Now a neighborhood group, the Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference, is stepping in to host a meeting to try to ease tensions over the Blossom House, 4858 S. Kenwood Ave., and the McArthur House, 4852 S. Kenwood Ave.
“It just seemed like there were too many angry, upset people on both sides that we thought we could calm the waters,” said Jack Spicer, a conference member who helped organize an information meeting on the bed and breakfast for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Ancona School, 4470 S. Dorchester Ave.
At a Nov. 18 4th Ward meeting, residents vehemently denounced the plans by Pritzker’s Tawani Enterprises as an unwanted incursion of commercial activity into a residential neighborhood. Those who opposed the plan said the neighborhood could wait for another private investor to fix up the homes.
Residents in favor of the plan said they were unaware of the meeting and have asked Ald. Will Burns (4th) to reconsider the proposal, arguing that it is unlikely a private individual would come along with the amount of money necessary to properly restore the two early works by Frank Lloyd Wright.
“It’s probably true that someone could come along and spend a moderate amount of money to get into one of the houses,” Spicer said.
Spicer said he has invited an architect to discuss how much would likely need to be invested to restore the homes. Tim Samuelson, the cultural historian for the city, and another historian will discuss the homes and their place in Kenwood’s history.
Tim Barton, one of the lead authors of the city’s zoning code, will discuss the feasibility of Tawani’s proposal, which would have changed the zoning multiple times on the property as a guarantee to residents that Tawani would not flip the properties after buying them.
The fight has drawn in Hyde Parkers, who have been criticized for meddling in the affairs of the more affluent Kenwood neighborhood.
“If their concern is about the quality of the interiors, that’s everyone’s concern,” Spicer said of the two landmark homes. “If it’s about the cultural behavior of people, who cares, let rich people go and be rich.”
Spicer said Tawani Enterprises has not been invited to the meeting because it is an informational meeting, but Burns has been invited and is expected to attend.
Louisa Michael McPharlin, the daughter of the owner of the McArthur house and who grew up in the house, put both on the market over a year ago and said she has looked for a buyer among Wright enthusiasts, which is how she met Jennifer Pritzker, who has restored Wright homes in the Rogers Park community.
“I toured Wright's Emil Bach house on Sheridan Road and the Cat's Cradle Bed and Breakfast next door, both of which are owned and run as a venue and bed and breakfast by Jennifer Pritzker,” McPharlin said. “The care and attention to detail during the renovation in those buildings is amazing as I hear all of the renovations in her properties are.”
She said she was impressed by Pritzker’s other projects and thought Tawani could preserve the homes and keep them open to the public.