New River North Residential Tower is a Headscratcher

Have we mentioned that the River North real estate market is hot?  How hot, you ask?  Red hot, like the back of your thighs squeaking down a shiny metal slide on a sunny August day.  Boiling hot, like pouring tar on a flat black roof when it’s 100 degrees out.  Blistering hot, like the roof of a fat guy’s mouth when he bites into a greasy slice of pizza straight from the oven.  Yeah, it’s that hot.

Diagram of 800 North Wells

Diagram of 800 North Wells

And so it’s not surprising to learn that another residential tower has been proposed for the area, specifically the northwest corner of West Chicago Avenue and North Wells Street.

This is currently the location of a surface parking lot, a retail store facing Chicago Avenue, and most notably New Metal Crafts, the custom lighting store that builds and sells all kinds of interesting illuminations.  It’s described as an old school Chicago kinda place, and “still the darling of high-end home designers and restorationists” by Chicago Architecture Blog reporter Kevin Mungons.

Mr. Mungons spoke with Jim Neumann, the owner of New Metal Crafts, who’s been there for 61 years, when he started working for his father.  He shuttered the Wells Street retail store over the weekend, but will keep the Goose Island factory and warehouse in operation. Mr. Newmann was apparently the owner of all four properties making up the eastern half of the block, and sold it all to Smithfield for redevelopment.

What’s interesting about the building is that it appears to be mini apartments with macro parking.  Documents filed with the city show that it will have just 58 residences across 24 floors.  That’s a little over two per floor.  Subtract the ground floor because that’s offices and common areas and subtract the 24th floor because that’s mechanical and you get 22 residential floors, or 2.6 residences per floor.  But you’ve got to put the huge parking garage somewhere.  If we assume that’s the rest of the podium, that leaves 17 residential floors, or 3.4 residences per floor.  Seems plenty spacious, right?

Nope. Of those 58 residences at 800 North Wells eight of them are just 135 square feet.  And the remaining 50 are listed as just 300 square feet.  Even by Chicago studio standards, that’s hella tight living quarters.  300 square feet is like a hotel room.  135 square feet is like an S.R.O.

But what 800 North Wells lacks in living space, it makes up for in parking spaces.  With a healthy 105 parking spaces, the building has almost two spaces per resident.  This, even though it is one block from the CTA Brown Line station at Chicago Avenue.  Each unit also gets .86 of a bicycle parking space.

Did all that make you thirsty?  Then open wide, here comes the fire hose:

  • Address: 200 West Chicago Avenue
  • Address: 800 North Wells Street
  • Address: 201 West Institute Place
  • Developer: Chicago Wells Development
  • For realsies: Smithfield
  • Architecture firm: Antunovich Associates
  • Height: 342 feet
  • Floors: 24
  • Site area: 20.789 square feet
  • Floor space: 152,799 square feet
  • Floor area ratio: 7.35
  • Residences: 58
  • Parking: 105 spaces
  • Bicycle parking: 50 spaces
  • Locking docks: 1
  • Parking entry off of West Institute Place and North Wells Street
  • Loading dock off of West Institute Place
  • Residential entrance (tower): North Wells Street
  • Townhouse: 1
  • Wine vaults: 1
  • Dog run: 6th floor
  • Green roof alert! 8397 square feet
Location: 800 North Wells Street, River North


Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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