Norman-style house near ChicagoA Norman Conquest

Seventy-year-old mansion mimics the rural style of French farmhouses
Highland Park
List price: $12.5 million
sale price: $11.2 million

Built in 1937 for Fred L. Mandel Jr. (a member of the Mandel Brothers department store family), this 13-room house sits on four acres atop a wooded bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. Its most recent owner, Audrey Kaufman, sold the place this past January following the October 2006 death of her husband, Ira, the Chicago financier who helped raise $11 million for the 1986 renovation of the Chicago Theatre.

Designed in an eclectic French style by the architect David Saul Klafter, the North Shore residence has a half-timbered exterior, steeply pitched roofs, and a conical tower reminiscent of the rural farmhouses of Normandy. Inside there are nine bedrooms, nine-plus baths, and four fireplaces. Terraced steps descend from the bluff to the estate’s private 360-foot-long beach.

The property was purchased by a trust said to have been established by a North Shore businessman. The seller’s agent, Julie Deutsch of Coldwell Banker, did not return phone calls; the buyer’s agent, Ellen Chukerman of Baird & Warner, declined to comment, citing a confidentiality agreement with her client.

Buy Georgian

Sears CEO's new North Shore house evokes the formality of an earlier era
Lake Forest
List price: $6.125 million
Sale price: $6.112 million

With its tall chimneys, stately brick façade, and limestone-framed entryway, this formal-looking Georgian has a timeless appeal-and it’s only a year old. It is also the new home of Aylwin Lewis and his wife, Noveline, who this past December paid $6.112 million for the 12-room house.

The former chief executive officer of Kmart, Lewis, 52, is currently the CEO of the Hoffman Estates–based Sears Holdings Corp., the parent company of Kmart and Sears, which joined forces in March 2005. In the 2006 fiscal year, Lewis earned $2.7 million from Sears Holdings and received another $5.2 million in stock options.

Facing the road through an allée of young trees, the house sits on a 1.6-acre site in an area that was once the province of large country estates. Developers have since subdivided many of those properties and built big new houses on the smaller lots. The Lewis home has five bedrooms, seven-plus bathrooms, and six fireplaces. There is a glass-walled conservatory on the back of the house.

Lewis declined to comment on his purchase. Jeannie Emmert, the Coldwell Banker agent for the builder (CBI Custom Homes), could not be reached for comment.

Community Centered

According to a new study, buyers of new houses in reviving Chicago neighborhoods prefer homes that connect with the already-established community. The study-conducted by Brent Ryan and Rachel Weber (respectively, an assistant and an associate professor of urban planning and policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago) and published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Planning Association-examined the assessed value of comparable housing in six gentrifying Chicago neighborhoods that had a poverty rate of at least 20 percent in 1990. It found that buyers were willing to pay significantly more for new housing that incorporated traditional designs-such as rear parking, front entrances, and similar building materials-rather than seeking to isolate themselves. “People who are moving into a preexisting neighborhood want to feel like part of that larger community,” says Weber. “They don’t want to shut it out.”

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