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A backyard putting green in Bridgeport? ‘Windy City Rehab’ home met with mixed emotions in working class neighborhood

The rehabbed brick two flat sold for $790,000 in June, which one Bridgeport resident called “crazy town.”

A home featured on the HGTV show ‘Windy City Rehab’ in the Bridgeport neighborhood.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Concerns about gentrification and an incongruous backyard putting green are part of the conversation in Bridgeport following the pricey sale of a home featured on the HGTV show “Windy City Rehab.”

The home at 3352 S. Carpenter was purchased for $260,000 and, after extensive rehab, sold for $790,000 in June. Host Alison Victoria’s finishing touch was an artificial turf putting green in the backyard.

It was her first home-flipping venture to the South Side and into a working-class neighborhood known for its relatively modest brick dwellings that stands in sharp contrast to the tonier North Side locales where she’s sold luxury homes for north of a million dollars or more.

“This neighborhood isn’t putting-green people, but, anyway, that’s a matter of choice,” said a neighbor on the block, a retiree in her 80s who asked not to be named. “We people are down to earth and we’re blue collar, and I’m not saying the people who bought the place are snooty or whatever, but it’s just something I would never think of doing.”

Aesthetics, however, weren’t her main concern — it was the prospect of paying more property taxes as nearby homes become bigger and pricier.

“I’d have to go to my son and ask for help if that happens,” she said.

Longtime Bridgeport resident Ed Marszewski, who runs a brewery and artist space in the neighborhood and is an advocate for affordable housing, was unsettled by the pricey rehab.

“That’s a little crazy town,” he said of the sale price.

“Overvalued bull---- like this is an affront against everyone’s basic human rights. Every neighborhood in Chicago should ensure there is enough affordable housing for its residents,” he said.

“When a building is sold for an exorbitant amount way over market averages, the buyer and seller should be made to contribute to a fund that helps subsidize the construction or purchase of affordable homes for lower income buyers. This s—- has to stop,” Marszewski said.

‘Not alarmed’

Still, other residents on the block where the home sold were less concerned.

“I’m not alarmed,” said Kristin Ostberg, who works in affordable housing. “I’ve been here since 2009, and this is a pretty steady area. My place is worth more than when I bought it, but the value went up at a steady rate and property taxes haven’t gone up too much.”

The show’s second season began airing this month, and in Episode 2, Victoria declared: “Bridgeport, here we come. People want us south. We’re coming south.”

Victoria’s expensive facelift also didn’t faze Vily Preikschat, a recently retired carpenter who grew up on the block and lives there now.

“If someone’s got the money to do it and someone’s willing to pay for that, why not?” he said. In fact, Preikschat wishes he could have sold a second property he owns on the block to Victoria.

Alison Victoria and Donovan Eckhardt visit a home in Bridgeport they ended up buying and renovating on the HGTV show, “Windy City Rehab.”
HGTV

Paying more in taxes due to pricier homes isn’t much of a concern for Preikschat, partially because he’s thinking about selling his own home and moving to the burbs in the next few years. And if he can sell his home for a higher price because more people with money want to live in the area, that’s not a bad thing, he said.

Real estate agent Alice Tse, who has more than two decades of experience in the area, doesn’t think Bridgeport will become flooded with expensive homes any time soon.

While the racially diverse neighborhood has welcomed a number of new artist spaces, bars and restaurants in recent years, development hasn’t happened at a pace that would draw big spenders in any great numbers, she said.

“They’ve tried very hard for the last 10 years and they’ve made improvement but there’s not enough, not like North Side neighborhoods,” she said.

Expensive homes are sprinkled here and there, but not enough to have a great impact, she said.

Victoria claimed on the show that the $790,000 cost was “highest per square foot in Bridgeport with that sales price.” Tse also suspects the home is the priciest in the area but doesn’t see Victoria’s schtick taking hold.

Small profit

“For that money, in this neighborhood, people generally want a brand new home, not an old house turned into a new house,” she said. “The exception is perhaps for a home on two lots, with a quality old house. For that you could get close to a million, but that building has to be really unique,” she said.

Despite Victoria’s stated intention to work in the “hip” area where artists are making their homes that she called “the Brooklyn of Chicago,” she only made $15,000 on the project after dumping more than $500,000 into pricey renovations.

And her partner, developer Donovan Eckhardt, quit the project because he said it would be “stupid” to work in Bridgeport because they’d never be able to equal profits they’ve been able to make in more expensive North Side neighborhoods, like Bucktown and Wicker Park.