235 Van Buren launches rent-to-own in the Loop program

235 Van Buren, a striking new Ralph Johnson-designed 46-story condominium in the Loop, is launching a rent-to-own program on selected units.

One-bedrooms will start at just over $1,500 per month and 2-bedroom, 2-bath units at around $2,000 a month. Heat, air-conditioning and gas are included in the rent.

Renters who execute an option to purchase by the end of their 12-month lease will have up to 30% of their rent, not to exceed 3% of their purchase price, credited toward closing costs.

“It’s a great opportunity for people who just need a little more time to save, or fix their credit, or just see if they like living in the Loop,” noted CMK Realty’s January Sambell.

235 Van Buren is positioned as a low-amenity building to keep costs low for owners and renters who don’t value the common-area amenities, or would prefer to join one of the full-service health clubs within a few blocks. That strategy enables renters to move into a 2-bedroom, 2-bath unit for less than renting a 1-bedroom in some high-amenity Loop buildings.

235 Van Buren doesn’t skimp, however, on building services or in-unit amenities. Residents enjoy 24-hour door staff, on-site management, multiple bicycle storage rooms, I-GO car service, secured-entry parking and a new convenience store (video above), the second location of the popular South Loop Market. The new Wacker Gateway Park adjacent to the building is nearing completion.

The units have high-style finishes, in-unit washers and dryers, office nooks, private balconies, 10-foot ceilings and expansive views.

235 Van Buren provides residents a walk-to-work location, and extremely convenient access to Chicago’s public transit and expressway grids.

Meet some of the buyers at 235 Van Buren in this series of videos, and tour the models at a YouTube playlist.


  • Mike 6 years

    Joe, do you know how many of the units have been sold in this building? This rent to own deal could help fill the rest up, but I would like to reassure myself before becoming involved.

  • Mike,

    I’d refer you to CMK for up to date information. Mine is months out of date.

  • Hillary Larsen 6 years

    Through June 2011, per a Crain’s article, the 235 W Van Buren building had closed on only 371 units out of 714. And sold 16 units in Q4 2011. So my guess is they were at about 400 out of 714 sold at end of 2011. At that rate it will take approximately 5 years to sell the rest. No wonder why this Joe character claims he has no recent info. I’d keep it on the down low too. This rent to own plan sounds like one of those furniture rental places for folks who live paycheck to paycheck. What’s next? Buy a unit get a $50 gas card?

    • Hillary Larsen,

      This “Joe character” gave an honest answer, unlike your completely fictitious identity and unknown agenda.

      The Crain’s article also noted that 235 Van Buren was the second most successful seller in the market in the worst year for sales.

      Projecting from what’s typically the slowest quarter in the market’s slowest year is nonsense.

  • CaptainVideo 6 years

    If they cut the prices they will buy.

  • Mokeman 6 years


    I know you are a fan of 235 W. Van Buren for a very long time. The truth is that the units are not selling and you know it, but your unwillingness to be objective is killing your creditability. The fact is that, this is a tough market, so it is reasonably understood that the units are not moving as fast as we want it to be. When you try to be vague about a situation that we all have a pretty good idea of what is happening, I stop trusting anything you print or say.

  • Mokeman,

    Please cite anything I’ve said that is not objective, or anywhere I’ve suggested this isn’t a tough sales market.

    What am I being vague about, keeping in mind that this was clearly tagged as a “sponsored post?”

    You should know that I get a good chuckle out of having my credibility questioned by someone whose identity and motives are unknown.

  • Mokeman 6 years


    I am an owner of a 2/2 unit in the building. I closed on my unit in Nov. 2009. I signed to purchase my unit before the developer ironed out the isses he had with the Chinese restaurant that used to be at the site of the building. My point is that I know the building very well and also have read most if not all of your writings/blogs/videos about this building (Skyscrapper.com, facebook, you videos on contructions progress of the building, your interviews with residents and etc etc). I know your track record. Look, I am an owner, my interest is also the success of the building so that I can maintain the value of my investment. I have no interest in doing or saying anything to de-value the building. I actually think that 235 van buren is a great value. I recently refinance my unit and was pleasantly surprise with the appraisal. The original question was very simple. How many units are sold? No need for you or the developer to be vague about this.

  • Mokeman,

    If you want a definitive answer to how many units have closed you can go to the Cook County Recorder site and check for deeds on the following PIN numbers:

    17-16-238-020-1001 to -1714

    If there were fewer units in the building I’d do that exercise myself. If you want to satisfy yourself as to the number of closed units you can do it – or organize a group of people to take on 100 each.

    The Crain’s article referenced above would have been based on data from Appraisal Research Counselors (ARC), which is a very professional organization that engages in data grubbing at a very detailed and meticulous level. I would trust the ARC numbers as of the time they were stated.

    The Tribune site reports 40 closings from 7/1/11 on, some of which may have been resales. The data on that site lags by about a month.

    I’m not being vague about the number of closed sales and the number under contract – I don’t know it, and I haven’t asked. I’m reluctant to ask about pending sales and report a number because I’m sensitive to the number of contracts that have fallen through during the past 4 or 5 years and not closed.

  • aleks 6 years


    A number of closed units is something that is of interest to just about everyone. So when you are reporting something, naturally people would like to know all the facts, not just the ones that look favorable. If the building was 95% sold out (and not 75% as it is currently is), you would probably report it – b/c it would look everyone look great. But you are correct, you are not being vague, you simply leaving out a fact that would make the building look unfavorable. A definite answer would have to come from CMK – people you talk to on a regular basis, since they are a customer. I don’t buy you saying that you don’t know the number of closed units – you’ve been in real estate for 20+ years, not two months.

    And yes, I do own a unit at this building.

  • aleks,

    I don’t know the number. I do know that you have zero basis for questioning that fact.

    The number of closed units is a matter of public record. I’d advise anyone who cares enough to check for themselves.

  • Karen Tallman 6 years


    Since you work with CMK just ask them what percent of the units are sold and how many of those are closed.
    Or ask the bank who made the loan on the building, they should know…but probably wish they didn’t.

    We will be waiting for your report, which should be soon based on your great service!

  • Karen,

    I’ve made it clear I’m not being baited into playing this game.

    Instructions above on how to answer your question as to closings.

  • GMT 6 years

    My 2 cents… don’t buy at 235. Their “high style” finishes are just that… high style, but very cheap. Faux wood, engineered hardwood floors, cheap carpet, and so on. The only thing they have going for them is the location and view (applicable to only some of the units). And let’s not forget that they extended their loan earlier this year… a clear sign of a building in trouble. Even though Joe will argue otherwise, we all know that it’s in the best interests of anyone with a loan to pay it off sooner than later. And I bet those assessments will go up.

    My suggestion: look a little west. There are some great condos/walk ups/midrises in the West Loop that are much more appealing than this building. Or… if you really want this building… give it a few more months. There’s a chance they get hit with more than a few foreclosures. And even if the building itself doesn’t have several foreclosures, the market will. Prices need to go down in that building if they have any hope of off loading their inventory.

    Lastly… if anyone is interested, I have a comparison spreadsheet on units sold for this building. I can send it over to you if you’d like… will just need to spend a few minutes updating for the past couple months as I stopped my research once I realized the building was crap.

    • PWL 6 years

      I agree. The rent to own advertising got me to look. I was very disappointed. The only worthwhile views are in the high priced east units. The other views are of freeways and other high rises.

      However, the most disappointing thing was the floor plans use of the square footage. Because the units are long and narrow much of the square footage is wasted with long hallways. Some are like mazes. This translates into tiny living spaces and tiny bedrooms. Also, because the building is so tall the structural columns are enormous and intrude a lot and severely limit the use of space. The living rooms are narrow and small and, in my view, almost unusable.

      I believe the building is built to be wheelchair accessible. That is nice. But, it also means the bathrooms are enormous. More wasted square footage for the majority of people. And the hallways are extra wide; even more lost usable space for the average buyer.

      The building is not particularly conveniently located to the “El”. As I walked there I did think it would be a good location if you worked at the CBOE or the jail.

      Overall, not a good value. The square footage numbers for 235 look pretty good, but I’m buying a two bed, two bath unit in the north just off the red line that is four years old for at least $60,000 less. It has 1,170 square feet and because it is designed to use the space efficiently it feels pretty huge. There is only one very short hall that leads to both bedrooms. It has a kitchen island with a three person breakfast bar and it has a dining area that will fit my formal six person dining room suite. It is east facing and has floor to ceiling windows in the living room and both bedrooms.

      I don’t have a view of the lake on my lower floor, but the building has a “green” roof, which is nice and it is a three and a half block walk to the beach on Lake Michigan.

      • PWL,

        Everyone’s take on what’s a great view can differ.

        The south view is pictured above, and everyone can judge whether that’s a good view, and I suspect many would disagree with you.

        Two L stations are a few short blocks away.

        Help everyone out by telling us what building you’re buying in that you see as such a superior value.

  • GMT,

    Let’s not forget that no one knows who you are, what agenda you might have behind your comment, or whether your bets or chances have any knowledge behind them.

    All anyone can learn from the fact that a loan was extended is that a loan was extended and that the lender was willing to extend it. We all know that sophisticated borrowers have many reasons for extending loan terms other than the one you suggest.

    Buyers don’t need you to tell them to comparison shop. They’re already doing that, and they’re looking in many locations for the best deals. And some of them have been deciding that 235 is their best option.

    If you want anyone to request your spreadsheet, tell them who you are and what interests you represent.

  • GMT 6 years


    I don’t represent any interests. But I see several requests above for sales figures and I am more than willing to provide my research.

    And while some have been deciding that 235 is their best option, clearly not enough have. The building is struggling to sell off its remaining inventory and was forced to start a rent-to-own program. And though you might suggest a borrower could have alternative reasons for extending a loan, I, having intimate knowledge of CRE loans, know that’s just simply not true. Developers request extensions because they’re unable to pay off the original loan.

    And it’s not going to get any easier for 235 to sell that remaining inventory. With a foreclosure settlement finaling being reached, over the next 90-120 days, we should see a significant uptick in foreclosure filings (thus driving down home prices). And current estimates are calling for ~4% decline in home prices nationwide. Chicago has always been one of the worst cities for declining home prices, so we could see anywhere from 8-10% decline over the next 12 months.

  • GMT,

    You stated that the loan extension is a sign the building is in trouble. Explain why the lender would agree to an extension.

    For the record, I had troubled buildings in my days as a developer and negotiated extensions, and represented banks as an attorney, so am not naive about the topic. I’d like to hear your explanation of the specifics of this building rather than the glib generalities you’ve been tossing about. You do have specific knowledge, don’t you? Not just making assumptions?

    Chicago has “always” been one of the worst cities for price declines? You’ll need to tell Mr Case and Mr Shiller to adjust their data. In LA, to take just one example based on C-S data, single-family seasonally adjusted prices fell 37% from January 2007 to December 2008 while they declined 19% in Chicago over the same period. Extend that out to December 2011 and it’s LA 40% vs Chicago 35%. You can easily find other cities with greater price declines than Chicago – Las Vegas, San Diego, Miami, Tampa, Detroit to name a few. So much for “always” and so much for “one of the worst.”

    Your last paragraph is just one take on the topic. Anyone can head over to our Chicago Real Estate News page and read alternate takes from known sources. For someone who doesn’t have an agenda, you’re doing an awfully good job of sounding like someone who does.