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For sale: turn-of-century home in safe Chicago neighborhood

By A. James Memmott

September 17, 2009 at 10:52am

Proving again that location, location and location are the three most important words in real estate, a new “for sale” listing in Chicago is getting national attention.

Empty nesters Jacky and William Grimshaw of the city’s Kenwood/Hyde Park neighborhood are hoping to sell the 17-room house they have owned since 1973.

That in itself wouldn’t draw interest at The New York Times.

However, the Grimshaws live next door to Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, two Chicagoans who, along with their daughters, have taken up quarters in Washington, D.C.

The presidential connection brings a sense of security, as the street is barricaded by orders of the Secret Service and the Obama house is guarded.

The Grimshaws’ real estate agent hasn’t determined a selling price for the house they purchased for $35,000 36 years ago.

However, houses in the area reportedly go for between $1 million and $2.5 million, and people interested in the Grimshaw house have to show that they can pay at least $1.5 million, according to reports.

The agent does believe that the “Obama effect” adds a premium to the price.

“Here we are looking out the kitchen window at the president’s back porch,” Matt Garrison of Coldwell Banker told the Times. “Buyers establish the market. Stuff sells for what people are willing to pay.”

There might be a Grimshaw effect, as well.

Whoever purchases the house buys into a building with a good deal of Democratic karma. (William Grimshaw told the Times, presumably in jest, that he would only sell to a Republican if “push came to shove.”)

Both the Grimshaws, who were married in 1964 and have two adult children, have long been active in Democratic politics and are well connected to Chicago’s key players.

Jacky Grimshaw, was a campaign manager for Harold Washington, who was elected Chicago’s first African-American mayor in 1983. Re-elected in 1987, Washington died in November of that year.

Jacky Grimshaw also served in Washington’s administration, becoming his top legislative aide. Valerie Jarrett, now senior adviser to Obama, also was a member of the Harold Washington administration.

From 1991 to 1993, Jacky Grimshaw worked in the administration of Mayor Richard M. Daley as deputy treasurer for economic development. Jarrett also worked tin the Daley administration, as did Michelle Obama, whom Jarrett hired in 1991 as a mayoral assistant.

Since 1992, Jacky Grimshaw has been vice president of policy at the Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago.

She also serves on several boards, including that of the Chicago Transit Authority, having been appointed to that position in April of this year by Illinois’ governor, Patrick Quinn.

William Grimshaw also worked on Harold Washington’s campaigns.

A professor of political science at the Illinois Institute of Technology, he’s the author of Bitter Fruit: Black Politics and the Political Machine, 1931-1991.

Busy as they are, the Grimshaws allow that they have not had time to remodel or update their 6,000-square-foot house, a structure the Times describes as a “fixer-upper” with its 1907 electrical switches still in place.

“I didn’t lavish attention on the house,” William Grimshaw explained.

The online listing for the house puts a positive spin on possible neglect, noting, “many turn of the century details remain in place.”

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