Jack Ryan, who in 2004 dropped out of a contest against Barack Obama for a U.S. Senate seat, is selling a vacant lakefront lot in Wilmette. He and his wife, Amanda, are asking $4.95 million for the property, which is a little over 1.3 acres and has about 120 feet of beach frontage. “We had a beautiful home planned for [the site], but we’re not sure we’ll be spending the bulk of our time up there,” says Amanda Ryan. “We spend a lot of time on the South Side and on the West Coast.”
The Ryans had planned to build a house with about 10,000 square feet of space on the Wilmette property. “When we looked at how huge a project it [would be] to get built, we weren’t sure,” says Amanda Ryan. The couple put the property on the market and launched a website to promote its sale two weeks ago.
According to documents at the Cook County Recorder of Deeds, Jack Ryan bought the property in 1990 in two pieces, spending a total of $1.22 million. Ryan lived in the ranch house that occupied the south portion of the property until he had it demolished a few years ago, says his sister-in-law, Mary Ryan, who, with Jack’s sister Stefanie Ryan, is managing potential buyers’ queries about and access to the site.
Two years ago, a couple paid $9.71 million for 2.2 acres on Kenilworth’s lakefront, almost two miles north of the Ryan property. (The Kenilworth property had a house on it that the buyers, Matthew and Julie Halbower, tore down and replaced with a new house.) That would suggest a market’s-peak price of $4.4 million per acre for lakefront land in the Wilmette-Kenilworth stretch of the North Shore. Ryan’s asking price translates to $3.8 million an acre, but in this case, the buyer does not have to pay the additional cost of demolishing an existing home.
A knowledgeable Wilmette real-estate source tells me that a house about a block south of the Ryan property has been sold for its full asking price of $6.5 million. The sale has not yet closed. The sellers of that home bought the place just two months after Jack Ryan bought his property in 1990, paying $1.5 million, according to Cook County Recorder of Deeds. The house is not a teardown.
Jack Ryan, who grew up in Wilmette, owns 22nd Century Media, a chain of six newspapers in the south suburbs. In June 2004, Ryan withdrew as the Republican candidate for a U.S. Senate seat from Illinois after recently unsealed court papers alleged that Ryan had taken his then-wife, the TV star Jeri Ryan, to several sex clubs. (Jack and Jeri Ryan had divorced in 1999.) Jack Ryan denied the allegations, and Barack Obama, then an Illinois state senator, went on to win the U.S. Senate seat.
The Ryan property, across Sheridan Road from the Baha’i House of Worship, is near Gillson Park, the scene of a spectacular Fourth of July fireworks show that is visible from the Ryans’ land. “We’ve had a lot of fun out there on July fourth, which is Jack’s favorite holiday,” says Amanda Ryan, who married Jack Ryan in 2008.
The Ryans’ fenced lot is vacant except for some barbecue equipment and a flagpole, which usually has a flag flying. Amanda Ryan says the pole was a gift from her father-in-law. “It’s sentimental to keep a flag there even when we’re not,” she says.