Want to be Obama's neighbor? You can for $899,000 (and a security check).
Ever wondered what it would be like to share a property line with a sitting US president?
You now have your chance. A vacant lot next to President Obama’s home in the historic Chicago neighborhood of Kenwood is for sale. The 50-by-150-foot lot, located at 5050 South Greenwood Avenue, is listed at $899,000 and hit the market this week.
But to get a showing of the lot, prospective buyers must submit financial information and the names of anyone planning to attend the showing at least 24 hours beforehand to the Secret Service. The Secret Service, in fact, currently maintains the lot, which includes mowing the lawn.
The Obama family has had the Kenwood home since 2005, and his presidency has altered life in the South Side neighborhood. A concrete barrier was erected on the south end of that street during the first year of his presidency, and the constant presence of Chicago police and Secret Service personnel make strolling down the street impossible. Neighbors and their guests are required to carry identification with them, and surrounding streets are blocked off – sometimes with cars towed – whenever the president and his family arrive home.
The lot’s current owners purchased it in March 2008 and planned to build an 8,000-square-foot home, says Anthony Rouches of @Properties in Chicago, the listing agent. The original purchase price was $675,000, but the house never materialized.
Mr. Rouches told Agence France-Presse that the owners contacted the Obamas to see if they were interested in purchasing the lot, but they declined.
“We’re just testing the market to see what kind of interest there is in it. There haven't been too many presidents with a piece of land next to their house for sale,” Rouches said.
This isn’t the first opportunity to live next to the Obama family’s 1910 Georgian Revival mansion. Two years ago, the home on the other side of the president’s was listed and eventually sold for $1.4 million. The Obamas purchased their home for $1.65 million.
The lot now for sale is mired in former controversy. At the same time the Obamas purchased their home, the lot next door was purchased by Antoin “Tony” Rezko, a Chicago real estate developer and political fundraiser who is now in federal prison on fraud and bribery charges, related to the corruption investigation of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
In 2006, Mr. Obama paid Mr. Rezko $104,500 for one-sixth of the lot to expand his property line. Rezko was indicted that same year. Obama later told the Chicago Sun-Times that it was “a mistake” to deal with Rezko and he regretted it because it implied impropriety. The association was used against him during his 2008 campaign for president, particularly by Hillary Rodham Clinton, his competitor for the Democratic Party nomination.