Today’s homeowners have demonstrated a decided penchant for enourmous residences, but these three behemoths dwarf all but the most exotic Xanadus.
Size: 41,000 square feet
If you’re living in the shadow of one of those new supersized homes that tower over their neighbors in Chicago and the suburbs these days, take heart: somewhere else, there are even bigger houses going up. And we have the proof.
Deal Estate rounded up three of the largest houses under construction in the Chicago area today. One, slated to spill across seven lots in Lincoln Park, was designed by Thomas Beeby; at press time, only its foundation and structural walls were in place, but when completed, it will encompass at least 20,000 square feet. A second, on a historic lakefront site in Winnetka, is a large compound with a clapboard-and-rock main house, a coach house, a boathouse, and a pool house; designed by Robert A. M. Stern Architects of New York, it totals 27,596 square feet, according to the Village of Winnetka.
The biggest of these latter-day Xanadus, a colossal 41,000-square-footer, is about midway through construction in a far less plum location in the southwest suburbs: an out-of-the-way cul-de-sac outside Burr Ridge. Its only neighbor is a modest ranch house; a pizzeria, a gas station, and the entrance ramp to Illinois Highway 83 are just around a bend in the road.
The pictures on these pages demonstrate that the three houses are gigantic, but to put their scale in still sharper perspective, consider that the average-size American home built in 2005 was 2,434 square feet (an all-time high), and that the typical Chicago bungalow runs about 1,250 square feet. That means the house near Burr Ridge could swallow 32 bungalows-all the houses on both sides of a city block.
What’s more, that whopper of a house will be home to only three people. Nick Memeti, the 30-year-old owner of Freedom Mortgage Team, is building it for himself and his parents-and the hundreds of guests he plans to have at the frequent parties he expects to throw in the cavernous basement. Down there, he will have an indoor pool (he is also planning an outdoor pool), slot machines, a dance floor, a 30-seat movie theatre, and a full gym. “It’s really built for entertaining,” Memeti says. “I have about 200 employees, and this will be the place for them to come and break bread with the boss and hang out.”
The two floors above feature a dining room in one turret and a library in another, each with interior balconies tucked under a three-story domed ceiling; a six-room master suite in the southwest wing; a four-room layout for Memeti’s parents in the northwest wing; an elevator; and a 12-car garage. There will also be seven guest suites, Memeti says, each with its own walk-in closet, fireplace, and bathroom. “My goal is that every guest have their own hotel suite, so to speak,” he says.
Size: 27,596 square feet
When the house is completed, says Memeti’s father, Sam (who is overseeing construction), three-inch slabs of stone quarried in the Middle East will cover the lower section of its exterior. The upper section will be painted stucco, with an elaborate carved crown molding running below the roof. An enormous 40-foot-wide balcony spans the rear of the house, and an immense entry staircase marks the front. The architect is Rob Kirk of Group A Architects in Arlington Heights.
DuPage County records show that in 2001, Nick’s parents, Sam and Lydia-Re/Max real-estate agents and homebuilders-bought the three-acre lot for $480,000. Sam says he was considering building several luxury homes there, but three years later the Memetis turned the parcel over, at no cost, to their son. They had raised him, and their two other children, in a 1,200-square-foot house in Lyons before moving to a house in Tinley Park.
Nick Memeti says that he initially planned to build four houses on the lot and sell them before deciding to build something for himself. According to both Nick and his father, recent appraisals on the house, which should be finished within a year, estimate its value at about $15 million. “I worry sometimes how much space it is for so few people,” he says, “but naturally I do plan to get married and have children. Maybe I’ve watched too many [episodes of] Cribs on MTV.”
The Lincoln Park house, which is in only the early stages of construction, fills seven lots on Burling Street, a white-hot center of luxurious new homes. The owners are Richard and Michaela Parrillo; he is the CEO of the United Auto Insurance Group (which is based in Oak Brook), and he headed former governor George Ryan’s legal defense fund.
In May 2005, the Parrillos spent more than $10.5 million for the land (the exact figure is not in public records). The parcel, slightly under six-tenths of an acre, is the eastern section of the former site of an Infant Welfare Society facility that has been demolished. The western section, along Halsted Street, will be developed by a separate buyer as retail space.
Size: 20,000-plus square feet
The Parrillos’ architect, Thomas Beeby, designed the Harold Washington Library Center, the Harris Theater in Millennium Park, and the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Building at the Art Institute, as well as several high-end homes. Beeby’s office declined to comment for this article, but the Chicago Tribune has described the house as “highly ornate French classical.” In June, the Sun-Times reported that the couple will have spent more than $40 million by the time the house is finished, about a year from now. Its size will reportedly be from 20,000 to 27,000 square feet. (The Parrillos did not return phone calls for this story.)
The last of these gargantuan new houses, which sits on a three-acre lot on Sheridan Road overlooking Lake Michigan in Winnetka, was completed this summer. As gracious on the outside as it is spacious, the sprawling house is a charming composition of porches and gables whose mix of rock, white siding, and black shutters gives it classic good looks. The firm of Robert A. M. Stern, which has designed everything from mansions in the Hamptons to hotels at Euro Disney in Paris, is the architect. It describes the residence itself-which, the firm says, is 17,000 square feet-as American Country Georgian.
The estate includes a pool, a boathouse, and a picturesque crab-shaped private cove that is a break from the North Shore’s standard of linear plots of sand along the lake. The owner is Byron Trott, co-chief of the Chicago office of the investment firm Goldman Sachs, who bought the land in 2001 for $11.45 million. The land had been the site of a house dating to 1855 and owned by the Brach family, of candy fame; the house was demolished the year before Trott bought the land. (Trott did not respond to phone calls asking for comment.)
While these three newcomers dwarf most other homes, including the 10,000-square-footers that are increasingly common in large-lot communities, they echo a tradition of residential palaces in and around Chicago. A few old Lake Forest mansions, the former P. K. Wrigley mansion in Lincoln Park, and other homes passed the 20,000-foot mark. Their fates have been varied, but there is a cautionary tale from at least one of those old behemoths: on South Prairie Avenue, Marshall Field Jr.’s 30,000-square-foot house, which dates back to 1884, has recently been sliced into six condos.
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Photography: Aerial Images Photography