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‘Windy City Rehab’ developers could be shut down after city moves to yank license, stop new permits

The Chicago Buildings Department has issued orders against developer Donovan Eckhardt and show host Alison Victoria after multiple building violations, officials said.

‘Windy City Rehab’ co-stars Alison Victoria and Donovan Eckhardt.
HGTV

The stars of the hit TV show “Windy City Rehab” can’t pull any new construction permits and may lose their contractor’s license entirely, following months of illegal work and neighbor complaints.

The Chicago Department of Buildings has notified contractor and show co-star Donovan Eckhardt of Greymark Development Group LLC that it intends to suspend his residential real estate developer license and general contractor license for one year.

Eckhardt has filed an appeal, and the suspension has been stayed while the city makes a decision, said department spokesman Gregg Cunningham.

The city also has suspended new permit privileges for both Eckhardt and show host Alison Victoria, whose real name is Alison Gramenos, and the various business names they operate under.

Victoria has appealed her permit suspension, and her appeal is under review, Cunningham said.

But Eckhardt’s permit privileges appeal was denied May 28. Under city rules, he can appeal again and ask for his permit privileges to be reinstated.

Eckhardt, Victoria and HGTV did not respond to requests for comment on the city’s actions or what the orders mean for the future of the show, which has been filming its second season.

The city’s actions come after citations for illegal work on their properties as well as complaints from neighbors.

The city of Chicago has issued a stop-work order this property at 1906 N. Hoyne Ave., which was featured on “Windy City Rehab.” The order says the developers didn’t have permits to build the garage.
The city of Chicago has issued a stop-work order this property at 1906 N. Hoyne Ave., which was featured on “Windy City Rehab.” The order says the developers didn’t have permits to build the garage.
Stephanie Zimmermann / Sun-Times

In the notice sent to Eckhardt regarding the contractor’s license suspension, the city states that the contractor performed work without a permit at 11 properties, three of which were featured on the first season of the show: 1803 W. Wabansia Ave., 1906 N. Hoyne Ave. and 1700 W. Wabansia Ave.

The city issued stop-work orders at all 11 properties.

The contractor also failed to get final inspections at four properties, including the Hoyne Avenue project that was featured on the show, the city’s order states.

Additionally, two condo units in Lakeview were sold and occupied prior to final inspection.

The city also alleges that unlicensed tradespeople worked at the 11 properties and that work was done that was not up to code and “poses an immediate or imminent threat to the health and safety of workers or the public.”

The 11 properties cited in city documents are:

  • 1803 W. Wabansia Ave.
  • 2136 W. Belmont Ave.
  • 1906 N. Hoyne Ave.
  • 1924 W. Berenice Ave.
  • 1815 W. Augusta Blvd.
  • 1430 W. Polk St.
  • 2147 W. Moffat St.
  • 1700 W. Wabansia Ave.
  • 2530 N. Orchard St.
  • 1846 N. Damen Ave.
  • 3352 S. Carpenter St.

Additionally, two more properties, at 1837 W. Erie St. and 1636 N. Wood St., were listed as among four that did not get final inspections after work was completed.

The 1846 N. Damen Ave. building was home to the former Miko’s Italian Ice, which closed last spring after more than two decades of serving frozen treats in Bucktown.

“Windy City Rehab” follows the ups, downs and drama as designer Victoria — also the host of HGTV’s “Kitchen Crashers” — and Eckhardt buy, rehab and flip properties.

The first season was shot on the North Side, in gentrifying neighborhoods where some neighbors were not happy with the projects.

Neighbors have complained about trash, noise and mishaps including a burst water line that flooded a neighbor’s basement at one project and exterior walls that accidentally caved in at the 1803 W. Wabansia Ave. house.

Cunningham said the city has tried to get the developers to comply with city rules, to no avail.

A 2017 city ordinance gave the department “progressive discipline” measures to crack down on rogue builders, which they are doing.

“We’ve found that overall, this has worked. It sends a message and the message is received and it has caused a change in attitude in the field,” Cunningham said.

As for the “Windy City Rehab” developers, it’s a mystery as to why they didn’t comply, Cunningham said.

“If they read your [March 15 Sun-Times] story, they would have seen — and we’ve said publicly — we’re going to be watching. We’ve said that in meetings. We said we’re going to be monitoring your work,” Cunningham said.

The show wrapped up its first season on HGTV this past spring. HGTV says it’s one of its most popular new series, claiming 9.3 million viewers in its first month and a half on the air.