Original owners look back at half century

Posted on Mon, 03/01/2021 - 11:30am

By Ron Cohn

In the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, between 15% and 20% of Americans moved each year, according to the Census Bureau. It also shows well over 10% moving each year since then, which means that since 1971, statistically, you should have moved more than seven times! That makes it remarkable that there are 18 unit owners at Malibu East who have lived here for all 50 years our building has been in existence.

Over the course of the next five or six months, as we celebrate our 50th anniversary, the Dialogue hopes to tell a brief story about as many of these “originals” as possible, and perhaps get some choice vintage photos to share.

We begin our series in this issue, meeting three quite diverse individuals: two who spent virtually their entire adult lives here, expanding within Malibu East as their income increased and their scope broadened, and one who brings the perspective of having spent her youthful years in a huge, brand-new building.

Dennis Delavara: industry innovator, community leader, world traveler

Dennis purchased a unit here in 1970, before construction was even completed, and took occupancy in July 1971. He vividly recalls how he reveled in watching the Chicago fireworks from his balcony on that Fourth of July and many more to follow.

A great resource in the Dialogue’s treasure hunt for artifacts of the building’s early history, he still has his original mortgage document and the second issue of Breezes from the Malibu East, the first newsletter, dated August 1971.

At that time, he had been working for Kraft Foods, at its downtown headquarters, for five years. “From the very beginning,” Dennis recalled, “I helped design and manage information technology systems in the United States as well as in Europe.” When Kraft was acquired by Philip Morris in 1985, his attention shifted to financial analysis and he created software that was used for tracking the entire U.S. workforce.

Dennis stayed with Kraft for 30 years, but as his retirement neared, his attention was increasingly split with an interest in community service. In the 1980s he was asked to join the board of directors of the Greater Chicago Food Depository and after just a few years became the board chairman. He remains an emeritus board member to this day. “Learning how to give food to people was a new experience for me after so many years selling food on a grand scale,” he said. “My encounters with people who had a hard time paying their bills gave me new insights into those who are less fortunate.”

For 50 years Malibu East has been the home port for Dennis’ calendar of worldwide travel, starting with his having visited 49 of the 50 states. He has seen most of Europe, including riding the Orient Express from London to Venice in both directions; taken trips to the Near East, Far East, south Pacific and South America; has sailed through the Panama Canal; and takes an annual sojourn to Cancun, Mexico.

When on home turf, he is a fan of most Chicago major-league sports teams and has not missed an Indy 500 since 1967. He has season tickets to Steppenwolf Theatre and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and became a volunteer at the Lyric Opera in 2009, where he has appeared in costume onstage in 11 operas – with his mouth shut, he says, which he didn’t mind at all.

The Dialogue did not ask Dennis what he does in his spare time, as it is unlikely that he has any.

He endorses Malibu East today for the same qualities that drew him here in 1970 – its lakefront location and access to downtown with abundant transportation. He said, “Anyone who enjoys the amenities of living in a big city will find it a great place to live.”

Dennis expanded his residential space here in 1997, purchasing an adjacent unit and combining it with his. He says that Edgewater’s changes over the years have been both positive and negative. He decries the congestion of present-day Sheridan Road but concedes that the shopping options have become much better.

Dennis enjoys the diversity of Malibu East’s owners and residents and has a very short wish list for the building: He would like to see a UPS or USPS shipping service in the Plaza but acknowledges that its operation would probably need to be subsidized by our Association. Asked for negative memories, he had just one, the day in 1973 that he found his car had been stolen from the garage. This is a man with a positive outlook on life.

Carrie Cohen, an origin story bridging two generations

Carrie was a college student in 1971 when her parents, Florence and Allen Cohen, bought a two-bedroom unit at Malibu East. The family was then living in Evanston and had a business downtown on Michigan Avenue, with her parents commuting by car on Sheridan Road and Lake Shore Drive. “Every night,” Carrie recalled, “they’d pass the building and see the sign ‘If you lived here, you’d be home now.’” She said they were enticed because of that message and by the fact that “the building was beautiful and had so many more advantages than other buildings.”

She remembers things were in a rough stage when they first moved in, with concrete floors and unpainted walls. But the promised comforts eventually came together in the young community, and Carrie recalls that “people then actively participated and took more of an interest in what was going on here.”

Carrie inherited the condo from her parents and still lives there, a second-generation original owner at Malibu East. She sees both positives and negatives affecting life here over the past half century. She still finds the location convenient and thinks that Edgewater is better represented politically today than it was in the past. “We were ‘no man’s land’ while the Andersonville alderman was strictly concentrated on her own backyard.”

She remembers that the area was homey but for a period went downhill, with an increase in crime. “It has taken the full 50 years for this neighborhood to come around,” she said.

Carrie has suggestions about aesthetics, alternative power sources and rules observance at today’s Malibu East. She thinks that the lines of the building would be improved if the gazebos on the north deck were removed and that solar panels would be a great environmental addition to a rehabbed deck area. In her view, the community life would be improved if all residents were aware of the rules and followed them, with observations regarding pets being of particular concern.

Architect Roula Alakiotou and husband raised their family here

Roula was the subject of a Dialogue story in the September 2020 issue, which told of her attending a housewarming party at a newly completed Malibu East condo on July 4, 1972. Along with the expected fireworks, a romance exploded that evening for Roula and unit owner Al Borenstine. Before the end of the year, she was living with him in unit 5K. She and Al went on to get married, have twin daughters in 1978, expand into a palatial A and B combined unit and raise their family at Malibu East.

To learn about the high-powered careers of Roula (in architecture and urban development) and Al (in computer systems design), you can get the whole story here.

Now widowed, Roula still lives gracefully in the sweeping space of her combined unit and remains filled with enthusiasm for Malibu East, extolling its convenient location and “easy living.” Asked whether she ever thought of moving, she answered, “Where else would I want to go?”

She recalls the first year or two of living here as being exciting, with “lots of connections and friendships, especially around the pool.” When the twins came along, however, Roula says the living was not quite so easy. Malibu East was pretty much a senior citizen/empty nester environment. “There were very few young families,” she said, “and the older people weren’t that crazy about having little kids running around. I had to use the service elevator with my twin-size carriage, and use of the pool was not allowed.”

The number of restrictions regarding children at Malibu East was one of the reasons Al sought to get elected to the Board of Directors. Once elected, Roula said, he worked to get the rules relaxed and make the building more welcoming to families.

Roula was a key mover in the creation of Berger Park (see the September 2020 issue) and is positive about Edgewater, which she finds relatively unchanged over the years.

Most of the Malibu East memories are positive for Roula, who particularly loved the international night parties. Her suggestions for improvements here are few, mostly reflecting her architect’s aesthetic. She would like to see the quality of building service improved and the overall ambience of the building and surroundings upgraded, with the lobby totally redone and “better holiday exterior décor.” At least the last would not be dismissed as a daunting ask.