BTW, here's more about this historic landmark referred to as the Raber House located at 5760 S. Lafayette Ave.
Bill Lavicka's renovations have always been unusual. The veteran rehabber and owner of Historic Boulevard Services has trucked four buildings intact from one site to another, converted small churches into homes, remade entire Near West Side blocks and showcased his quirky aesthetic by topping spires and balusters with bowling balls.I hope this can happen. I'm all for finding creative ways to revitalize urban areas. Just another plan for an urban farm in an area with land that well real estate developers haven't discovered yet.
But the next remodel he has his heart set on raises the bar on unusual. Lavicka wants to turn a boarded-up Washington Park mansion, one of the city's last surviving examples of a multiacre country estate, into a winery.
And he doesn't want to import the grapes.
He wants to plant about 5,000 vines in the yard — what's now three or so bombed-out-looking blocks along the Dan Ryan Expressway just south of Garfield Boulevard.
Complicating matters, the vacant land and long-neglected mansion are owned by the city of Chicago. For nearly two years, Lavicka, 66, has been trying to persuade the city to sell 40 to 50 lots that were once part of the John Raber estate to him for $1 each, plus commit to streetscape and road improvements, and subsidize part of the renovation in some way.
Ald. Willie Cochran said Wednesday that he is "confident this deal will get closed," saying the winery would be approved along with an adjacent urban farm and new park with a baseball field. But details remain to be ironed out, and those will have to wait for the new mayor's input, he said.
The project, Lavicka said, has taken longer to plan than it would take to remodel.
"I probably like the buildings more than wisdom would allow, or should allow," Lavicka said as tears began to fill his eyes. "I can take an old building and fix it up, and everybody else goes by for years and years saying knock it down."
Via Bill Baar!