‘Windy City Rehab’: ‘I’m not done,’ Alison Victoria vows as painful Season 2 ends
Mostly rid of Donovan Eckhardt, the HGTV star contends with stop work orders and buyer complaints.
NOTE: This story contains spoilers from the Oct. 13 episode.
Misery loves the company of Alison Victoria in this season of “Windy City Rehab.”
As the short five-episode arc wraps up Tuesday night on HGTV with the aptly titled “Alison’s Aftermath,” we see the exhausted designer continuing to pick up the pieces from the bombshell aired last week, finally ending her volatile business relationship with contractor Donovan Eckhardt after sparring over misappropriated financials, while finding herself in the middle of yet even more drama — this time with the City of Chicago.
As Victoria walks viewers through the work on her current project, a three-flat at 1815 W. Augusta Blvd. in the city’s Ukrainian Village neighborhood, the city’s Department of Buildings issues not one but two stop work orders. Though the show never fully makes it clear why both citations are ordered — lead contractor Ermin Pajazetovic implies that the first was issued because they are having “more work done than they have a permit for”— as the camera zooms in on the official decree that states “gut rehab in process without proper permit; 1st SWO [stop work order] removed without permission; unlicensed contractors.” A story in Block Club Chicago earlier this year said “the property was cited for ‘work contrary to plan; unlicensed work performing masonry.’”
Reading between the lines, there appear to be two major issues that continue to dog “Windy City Rehab.” The first, of course, is Eckhardt, who’s had his license for general contracting suspended.
“This is the domino effect of Donovan. How do I prove to the building department that he’s not coming near this project?” says Victoria, noting that the 1815 W. Augusta property is the last she still owns with Eckhardt. “He’s gone,” she reiterates throughout the episode, and she now communicates with him strictly through their lawyers.
Elsewhere in the episode we see Victoria meeting with TV personality Realtor Vincent Anzalone to strategize selling other properties, including the embroiled old Miko’s Italian Ice building at 1846 N. Damen Ave. in Bucktown (which has also been issued stop work orders) in order to release herself from additional loans she has co-signed with Eckhardt.
But the other major issue with “Windy City Rehab” seems to be that the projects are not simply rehabbing these 100-year old Chicago properties to make them modernized for the marketplace, but rather completely gutting them from the inside out, much to the chagrin of city inspectors, neighbors and ultimately the buyers, who Victoria admits routinely call her about structural issues. The reason for this, she alleges: “Donovan won’t return anyone’s phone calls.” In this week’s episode, a tearful Victoria abruptly exits the set as she receives another complaint message and exclaims, “All I ever did was design!”
But it’s not always as simple as just picking out some fancy finishes. In the case of 1815 W. Augusta, a building that dates back to 1887, the total renovation costs are a staggering $807,000 — nearly $300,000 over the buying price of $560,000. Granted, a “before look” at the interior was akin to a horror movie, but rather than give the building a facelift, they gave it a whole new body. Electrical, plumbing, framing — everything was redone. An addition also was added in the back of the house (likely the masonry that the stop work order referenced) — all in the hopes of ultimately renting out each of the building’s three now “luxury” two-bed, two-bath units for upward of $3,000 a month (“maybe a little more”). In Ukrainian Village. During a pandemic.
By the end of the episode, only one unit was rented and the building today, like many other of the show’s properties, still sits on the market for $1.449 million.
Victoria does do a beautiful job of making the interiors shine. In this episode, she is inspired by Augusta’s original stained glass (one of the only things kept after the demolition) and shops at Chicago’s Urban Remains for additional stained glass pieces she can inset into powder room doors in each of the units, with the help of local supplier Frederick Stained Glass and her carpenter Ari Smejkal. From Urban Remains, she also picks up three pendant lights salvaged from the old Star Carwash on Elston Avenue in Bucktown that fit perfectly with the new interior landscape. And perhaps if she can find herself another reputable contractor to move forward with, Victoria can continue to do what she does best on projects that are maybe more realistic.
By the end of the episode, Victoria meets with a Feng shui expert to rid the Augusta property of any lingering negative energy as she bids adieu to her last property with Eckhardt.
“I will fight to clear up my name and reputation … and prove myself to the city of Chicago,” she asserts, alluding to perhaps a new season of the show, though HGTV has yet to confirm it. “I’ve gone through hell. ... I’m gonna keep fighting the fight,” Victoria declares. “And what I want to keep doing is making everything around me beautiful. ... I’m not done doing that.”
Selena Fragassi is a local freelance writer.