You never know what the Little Italy housing market will offer up. The historic neighborhood flanking Taylor Street from Morgan Street west to Ashland Avenue has been chopped up by CHA developments (and now the absence of those buildings), by UIC clearance, and by town home infill. There are still blocks with a pleasing human scale and the bulk of their 19th Century homes, but these rarely hit the market because they are relatively few in number. In September, a really fine three-bed row home did list for sale, a shining representative of seven attached 1880s limestone row homes on the 900 block of South Loomis Street.
The seller is developer Mike Pesoli, who, with the help of local designers, restored and modernized the 2,500-square-foot house to a level that suggests resale was never in the cards. “He put so much money into this not worrying about getting it back," says listing agent Billy Grabscheid of @properties. “There’s a new roof, new gutters, doors, windows, and mechanicals. Even the crawl space has been redone. They didn’t forget anything.” The one oversight was that an ideal property would present itself at an East Lake Shore Drive building long coveted by Pesoli’s wife.
At the cosmetic level, all three full baths and a powder room have been sweetened with marble and the kitchens outfitted with top appliances and cabinet doors that lift up for ease and efficiency. I say kitchens because the house includes a garden unit with the same level of finish.
Pesoli’s 20-something son lives in the souped-up garden apartment, and has expressed a willingness to stay and pay market rent. Grabscheid and Pesoli estimate that if someone bought the house and wanted to keep the separate income-generating unit, it could command between $1,800 and $2,000. “It’s an odd thing [to price] because it’s such a high-end studio unit,” says Grabscheid. “There’s not another rental like it.” The unit has exposed brick, inset lighting, built-in shelving, a front patio, and a shared back patio.
The division can be erased, but it requires building a vestibule off the back in order to run stairs between the spaces. The doors and windows are lined up to be able to revert to single-family and the seller has plans drawn up for that which they’ll gladly pass along. All three levels of the house benefit from a rare amount of preserved detailing, from the banister to the wood trim and plaster work. Both fireplaces are restored originals, now served by gas lines. The first and second floors also boast 12-foot ceilings.
Since Pesoli only bought the home in December 2012 and the family’s ascendency to the Drive came quickly and suddenly, there was no time to build a garage. There is a foundation for one, though, and it serves as a two-car parking pad for the time being. Zoning allows for a garage-top deck, when someone gets around to it.
Price Points: This listing is priced above the norm for attached housing in Little Italy. It’s hard to find comps for it. However, says Grabscheid, “if you look at the rest of the row homes, they haven’t been renovated. There may be one or two single family homes on par.” There are indeed: A freestanding 3,000 square-foot home one block north on Loomis Street comes closest with a $799,000 asking price after listing for $879,900 in March. It has modern touches, but also a pervasive 1980s aura. And there’s a large piece of 1990s infill on a great stretch of Flournoy Street asking $1.175 million, but it’s had a turbulent listing history. If you think in price per square foot $300 is lofty for this part of town, but there are only a few square blocks of historic Little Italy and the closer one is to Taylor Street the better for property value.