Bucktown loft building trades brick for glass

Baer Lofts Baer Lofts

When we first told you about Bucktown’s The Baer Lofts, 1927 N Milwaukee Ave, there was some speculation as to what would be done about the small, narrow windows on the circa-1920s building. The Urban Politician commented, “I’m imagining this thing with bigger windows and it doesn’t look bad at all.”

Well, Jameson Realty Group‘s Jeff Ralson gave us a peek at a rendering of the finished building–resplendent in floor-to-ceiling glass–and damned if it doesn’t look fantastic. With Funke Architects, whose work we’ve seen recently, at the helm, we’d expect nothing less. The renovation will eliminate just about all of the red brick on the facade, leaving an elegant pairing of glass and terra cotta, which Ralson says will be cleaned and tuckpointed. Inset balconies will also be created in the center section of the building.

Lofts will have 11- to 13-foot ceiling heights with exposed concrete, concrete columns and track lighting. The ground-floor will have two commercial spaces, one of which Ralson hopes a restaurant will occupy. Prices on one-bedroom lofts start in the $270s, and two-bedrooms start in the $370s. A sales center and model should be up and running by the spring.


  • Anon 11 years

    Doesn’t look very good at all. Better to leave this one alone and try building an entirely new & modern building on a vacant lot.

  • Anon,

    Looks like a vast improvement to me.

  • Looks OK. The brick contrasted the terra cotta nicely. Now, the little brick that they are leaving (between the 4th/5th floors) looks out of place. Would be nice if they kept the brick between the 2nd/3rd and 3rd/4th floors…

  • Jeff 11 years

    I like it, but wouldn’t want to live on Milwaukee for whatever price they come up with for these. They’re at perfect exhaust-fume level.

  • Attrill 11 years

    I like it. It will be a huge improvement for that area, the building has potenial, but is pretty rundown as is.

  • the urban politician 11 years

    I like the change.

    The most important element–the terra cotta–gets preserved

  • Jeff 11 years

    It’s a nice looking rehab.

    But really, why does hardly anyone ever comment on the LOCATION of a residential building around here? I thought real estate was all about location, location, location. Who the hell would pay 370,000 to live facing west on Milwaukee near Belmont?

  • Jeff,

    This is Milwaukee just south of Armitage – a long way from Belmont.

    People do comment on location here, in my experience.

    I’m one of the location snobs. When I first moved to Chicago (1974), we called everything north of Fullerton in Lincoln Park “the servants’ quarters.”

    As I’ve watched people make location choices over the years, I’ve found no way to account for them, which puts a damper on my comments.

    What I consider sheer madness, it seems, other people find desirable. I attribute this to ignorance – but I’m often not sure whether the ignorance is mine or theirs.

  • Attrill 11 years

    It’s actually Armitage and Milwaukee, right across the street from the Western Blue Line stop. The location is pretty good – great CTA access, one stop away from Wicker Park, an easy walk to some good bars and restaurants. Best of all – just seconds away from Arturo’s, Lazo’s and Margie’s.

  • Jeff 11 years

    My mistake. I thought I knew this to be near the Congress Theater. Apologies.

    I still find it odd that folks here will go on and on about a building’s detail or two, without mentioning the location.

    And I still wouldn’t pay 300,000 plus to live on the second floor over Milwaukee and Armitage.

  • Jeff 11 years


    Good location?

    Would you really want to move your yuppie self (not you, I’m referring to the prospective buyer) into that big glassy building at Milwaukee and Armitage? The one that sticks out like a sore thumb??

    I have a good friend who works around the corner from there on Homer at a small architectural firm. She personally knows the mother/daughter hooker team that works the corner across from the Green Eye bar on that same corner. The neighborhood is a dump. Gangbangers with pitbulls, hookers and garbage in the street. Sure the Blue line is close, but that’s it. I’ve been around there several times, and I can say for sure it ain’t no nice neighborhood.

    And yes, I’ve lived my whole life within the confines of the city of Chicago, born and raised. So I’m no suburban hothouse flower.

    That area is a pit. With a CTA stop.

  • Attrill 11 years

    It’s a couple blocks south of where I’ve lived for the last three years (after living in Ukrainian Village for 11 years). It is a much better area than Wicker Park or Division St. was in the early to mid 90’s. It may not explode to the level that Division St. has, but more businesses are coming in every year and it is a very safe area. I think it is a neighborhood that is in transition, it doesn’t look pretty but it is not dangerous at all (there is prostitution, but no real gang activity at all).

    The building is 1 block north of Irazu and Matou and a couple blocks from Aldi’s. Hell, it’s within a 10 minute walk of Spring, Silver Cloud, Think, Map Room, The Charleston, etc. $370K does seem high, but for someone renting in Wicker Park looking to buy a condo a place for $300- 350K one stop away from their neighborhood doesn’t look too bad compared to the prices in Wicker Park.

    Overall the presence of the Green Eye (and the fact that is is packed on weekend nights) is much better indicator of where the neighborhood is headed that a couple prostitutes.

    Quite honestly, anyone who thinks that this area is scary in any way would have run away screaming from Wicker Park as recently as 1998.

  • the urban politician 11 years

    To Jeff:

    Not everybody minds living above a busy thoroughfare. It’s why some people live in the city, in fact–to be in the midst of the action. I don’t understand why that sounds surprising to you. To each his own, I guess.

    I live right above Broadway in NYC, basically one of the busiest and most renowned streets in the world. And I wouldn’t trade this convenience for anything. Plus, my apartment is in the back of the building so I never hear anything from the street.

  • Jeff 11 years

    I live on Dearborn in Printer’s Row. I wouldn’t trade convenience for anything either, dude. I know what it’s like to live on a busy street, but if you’re comparing Broadway in NYC to Milwaukee by Armitage in Chicago, I’ll just suggest politely that you’re comparing apples to Oldsmobiles.

    My brother lived just south of the park on Damen in Wicker Park back in the late 80s/ early 90s. I used to hang out, visit, stay over all the time. You are tripping if you think Armitage and Milwaukee is even close to what North and Damen used to be like back then.

    The infrastructure of the old buildings in Wicker park were much nicer to begin with than what’s up by Armitage. Yes, the neighborhood will get better, but it’s shabby and rotten as it is now, and will never get to where Wicker Park is today.

    Seems like any time I bring up the questionable nature of a neighborhood around here, folks want to pile on and question my Chicago street cred. I don’t start from a position where I feel I need to state my cred, but end up feeling like everyone here thinks anyone with a negative opinion of a Chicago neighborhood must automatically be from Naperville or something. Sheesh.

  • odujoko 11 years

    I second the notion that the area is a dump. North/Damen/Milwaukee started to change in the very early 90’s. I have a relative who is a cop in that district and I spent considerable time on beat with him in 1995 for a college project. There were just as many bars at that intersection as there are today.

    Wicker Park is a number of years ahead of the curve compared to the neighborhood with this condo. It’s got a long way to go. You’ll be returning to Naperville or Iowa or Indiana or where ever you’re from before that neighborhood turns into something decent, if ever.

  • Tim 11 years

    I live not too far away (closer to Damen) in Bucktown so I often find myself near this intersection. I can say that myself and lots of people I know love hanging out at Green Eye. There may be a few shady characters hanging on the corner, sure. But nothing serious.

    Speaking to the location, I’m personally surprised that this hasn’t happened yet. The incredible row of condo buildings on Wabansia just east of Western and the nice residential areas around the area make it an obvious choice for yuppie buyers. The CTA stop, Green Eye, new Walgreens, Lazo’s/Arturos, the Western bus, Odd Obsession (the video store), etc. are all a huge draw in my book.

    To speak to lofts, my girlfriend and I just finalized the deal on moving out of Bucktown and into the Belmont Lofts building on Belmont near Milwaukee (the heinous intersection mentioned above). We’re renters so we wanted to get more bang for your buck than Bucktown offered. The reasons we chose the area: 24-hour bus access right out the door, closer to my work, and the condo/loft building was super awesome and comes out to the same or less than what we pay for a shabby garden apartment in Bucktown.

    Plus, there’s lots of restaurants, grocery stores, etc in the area, so I think it’s a pretty neat area. Our place is in the back, facing south (away from Belmont).

    All I’m saying is that, I really don’t get the big fuss about these condos in Bucktown. They area nice, they keep a cool building that most people living in the area would recognize, and they make sense from a living point-of-view. Hell, if you’ve got condos coming in on Armitage and California, which is less convenient and about the same in terms of street crime, why not here?

  • Jeff 11 years

    Hey, put your 350 down and enjoy living on Milwaukee and Armitage. BTW, just talked to my friend who works there. She said her boss has had two different cars stolen in the last couple years. Plus, you get a view across Milwaukee!

    Hell, there’s even a Mexican restaurant a block away. All that for 350,000.

  • the urban politician 11 years

    To Jeff:

    Nobody is questioning your ‘street cred’. Chill out, buddy. When did I imply that in my post?

    I’m just responding to what you said earlier, quoted here:

    “I like it, but wouldn’t want to live on Milwaukee for whatever price they come up with for these. They’re at perfect exhaust-fume level.”

    ^ The exhaust-fume comment gave me the impression it was the location near a busy street that bugged you, not really the location. If I got the wrong impression, then I’m sorry

  • the urban politician 11 years

    To the rest of you:

    Don’t you want your city to get better? Whenever a developer plans condos in a shady area, I hear almost every stinkin one of you come out with “what a crappy place to live, who would plop down xxxx to live there?” Or the standard Joe Zekas reply, which includes links and stats logically leading to the conclusion that such-and-such site will not thrive as a neighborhood for X number of years for reasons a,b, and c.

    Let the developers take a chance if that’s what they want to do. Let some suckers who wanna live in the city but can’t afford nicer neighborhoods pay what they’re going to pay, and just shut up and be happy.

    Chicago ain’t Detroit. Stop acting like it is and just celebrate that your city is at least on the upswing. SHEEEESH!!

  • Jeff 11 years

    urban politician:

    So good that you stand on the side of condo developers in Chicago. We should all hang our heads in shame for criticizing real estate developments in sketchy urban area on an obscure weblog. How dare we, really?

    Someone needs to be on the side of real estate developers, and you seem to be up to the task. Godspeed.

  • the urban politician,

    My comment above varies from what you refer to as my standard comment.

    I also have a track record of having taken those chances, as a developer in what were considered sketchy areas.

    Providing links to factual information is a way, in my mind, of enabling people to make better decisions, not a way of biasing them in any particular direction.

    A home buyer is like The Rum Tum Tugger who “will do as he do do and there’s no doing anything about it.”

    I also think you need to get out more in Chicago. We have areas that would make you pray you were in Detroit.

  • The area around Armitage and Western will get and is getting better…….slowly. Most neighborhoods take decades to gentrify. I was just around there today and the new construction is rapidly approaching from the east toward Milwaukee and Winnebago.

    I spent a great deal of time around North/Damen in the 90’s, mostly drinking and unsuccessfully chasing females, but the area around Western and Armitage strikes me as similar or slightly better than the Bucktown of the early to mid 90’s.

    People tend to forget how bad an area was when they compare it to another area.

    Large parts of Lincoln Park were little more than a dense interracial ghetto well into the 1980’s. There was significant gang activity in Lakeview into the late 90’s. Hell there is gang activity there now if you want to count “transvestite hookers” killing over “territory” gang activity.

    I’ve lived in the southern section of Uptown since the first Bush was President and I have seen slow positive change. More change is needed and will come over the next decade. Same thing will happen at Armitage/Western. That El stop is a huge advantage.

    I agree that Joe Zekas tends to be overly pessimistic regarding neighborhood change anywhere outside of Lincoln Park. However, he is right on the mark when he says there are neighborhoods in Chicago that would make you pray you were in Detroit. Large swaths of the south and west sides look like scenes from the movie “Escape from New York” only grimmer and more deserted.

    Plus the mom/daughter hooker team along with Margie’s Ice Cream make Western/Armitage possibly the best full service small area in the city.

    As for Wicker Park/Bucktown it still has along way to go. It is certainly more gentrified that it was in the early 90’s but there is still much improvement to happen there.

    Oh well as a very insightful yet drunken man told me years ago, my demented departed dad, “buy in the city, itz gonna come back.”


  • Attrill 11 years

    Wow – this has really taken off.

    Jeff: I don’t think anyone is questioning your “street cred”. The fact that you thought it was at Belmont, and then apologized because”I thought I knew this to be near the Congress Theater” makes me question your knowledge of the area – it is close to the Congress, which is between Armitage and Fullerton. There’s a lot more than “a Mexican restaurant” in the area as well. There are probably 10 Mexican restaurants within a 5 minute walk (BTW – Arturo’s and Lazo’s are arguably athe best burritos in the city). The closest restaurants are Matou, a very good French/American restaurant and Irazu, a great Costa Rican restaurant with great ceviche. Margie’s is a Chicago institution, and if you go by on any summer night you’ll see loads of families out on the street in front of Margie’s eating ice cream.

    In terms of crime – do a chicagocrime.org check of the crime in a 4 block radius of Armitage/Western and then do one for North/Damen – they are identical (although there is more property crime at North and Damen). The 10 or so unsavory types who are always around the liquor store across fromn the Green Eye are sad and pathetic, not dangerous. I see them every day on the way home from work and they have never intimidated me in any way (very different from walking by the Duk’s that used to be at Division/Damen). I spent years going to CAPS meetings in Ukrainian Village as well as for this area and they are basically the same in terms of crime.

    The intersection of Western and Milwaukee is pretty grimy looking, and needs some new buildings, and that is happening (this building we’re discussing as well as the 5 story retail/rental/office building on the NW corner of Armitage and Milwaukee). This area is not a creation of developers, it is just Bucktown oozing it’s way west.

  • irishpirate,

    A mom / daughter hooker team?

    That calls for a Yo ho ho!

  • Joe,

    that joke was ho ho bad. Yet amusing.

    I think I will stick to the Margie’s Ice Cream. It is more fattening and at the moment at least still legal……..let the city council outlaw that next.


  • the urban politician 11 years

    Jeff said: “So good that you stand on the side of condo developers in Chicago. We should all hang our heads in shame for criticizing real estate developments in sketchy urban area on an obscure weblog. How dare we, really?

    Someone needs to be on the side of real estate developers, and you seem to be up to the task. Godspeed.”

    ^ Uhhh, you definitely lost me on this one. I didn’t know I was taking anybody’s side. When a developer invests his own money or equity to build a condo development on a vacant lot in a ghetto, how exactly is this conflicting your interests? Do you want vacant lots to stay vacant and hopeless? Perhaps you do, and if that’s the case then we are definitely ideological enemies.

    I see myself taking the side of the city’s revitalization. Certain developers are taking their own risks to build in ‘undesirable’ areas, but that’s a risk they choose to take. So why do YOU care?

  • PilsenPoet 11 years

    This remuddled facade is awful. Maybe if they used red fenestration and left a bit more brick but as is the whole facade turns into a mish mash of style. Vintage Terra Cotta opulence and minimalist modernism can match but this isn’t off the boards of a preservation architect, this is done by a hack.

    As for the location, that whole area is Wicker Park spill. I can understand why it’s proximity to the pick up boho yupster taverns would appeal to the younger set but for as far as I am concerned, outside a hot fudge at Margies, these days the old Amvets just up the road (Value Village) is so picked over shopping has become undesireable. To many hipsters around scarfing up the good china. If I can’t buy good china for pennies on the dollar the place has lost it’s charm.

    I agree with Urban that many of you are too conservative in your neighborhood thinking, one would think you lived in Cleveland, and much too snobbish to ever “pioneer” anywhere.

  • phil 11 years

    I think we’re overlooking another perspective on the location issue here. The buyer of a unit here might be more motivated by proximity to the Kennedy expressway than to the Green Eye or Irazu or certainly the Blue Line stop, because city people increasingly seem to drive everywhere, so it doesn’t really matter where they live as long as they have a parking spot [preferably heated with secure access directly to their unit] when they come home.

  • gabriel 11 years

    you guys should get a job-
    you have too much free time on your hands-

  • This guy doesn’t pay his bills. I know of 5 different contractors who are putting liens on his buildings. I wouldn’t suggest buying anything that he builds, since most contractors cut corners knowing that others are not paid in full for doing a good job. If you want quality and a good price, don’t buy Funke Design Build ‘s crap. Lee