Group offers renovation options to preserve look of historic Chicago bungalows


When the Chicago Bungalow Association was founded in 2000, bungalows were unfashionable and “thought of as your grandma’s house,” said executive director Mary Ellen Guest.

These days, bungalow owners and real estate agents often reach out to ask how to sensibly renovate and preserve their bungalows.

The association, which has about 17,000 members, responded by working with the American Institute of Architects to prepare plans, digital renderings and estimates for bungalow renovations. It launched the project earlier this month, marking about two years since it began campaigning against “pop top” expansions — so named because they “pop” off the lower roof of a bungalow and replace it with a much larger, usually squared-off, second floor.

The group believes that approach sacrifices bungalows’ quintessential look for the sake of space — and the movement has gathered more than 1,000 signatures on an online petition, which boasts its own hashtag: #StopThePop.

“If the demand for those pop-tops went away, developers would not be doing them,” Guest said.

To change minds, the group offers two preferred alternatives to second floor additions, with estimates ranging from $143,000 to $192,000. The options emphasize thoughtful design but cost about the same, if not less, than a full “pop,” which can cost about $200,000, deputy director Gillian Wiescher said.

Kristine Menas Daley, an agent at Dream Town Realty who has been nominated to the association’s board, calls bungalows “a great entry point for first-time home buyers.” The historic Chicago style originated in the early 20th century, and there are now about 80,000 of them in the city — about a third of the single-family homes in Chicago, the group estimates.

Guest said the association wanted to provide concrete guidance and cost information.

“At the end of any presentation, there’s always a hand that goes up and they ask how much it will cost,” she said.

One Belmont Cragin homeowner who bought a bungalow in 2013 that had already been “popped” wasn’t aware of the renovation debate until recently.

She came across the Chicago Bungalow Association online not long ago and suggested the group also consider offering ideas on how to make popped bungalows look more authentic.

“I’m not gonna tear down the second floor of my house,” said Lynn, who did not want her last name used. “This house works very well for us. … So stuff like that’s great for people who are still popping bungalows, but I think there are a lot of them already out there that people could use help with.”

Menas Daley said the resource is also an “amazing tool” for real estate agents, especially those working with first-time buyers or owners who have never gone through a renovation.

“A lot of people just want more square footage, but I think the key is to do it in a sensitive way,” Menas Daley said. “The thing about historic homes … is that people don’t realize what makes it look bad until it’s too late.”



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