Apr 21, 2011

A New Vintage

Just a few blocks west of where Dot lived in the 1940s, Bill Lavicka hopes to transform this property and its sturdy, old mansion into a winery. It will be amazing if he can do it, and I wish him the best of success. Lavicka obviously cares very deeply about preservation, and about respecting age -- of buildings and of people.

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.

The Chicago Tribune has more here.

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