If you go anywhere near River North lately, you can’t help but notice the neighborhood’s newest skyscraper, Hubbard Place (360 East Hubbard Street). Rising behind the Merchandise Mart and across the street from the East Bank Club, it commands attention as it plays off its older sister to the north, Kingsbury Plaza (520 North Kingsbury Street).
On a recent sunny morning I had the chance to stop by Hubbard Place and get a tour of both its temporary leasing center, and the building itself, which is unfinished but progressing steadily. The first residents will be able to move in this coming October. The tower will be completed shortly after that.
I met with Mark Segal, the president and C.E.O. of The Habitat Company, the Chicago developer with its headquarters right next door to this new building.
The tour started across the street in the leasing office at 351 West Hubbard Street where there is also a mockup of a kitchen and a bathroom for Hubbard Place. Noting that the kitchen and bathroom are two of the most important factors for apartment hunters, leasing agent Courtney Timm said having a mockup in the leasing office helped people understand what the finished building might look like.
Timm: They’re surprised when they see what the model kitchen is for – which apartment – they see it on the floor plan and they walk around and say, “This is huge.” It’s more than they expect, in a good way.
Editor: Do you have the same kitchen features in every apartment, regardless of the size? The reason I ask is because in Presidential Towers, which was also a Habitat project, the smaller units lack appliances like dishwashers and even basic things like microwaves.
Mark Segal: There are consistent standards throughout, so it’s just a size difference. The only difference in finishes will be the countertops.
Timm: The refrigerator will be a different style. It’s still the same G.E. stainless steel appliance. The difference is the color of the countertop, but they’re still the same high-end quartz countertop.
Segal: And [the studios] still have a full-sized washer and dryer.
The leasing office also features a full-sized kitchen to give potential lessees an idea of what to expect in their new home.
Heather Lennan, Leasing Agent: This floorplan is in place with our largest one-bedroom and our one-bedroom plus den. However, the finishes will remain the same across the board. The darker quartz countertops are on odd floors, and the white countertop is on the even floors.
There’s a beautiful glass backsplash, and a double-bowl sink.
Editor: Do you have garbage disposals? There are none at Aqua, which is supposed to be a “luxury” building, but the leasing agents there claim that no new buildings have them because it’s not possible in a skyscraper.
Lennan: Absolutely [we have them]. We also have Snaidero cabinetry. It’s an Italian designer, and we’re really proud of this product. They have soft-close, so they will never slam. It’s very high-end.
Segal: The stainless steel refrigerator has a grey box, which is very different than what’s generally on the market. So we think just aesthetically, it’s a much nicer fit and look for the finishes we have.
Timm: The [included] pendant lighting and the track lighting are both dimable. The pendant lighting is directly above the kitchen island, and the track lighting can be aimed individually.
Editor: Your studios even have kitchen islands.
Timm: Yes. And our studios have ample, ample closet space. Large walk-ins.
Segal: One of our design elements is always to provide a lot of closet space for folks.
Editor: And there’s wrap-around banks windows, even in the studios.
Segal: One of the great things about the floor-to-ceiling windows is that it gives a sense of spaciousness. They really feel very very large.
Timm: Throughout all the living spaces, except the bedrooms which have berber carpeting, is this laminate flooring. The studios and convertibles will have it throughout the space. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about it. People really seem to like it.
Segal: The nice thing about this product is that it’s very easy to maintain.
All of the units, instead of mini-blinds, will have solar shades. The bedrooms will have blackout shades.
Timm: They’re high quality materials and they’re easy easy to use.
Editor: And they’re cat-proof.
Segal: I hadn’t thought about that.
We have a few tiers of apartments where we have stand-up showers only, instead of the combination shower-bathtub. We find some people prefer that, and we’re offering more choice for our residents.
Attached to the tower building is a parking garage. The roof of the garage has Hubbard Place’s outdoor common space.
Lennan: It’s an entire floor that’s dedicated to our residents. Not only do we have the workout facility, featuring these floor-to-ceiling windows facing north and northwest, there’s a stretching studio; a club room featuring a pool table, and a poker table; a movie theater featuring a large screen with surround sound, and nice comfortable seating; a boardroom for those who work from home, and need to meet with a partner, they can use that space, and there’s also a wall of computers.
The Hub Club is a combination of two separate spaces that are going to be wide-open. This we envision residents renting out for exclusive parties. If they bring a caterer, they can use this chef’s station that incorporates warming ovens. So it’s very realistic, usable space in so many different ways.
Then there’s a nice seating area with a see-through fireplace that overlooks the outdoor space.
Segal: This has porcelain plank flooring, which has a wood appearance. It has a green, living wall that will be in the common living space.
Lennan: Our favorite part is The
Retreat, which includes a Jacuzzi, a sauna, and a steam room. And each locker room, the men’s and the women’s, will feature full-body showers with lighting and sound – you can plug in your iPod. So it’s not just a shower, it’s a whole experience.
Segal: The sauna and the steam room have glass walls, and there are tall glass windows looking out onto the deck. And these glass walls will open, so you have indoor-outdoor space during the season.
We’ve got a fire pit, and discrete seating and eating areas, and a full outdoor kitchen for entertaining. We’ve got an outdoor pool, and seating areas, and some shade under pergolas, and then the entire landscaped area for folks to lay out in, if they choose. And then another lounge area.
Editor: Is the building pet-friendly? Do you have a dog run?
Segal: It is pet friendly. We do have a dog run on the Illinois Street side, and it’s something we’re offering as an opportunity for our neighbors to use as well.
Editor: With the roof deck on the ninth floor, you pretty much clear the neighbors’ buildings?
Segal: The eastern view is actually spectacular. One of the great things about it is that it’s pretty wide open, and when you look at the buildings that are developed in the neighborhood, you’ll see that the view are going to remain in their current condition, we think, forever.
The other thing is that from the 43rd floor down to the 12th floor, the views are essentially unobstructed. So it’s just spectacular views all the way around.
And the way that we’ve sited the building on the land orients it so that you get great views along the river looking north and south, particularly when you’re looking out the bays or off the balconies, you’re going to get spectacular views up and down the river. And then we also still have lake views and essentially unobstructed north and south views.
The evening view happens to be one of my favorite views, because we’re close to the [city] core, but we’re set back. So when it’s evening, when the city core is lit up, it’s absolutely stunning.
Editor: So you get that gritty, city, industrial view, but you don’t have to live in a loft.
Segal: This is definitely not loft living.
Editor: In terms of neighborhood development, you’re in a great position — no one is going to block you in.
Segal: The East Bank Club isn’t going anywhere. Directly south is the East Bank Club valet lot, which isn’t going anywhere. And then south of that you have the Apparel Center, which isn’t going anywhere.
Timm: The Merchandise Mart isn’t going anywhere.
Segal: Right. North of us is a condominium development, the Sexton Condominiums, which aren’t going anywhere; and they go up to about our ninth floor. And then to the northwest you’ve got Kingsbury Plaza, our other building. But Kingsbury Plaza runs east-west. We’ve oriented Hubbard Place north-south. So the views are preserved for both buildings. The views are going to remain unobstructed in perpetuity, we think.
The interview moved outside and across the street into the construction zone where Mr. Segal and I we were joined by Terry Gillespie, the Project Manager for McHugh Construction.
Mr. Segal spoke about how important it is for the building to make a good impression, even on people who don’t live there.
Segal: We’ve commissioned an architect to custom-design a piece of artwork [for the space in front of the building]. It will be a 25-foot-tall sculpture.
We’ve created Hubbard Place to enhance and fit in with the local community. There’s going to be a very large entryway that’s going to be fully landscaped and it’s going to have this sculpture there that anyone in the neighborhood can see and enjoy.
The entryway will have a park-like setting, which we think is in contrast to what a lot of people are experiencing in the city today where you have properties built lot line to lot line. Here we will have a wonderful entry to your home.
It’s going to be a heated drive, so the snow will melt. We have an arrangement with the East Bank Club so that there’s 1½ floors of below-grade parking that’s dedicated for East Bank Club members and their guests. And then we have parking for our residents and the public on the floors above grade.
We’re doing some orange accents on the building at the breaks. Above this initial band [of apartment balconies], we have two bands where there are no balconies or bays in the building to give it a different architectural look. And we think it makes the building look quite striking.
Obviously, the orange accents under these balconies also appear on the east side as well. And on the east facade of the garage, which would otherwise be a blank wall, we created an artistic design so that people in the neighborhood weren’t just looking at a blank wall. We’ve taken different shades of orange and created a geometric design.
The design will actually wrap around onto [the side of the building facing] Illinois Street.
Inside the building, Segal points out some of the little touches.
In our lobby area there will be a little sitting area, and then the entry is under a porte-cochere so people can pull up, get in, get out, without having to be exposed to the elements if they’re picking up something or dropping off something.
A nice feature we have is designed porcelain ware that’s going to be displayed in niches. It adds a nice, attractive, homey element to this space.
Behind the lobby is the mail room, which features an automated package retrieval system. When a package arrives for a resident, an e-mail is sent to that with a locker number and a code. The resident can then punch that code into the appropriate locker and get the stored package. No more missing packages because the building’s dry cleaner closed before you got home, or before the delivery attempt was made.
Mr. Gillespie also noted a back hallway.
Gillespie: The though was to make a second means of exit and egress so that tenants can get back there [to Illinois Street] to walk their dogs [without going through the lobby].
Segal: What’s great is that we’re in River North. We’re right across the street from the East Bank Club, which is obviously one of the anchors of River North. We have a partnership with the East Bank Club. Our residents who choose to join the East Bank Club, we’ll pay their initiation fee; and then for existing members who join us, we give them a gift card.
Editor: Do you think you’re going to get a lot of interest from people at the East Bank Club? People who are already coming here on a daily basis, so why not live here?
Segal: We do. Absolutely.
The team that’s putting this together is Habitat, as the developer, with McHugh as the general contractor, and Solomon Cordwell Buenz as the architectural firm. It’s the same team that did Kingsbury Plaza. We’ve been working with McHugh forever, and it’s been a wonderful relationship. And obviously over the course of our history we’ve done a number of projects with Solomon Cordwell Buenz.
Editor: So, Hubbard Place was intentionally designed to mimic Kingsbury Plaza.
Segal: It was intended to create a relationship between the two. And so there are very distinct features to both buildings. But even as you were saying that, you ran your hand in an arc – the windows are the key link between the two.
Editor: How many apartments are on each floor?
Gillespie: There’s 12 units on a floor, except for atypical floors like the ninth floor and below.
Segal: The reason we have atypical counts on the lower floors is because we have the garage connected into part of the tower.
Gillespie: One of the really interesting things from a construction standpoint is utilizing half of the tower from the eighth floor down for the ramp for the parking garage.
Editor: So the ramp is inside the main building?
Gillespie: Yes. It’s separated by a three-hour masonry wall. But it’s very interesting how they designed it to utilize that space instead of bunching up the garage and ending up with tight ramps.
Editor: Do you have to do anything special with ventilation to keep the car fumes out of the tower?
Gillespie: No. The garage is still open.
Segal: The garage is closed off in the part that’s inside the building, but it’s still open to the outside.
Gillespie: All the louvres on the north and south elevation have exhaust fans that bring in fresh air and pulls out the CO air. There are carbon monoxide sensors in all parking garages by code. That allows them to be tied into the building’s system of exhaust fans so that the fans can kick in and push fresh air into the garage.
The roof deck features large expanses of planters and a lawn. It’s at a height just slightly below the neighbors. But once the landscaping starts filling in, it should provide privacy both for the residents of Hubbard Place, and for their neighbors.
Segal: The pergolas will be at the eastern end. You can see there’s an offset of the brick walls. It’s going to be landscaped along the entire perimiter.
Editor: Just low landscaping, right. Not trees?
Segal: No, we’ll have trees in there as well. We’re trying to create something where people have the view of the city, but also a little neighborhood feel for our residents.
Editor: How long will it take for the plants to become an effective privacy barrier?
Segal: We’re not trying to create a wall, we’re just trying to create a nice element. So we’re going to plan somewhat mature trees to begin with.
Gillespie: Kingsbury Plaza has landscaping that I would call fully mature right now. When we built that, the maturity of the trees and the bushes and the shrubbery was probably 30-percent less than that when we built it seven years ago.
Editor: The root ball for the trees doesn’t have to be that deep? You don’t worry about them blowing over in the wind?
Gillespie: Typically it’s 18 inches. That soil really compacts in and once you’ve got the irrigation and such, the weight really holds it down. And then when the roots take hold, they’ve got this whole box to grab in and spread out.
Segal: So much of what we’re trying to do, both in terms of services, and in the design of the building, are about creating convenience for our residents. Everyone seems to be stretched on time. Time is the most precious resource we all have, so the more we can make things easy for our clients, the better served they are.
We have a Facebook page for the community so that people can interact with each other. Because a lot of what’s happening is that people are creating a sense of community in the buildings they’re living in. So we’ve created more communal space than we’ve ever created in any of our buildings. And we’re creating ways for people to interact with each other.
What we really try to do after 40-plus years of doing this is try to make the space livable.
- Dishwasher in all apartments
- Microwave in all apartments
- Washer-dryer in all apartments
- Fooda service
- Four-pipe heating and cooling
- Quartz countertops
- Glass tile backsplashes
- Stainless steel refrigerators with grey sides instead of black.
- Pendant lights in the kitchen
- Steam room
- Fire pit
- Electronic front door locks (key fob or key card)
- Black thresholds in the apartments.
- Waterfall trim in the apartments.
- Heated driveway to melt the snow
- Free bicycle storage
- Full-body showers with customizable mood lighting and iPod docks
- Automated package retrieval system
- Parking garage has separate entrances for building residents and East Bank Club members
- Master bathrooms in the two-bedroom units have windows.
- Built-in picocells for continuous mobile phone reception.
- Leasing office conference room overlooks the lobby from high above.
- Plunge pool, not a real pool
- Shared utility billing
- No doorman, just a guy sitting at a desk
- Developer: The Habitat Company
- Architecture firm: Solomon Cordwell Buenz
- Landscape architecture firm: Daniel Weinbach & Partners
- Roof height: 460 feet
- Total height: 495 feet
- Floor space: 691,000 square feet
- Floor space including balconies: 712,000 square feet
- Residences: 450
- Parking spaces: 475
- LEED Silver
- Originally approved by the city: 1976