Before & After: See How 2 Women Renovated an Abandoned Building on Chicago’s West Side

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Telemundo Arizona
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Telemundo Arizona
When Tania Pacheco first became an “empty nester,” she thought she’d travel more. But the adventure she said she embarked on instead has been a wild ride she’d do over again if she could.
nPacheco knew she needed to downsize after her children left for school. She had gone to a showing for a potential new condo when she set her sights on an abandoned building in Chicago’s Garfield Park neighborhood.
nThe building was 135 years old and hadn’t been lived in for more than a decade.
n“I wasn’t even supposed to go look at her I was looking at the property across the street and I said, ‘I think that’s it,’” she said.
nAnd just like that she closed on the two-flat in December 2016. More than a year later, the building she has since dubbed Lady Garfield is nearly unrecognizable.
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Tania Pacheco
"Everything is new, she was just gutted to the studs," Pacheco said. "Basically I bought the land and a frame of a brick building." She added that she was "very, very vigilant on what went into the building."
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Telemundo Arizona
What was once a unit with two very small bedrooms, Pacheco turned into a one-bedroom, open-concept condo. "I made it so my kids can come visit but they can’t live with me anymore," she said.
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Tania Pacheco
"The purpose was to downsize," Pacheco said. "The more space I had, the more stuff I collect."
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Tania Pacheco
Much of the decor in the space came from thrift store shopping and do-it-yourself tricks.
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Tania Pacheco
Pacheco said she ran into some issues when it came to plumbing in the home. She ended up having to replace the plumbing for the entire building, costing an extra $20,000 she hadn't planned for.
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Tania Pacheco
"Had to pull out of my retirement fund for that. That was a big blow," she said.
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Getty Images
"Each unit is 760 square feet so it’s tiny. It’s small and we had to figure out how to use all of our space and use it well," Pacheco said.
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Tania Pacheco
Open shelving was one way Pacheco said she could really keep herself to necessities only while also making the most of her floor space.
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JIM BARTSCH
"Some of the stuff that we were able to keep, like the baluster, that’s original to the house," she said.
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JIM BARTSCH
Pacheco removed some of the slats that were in the walls, which she plans to use to make her own version of a shiplap wall "to kind of stay true to what was original to [the house]."
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Getty Images
The deck space is one that required extra construction.
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JIM BARTSCH
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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
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Cohn Restaurant Group
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Tania Pacheco
For an extra bit of fun, Pacheco's best friend, Veronica Perez, moved into the rental unit on the first level.
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JIM BARTSCH
But although she loves having her friend live with her, she felt she needed to keep the rental space "more neutral," should she ever need to find another tenant.
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Santa Monica Fire/KNBC-TV
Still, having her friend join her in the renovation process was a big help.
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JIM BARTSCH
"She’s got the vision for [DIY] moreso than I do," Pacheco said. "I’m learning though. I’m a quick study."
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Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images
"We’d go to different design shows and just see how things were set up," Pacheco said.
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Claus Andersen/Getty Images
"Friends were eager to help me go on to the next chapter of my life," Pacheco said.
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Tania Pacheco
So would she do it all again?
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JIM BARTSCH
"I’d do it again in a hot split second because I have some place to live," Pacheco said.
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