Shoreland residents ask: How much is $6 million?

By Joel Lanceta

The University’s decision to sell the Shoreland last August for approximately $6 million to Kenard Corporation has dismayed students and faculty, particularly new and returning residents of the dorm. While many Shoreland residents are disheartened by the news, the question on many other students’ minds is why the University is selling the dorm for only $6 million.

“There is something more to that,” said Matt Cohen, a first-year in the College and a Shoreland resident. “My sense is that the $6 million is misleading.”

The sale price of the Shoreland is reportedly at $6 million, though Hank Webber, the vice president of community affairs for the University, would not confirm that price until the sale is finalized in mid-November. Webber said that the offer from Kenard Corporation, a real estate firm that specializes in renovating historic buildings for commercial and residential space, was not the only offer.

“We widely advertised the property and received three complete bids,” Webber said. “The selection committee looked at the economics, the capacity of each firm to do high quality projects, each firm’s record at doing historic rehabs and their experience in the neighborhood, and believed that the Kenard bid was clearly superior.”

Webber stressed that although the reported price of the Shoreland seems low for a former luxury hotel, any plan involving the Shoreland involves major work and rehabilitation.

“It was relatively difficult to sell,” Webber said. “It is a large building in need of an experienced real estate firm, it is a historical landmark, and right now has no parking structure to accommodate residents.”

Webber said while Kenard is planning all these logistics out for the building’s future, no major construction will occur while students still live in the building until 2008.

Ted Walden is the senior vice president for LR Real Estate, which transformed the Mayfair Reagent Hotel—another former luxury hotel on Lake Shore Drive—into residential condominiums in 1998. He said that the price for buildings depends on many variables, including condition at the time of selling, the work needed on facilities and infrastructure for bringing it up to code, and its location. Given the Shoreland’s Hyde Park location and current maintenance problems, Walden said the price for the building should be lower than a similar one on the North Side.

The University bought the Shoreland in 1974 due to a critical shortage of housing. The luxury hotel, once an example of upscale living in the 1920s, had declined in the 1970s and was up for foreclosure when the University bought it for $750,000.

Quinn Carey, a third-year in the College who led the Save the Shoreland campaign last year, said that it was a question of how the Housing Office wanted to direct money. Carey said that the values of the Shoreland did not match the values of the current University administration.

“They said that they had been spending money on the Shoreland,” Carey said. “Looking at the inside of the Shoreland, it’s obvious that the repairs didn’t get made. Housing just now got the money to offset the costs of running it and will use the money for their new dorm.”

A 2001 facility audit revealed that a renovation of the Shoreland, including façade work, infrastructure repair and bringing the building up to code, would cost the University $50 million, roughly similar to the cost of building Max Palevksy.

As reported in the Maroon in the November 7, 1978 issue, students living in the Shoreland commented on sloppy workmanship and poor quality of materials used during the building’s renovation. Complaints included that plaster was painted before it was dry, the freshly painted walls were peeling, plumbing and heating were not working, and that the “standardization” of the building to a dorm had removed much of the hotel’s old furniture.

Jolyon Ticer-Wurr, the Resident Head of Fishbein House in the Shoreland, noted that the problems of the Shoreland were too overwhelming for the Housing Office. “We all love it, we all love being here, but being here we all know that it’s hard to live here when the building’s maintenance problems are legion,” he said.

Aside from the interior problems, many Shoreland residents feel that their building was worth the investment and consideration of the University, rather than having it start over with a new dorm south of the Midway.

“I am under the strong impression that this new proposed dorm will not have private kitchens and large scale rooms,” said Sam Altschul, a second-year in the College. “I feel that the building of the new dorm will impair the social life that Shoreland provides. This combination of effects will drive more upperclassmen will move out.”

“Only 6 million dollars?” said Gabriel Mares, also second-year in the College. “The Shoreland, once a symbol of the marriage between the urbanity of Chicago and the student life, remains a rallying point for both current students and alumni. It is unfortunate that some fail to see the importance of this historic residence.”