Sunday, December 19th, 2010

That House Up the Street

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, teardowns ranked among the hottest crazes in the western suburbs. Smaller, older homes were demolished to construct what we refer to as starter mansions, or McMansions. Suburban lots were devoured with newer, larger homes with little, to no yards. Two of the communities that were hardest hit were Hinsdale and Elmhurst.

Like most things, the economic downturn of the last decade, brought the teardown craze to a crashing halt. Occasionally, you would see a house here and there, but it's no longer something that's noticeable on every single block.

When it came time to leave our townhouse in Lombard and purchase a regular home, we had our sites set upon Elmhurst. Both Susan and I had long histories with the city and knew we wanted to make it our home. We were able to discover the perfect house for us just before the real estate market tanked. From the start, our goal was to find an older home within an older neighborhood. We found just that. We are about five or six houses away from one of my favorite parks, Eldridge Park. We also enjoy that our block managed to survive with only one house falling victim to the teardown craze. But that, however, may be changing.

Back in early November, I noticed some orange construction fencing popped up around a tree in a yard on our side of the street, just a few houses north from us. The house, in fact, looks very similar to our own. There was a Hinsbrook Construction sign in the front yard. I looked up the company and found they specialize in building custom homes. They design exteriors and interiors. I instantly assumed they were putting on an addition, or redecorating the interior, or even installing an overhead sewer, which seems to be standard in all new homes.

And so it remained until last Thursday.

Thursday is garbage day in our part of Elmhurst. My Thursday mornings always seem rushed these days. I take a cycling class at Courts Plus from 5:45 to 6:30 a.m. I try to have the garbage ready and waiting in the garage on Wednesday night, then I'll drag it to the curb before or after class on Thursday. Last Thursday, after I returned from the gym, I was getting ready for work. Susan had already left because she had to catch a flight for a meeting in Houston. As I was ironing my shirt, I realized I forgot to take a bag of wine, beer, and root beer bottles from our holiday party out with the recycling. Just as the thought struck me, I heard a truck outside and it was close. It was also extremely early. Neither the garbage nor recycling arrives on our block until after I leave for work.

As I sprinted out of our house with recycling in hand, I noticed several trucks lined up in front of the house with the orange fencing. The demolition had already begun. They already punched a hole through the second story. My camera was in my coat pocket and I grabbed a few shots. A crowd of spectators had already assembled across the street. At that point, I could not determine if they were simply removing the second story for an addition, or taking the whole house down.

When I came home from work, it was dark outside, but it was clear that the entire house was gone. On Saturday morning, I walked as close I could and found that the foundation and driveway were gone, too.

Over the next several months, I'll be curious to see if a tasteful home springs up, or a 1990s monstrosity gobbles up the property.

When we bought our home in Lisle over a year ago, our realtor kept calling houses that we planned to live in, tear-downs. We live in an older neighborhood with a few, out-of-place, monstrosities. It's sad when a nice home with character is torn down to put up something that takes away from the charm of a neighborhood.

We also liked Elmhurst and looked at a couple houses there, but soon realized it was a little out of our price range.
jef   Sunday, December 19, 2010
Lake Oswego, a higher end town in the Portland area, fell victim to the same action in the last 10+ years. In the 8 years I've been here I've seen 3 in an area called First Addition that is close to downtown LO. As you indicated they tore down nice older homes and put up the no-yard, massive (I love the name McMansions--how appropriate) houses. I won't say these houses are ugly or ruin the area but they definitely destroy some ambiance and the character of the neighborhood. I haven't seen any houses in my area doing this. The houses may have some remodeling but they still keep the same character. There is a section down from my immediate area that has large houses and more expensive and newer ones but I haven't looked at them close enough to see if they are McMansions or simply a more high-priced, built-later section of the neighborhood. Guess I need to go browsing and see but I hope my little area of the neighborhood keeps the same character as it has for the past 40 years.
LGrant   Sunday, December 19, 2010
I'll admit, some of the new homes look beautiful. They just don't fit. There's one located one block east and one block north of us that looks nice. It was the same style house we have, but they removed the second story and remodeled the house. They had an open house shortly after they completed it. We decided to stop and see how they finished it. It was beautiful, but had zero connection to how the house used to look. Plus, it's on Spring Road which is a fairly busy street. Our house was built in 1943, and we hope to keep it around for quite a long time.
Bill Pearch   Sunday, December 19, 2010
Bill, if enough of this activity happens it makes your house have a higher resale value because someone will want to do a tear down with your house. Cary, North Carolina is a very affulent city and had many beautiful homes that were built in the 70s,80s, and 90s and those homes are being bought and razed and replaced by newer larger and more expensive homes. I don't blame you for not liking this activity because it makes your neighborhood look like a construction zone until every house is completely made over.
BeanCounter37   Sunday, December 19, 2010
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