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Justin Saper/MEDILL 

Chris Toepfer renders the plywood boards on Chicago's vacant homes to look like windows 

On vacant homes, the illusion of windows creates authentic results

by Justin Saper
Nov 16, 2010

When a neighborhood in crisis starts to show the outward signs of its decline—broken windows, abandoned homes, unmowed grass—it is important that whatever steps can be taken are. Boarded-up windows are often invitations to peddlers and other criminal elements to come on the property. 

Chris Toepfer is an artist and builder who paints the plywood boards that shutter vacant properties to make them look like attractive windows. He has helped restore neighborhoods in Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit.

NHS Chicago, a non-profit housing organization with a similar mission, has hired Toepfer to restore more than 200 Chicago homes. Each property costs around $1,000, which includes window board-up as well as general landscaping and cleanup. In the last 15 years, Toepfer has helped restore about 1,000 properties in 10 cities.