Gold Coast Gets a Residential High-Rise

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Chicago’s Gold Coast is synonymous with luxury living. From million dollar walk-ups to awe-inspiring high-rises the area is bursting with top-of-the-line real estate and known as one of the best Chicago neighborhoods.

This is exactly why Don Wilson, a local trader, founder, and CEO of DRW Holdings LLC wants in on the action. According to a zoning application filed on July 24, Mr. Wilson is leading a venture to build a residential high rise at State and Elm Streets. Along with Wilson, the project will also include developers Fred Latsko and Mark Hunt.

Preliminary plans include building a forty-unit luxury residential tower at 1149-67 North State Street featuring 4,200 square feet of ground-floor retail and 80 available parking spaces. The developers plan to keep the existing two-story retail space that currently is located within the drafted plans at 1163-67 N. State. However, a few smaller retail structures are headed for demolition that includes a three-story building at 1149 N. State.

The plans proposed in the zoning application highlight a tower that will rise 335 feet, which is twice the currently permitted height of 155 feet, according to city documentation. Consequently, a zoning reclassification must be approved for Wilson and his development team to move forward with the new construction. Reclassification of the zoning parameters requires both support from the residing neighborhood and backing of Alderman Robert Fioretti (2nd).

Yet, when asked about the new plans by Crain’s, Alderman Fioretti stated, “They have yet to reach out to my office. They haven’t reached out to anyone in the community. To sneak this in is unacceptable.”

Aldermen in Chicago have controlled most zoning decisions in the past, which gives them a significant influence over the shape and evolution of neighborhoods. Thus, with Fioretti’s recent statement it is uncertain if the plan will pass.

Tribune Company Turns to Real Estate

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The Tribune Company is well known for its various publications and broadcast media companies. Among the papers they run are the Baltimore Sun, the Los Angeles Times, and, of course, the Chicago Tribune.

The Company is an extremely important presence locally, with one of the most impressive pieces of Chicago real estate downtown— the historic Tribune Tower, designed in the 1920’s by John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood.

According to an article in the LA Times, the Tribune Company will soon be shifting its attention from newspapers to real estate. Currently, they own more than seven million square feet of real estate total. That accounts for printing plants, buildings, and other facilities.

Murray McQueen has been recruited to fill the company’s newly created president of real estate position. His job will be to determine whether or not the company is making as much money as it possibly can from all of its holdings. McQueen was the co-founder of the Channel West Group, a real estate investment firm based in Los Angeles. He has also served as an executive at Cerberus Capital, a private equity firm.

Tribune announced recently that it would be establishing a separate, spin-off company to oversee publishing of their various daily papers, and that the Tribune Company itself would now be focusing chiefly on the company’s other assets. The idea is to make sure that money is generated for shareholders, even though ad revenues have declined sharply because of the state of the economy.

The Tribune is not the only publisher to resort to such a measure. As the article from the LA Times explains, “real estate has constituted about half of the value of all newspaper companies sold in the last three years. And property remains a crucial insurance policy for hard-hit newspapers.”

The article goes on to talk about how the Washington Post has thought of selling its building, and how the New York Times raised $225 million in 2009 by selling its property and renting back office space from the firm who purchased it.

This may be a smart way for publications who own prime real estate to stay afloat during what has been an extremely difficult time for print media.

South Bend Gets Luxury Condominium

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When someone tells you they live in a mid or high-rise luxury condo, you probably assume they live in New York, Chicago or another major metropolitan market.

Well add South Bend, Indiana to your list of choices.  If all goes to plan, the Panzica Building Corporation and Frank Perri will be developing part of the city to include a new, urban lifestyle option with their Cascade Condominiums.

It’s not the Notre Dame Irish fans that drove the developers to choose the South Bend site; rather the motive was the St. Joseph River.  The development team says the luxury condos will provide remarkable views and draw attention back to the clean environment and the peaceful riverfront.

The Cascade Condominiums is projected to include two seven-story towers incorporating a sustainable design and green concepts built upon a parking garage.  Each tower will include 12 units varying in size from 2,500 -3,100 square feet.

Communal features include a landscaped enclosed courtyard, roof terrace, entertainment penthouse featuring a wet bar, decorative rooftop lighting, and various outdoor eating areas.  In addition, second floor units will offer residents private green roof patios and optional solarium extensions.  Developers are also planning to build a third building onsite to house studio apartments and retail space.

Condos are currently priced at $500,000-$700,000 – a competitive asking-price for the current market.  Developers hope to pre-sell more than half the units before construction begins and requested the city of South Bend to offer financial support.    However, no offer has been extended yet.  With or without financial assistance the Panzica Building Corporation and Frank Perri plan to move forward with construction of the mid-rise condo complex.

How will the new construction impact your real estate search?  Will you be tempted to move from your Chicago home to the suburbs?

Presidential Towers Interest on Sale

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According to Yo Chicago, nearly half of the interest of the Presidential Towers is now on the market. The Presidential Towers – the largest apartment complex in the city with 2,346 units – is located Chicago’s West Loop.

According to Crain’s, Waterton Associates LLC, the owners of the Presidential Towers, want to sell a 49 percent stake in the building through Eastdil Secure brokerage. The building was purchased for $475 million in 2007, as the Chicago real estate market was at its peak, and this move will test the notion held among real estate experts that the downtown market is in good shape once again.

The Crain’s article states that apartment values in downtown Chicago have increased sharply over the course of the past few years. This is attributed to the fact that high occupancies and rents have increased property incomes and near record low interest rates have boosted the buying power of investors.

The towers are situated in one of the most booming areas in the Chicago real estate market, and, as the Crain’s article illustrates, they have a colorful history.

Presidential Towers consists of four 50-story buildings situated across two city blocks bounded by Clinton, Monroe, Madison, and Desplaines streets. The towers were constructed in the 1980s with federal subsidies made available by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski. That was only five years before the developers had defaulted on their sizeable loan — $159 million. In 1995, the Pritzker family purchased the property, and thus saved it from foreclosure.

In 2007, Waterton seized ownership of the Presidential Towers from the Pritzker family and financed their acquisition with a $325 million mortgage. They’ve seen a return on their investment. In 2012, the property generated a net operating income of $27.9 million, a dramatic 49 percent improvement from the $18.8 million it generated in 2007. And even though it’s the largest complex in the city, it is nearly filled to capacity – 93 percent of the property is occupied.

With that said, it looks like a sound investment for anyone who wants the share. It’s the largest property in Chicago, located in one of Chicago’s best neighborhoods in the current housing market, and it generates millions every year.

Chicago’s Luxury Condominium The Grant Gets Redesigned

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At some point you may think it’s time for a change.  Related Midwest hit that point.  The Grant, a luxury Chicago condo community, owned by Related Midwest announced their renovations plans of the 1201 South Prairie Avenue South Loop real estate.

Renovations (which are now complete) include a fresh design-aesthetic in both units and communal areas and “an unrivaled resident experience,” said President Curt Bailey, through a suite of new amenities and services.

Renovations were made in an effort to help residents grow with rather than out of the property.  Bailey stated, “The residences at The Grant are so large, buyers won’t grow out of them.  They can remain in the city and enjoy everything the South Loop has to offer.”

The complex now includes 54 stories of 2 and 3 bedroom units, ranging in square footage from 1,207 to 3,000.  Each home features a private balcony and 9 foot ceilings that show off views of Lake Michigan, Grant Park, Solider Field and the Chicago skyline.

The new and improved Grant will offer first of its kind amenities for a downtown Chicago building, including most notably access to a Related Personal Assistant.  The Related Personal Assistant will be ready to help residents with moving and other varying concierge services.

The building will be stocked with other opulent amenities such as a children’s playroom, fitness center and locker room, indoor pool with a hot tub, sun deck and grilling area, a screening room and lounge , bike maintenance and a pet grooming area and outdoor dog park.

What’s more, Related is on trend with entertainment facilities that includes a suite with a catering kitchen available to residents for reservation.

If The Grant sounds like home, call your local Chicago real estate agent and get your checkbook ready as the price ranges between $300,000 to more than $2 million, dependent on unit.

After More Than Three Years, Pinnacle’s Penthouse Sells

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After sitting on the market for three years, the 45th floor Pinnacle Penthouse has sold for $6.5 million. That’s lower than its original asking price 0f $8.9 million and “well below replacement cost” according to the listing agent.

Curbed National says that the Chicago luxury rental offers 6,000-square-feet of floor space with four balconies and twin 1,000-square-foot terraces. Among the many luxurious features of the room are “exotic woods, rare textiles, 1,500-bottle wine cellar, and state-of-the-art electronics/automation.”

But the nicest feature of all could be the view, which Curbed said is completely unobstructed by virtue of the height of the room. It’s also said to extend in virtually all directions because of the terraces and balconies.

The building’s in-demand amenities include: a bike room and bike trails, an on-site door person, coin-operated laundry, an exercise room, spacious storage, an on-site manager/engineer to tend to whatever problems may arise in the unit, a “party room,” a sundeck, an indoor pool, a receiving room, a sauna and steam room, and a whirlpool. The property also houses its own auto-repair shop and a wine tasting room.

The building was lavishly designed by the Lucien Lagrange Studio and developed by the Fordham Company.

Curbed National attributes the penthouse’s long period on the market to the $5,200 that the owner will be contractually required to pay for monthly assessments. Whoever owns this luxury property in the Near North Side, however, is almost certain to enjoy it with those amenities, that view, and the superb location.

Ukraninan Village Condos Sold Out Pre-Construction

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An 18-unit development in Ukrainian Village was entirely sold — and what’s more — most of them haven’t even been built yet!

According to Chicago Magazine, all of the 28 homes from developer Noah Properties in the two single-family home groupings and single condos were under contract before construction was completed. And not only has everything sold — everything has sold at the asking price or even higher.

Izabela Sloma of Sergio & Banks, who serves as Noah’s listing agent on most of the recently sold properties, said that price had a lot to do with it. “There’s a ton of buyers who want these [homes] because the prices are lower there than on the other side of Chicago Avenue,” Sloma told Chicago Magazine.

She guesses that if the same properties were north of Chicago, they would cost at least $50,000 more, and if they were even just the slightest bit farther north in Bucktown, that they would be worth $1 million.

Every property includes: a garage space, private outdoor space, access to communal roof decks, custom kitchens with luxurious appliances, distinguished lighting, complex and ornate woodwork, and spacious master suites with luxurious baths. All of these amenities were included in the base price.

One group of houses in the Ukrainian Village on Erie street sold recently in the $799,000 range. The other group of houses located on Ohio that just sold, and are in the process of being constructed, were initially priced in that same price range. But the prices were re-listed earlier this year at $849,000.

Sloma attributes this to the Chicago housing market improving. The finishes at the Ohio properties could be another variable to consider, as they are are more expensive and modern than the homes on Erie. This could be another reason for increased prices.

Developers in the Ukrainian Village should be inspired because this hot list of properties could point to promising trends for sellers as the Chicago housing market recovers.

Find a Legal Home Away from Home

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Ever heard of the sites like HomeAway of FlipKey? They exist so that home or condo owners can essentially swap residencies with other owners, often for a vacation or short sabbatical. And while it sounds like a simple enough exchange, there are considerable legal implications to consider if you’re planning an exchange within Chicago city limits.

The concept seems simple enough: list your condo or townhome as “vacation rental” in Chicago and you’re good to go. Not so. Here in Chicago, it’s illegal to list or rent your unit in this manner without a Vacation Rental License.

Okay. Get a license—no problem. But keep in mind there are several steps involved in this process.

Obtaining this license starts with filling out an application at the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protections; your unit must then pass an inspection by the Department of Buildings and then the Department of Zoning will conduct a board review. There’s also the matter of a $500 biannual fee (that’s $1,000 every year) due for each location you want to list as a Chicago vacation rental.

If this process surprises you, keep in mind that renting your condo or townhome to short-term occupants is completely different than subletting. If you have a landlord and want to exit your lease before the agreed upon date, you’ll have to sublease it. This process is done between you and your landlord with the stipulations possibly outlined in your initial lease.

In spite of the licensing process required, vacationers can find numerous Chicago condos for short-term rental throughout the city. Most of these can be booked on a night-by-night basis, though many have a minimum night stay requirement, usually anywhere from 2-4. Surprisingly, there’s a lot of option in the aesthetics and features of popular Chicago condo rentals, too, from simple studios and one-bedroom units to more elaborate floor plans housed in full-amenity buildings.

So if you’d like to explore renting your condo for a short-term vacation, start a conversation with your Chicago real estate agent—they’ll get you started on the right path.

Interns Need a Home, Too

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When Equus Capital Partners bought the apartment building at 2 East 8th Street in 2003, they quickly converted it into an 882-bed student housing facility, which involved extensive upgrades throughout the building. Now, the building has been sold for $59 million to a three-party venture intent on remodeling the building once again, this time for use as intern housing.

Chicago rentals have long been a popular option for area college students, but these properties are also popular amongst interns working short-term for area businesses. The new 8th Street project is targeting just that; the remodel, which is a joint venture between Marc Realty Residential LLC, Atlas Real Estate Partners and Angelo Gordon & Co., will consist of 330 units.

According to a recent report from Chicago Real Estate Daily, the three-party venture now plans to spend “a few million dollars” on various renovations. These updates are likely to include installation of new stainless steel appliances, new countertops and building new floors throughout the building.

But the 28-story apartment complex will boast more than interior updates. A retail space of approximately 20,000 square feet is planned for the building’s first floor. Residents will also have access to an all-new four-story parking garage; and for those who don’t have a car, the complex is within easy walking distance of area businesses and schools.

Because Chicago’s summertime housing market is driven largely by interns seeking short-term living solutions, and because the 8th Street project targets this demographic, MRR Principal David L. Ruttenberg is marketing the updated property specifically to local Chicago businesses.

While interns are the target demographic for current marketing efforts, they will not be the only residents to occupy the renovated property. Anyone seeking short-term housing will be able to apply, meaning there will likely be several college students expressing interest.

Is little the new big in Chicago?

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Forget massive skyscrapers with hundreds of apartments and condos—scale it down to newer residential buildings with 14-20 units. Recently, there have been several instances of local Chicago home builders capitalizing on this niche by focusing on small-knit communities.

Noah Properties LLC, a local development company, has experienced considerable success by this scaled down approach. In fact, their latest condominium project in Lakeview only plans to house 14 units. Focusing on more modest residential projects has been the company’s recipe for success.

On the corner of Ashland and Grace sits the abandoned Cy’s Crab House, an empty shell of a business, a rarity for the prosperous Lakeview neighborhood. Well, this highly visible location won’t be an eyesore for much longer as Noah Properties LLC has broken ground on a new 14-unit building on the once bank-owned parking lot.

The parking lot was purchased for $1.3 million dollars and the plan is to erect a mix of three-and four-bedroom condos starting at $430,000. This acquisition represents yet another example of local homebuilders investing in lower-risk condo constructions in highly desirable neighborhoods.

This strategy has become Noah’s bread and butter over the years; they’ve recently sold out a 24-unit West Town project in addition to single-family homes throughout Lincoln Park. The company remains active on the north side and also works in the Northcenter and Bucktown neighborhoods. As Chicagoans demand newer constructions, Noah has been leading the charge in bringing inventory to the market.

Due to an increase in sales and stabilized home prices, condo development in the city has picked up exponentially. In fact, Chicago home sales have increased 20% in February from the previous year. This represents the highest performing February in seven years.

The construction on Ashland will have eight single floor three-bedrooms priced at $430,000; two three-bedroom duplexes starting at $550,000; and two four-bedroom penthouses listed at $700,000. This building is located in the exceptional Blaine Elementary School District and residents are slated to begin moving in around the beginning of the upcoming school year.