Good Neighbor Awards History
The Chicago Association of REALTORS® Good Neighbor Awards were created in 1992 to encourage rehabilitation and redevelopment in the city’s North Side neighborhoods. Today, it has evolved into a showcase for ground-breaking rehabs and development throughout the nine-county Chicago metropolitan area, rewarding visionaries for “breaking the mold” and setting new standards of excellence.
Initially, the award was given to property owners whose property rehabs helped bring a positive impact to the surrounding neighborhood. Today, the award goes much farther – it recognizes those whose efforts go “above and beyond” their peers, conquering challenges and bringing innovative ideas to the marketplace.
The first office-to-residential conversion in Chicago’s Loop is a prime example of a past award recipient. The developer overcame numerous challenges with City Departments, neighboring buildings and the marketplace. Once a unique concept, it is now the standard bearer in downtown Chicago. Numerous other developers have expanded on this concept which has ultimately created a community where one had never existed.
Other examples of award winners include some of the first loft conversions of old, underutilized, abandoned industrial buildings that transformed an area referred to as “Skid Row” into a trendy neighborhood with restaurants, shops and nightlife called West Loop Gate.
The award has also been given for the salvation of historical properties and the restoration of architecturally significant buildings from the wrecking ball. A special award was given for the total restoration of a rare mansion located amidst an industrial area which had formerly been one of Chicago’s elite neighborhoods. The area is also home to the church that Mary Todd Lincoln attended regularly when she returned to Chicago after President Lincoln’s assassination. In the shadows of one of the largest trade show centers in the world, is a jewel of a mansion, now being used as a fully functioning bed and breakfast.
The Good Neighbor Award has also been given for tackling stigmatized properties. An example is the condo conversion of a multi-unit rental property which was the scene of an arson fire that killed seven people. After much struggle and several attempts by other developers, it was finally re-developed, brought back on the tax rolls, and eliminated an eyesore within a residential community.
The Good Neighbor Award recognizes properties that offer unique amenities and bonus facilities, often strengthening community pride. For instance, the “Stamp Works” project faced an ugly, decrepit viaduct. To beautify the area, the developer worked in conjunction with local artists to paint murals on the viaduct, bringing beauty to this former blot on the landscape. In this case, as in many others, developers that seek and utilize input from the neighborhood organizations are given special consideration when judging the award.
Developers that take special care to “fit in” with the neighborhood also qualify for Good Neighbor Awards. This is especially true when new construction blends seamlessly with the details of turn-of-the-century buildings. In the case of 2002 Bruce Abrams award-winner, “Townhouses of Lakewood Balmoral,” is a property that matches so well with its neighbors, that it is hard to tell which is the new construction and which is over 100 years old.