Audubon Place Developer Says He Hasn't Flown the Coop on Swanky, "Modernist" Oak Lawn "Community"

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Two blocks behind Unfair Park HQ, at the intersections of Brown and Reagan streets, sits an empty lot worth $613,200. For more than a year, there's been a billboard planted in the ground promising the Homes of Audubon Place -- which, when completed, will feature 10 town homes, running between $430,000 and $530,000, that will create "a mid-century modernism community with each home having very open floor plans, high ceilings, and large windows to create a light atmosphere." Only, the folks behind the project say they don't know when the project will be started, much less completed: Despite the promise of an August 2007 groundbreaking, it remains an empty lot.

Garlon Ebanks, whose Ebanks Equity Partners offices on Greenville Avenue, bought the property in December 2005, expecting to build shortly after that. But it's remained empty for so long that Tony Caliendo, who's repping the project for Ebby Halliday Realtors, says he gets "calls all the time from people asking if they can buy the land." Alas, the answer's always no: "And they're disappointed they can't buy the land," Caliendo tells Unfair Park. "The owner's committed to the project."

Ebanks tells Unfair Park that, absolutely, it'll still happen -- perhaps as early as "mid-summer," though more likely before year's end. He says he's still "trying to put the financing together ... still shaking the trees." He hopes to have a better idea of when construction will begin in the next three months: "That's when we may be in a position where we feel more comfortable going forward."

Fact is, he just didn't want to have "finished product" sitting empty "in a slow market," which has happened to several high-end properties on the Maple Avenue side of Oak Lawn. Behind UP HQ, on a patch of land formerly occupied by a crackhouse, are the Shelby Court town houses -- which go for upward of $300,000, several of which remain vacant, from the looks of the for-sale signs ringing the fenced-in property. And a sprawling complex eats up an entire between both the proposed Homes of Audubon Place lot and the Shelby Court homes. All are in the shadow of the future site of the Crow Holdings HQ, in the former Parkland Hospital building.

"I think we're a little bit of a pioneer," Ebanks says. "There are some higher-end properties around us [that aren't full], but that's not what's keeping me away. Every day the neigborhood looks a little different. Things are being torn down every time we turn around. A lot of stuff there is on the market, it's just a matter of time till developers start moving along with a couple of things. The banking community is being overly cautions about the local market, even though we haven't suffered like the national market. I have a very positive outlook, and as we go through this year I feel even more positive.

"That area in the Oak Lawn market is the next to be developed. Everything Uptown's moved on, so has the Turtle Creek-Mansion area. But I've talked to folks about the Oak Lawn market who think they can get something a mile away from Uptown and get something much cheaper, which makes it very attractive. I hope to get this one going and look for more stuff in the area, to be honest. That side of Oak Lawn will look like the northern side within the next year. I thought it'd be a little quicker, but the slowdown's occurred in the financing market."

And, yeah, he is considering replacing the old billboard with a new front -- the graffiti makes the place look almost, well, abandoned, which is why I took the photo and make the calls this morning in the first place.

"We might as well wait till we break ground," Ebanks says. "It's fine with me, as long as you can get the phone numbers and Web site." --Robert Wilonsky

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