The newest residential tower planned for Chicago’s Near North Side is sailing through the bureaucratic process , and is expected to be approved by the city and break ground before the end of the year.
“I’m inclined to approve the project,” said Second Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti at a public meeting at the Moody Bible Institute last night. Of the approximately 150 people in attendance, none spoke in opposition to the project — a rarity for any new downtown development. It’s already been approved by the Chicago Plan Commission.
There were a number of reasons cited for supporting the project, designed by Berkelhamer Architects, out of Palo Alto, California. Developer Bill Smith, of Smithfield Properties, touted the 200 construction jobs the project will create, and the annual one million dollar contribution the completed building will make to the real estate tax base.
Joseph Antunovich of Chicago’s Antunovich Associates, the architect of record, cited this building as a far better use of the property at 118 West Chicago Avenue. It is currently a vacant lot with a billboard on it. He calls the parcel, “a missing tooth in the urban fabric of Chicago.”
The rental building will be mostly studio apartments and convertibles with some one bedroom apartments. Mr. Smith stated this is because the rapidly rising rents in downtown Chicago are pushing developers towards building smaller apartments. His research shows that in order to afford a one-bedroom apartment in the Near North neighborhood, a household needs to have a minimum income of $90,000; and while there are lots of new companies moving into the area, not everyone is going to be on the upper end of the pay scale. People in the audience, some with real estate experience, agreed with his assessment.
In another sign of the changing realities of life in downtown Chicago, the building will have just 115 parking spaces for nearly 300 apartments — .39 parking spaces for each apartment. Statistics, and our own anecdotal evidence, show that more and more people living in Chicago are doing without cars entirely, especially in the downtown neighborhoods. Smith noted that at his company’s nearby Flair Tower the radio is .55 parking spaces for each apartment, and half of the spaces in the building are empty. He does intend to include ZipCar or iGo facilities in the building.
Like many downtown apartment towers, this one will have its common areas on the roof. The penthouse will incorporate mechanical facilities, and also a party room, a a sun deck, and other amenities. Unfortunately, the developer is going cheap on the pool, opting for a wading pool instead of a real pool, a common corner to be cut these days.
In an unusual twist, however, if you’re looking for a nice two-story townhouse with a yard, this is also the building for you. With so few parking spaces required, the parking garage is only three stories tall. On top of the garage will be five townhouses, complete with a yard to mow.
The townhomes will be about 1,800 square feet each, and have either two bedrooms, or two bedrooms and a den. Entry will be via a special elevator that leads to the roof of the garage. A pathway from the elevator leads down the middle of two rows of townhomes, creating an intimate little neighborhood above the cacophony of the street. Each townhome has its own backyard, facing either east or west.
While the building does not require any zoning changes, it is taking advantage of a city program giving it additional height in exchange for the developers contributing to the upkeep of the former Bush Temple of Music next door at 800 North Clark Street. The city landmark will receive $1.343 million from Smithfield to repair its Chicago Avenue and Clark Street facades. While this contribution is a start towards restoring the building to its former glory, it’s far from the amount needed for a total restoration, which would include roof repairs and the reconstruction of its once glorious clocktower.
- Design Architect: Berkelhamer Architects
- Architect of record: Antunovich Associates
- Stories: 35
- Height: 353 feet
- Residences: 295
- Parking spaces: 115
- Retail space: 4,044 square feet facing Chicago Avenue
- Cost: $75 million
- Going for LEED certification
- ComEd is going to remove the utility poles from the north-south alley as part of this project.
This article has been updated to reflect that Antunovich Associates is the architect of record. The design architect is Berkelhamer Architects. Thanks to Adam Berkelhamer.