Chicago Sun Times - A reality TV show that transforms Chicago fixer-uppers into million-dollar homes is creating lots of buzz — but angry residents and at least one alderman say the show is a bad neighbor.
Complaints abound from residents upset about trash, noise and unsecured work sites — and how the older homes rehabbed by HGTV’s “Windy City Rehab” have changed the character of neighborhoods.
One of the show’s projects got slapped with two stop-work orders for doing work outside the scope of city permits.
The city Department of Buildings said Friday it will ask the show’s co-star, builder Donovan Eckhardt, to meet with department officials “to make sure they are meeting our standards and to bring the concerns of neighbors to their attention,” spokesman Gregg Cunningham said.
“We will continue to monitor their work closely and will take further enforcement action if necessary,” Cunningham added.
Besides the complaints, some viewers are scratching their heads over the reality show’s purported profits, wondering in online forums how the rehabbed homes, some of which haven’t sold yet, could be making profits in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for the developers.
The show wrapped up its first season on HGTV this past week and signed on for a second season. HGTV says it’s one of its most popular new series, claiming 9.3 million viewers in its first month and a half on the air.
Victoria, who hosts the show, is from Chicago.
Victoria, whose own home is in Bucktown, describes her goal as “taking over Chicago.”
“Bringing sexy back to the city is what I’m doing, why I got into this business. To make sure that I’m putting my stamp on every neighborhood in Chicago,” Victoria says in one video promoting the show called “High Heels, High Stakes.”
“A hundred years from now, people will be saying my name. I absolutely think I’m changing Chicago one house at a time.”
The two declined to comment to the Sun-Times, saying they’d consider an interview after next season premieres.
While the show has plenty of fans, critics have flocked online to skewer what they say are clumsy techniques and an arrogant attitude toward long-established neighborhoods.
“This show is everything that is wrong with Chicago,” one viewer wrote online. Wrote another: “Chicago does NOT need more 2 flats turned into million dollar single family homes, driving out renters.”
Uh oh...I'll be honest, I love this show. Had no clue how addicted I was to HGTV until my girlfriend had it on constantly in our place. Now I'm a huge Property Brothers fan, love Chip and Joanna on Fixer Upper but now these two might be coming for the crown... Can't get enough of Windy City Rehab...mainly for the pan over shots of the city and I go "I know where that is!" Lame. Yes I know, but whatever, it's cool to see your city on television without the words "Two killed, three wounded in Southside shooting" or something to that effect. Apparently this show is making residents of Bucktown, Wicker Park, Ukrainian Village and Logan Square very upset...Apparently upping your neighborhood's property value is frowned upon these days? There are two sides of the coin here but the main side is doesn't everyone want to make money? The other side is gentrification of a neighborhood which I can also see. Here's my thing though, these people and this alderman are getting all huffy and puffy over like 9 homes...NINE. The show is on its first. season. Contractors bulldoze huge plots of land and do way worse in much shorter time than what Donovan Eckhardt is doing. I thought we're supposed to support each other in this city? Here is an entrepreneur who finally got his come up, signs with HGTV, makes a BUNCH of money, puts his business in line to succeed for years to come and now his own city is coming for him like HE did something wrong. GTFO. Team WCR all day. Can't wait for Season 2. - @Traceahamilton
A spokeswoman for HGTV responded: “We respect the concerns of neighbors who are impacted by common renovation-related issues that come up during home transformations. Issues linked to ‘Windy City Rehab’ are carefully reviewed so that we can bring them to resolution with input from local officials and continue to follow Alison on her journey to buy, renovate and sell homes in Chicago."