Empty Lots, Boarded-Up Mansion To Turn Into Winery?

CHICAGO (CBS) — A rehabber and historic preservationist is hoping to turn a boarded up old house near Washington Park, and the land around it, into a winery.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya reports, Bill Lavicka tells the Chicago Tribune’s Melissa Harris that he wants to rehab the John Raber mansion at 5760 S. Lafayette Ave., and the 40 or 50 lots that were once part of its surrounding estate.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya reports

Today, those mostly empty lots comprise three blocks just east of the Dan Ryan Expressway and south of Garfield Boulevard.

The area surrounding the house is now struggling, but is also only about a mile and a half west of the Hyde Park neighborhood and the University of Chicago.

He hopes to grow 5,000 grapevines on the land, which is now full of old plywood, tires, garbage bags and an old grocery cart that was chopped in half, the Tribune reported.

Lavicka is seeking to buy the city-owned land for $1 for each of the lots, but no deal is final and Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel must weigh in once he takes office, the Tribune reported. The paper says he hopes to grow German white wine grapes such as Reislings, and Concord grapes.

Lavicka did not respond to an e-mail from CBS Chicago seeking more information about the winery, and whether the mansion would be used as space for a tasting room or for other uses.

The City of Chicago says the Raber House was completed in 1870, a year before the Great Chicago Fire. It is an Italianate-style house with a wooden cupola, and its grounds were so extensive that its original address was on State Street the next block east.

The house was designated a historic landmark on April 16, 1996, the city says.

  • Bud

    Who is going to supply the armed guards needed to protect the visitors that would actually pay to visit and what happens at night? Is there going to be 8′ fencing with razor wire to keep the criminals out?

    Anything nice in that area either gets vandalized or stolen

  • Leroy Goldberg

    The entire South Side is already a winery. They all walk around with the bottles in a bag as if they were fooling anybody.

  • adeezy

    @ Leroy and Bud, it’s ass-halfs like you two that give racists a bad name.

  • Mel

    Why only charge $ 1 per lot? I’m so sick of developers and the rich guys who get the special land deals to “revitalize” and “gentrify”. NORMAL people would like to do things to improve blighted areas, but we don’t have the connections. If I could buy the lots for a buck apiece, I sure as hell would do something better for the community than put in a rich person’s luxury such as a winery! How about a community garden or community center? This guy may be a preservationist, but that doesn’t make him any more noble than the fat cats who get deals like this through their political connections. His plan for the area will enrich HIMSELF – not the surrounding community.

  • Urban Planning Specialist

    For the last comments nay-saying the project, a winery is a type of garden and noone has done anything there thus far. It could be a real magnet for attracting interesting bussinesses to the area. Keeping a neighborhood down just for the sake of opposing “gentrification” is short-sighted. Blight continues in our neghborhoods not because of developers, but because those who live in less developed areas continually block proposed improvements. It is an excellent idea and should go forward without delay.

  • brian

    i’m sure there are tons of lots in chicago for $1. The city wants to sell them and return them to the tax rolls, so Mel go ahead and buy a few and do something with them,no one is stopping you from doing that. Its not only some rich people that can buy the lots, but you cant improve them without cash and the city wont sell them to you so you can collect tires and plywood on them. So blame yourself for not having cash to improve the lots if the city wont sell them to you, but dont blame the rich guys for having money.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Daily Weather Reports Delivered To You!SIGN UP NOW: Get daily weather reports every morning from meteorologist Steve Baskerville!
CBS Sports Radio RoundupGet your latest sports talk from across the country.

Listen Live