PORTAGE PARK — Using the power of social media, a group dedicated to protecting classic Chicago bungalows is hoping to put an end to the demand for massive second-story "pop top" additions decried by preservationists as eyesores.
The Historic Chicago Bungalow Association is targeting Adam Barrera and his firm Welcome Home Chicago Properties with its Stop the Pop campaign — complete with its own #StopThePop hashtag and online petition signed by 821 people.
Heather Cherone on the campaign to prevent bungalow eyesores.
"We had no idea what a hot topic this would be," said Gillian Wiescher, the deputy director of the association. "It went viral, which was very exciting."
The association, which has 16,000 members, objects to renovations of bungalows that alter the homes' trademark sloped roofs by adding a square, full-size second floor covered in siding rather than brick.
"The rate that these renovations are being done is alarming," Wiescher said, acknowledging that the demand is being driven by the resurgence of the real estate market on the Far Northwest Side after the Great Recession.
Barrera said that without the immense additions — which can more than double the size of the 100-year-old homes and allow a much in-demand master suite to be built — the homes wouldn't sell, and would be abandoned and eventually torn down.
"The bungalows I buy are out of date, and no one else wants them," Barrera said. "I want these homes to last for another 200 years."
There are about 80,000 bungalows in Chicago, most built before World War II.
Barrera said he has done about 20 second-floor additions in the last 2½ years. Another 15 are in the works, he said.
But the pop tops destroy "the architectural and aesthetic values of the homes and streetscapes, as well as neighbors' property values."
The association's campaign goes beyond the appearance of the homes, Wiescher said.
"The beauty of bungalows is that they are affordable for many middle-class Chicagoans," Wiescher said. "But they aren't affordable once you drop what looks like a mobile home on the top of it. This is a very destructive trend."
Barrera said that the second-floor additions aren't cheap, typically costing $160,000 to $200,000. Several homes with the additions have sold for $425,000 to $650,000, records show.
"I love bungalows," Barrera said. "I wouldn't touch a well-preserved bungalow, but these are the ones that are out of shape with walls falling down."
Wiescher said the group wasn't interested in asking city officials to block the pop top renovations.
"We don't want to tell homeowners what to do with their properties," Wiescher said. "We want to raise awareness and break these myths. There is a better way to do this."
An example of what the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association calls a "sensible" expansion of a bungalow maintains the house's original roof. [Historic Chicago Bungalow Association]
Portage Park is one of 10 Chicago neighborhoods recognized by the National Register of Historic Places as a historic bungalow district. But that designation — which allows homeowners to get grants, loans and tax credits to renovate their properties — doesn't block pop top renovations, Wiescher said.
"We understand people need more space," Wiescher said.
Wiescher said there is a way to add space without destroying the structural integrity of a bungalow.
"You can get the same amount of space and keep the original roof line," Wiescher said.
Bungalows can be made as energy-efficient as a newly built house, Wiescher said, adding that the association showcased renovations the group endorses on its Facebook page.
The group is working with the American Institute of Architects to put together a list of architects who specialize in renovating bungalows without altering the roof line, Wiescher said.
In addition, the association's fall seminar series will include a panel discussion on what Wiescher called "sensible additions."
Barrera said the association was missing the "bigger picture."
"What the association is talking about is not a rehab, it is a remodel," Barrera said.
Despite the negative attention, Barrera said he didn't mind being called out by the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association.
"Any exposure is good exposure," Barrera said, laughing. "The association is trying to boost their social media presence. If it is working for them, I'm happy for them."
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