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

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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.

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