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Here’s a Gut-Renovated Brownstone in Lake View for $1.9 Million

The 5,000 square-footer has three bedrooms with the option for a fourth; most of the energy of the renovation went into the facade, genius common spaces, and an incredible roof deck.

The 1889 Wellington Avenue brownstone.   Photo: Ian Spula

Price: $1,899,000

One of the very few true Victorian Brownstones in the city is newly on the market in Lakeview. It’s not a façade of dark, weathered brick masquerading as stone—a favorite spin of Chicago realtors and an allergen of real estate writers. And it’s not a fixer-upper—not anymore. The 5,000-square-foot, 1889 house on Wellington Avenue just west of Halsted Street has received an expert rehab after sitting vacant for several years.

An investor group led by “doctor of renovation” Jim Mellos, as @properties listing agent Nicholas Hansen calls him, closed on the bank-owned property in December 2012 and just completed the total gut with a restored façade and modified floor plan. The previous owner was a surgeon who worked across the street at Advocate Medical Center. Worried about ceaseless blaring sirens? Don’t be—Wellington is a quiet zone from Halsted to Sheffield. The occasional breech comes from new ambulance drivers.

Along with the ornate façade topped with a spectacular cornice, the home makes some noise with an enclosed brick atrium bulging out into the buffer between buildings and a wall-to-wall roof deck lofted four or five feet above the actual roof. This creates an ingenious crawlspace for when roof repairs are needed. The deck is also fed water and electric lines for further build-out opportunities.

There used to be a side garden where the atrium is now, and because of the dining room fireplace just inside, the seller was able to connect a second fireplace to the same chimney. The end result is an original, inspiring space great for cracking a novel or sipping a Scotch (as the stagers have unsubtly suggested).

The remainder of the renovation covered everything from three vintage wood and marble fireplaces to a newly finished basement with rec room and guest suite. A second staircase was added in the back of the house; the kitchen is brand new; and there are new mechanical and home security systems. The seller even relocated a powder room beneath the main stairs so there could be a coatroom.

Price Points: The seller paid $586,000 for the foreclosed property in 2012 and is asking $1.9 million post-renovation. New-construction comps in the area are selling in the low-$2MMs, and there are a few old-timers closing near $2 million. A 7,000-square-foot renovated Graystone on nearby Oakdale Avenue, a few blocks toward the lake, is asking $2.4 million. It started out at $3.1 million in 2010 and has been on-and-off the market ever since.

Hansen doesn’t see that fate befalling his listing. “We’ve seen tremendous interest since hitting the market in mid-November,” says Hansen. “It should sell pretty quickly.” One New Yorker who walked through the house was convinced a place like this would sell for $3,000 a square foot in a comparable Manhattan neighborhood. Assuming that’s true, you could buy nine brownstones in Chicago for every one in New York. Think about that insanity for a moment.

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