a street view of the properties directly south and north of the house in question.  Oh yes, condominiums would really be out of place on this block…

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I wish Ms. Riedel all the best in her efforts to recoup her losses.  And I hope that the lawsuit causes other “Community” groups to pause before meddling with the rights of property owners.

6 Comments
  1. Rick
    August 13, 2009 |
  2. August 13, 2009 |
  3. August 16, 2009 |
  4. The Dude
    August 17, 2009 |
  5. August 17, 2009 |
  6. The Dude
    August 17, 2009 |