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Kenwood Residents Kill Pritzker's Plan to Buy Frank Lloyd Wright Houses

By Sam Cholke | November 19, 2013 7:58am
 Neighbors said they were invited to a secret meeting on a plan by Jennifer Pritzker to restore two Frank Lloyd Wright homes in Kenwood.
Wright Homes in Kenwood
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KENWOOD — Jennifer Pritzker’s plan for a bed-and-breakfast in two historic Frank Lloyd Wright mansions was quashed Monday night.

“I bought in this neighborhood because I wanted to live in a single-family home neighborhood,” said Dr. Anita Blanchard, a professor at the University of Chicago who delivered President Barack Obama’s two daughters. “I think this will open the door to more of this and bring transients to the neighborhood.

Blanchard and others at the 4th Ward meeting at St. Paul and the Redeemer, 4945 S. Dorchester Ave., fiercely opposed plans by Pritzker’s Tawani Enterprises to restore the George Blossom and Warren McArthur homes because it would introduce a commercial business to the residential area in the 4800 block of South Kenwood Ave.

“I’m not going to move forward on a project that does not have the support of the community,” Ald. Will Burns said after a presentation from Tawani Enterprises and comments from the audience. “I got the message, and we’re not going to move forward with it.”

Sean McGowan, chief operating officer for Tawani, said he had heard objections, but the negative reaction to the company’s offer was overwhelming.

Tawani was offering to buy and completely restore the Blossom House, 4858 S. Kenwood Ave., and the McArthur House, 4852 S. Kenwood.

The two Kenwood homes are considered “bootlegs” designed by Wright off the books while he was still employed by architecture firm Adler and Sullivan, and are a rare instance of Wright designing neighboring homes.

To win over residents, Tawani offered a restrictive covenant that would assure that if the bed-and-breakfast failed, the houses would return to private homes, and any future owner that wanted to continue the bed-and-breakfast would have to start from scratch.

“They would essentially have to go back through the community process,” said Andrew Scott, the zoning attorney working on the project.

The covenant would also have assured that any homeowner within 1,000 feet of the bed-and-breakfast could have filed a case against the company if it failed to live up to any of its promises.

None of these were promises were enough to sway residents into allowing the project to go forward.

“A neighborhood should be a neighborhood and not an investment for commercial investors,” Dianne Dickens Cobb said.

Burns said he was convinced that a commercial use for the two Wright buildings was not appropriate for Kenwood, and he sided with residents.

McGowan said the company would go back to explore its options, but he said he felt the neighbors were firm in their resolve.