Thursday, August 23, 2007


The Porch People and I seem to have a huge communication gap lately.

Not too long after I wrote my last Porch People post, I received a return phone call from my contact and an appointment was set with the master carpenter.

Of course at the appointed time he didn’t show up.

I was fit to be tied. Saying I was pissed was an understatement.

I put a phone call into my contact that very day.

Since the appointment was for last Saturday, my contact and I played phone tag on Monday.

Oh---did I mention that the appointment was set on August 9th? A full nine---count ‘em nine days before the actual appointment on August 18th.

Can you believe that bullshit?

Adding insult to injury, one of the phone messages I received from my contact was that the master carpenter actually was there and left notes on what needed to be repaired or replaced.

We paid that company $90,000 for our porches and the level of communication that we receive on follow up problems takes the form of a note left on a porch?

Are you kidding me?

I was also told that he showed up at our association around 9:25 A.M. because of “traffic.”

Our appointment was at 9:00 A.M.

It was at that exact moment my head spun around.

What happened to professionalism? Moreover what happened to common courtesy?

And at the very least what the fuck happened to calling when you were late?

I took me a full day to calm down so I could clearly and more importantly---civilly speak to my contact.

I informed him that his master carpenter being late due to traffic wasn’t my problem. When an appointment is set---it’s set. And if for some “good” reason you’re going to be late, you at least have the common courtesy to call and let someone know.

Personally speaking I think these jokers are trying to blow smoke up my ass.

I have a feeling that the master carpenter didn’t want to get off of his can and schlep down to the south side.

We have a porch that’s roughly 18th months old and has questionable structural issues and a company that seemingly doesn’t want to do anything to correct their mistakes.

I’m quickly losing my patience with this situation and the Porch People.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


I went and took the T.W.O. Neighbor survey on Saturday and quickly realized that it may not have been targeted for the working professional.

Then of course I may be wrong.

A vast majority of the questions were aimed at pinpointing employment skill sets.

Do you have a trade? Have you ever been a home health care worker? Do you have office skills?

In light of my looming unemployment, these questions are very pertinent.

Nonetheless I was surprised at not only the skill set questions but the questions concerning the neighborhood quality of life issues, general quality of life issues and affordable housing.

When a list of questions was ticked off about neighborhood concerns and retail and/or services wasn’t among them I found it odd.

I finished the survey and received a $10.00 Target gift card.

That came right on time as I just ran out of laundry detergent.

I mentioned to my friend that in my opinion it seemed that none of the questions were geared toward professionals or the non-existent retail presence in Woodlawn.

He listened and said, “That’s because they want to know about the potential pool of workers in the neighborhood.”

I sat stunned by his assessment.

When I asked why this survey was commissioned and what it hoped to achieve, I was given a stock answer of “community improvement.”

How this information was going to improve the community or what was going to be done with it wasn’t clearly defined or explained.

In fact I couldn’t get any information about the services that the T.W.O. was running out of the former all girls’ Catholic school next door to my building or a contact name for that matter.

When I commented that since Rev. Finney’s church left a few years ago, the upkeep of the property has been questionable at best, I was referred to my alderman and city services.

If you’re thinking what I was thinking at the time---I was a bit amazed by the answer as well.

And now that I’m thinking about it---I didn’t get a chance to interface with my neighbors.

As you came in and signed the sign-in sheet, the survey was administered by a T.W.O. volunteer/representative so you never got to kibbutz with anyone else.

What’s the point of holding a neighbor open house if you don’t get to say hey to the neighbors?

Very curious, no?

So it looks like T.W.O. may not be advocating for a dry cleaner for the eastern part of Woodlawn anytime soon.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Woodlawn Alert

The Woodlawn Organization (T.W.O.) is holding a Neighbor to Neighbor Open House on Saturday, August 18th, Tuesday, August 21st & Thursday, August 23.

Billed as an information-exchange gathering, community residents are encouraged to learn about T.W.O. and also participate in the Woodlawn Survey.

Personally I think this may be a great way for people that have been living next door or around the corner from each other to actually meet and to also reassess our rapidly changing community’s demographic.

If we’re lucky perhaps T.W.O. will persuade a cleaner to relocate or open in the eastern section of the ‘hood.

Can you tell that my fine garments are piling up by the door?

Dates, times & locations of the various open houses are below:

Saturday, August 18th
12:00-4:00 P.M.
1445 East 65th Street, Chicago, IL
Jackson Parkside Apartments 6040 South Harper, Chicago, IL
Berry Manor Apartments, 737 East 69th Street, Chicago, IL

Tuesday, August 21st
4:30-7:30 P.M.
1445 East 65th Street, Chicago, IL
Jackson Parkside Apartments 6040 South Harper, Chicago, IL
Berry Manor Apartments, 737 East 69th Street, Chicago, IL
WECDC, 950 East 61st Street, Chicago, IL

Thursday, August 23rd
4:30-7:30 P.M.
1445 East 65th Street, Chicago, IL
Jackson Parkside Apartments 6040 South Harper, Chicago, IL
WECDC, 950 East 61st Street, Chicago, IL
Harris Chicago Park District, 62nd & Drexel, Chicago, IL

New Friends

Say hey to some new blogging friends I made at Hyde Park Progress, The North Coast & The Chicago Bubble Blog.

They all stumbled upon my humble offering and apparently liked what they read.

Coasty has been especially verbal---leaving messages and chatting via the comments section, but Bubbly & HPP have given the love as well.

I added their links over to the left for easy perusal.

When time allows, give them a read. I think that you’ll enjoy or at the very least become informed of the myriad of issues in different 'hoods.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Does This Mean I’m Going To Have To Start Closing My Blinds?

I told you the ‘hood is blowing up.

Now it’s a long way from being a done deal but our friends at Hyde Park Progress have let the cat out of the bag about a proposed high rise at 64th & Stony Island.

Naturally I’d like to see more about the tower and its potential impact on the neighborhood.

The proposed building will be a block away from the crib so I need to know if they’ll have parking.

And if they also happened to have a pool that the public could use---that would be great too.

Granted, I’ll probably be married with kids before this project even breaks ground.

But isn’t nice to know that Woodlawn’s getting some love?

South side stand up.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Temperature Gauge

Much is happening in the hoody hoo right now.

It’s real estate-o-rama Woodlawn style.

A unit below me is getting ready to close next week. I can only imagine the (low) price that it’s selling for.

That sound you hear is my property value dropping.

And while I’m on that topic, a building on my block that I thought was a six flat is on the market as well.

Some dumb ass thought it was a good idea to take that beautiful building---which I suspect was built to house people for the Columbia Exposition---and put a bootleg wall up in the middle of the marble foyer and make it into two three flats.

Philistines. Why do these people even exist?

So the western three flat is on the market for $375K.

Note that it’s right next to the a condo “association” that my developer did, but four or five of the units went into foreclosure and have been on the market for almost two years.

Candidly speaking, if I had the money I’d buy a few units myself.

That all being said, there are signs of life that Woodlawn hasn’t given up the ghost real estate wise.

While the Living Green Lofts have yet to break ground, foundations have been poured for what appears to be two new condo developments on the southwest corner of Blackstone and 65th place.

And yes, that head you see peeking from the third floor of the back porches across the street is mine.

65th place and Dorchester seem to be the new building hot spots in my neck of the woods.

Now you can say if you build it they will come, but philosophy and reality are two different things.

I’m interested to see how quickly units will sell.

Moreover, I’ll click my heels if the units sell anywhere near the listing prices.

One word: Equity.

Four more words: I told you so.

I’ve chronicled the ups and downs of my humble existence for almost two years. Despite the drama my neighbors and I have gone through, you’ve never heard me say that Woodlawn wasn’t worth the struggle.

I love where I live. I love my pile of bricks. I love my view and I love the south side.

But don’t confuse my south side love with being a Sox fan.

I have no doubt that all of us will come out on top.

And when we do, whether it takes five years or fifty years, I’ll look like a genius.

In the interim it would be nice if a local dry cleaner would open up to clean a sister’s cashmere sweaters.

So it with some dread and renewed interest that I’m watching the ‘hood around me right now.

While the values may be depressed right now, I honestly believe that they’ll go from zero to sixty and it will take everyone by surprise.

Except for me.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Didn't I Just Say That

Chicago magazine (and frankly anyone with good sense) has also noted the damage done to property values due to foreclosures in "emerging" neighborhoods.

One way to minimize any condo association's risk is to lock it down and make it owner occupied only.

That's not to say that owner occupied units won't wind up in foreclosure, but it's my humble opinion that you'll be a little more motivated to save the roof over your head vs. saving the roof over your tennant's head.

I'm just saying...

Excuse Me?

Would you believe that we’re getting the cold shoulder from the Porch People?

Can you imagine that phone calls or e-mails aren’t being returned---by anyone?

That after almost two years a brand new porch with what was supposed to be constructed of high quality lumber is severely splitting.

And I can’t get a return phone call?

To add insult to injury now the “answering service” is picking up.

This must be a bad dream. Is someone pulling my leg?

Perhaps I’m overreacting. Perhaps they have a European mentality about vacation and they’re taking the month of August off.

Or perhaps we’re getting the shaft.

And if we are getting the shaft do they think that I personally don’t have every step of this process documented five ways to Sunday?

They have to know that I have every e-mail and every contract about our business together.

That I will go to the department of Consumer affairs and the news papers at the drop of a hat.

I hope I get a return phone call soon---like before the end of business on Friday.

If not, I’ll consider the gauntlet thrown down and it’s on like donkey kong.

You’re not taking $90,000 of our money and giving us substandard work.

I don’t think so.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

What I’ve Learned

Believe it or not after months of determined pestering and a lucky break or two, my mortgage mess is finally settling down.

My mortgage company has the foresight to understand that all of a reduced amount is better than nothing at all.

But seriously folks, I’ve dodged a major bullet and am thanking the Lord that I still have a roof over my head.

So as a public service to you kids, I’m going to part with some lessons that I’ve learned about Chicago real estate.

1. Your home is not a piggy bank.

Don’t assume that the value of your home will continue to increase exponentially. Eventually all of these sky high values will shake out and come back down to earth.

2. Just because you got lucky once doesn’t mean lightning will strike again.

Yeah you may have sold your “started condo” for over twice the price you paid for it but that type of success rarely repeats itself every two to three years. Don’t think that you’ll be able to do that every time you want to sell or refinance.

3. Adjustable Rate and Interest Only Mortgages are the devil.

If you ever get one of these mortgages, please read the fine print and fully understand what you’re signing. You know how grandma always said you’ve got to pay the devil his due? Well those cloven footprints in the flower bed weren’t made by the dog. The devil wants you to pay up. Right now.

4. The ‘hood matters.

If you start seeing more than three foreclosures within a half mile radius of your home you probably shouldn’t plan on using your equity to send the tots off to college. As much as it pains me to inform you of this but the value of your home is about to take a nose dive---big time.

The aforementioned ARM mortgages, shady financing and mortgage fraud has hit everywhere but “emerging” neighborhoods where housing stock is less expensive are more vulunerable.

In short, a neighborhood (such as Woodlawn) is trying to turn itself around by attracting middle class home owners. Since the prices are usually lower than a similar unit in Lakeview or Lincoln Park, investors swarm all over newly renovated or newly built condo developments.

If you have an over leveraged legitimate home owner or a shady investor, everyone in the neighborhood will feel the pain of their bad decisions for years to come.

When the shit starts hitting the fan and units (or single family homes) start to get foreclosed upon the financial blood bath begins.

I should know, I’ve been living through it and writing about it for the past two years. It ain’t pretty.

Man, if I knew then what I know now…

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Oh Happy Day

Comcast is on it's way out the door!

The Dish/ATT cable guy is here and I'm (hopefully) mere minutes away from 250 chanels for my viewing pleasure.

Oh joy, oh rapture!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The City Hates Him Too

Ladies and Gentlemen seeking justice for our beleaguered condo association has been a driving force in my life for the past two years.

It’s why I started this blog.

Well that and I thought I’d go bat shit crazy from all of the association drama.

It’s been a long road.

I’ve discovered that if you pursue it long enough, things may start to change for the better.

I think that’s about to happen with respect to bootleg developers.

After countless months of waiting the City of Chicago is starting (or has started) a joint task force between The Mayor’s Office, The Department of Consumer Services and The Department of Construction & Permits to rout out bad developers and general contractors.

We have been delivered from the wilderness.

Hopefully the process will be smoothed out and properly publicized by the end of the calendar year so the general public will know how to put a shady developer or general contractor on “blast.”

The difference between these proceedings and a regular civil city lawsuit is that the city would be seeking remedies that bar the developer from doing business in the city---EVER AGAIN and to put the property or properties that he or she is developing into receivership.

Nice, huh? I call it the developer death penalty.

Now obviously there will be ways for someone to get around the death penalty, but that means you as the smart informed consumer that you are (after reading this blog) will actually have to perform due diligence.

Better yet, if you see your bootleg developer is doing another project, you have to blow the whistle on him or her.

Find the real estate agents that they list with and follow the paper trail from there. It’s incredibly easy and now that everything’s online all the information you ever wanted to know is at your fingertips.


The minute I get word of how you’ll be able to report your ghetto ass developer, I’ll put it on the blog ASAP.

It’s about time the city brings the pain.

On Blast

If my source is to be believed, guess who's rumored to be on the cusp of developing single family homes in Bronzeville?

*Insert Black girl eye roll, neck move and lip smack*

Wednesday, August 01, 2007