A Sterling address

Invsco’s gateway tower designed from inside out

The SterlingTake a quick look at the Sterling, American Invsco’s new-construction condo tower in River North, and you might assume the building began with an architectural vision for its exterior.

The thoroughly modern design of concrete and glass is as much sculpture as highrise, with some “corners” gracefully curved and others squared off. Horizontal bands of concrete define the vertical span of glass at regular intervals until the pattern is playfully and artistically broken near the top with a pure span of glass that gives the eye somewhere to rest.

From the dramatic 30-foot glass curtain wall lobby to the simple elegance of its concrete cap, the Sterling, at least from the outside, has the look of a building designed by an architect concerned mainly with aesthetics.

It’s a surprise then, to hear architect John Lahey, president of Solomon Cordwell Buenz & Associates, say that the highrise evolved from the inside out.

“The building got its shape from the units inside and trying to make the most of them,” Lahey says. “We worked on it to maximize the number of units with corner exposures, eight per floor. After we did that, we looked at possibilities for articulation of the form.”

The Sterling’s setbacks and curvilinear sections maximize views, Lahey says, in a location that offers sweeping vistas of the Chicago River and the skyline. But he admits that the development also is intended to make a statement from its perch at 345 N. LaSalle.

“The creation of a gateway to the Loop, just across the river, was something that seemed important architecturally,” Lahey says. “Putting a curve on one section and having others square, we knew, would have a nice impact on the units inside, and would welcome people to the Loop.”

The Sterling, www.thesterlingcondos.com, also has been welcoming buyers, droves of them, to its sales center. Developer American Invsco recently closed on 185 condos in the building during a four-day period, according to Project Manager Chuck Brahos.

“I’m still recovering,” Brahos says, joking about the frenetic pace.

Architecture clearly has been a draw for the 50-story tower, as has its location on the edge of River North and the Loop, Brahos says. But while the development creates a prominent “gateway” to the Loop from street level, it retains a surprising level of intimacy for a building with 389 units.

“We have this great almost Miesian lobby with 31-foot ceiling heights, a glass curtain wall and a wood called angrie from Africa,” Brahos says. “It’s very exciting, but at the same time, it’s an intimate building. Our lower floors have 10 units per floor and then it drops down to seven units a floor, and only five on the top ones.”

The Sterling also offers four high-speed elevators to get to those floors (two is often the standard in buildings of this size). That’s one of the more subtle luxuries in a building with some impressive amenities.

Features include a 24-hour doorman, a fitness center, a hospitality room, tennis courts, an outdoor pool, indoor parking, a rooftop deck and on-site retail, including a Starbucks, CVS Pharmacy, 7-11 and a dry cleaner.

The units are spacious, Brahos says, with open kitchens, topnotch finishes and floor-to-ceiling windows to take advantage of stunning river and skyline views. About half of the condos also have recessed balconies, which Lahey says offer access to the outdoors and a sense of comfort and security, given the building’s height.

Considering the location and level of luxury, prices are competitive at the Sterling. “In-town” residences of 560 square feet start at $186,000, and luxury penthouses with two bedrooms and dens range up to $750,000.

“Compared with the level of luxury in this area and keeping in mind that the highest prices on Michigan Avenue top $800 a square foot now, this is a very good price, at about $350 a square foot,” Brahos says.

That means buyers can touch before they buy and see actual views, which Brahos says, are protected.

“We’re the only new building here that’s ready to go, already built and in a very protected area,” Brahos says. “Other than one other building going up, which was designed to happen in concert with our building, we have the river to the south, the (Merchandise) Mart to the west, commercial to the north and landmark buildings on the east and also the south. The views are awesome, and they’re protected. That’s important when you look at other corridors, like on Ohio, where all those people thought their building was the only one going up.”At press time, the Sterling was about 60 percent sold, with units available for immediate delivery.

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