Fifteen years ago, the area generally bounded by Lake Street, Ashland, Ogden, and Western Avenues, was positioned by realtors and condo developers as the logical extension of the West Loop. This began to happen, but speculation got a little out of hand, the property values nosedived. There was a 25 to 30 percent drop in the area—about double the citywide average.
If there’s one property capable of steering the average Chicagoan’s attention back to the Near West Side, it’s this Victorian row home rehab at 2249 West Warren Blvd. Larisa Bykova purchased the gracious 3,000-square-foot home for $75,000 in December 2009. It had seen better days—its façade mangled; marble painted over; mechanicals virtually destroyed; and its stairs impassible. The current $459,000 asking price accounts for a laborious installation of imported finishes, the addition of a master suite, and a complete reconstruction of living spaces and mechanicals.
“Six blocks to the north [in West Town], this would sell for $700,000,” says listing agent Brian Ruff of D’Aprile Properties. Make it a mil in Bucktown. There’s been just two restored row house sales within a mile radius in the last year, so comps also had to come from price per square foot comparisons with nearby condos and townhouses.
But here, south of the Green Line and west of Ashland Avenue, the Warren Blvd place is among the many affordable 19th Century townhouses in all kinds of shape. You can buy a fully restored property like this one, or, start at the bottom and build sweat equity for five years from now.
The layered improvements to this 1873 three-bedroom home lean heavily on old-world finishes, both antique and mock antique. Bykova is from Russia, and, at least in her experience, marble is the go-to for countertops and foyer floors. So that’s what she added. Regal gold-painted living and dining room furniture is mostly from the 1930s and 1940s, and was pieced together from disparate sets stateside. Meanwhile, the crystal chandeliers that dominate most rooms are pure Europe.
In a random twist of fate, after Bykova’s marble treatments, the paint being stripped from three old non-functioning fireplaces revealed elaborate marble work—and its color matched the counters.
The house may have spent some time as a two-flat with its telltale undercarriage second entry. This English basement is where the rec room and fourth bedroom are stashed. Direct backyard patio and garden access is also through this level. The main and bedroom levels are far more spectacular, with 12-foot ceilings and doublewide doorways. The master suite was created by merging two bedrooms, turning one into a tiled sky-lit bath.
The home was built in concert with its two conjoined neighbors, each of which has also enjoyed a recent renovation. Indications from Ruff are that those owners are here for the long haul—comfort to anyone worried that this would become a neighborhood of fast flips.
Evidence of a reawakened Near West Side is minimal, but in a time when people are even chattering about changes to East Garfield Park, it’s fair to plan for an uptick. Last year, a developer announced plans for 88 apartments in two buildings on the west side of Ashland between Madison Street and Warren, leaping that four-lane barrier for the first time since the recession.
One intractable problem for the area has been 20 acres surface parking lot for the nearby arena. The new United Center practice facility may spark limited retail growth, but, as an island in a sea of parking, will any neighborly amenities arise? The lots run uninterrupted along both sides of Warren from Wood Street to Damen Avenue.