Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Reality Show Meets Reality

Flip this house - but don't tear it down
They make it look easy on those home improvement shows, don't they. Buy a rundown house, fix up this and tear out that, install new cabinets and appliances, and there it is. Flip this house, for fun and profit.

Not in Chicago, however. No indeed, not in the City That Works, where building inspectors make ends meet by requiring contractors and do-it-yourselfers to dip into their pockets a bit deeper than anticipated.

Alison Victoria of Kitchen Crashers discovered that her reality show, in showing the reality of remodeling that might lead to more extensive renovations than first intended, stepped too deep into the reality of Chicago buildings. If she had not been filming, well, then the building inspector might have looked the other way if she slipped him an envelope stuffed with cash. As it was, she was tweeting about her project, keeping her fans in the loop, and reality shows just can't show the reality of a pay-off. The guys on the take don't like to work in the spotlight,

Her group purchased a cottage in Bucktown, a thoroughly gentrified area of Chicago that was popular with the hipsters until it got too gentrified. Homes go for big money in the neighborhood, thanks to its location, location, location near plenty of public transportation and a restaurant scene that draws people in from all over the city.

They invested well over $500,000 for a cottage that had long ago been converted to a two flat. The building permit allowed for some remodeling, to return the cottage to single family use, but you just never know what will happen when you start tearing things out of old buidings that aren't in the best of shape.

As Alison Victoria discovered, and planned to show her viewers, is that masonry is not always solid after one hundred years without new tuckpointing and when the walls start to crumble, you're looking at full-on demolition. During gutting, the walls fell apart and it became clear that the rehab project was becoming a demolition.Time to call in the architect to revise and the banker to revisit that line of credit.

Then when the building inspector shows up, you take him aside and have a nice talk that involves negotiating a price to make the building permit say something other than what it said in the first place.

That's reality, but it can't be shown on a reality show. Instead, Alison went right on ahead with her project in the way that the ordinary person would think you'd proceed. Encounter a problem, solve the problem, and build on would seem logical, but not in Chicago. Not when somebody's somebody isn't getting their beak wetted.

A stop work order has been slapped on the rehab that turned into a demo when the rehab went wrong. As far as the building department is concerned, Alison Victoria and her production team failed to pull new permits to allow for more extensive work that might have been required after the walls came tumbling down, but wasn't approved by said building department. Like demolishing the cottage instead of fixing it up.

Too bad she didn't have the right sort of recording equipment that would have disguised the identity of the building inspector who would have accepted a little something from HGTV for looking the other way when the project took a wrong turn. Now that would have been a real reality show, demonstrating the reality of working in Chicago when you aren't an alderman with the clout to do what you want because who's going to stop you.

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