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'Historic' 120-Year-Old Lakewood Balmoral Home Could Meet Wrecking Ball

By Benjamin Woodard | November 15, 2013 7:26am
 The potential buyers of a Lakewood Balmoral Historic District home plan to raze the house and replace it with a new one.
The potential buyers of a Lakewood Balmoral Historic District home plan to raze the house and replace it with a new one.
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DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

EDGEWATER — The soon-to-be new owners of a 120-year-old home in the Lakewood Balmoral Historic District said they plan to tear down the old house and replace it with a new one.

But some neighbors hope David and Lauren Grossman rehab it instead to help preserve the character of Magnolia Avenue.

"I walked through the entire house and I thought [it was] definitely a candidate for a restoration," said architect Thom Greene, who has helped to rehab as many as 50 other homes in the neighborhood.

The Grossmans said they've since received hostile responses from some neighbors after announcing their plans — even though they didn't initially intend to build a new home when they fell in love with Lakewood Balmoral.

"We just really want people to know that we really respect the home and respect the community, and it was not our intent to ... destroy the history or the beauty of what’s there," Lauren Grossman said. "At the same time, if it’s unfixable, then it’s unfixable."

Grossman said a building inspector who has worked with other homes in the neighborhood told her a rehab of the house — which has extensive termite damage and needs an entirely new foundation — would be "close to impossible."

The Grossmans do have unlikely supporters: The current owners of the home. They aren't bothered by the plan to tear down the home at 5340 N. Magnolia Ave.

"This house has had its day, I would say," said Gail Barazani, who has lived with her family in the four-bedroom home for 52 years.

The 86-year-old said she and her husband, Morris, plan to move to a Sheridan Road condo after the December closing on the property, which had been listed at $799,000.

But others in the neighborhood, including former 48th Ward Ald. Mary Ann Smith, are crying foul.

During her tenure on the City Council, Smith was successful in 1999 in getting the neighborhood listed on the National Register of Historic Places. But the designation is mostly honorary and doesn't stop someone from tearing down a home.

"Now they want to live in the neighborhood because of all the work we've done in the last 35 years. So why would they want to tear down a piece of it?" said Smith, addressing residents Tuesday at a neighborhood meeting about Lakewood Balmoral's history. "When you buy something like this, you know what you're getting into."

Grossman said her family planned to build a "modestly sized home" on the lot that fits with the character of the neighborhood.

She also said she was working with an architect who would try to reclaim parts of the house if possible.

Bill Hynes, the co-president of the Lakewood Balmoral Residents' Council, said the opinions coming from the more than 350 households in the neighborhood have been mixed.

"A lot of people would like to see the home stay intact," Hynes said. He said some neighbors might seek landmark status for the house to save it from the wrecking ball.

The Edgewater Historical Society's board plans to meet Saturday to decide whether to take an official stance on the Magnolia home's future, board member LeRoy Blommaert said.

He said the home was built about 1891 by developer John Lewis Cochran, one of Edgewater's founders.

Grossman, who is pregnant with her second child, said her family hopes to move into the neighborhood within the next year and a half.

"It’s a neighborhood that we have loved for a long, long time for so many reasons," she said. "It’s so beautiful. We love the old homes, we love the architecture and the old trees and the proximity to the lakefront."

But, she said, they're most looking forward to living in a thriving community with good schools and good businesses.

"There’s a lot of pretty places that you can live, but there’s not a lot of places that have a cohesive community like the Lakewood Balmoral neighborhood."