Chicago's best new homes 2007

Lofts at Roosevelt Collection

The experts choose the top developments of 2007

Each year, New Homes Magazine puts on its homebuyers’ hat and scours the city to find the best new developments across all housing types – from glittery, high-profile high-rises to single-family homes in neighborhoods on the up.

To make the housing hunt a little easier, we consider everything that an average homebuyer would consider when making choices – location and pricing, finishes and floor plans, architecture and amenities. This year, we are happy to report that the best of the best is scattered throughout the city, from the Southwest Side to the Far North and everywhere in between.

In the high-rise world, the big guys tend to get all the attention, so this year New Homes is adding a new category to celebrate the best new high-rise of fewer than 20 stories. In a city where size counts (after all, the skyscraper was born here), some of the most remarkable high-rises aren’t reaching for the clouds.

Projects like the 15-story R+D659, the 13-story Pure and the twin 12-story towers of Emerald are complementing the West Loop‘s brick warehouses and industrial flavor with creative glass and concrete designs. These buildings have many of the same amenities as taller high-rises – posh resident lounges, fitness centers and even swimming pools (at R+D) – but at prices that appeal to first-time buyers.

We find our inaugural pick for the best high-rise of fewer than 20 stories farther north, though, where the announcement of a new tower is rare. On dense Sheridan Road in Edgewater Beach a graceful glass high-rise by architects Booth Hansen will be a shot in the arm for a section of the skyline crowded by bland and outdated buildings.

As higher high-rises go, many seem to be engaged in a game of one-upmanship with amenities – indoor golf simulation rooms, yoga rooms, juice bars, pet spas and even babysitting services have joined fitness centers, media rooms and rooftop swimming pools as high-rise perks. Other developers prefer to trim back the amenities and services to keep prices low.

We’re certainly not running low on new high-rises, especially in the booming South Loop, but the designs of many of these buildings have inspired only yawns from architecture fans. X/O Condominiums, the soaring, slanting glass towers inspired by the image of two dancers in a tango, scores on all points, earning our nod for the best new high-rise.

True loft developments are in finite supply, but just when we think all the most fascinating buildings have already been converted, something like Motor Row Lofts comes along. Development in the South Loop has been pushing farther south for years, and now Chicago’s historic Motor Row on South Michigan Avenue is experiencing its own mini-boom. At Motor Row Lofts, buyers in a wide range of price points can buy into automotive history and get loft features coupled with the luxury finishes of new construction.

Mid-rise housing usually places function higher than form, so we are happy to see several new mid-rise developments making strides toward more interesting designs. Bluestone Development’s Lakeside Lofts has two symmetrical five-story buildings sited around a landscaped four-season garden, and solar panels on the roof collect energy for the common areas.

Both Motor Row Condominiums, across the street from Lakeside, and Cityscape Condominiums in Saint Ben’s score points for breaking up their wide facades with several variegated segments, and Ravenswood’s RiverHouse does a fine job of orienting itself to its winding riverfront site. In the end, though, we chose The Lofts at Roosevelt Collection, the 342-unit first phase of Centrum Properties’ South Loop mega-development, for the complete package this project is offering buyers.

Choosing the top condo conversion can be even trickier than finding the best mid-rises. Some developers snatch up old apartment buildings in up-and-coming neighborhoods, run through the hallways with a spray-gun, and sit back hoping that’s enough to sell units. Others hollow out their buildings and painstakingly rebuild them from the inside out. This year, we choose to recognize Silver Cloud Condominiums, the classy conversion of a vintage high-rise in Hyde Park, a neighborhood where space for new construction is in short supply.

Sizable single-family home and townhome developments are growing scarce because of the economics of building in the city, so we were happy to discover Marquette Village, a single-family home community with quality homes starting at bargain-basement prices, and Cornelia Court, a quaint townhome community in the evolving Avondale neighborhood.

Our choices for the best new developments of 2007 are admittedly subjective, but if you’re in the hunt for a new house, you could do worse than starting with these projects.

Lakeshore East
Chicago’s best new planned community
Lakeshore EastThere has been a lot of activity at the new Lakeshore East community during the past couple of years, enough that you should park your car and check it out on foot rather than craning your neck and endangering lives as you zoom past the site on Lake Shore Drive. It is hard not to gawk, though, as you hit this spot immediately west of the drive and south of the Chicago River, bordered on its southern end by Millennium Park.

The former site of a nine-hole golf course, the 28-acre parcel of undeveloped Illinois Center land languished for years before Magellan Development Group planned its ambitious “village”? in the heart of downtown. We chose Lakeshore East from among the many planned communities underway in Chicago because the project truly has been approached as a village, one developed by a benevolent chief with plenty of vision.

The $4 billion project is planned around a central six-acre park, and about 40 percent of the overall land will remain open space. That took some planning, considering that Lakeshore East could include nearly 5,000 residential units, 2.2 million square feet of commercial space, 1,500 hotel rooms, 770,000 square feet of retail and an elementary school when complete.

Of course, open space, smart planning and good sightlines would be meaningless with poor building designs. Thankfully, the community’s new high-rises feature sharp designs with great lines, lots of glass and terrific views. Several developments in Lakeshore East deserve special mention: the Aqua high-rise, whose undulating façade will have architecture buffs oohing and ahing; 340 on the Park, a beautifully designed tower that will overlook the lake and Millennium Park; and the Parkhomes, upscale low-rise units that ring the central park (units in these projects are priced from the $650s to $3 million). 

X/O Condominiums
Chicago’s best new high-rise (over 20 stories)
X/O CondominiumsIf design, location, amenities and price are the main criteria for choosing a high-rise, Kargil Development Partners’ X/O Condominiums seems a likely choice for Chicago’s best new high-rise. In the city that invented the skyscraper, X/O takes a clear stand against the banality that constantly threatens to overtake this urban art form.

Those who prefer throwbacks to a bygone architectural era may want to close their eyes – renowned architect Lucien Lagrange has created a bold and emphatically forward-looking design for X/O. Two lustrous, glass-skinned towers, one 34 stories and the other 44, rise from a base of 10 townhomes like, Lagrange has said, a couple dancing a tango.

And the location? X/O sits at the edge of the South Loop’s historic Prairie District, the once and perhaps future home to Chicago’s crème de la crème. The grand, turn-of-the-century mansions that remain on Prairie are joined by newer, vintage-looking single-family homes and townhomes that lend an old-world charm to the sleepy street, but all the action of the Museum Campus, Grant Park and the Loop are nearby.

Amenities? Would you prefer to relax in a Turkish steam bath or a Finnish sauna? A rooftop “misting park?” or an indoor “Aqua Grotto?” X/O offers them all, plus a movie screening room, a fitness center, a lap pool and a 10,000-square-foot botanical park. Inside, units have nine- to 10-foot ceiling heights, floor-to-ceiling windows, private terraces, stainless steel appliances, granite countertops and marble vanity tops.

As architecturally significant luxury high-rises with heaps of amenities go, X/O thankfully doesn’t stand for Xorbitantly/Overpriced. Condos range from the high $200s to more than $1 million. The project, which has a sales center at 1712 S. Prairie Ave., includes 490 units total, each with one to three bedrooms. Kargil anticipates a groundbreaking in winter 2008 and deliveries in 2010. 

5440 Sheridan
Chicago’s best new high-rise (under 20 stories)

5440 SheridanWhatever The Bluewater Companies’ 14-story development 5440 Sheridan may lack in height, it makes up for in style. We’d expect nothing less from architects Booth Hansen, whose sleek, modern designs have most recently popped up in high-profile spots in the Loop (Modern Momentum) and the Gold Coast (30 West Oak). It’s refreshing to see the progressive work of Booth Hansen grace the shores of Edgewater Beach, where dowdy ’60s high-rises still reign along Sheridan Road.

Taking into account the beach-centric lifestyle of the neighborhood, Hansen designed a sunny, aqua-tinted glass box with a six-story white centerpiece that juts out from the rest of the façade to create enclosed porches with alternately translucent and textured windows and glass partitions.

The four floors above the centerpiece are set back to create a private terrace on the 11th floor. The bulk of the building is set back 30 feet from Sheridan Road, creating a landscaped plaza off the sidewalk, and three townhomes wrap around the parking garage to obscure it from the street. There are also five “beach homes” on the first-floor of the high-rise.

The condos, 160 in all, range from studios to three bedrooms. They have 542 to 2,200 square feet, and prices ranging from the $180s to the $450s. The two-bedroom beach homes are priced in the $340s, and the 3,300-square-foot townhomes are priced in the $800s. 

Motor Row Lofts
Chicago’s best new loft

Motor Row LoftsFew residents of new-construction condos can delight in telling guests the “back story” of their homes, but loft buildings always tell a tale, one residents buy into the moment they close on their homes. Motor Row Lofts offers Chicago buyers both the best story and the best features we’ve seen in a loft conversion this year.

In the early 1900s, automakers competed to build increasingly lavish showrooms and service centers in a concentrated district along South Michigan Avenue. Today, the buildings that once housed early Fords, Buicks and Fiats make up the Motor Row Historic District, which is included on the National Register of Historic Places.

The three adjacent buildings that form the 52-unit Motor Row Lofts, 2301 S. Michigan Ave., were designed by the famed Chicago architectural firm of Holabird and Roche (designers of City Hall, the Palmolive Building and Soldier Field) and completed between 1911 and 1915. They feature multi-colored terra cotta façades, oversized windows and heavy timber construction, increasingly rare in loft conversions. Owners in the white terra cotta building on the corner can say they live in “the Cadillac of lofts” and mean it; the five-story building was once home to the luxury automaker.

Renovated interiors combine the luxury finishes of new construction with everything loft-lovers want. Ceiling heights reach from 13 to 21 feet, and finishes include exposed timber ceilings, spiral ductwork and brick walls. Some units have new steel balconies and others have private rooftop decks. There’s also a common roof deck with skyline views and hookups for gas grills.

Prices on the one- to three-bedroom lofts range from the $230s to the $650s, and the developer, Motor Row Development Corp., has applied for the Illinois Property Tax Assessment Freeze Program, which could mean an eight-year rate freeze on owner assessments. 

Lofts at the Roosevelt Collection
Chicago’s best new mid-rise

Lofts at Roosevelt CollectionChicago mid-rises have never been long on style or amenities, with some notable exceptions. The Lofts at Roosevelt Collection is one. Buyers at the new development by Centrum Properties aren’t just getting an engaging contemporary design from architect Hirsch Associates, they’re getting a whole new neighborhood.

The Lofts is the first phase of a 1.2 million-square-foot enclave of residential and retail development along Roosevelt Road, between Clark and Wells streets, in the South Loop.
The 342-unit Lofts phase comprises two eight-story buildings surrounding an open-air plaza and pedestrian mall. A new two-acre public park will be the site of concerts, art fairs and farmers’ markets, and 400,000 square feet of retail space will include a 16-screen movie theatre, dozens of shops, restaurants and cafés, a health club and a specialty grocer.

Residents also will have access to private amenities and services including 24-hour door staff, a fitness center, a business center and a rooftop deck. Inside, the one- and two-bedroom condos will highlight contemporary design by Cecconi Simone and lofty features ranging from floor-to-ceiling windows to exposed ductwork.

If you do feel the need to travel to the outside world, it’s at your doorstep. The Loop, the financial district, Grant Park, the Museum Campus, the expressways and the el are all within walking distance. And, of course, the greater South Loop is exploding with growth all around the Roosevelt Collection.

Prices at The Lofts at Roosevelt Collection range from the $270s to the $650s, and a sales center is open at 709 S. Clark St. 

Added 8/7/09 — If we were to revisit this subject today, knowing what we know about Centrum’s treatment of its buyers during some admittedly difficult times, we would no longer grant Roosevelt Collection this award. / Joe Zekas, Publisher

Silver Cloud Condominiums
Chicago’s best new condo conversion

Silver Cloud CondominiumsHyde Park, home to one of the most prestigious universities in the country, world-class museums and cultural institutions, hundreds of acres of public parks, and some of Chicago’s best historic architecture, is one of the city’s most diverse and fascinating neighborhoods. It is also one of the most heavily built-up, so quality condo conversions are often the best option for buyers who don’t want the maintenance worries of older homes.

Developer Creative Designs Builders scored big with its acquisition of a 13-story, circa-1920 high-rise at 5346 S. Cornell Ave, near a Metra station, Burnham Park and Lake Shore Drive.
The former apartment building, which is brick with limestone detailing and ornate terra cotta relief, is being converted to 72 condos. As if the vintage architecture weren’t august enough, the developer named the project Silver Cloud Condominium Homes, after the 1950s Rolls-Royce model.

Inside, buyers will find modern Italian-inspired design including custom cabinetry, eucalyptus floors, mosaic porcelain tile, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and bathroom fixtures by Tenda Dorica. Top-floor units have 13-foot ceiling heights, and some units have new steel balconies. Building amenities include the “Silver Screen” media room, an exercise room, daytime door staff and a dog run.
Condos have two bedrooms, two bathrooms and 1,016 to 1,157 square feet. At press time, prices ranged from the $230s to the $430s. 

Cornelia Court
Chicago’s best new townhome

Cornelia CourtA lot of Chicagoans can’t tell you where Avondale is, though they drive through it on a regular basis. That doesn’t change the fact that the Northwest Side neighborhood that’s home to Cornelia Court recently has seen an influx of development. Old factories are converting to residential lofts, commercial strips are showing some new life, and large tracts of land are ripe for redevelopment.

Perhaps most appealing to homebuyers, though, is the fact that new-home prices in this neighborhood west of the river are still significantly lower than in its neighbor to the east, Roscoe Village.

Cornelia Court, Anchor General Construction’s development at 3001 W. Cornelia Ave, has 63 three-story townhomes ranging from the $490s to the $650s in Avondale. That price buys a sturdy brick and stone home with dignified copper bays, a second-floor porch and an attached two-car garage. The quality of construction and tasteful designs at Cornelia Court are apparent the minute buyers step out of their cars.

Units have two to four bedrooms, 2.5 to 3.5 bathrooms and 2,242 to 2,904 square feet. Interior finishes include hardwood floors, carpeted bedrooms, nine- to 10-foot ceiling heights, Canac cabinetry, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and marble or limestone bathrooms.

Tucked away in its own quiet corner and situated around a 10,650-square-foot courtyard, Cornelia Court has the feel of a private community but is located close to neighborhood amenities, including the McFetridge Sports Complex, California and Brands parks, and the Addison Mall shopping center. The Kennedy Expressway is nearby, and el stops at both Belmont Avenue and Addison Street are within a mile. Did we mention that there’s a Target around the corner? 

Marquette Village
Chicago’s best new single-family home

Marquette VillageFor brand-new single-family homes starting in the $280s, we might expect something slapdash sandwiched between railroad lines, but Marquette Village delivers 139 quaint two-story homes located four blocks from Marquette Park, which has more than 300 acres of green space, including a golf course, gymnasium, children’s playground and tennis courts.

The attractive façades at Marquette Village have gabled roof lines, columns framing front entries and bay windows. Homes on corner lots are all brick, and others have face brick. Houses also have either basements or third levels.

Inside, buyers find the same kinds of finishes they might expect at homes going for more than twice the price: hardwood floors, granite countertops, island kitchens and marble vanity tops. Homes also have landscaped backyards and patios.

The project, from RDM Development and Senior Lifestyle Corporation, also includes a Senior Lifestyle Senior Center designated for residents aged 62 and older. The center includes television lounges, a computer lab, a fitness center and dining options.

Homes on the 12.25-acre site, located at 7400 S. Rockwell St., come in six floor plans and elevations, with three bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms and 1,618 to 2,416 square feet. Prices range from the $280s to the $330s. 

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