The 2020 season of HGTV’s Windy City Rehab was a departure from the channel’s typical, determinedly friendly cast dynamics, and more closely resembled the post-divorce episodes of Flip or Flop but without the forced willingness to get along. Viewers had a front-row seat for the demise of the show’s renovation partnership between Alison Victoria Gramenos and Donovan Eckhardt. After the two had begun bickering during the off-season on the heels of some bad press and the Department of Buildings finding multiple site violations at the homes the pair were working on, Eckhardt mysteriously vanished from the final episodes of season two and Gramenos took seemingly every available opportunity to verbally shit on her former partner while the cameras were rolling.
Gramenos and Eckhardt—who were not a couple, but followed the traditional HGTV formula of woman designer and man contractor—have been working to formally dissolve their partnership ever since. Now the two are taking their break up to another level, in a way that managed to reveal even more drama.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Gramenos and Eckhardt are still in the process of parting ways but are now seeking the help of a “third party to take control of and provide a full accounting of the limited liability companies that [Eckhardt] and [Gramenos] created to purchase and renovate homes featured on the HGTV show.” The emergency motion, which was filed by Eckhardt’s lawyer, also included the admission that the houses the pair had flipped were over budget and didn’t sell for their “projected profit.”
It’s no secret that Windy City Rehab was much hated by residents of the areas being filmed. The crew has been accused of shutting down entire residential streets, leaving trash behind, and ultimately pissing off half of the north side of Chicago. But the split between Gramenos and Eckhardt is providing a juicy behind-the-scenes look at what HGTV stars actually do. Or rather, don’t. The Sun-Times reports that Gramenos and Eckhardt’s request for a third party to step in and assist is in response to a lawsuit brought by a former friend of Eckhardt’s, Michael Ward Jr, and his family, “who invested $3 million in the pair’s reality TV venture.” Ward alleges that the two mismanaged their business to such an extent that they “bungled” every single home they’d flipped, resulting in their inability to turn a profit. Ward’s lawyer believes that Grameno and Eckhardt’s latest court battle is a “sham” used to delay the Ward family’s case.
“What did Gramenos and Eckhardt do with the $3 million the Wards provided to them for the rehab projects? Will they voluntarily turn over their financial records to a receiver and account for the money?” the lawyer asked the Sun-Times before answering his own question with a timeline of whenever “hell freezes over.” This lawsuit is of course separate from the one Eckhardt filed against the show’ producers for $2 million for defamation after Gramenos was allowed to call him a liar and essentially a cheat on national television post the pair’s break up. Messy, messy, messy.
Unfortunately, the American legal system is not prepared to grapple with the true nature of Gramenos’s villainy, which is that she takes beautiful historic homes and does nothing but adding black paint and gold accents everywhere.