News About the Spire Developer, Bozo, and a Bears Wide Receiver
Garrett Kelleher, the head of the development firm behind the now-defunct Chicago Spire, has quietly put his Astor Street mansion on the market. The asking price is $16 million, according to his agent, Janet Murphy of Baird & Warner.
The property is not listed with the multiple listing service, but for the past several months Gold Coast real-estate agents with high-end clientele had been told that they could show it. The Georgian mansion stands perpendicular to the street, facing a large garden—a rarity on Astor Street. The house was built in 1917 for the investment banker William McCormick Blair and his wife, Helen Bowen Blair. Jack Gray, who ran the men’s clothier Hart Schaffner & Marx, bought it from Blair’s estate in 1982 and added a two-story section on the alley. In 2005, Gray and his wife, Anne, listed the house for sale at $13.8 million.
Kelleher bought the slightly dilapidated house from the Grays in April 2006 for $8.5 million, when he returned to Chicago from Ireland to build the Spire. Since then, Murphy says, Kelleher “has put millions into it,” but she would not specify how much. “He pulled in a lot of favors from people who wanted to work on the Spire, so his money went a long way.” The key designer on the restoration was the London-based Christopher Hodsoll.
Murphy says that the renovations to the 9,000-square-foot, six-bedroom home included totally rebuilding a small wing beside the garden and excavating the basement to create living space with ten-foot ceilings. Two Gold Coast agents who have toured the house say the renovations are spectacular. In October, lenders foreclosed on the site of the proposed 2,000-foot-tall Chicago Spire. Murphy would not comment on Kelleher’s future plans.
Also on the market is the former home of Bob Bell, WGN–TV’s Bozo the Clown from 1960 until 1984. The Deerfield house—which Bell and his wife, Carol, sold in 1985 when they retired to California—sits on three-quarters of an acre and has nine rooms (see white house in the photos below). Information at the Lake County Recorder of Deeds does not reveal how much Bell got for the place, nor does it show when he bought it, although Honore Frumentino, the agent for the current seller, says it was before 1975 (she lived in the neighborhood at that time).
The builder Greenview Homes paid $775,000 for the property in 2007 and, according to Frumentino, planned to tear it down and build a house on the lot “for at least $1 million.” Now, the builder is offering the property for either $535,000 as is or $699,000 with the house completely renovated.
Now under contract, with closing scheduled for late this month, is the former Libertyville home of Muhsin Muhammad, a wide receiver with the Chicago Bears for three seasons. The sale price will be less than the latest asking price of $999,000, says Frumentino, who is the listing agent (she would not reveal the exact price prior to the closing).
Muhammad and his wife, Christa, bought the 8,600-square-foot home in 2008 for $1.455 million. In early 2009, the couple listed the house on eBay with an asking price of $1.9 million. Frumentino took over the listing in April 2010 and reduced the price to $1.128 million and two months later cut it to $999,000, or 68 percent of what the couple had originally paid for the home.