The lake that day was the color of verdigris, startlingly blue-green with an iridescent sheen. She was transfixed, amazed at the unbroken lake view, as they traveled south on Lakeshore Drive. Making the turn onto South Shore Drive, they skirted a marina, masts bobbing with the gentle surf. On the opposite side of the road lay the verdant expanse of a golf course.
A few more blocks, and there was another golf course: this one on the lake side. Having only seen photos of the area on a computer monitor, she just wasn't prepared for such a park-like environment. Considering the connotation of “south” when prefacing “Chicago”, she had accepted that they were not going to be living in the choicest of neighborhoods. What they were observing so far challenged that preconception. Within the first mile, with the lake in sight, this place has the attributes of an up-scale residential area.
They were early for their appointment with Michael, the realtor, so they found a grassy spot affording the view that they would enjoy for a long time to come.
First on their list was a 2000 square foot condo in that magnificent building of white stone and glazed terra cotta. It was on the third floor, the highest floor, and overlooked the lakeside golf course. The unit was in need of cosmetic renovation and mid-summer leafage diminished the water view, but surprisingly, the biggest drawback to moving in there was the absence of elevators. Moving heavy pieces of furniture up three flights of stairs seemed an onerous prospect. They decided to keep looking.
Oglesby Avenue between Jackson Park and 71st Street is an impressive enclave of stalwart brick apartment buildings, staunchly impervious to icy winds: from Lake Michigan; from the vagaries of time. Spacious, handsomely appointed apartments are sheltered within those rugged exteriors. They toured several, amazed at the expansiveness and the quality of detail.
Each property they visited was an incredible value. Many years of dealing in real estate- they each held Washington State brokers' licenses – told them that where there are good buys, somewhere in the vicinity is a great buy. Debating whether it was even worth their time- the realtor doubted that anything of interest could be priced below $100,000.- they went to an address further south on South Shore Drive. The photos on the Multiple Listing site were uninspiring, but, leaving no stone unturned, they ventured in. The apartment was large, but kind of depressing. It had been vacant for two years, while in probate. Thermopane windows facing the lake were so clouded from moisture infiltration that the view was practically invisible. Having just left the beautiful units on Oglesby, the contrast was bleak.
Only the classical sounds of WFMT filled the air space during the drive back to his brother's in Batavia. Silently, he pondered the quintessential real estate conundrums: price versus location versus desire. She worked on envisioning the place of her dreams. They had agreed to let it all rest for a couple of days before returning to South Shore and Michael's patient guidance.
A fresh list of possibilities, culled from their online sources, had been e-mailed to Michael. Acknowledging that their time and skills were part of what they brought to the table, this time, the focus was on bargains- “fixer-uppers” in real estate parlance. After looking at four or five units sporting falling plaster, ripped-out plumbing fixtures and missing woodwork, the flaws of the place on South Shore Drive seemed surmountable. Michael put in a call and succeeded in contacting the listing agent, who had not been available for their first visit.
As they waited for the elevator in the lobby, she noticed a bronze plaque on the wall. This building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Sarah not only led them through the apartment, she showed them the storage lockers in the bowels of the building. After she took them up to the roof and the expansive view, she then asked, “Have you seen the beach?”
“The beach? No one said anything about a beach!”
And yes, this building sits on a six block stretch of privately owned Michigan Lake frontage. A ladder off the bulkhead provides access for resident swimmers. A deck affords a peaceful respite where an evening cocktail can be enjoyed in the presence of an incomparable view.
“So, I guess you'll want to go back and think it over,” suggested Michael
“What is there to think about?” she responded.