From sandboxes to treehouses: Ranquist Development's latest endeavor in Bucktown

Urban Treehouse, 1849 N Hermitage Ave, Chicago

If the new banner ads on Division Street’s benches are any indication, Ranquist Development is ready to get the word out about its newest condo project.

Aside from its name and neighborhood, Urban Treehouse doesn’t have a lot in common with Ranquist’s last Bucktown development, Urban Sandbox. The latter was a modern, new-construction affair near North and Wolcott, all concrete and metal and glass. The former, a conversion, appears to be preserving most of the elements of the old Sisters of the Resurrection convent at 1849 N Hermitage Ave, across the street from the towering St Mary of the Angels Church.

According to Ranquist’s website, the building will contain six two-bedroom simplexes, two three-bedroom duplexes, and two three-bedroom penthouses, starting at a base price below $350,000. With features like 11- to 18-foot ceilings, oak floors, CaesarStone countertops with glass mosaic tile backsplashes, stainless-steel appliances, porcelain and glass tile bathroom finishes, and Duravit, Hansgrohe, and Toto fixtures, this sounds more like a home for the Sisters of the Gentrification.

The Miller Hull Partnership, which designed Urban Sandbox and 156 West Superior for Ranquist, will oversee the convent’s renovation. An architect’s statement near the end of Urban Treehouse’s promotional brochure promotes “the reoccupation of a historic structure” as “one of the most sustainable housing choices one can make.” “The century-old thick masonry walls at Urban Treehouse would be cost-prohibitive in today’s economy,” it says. “The thermal mass of these walls will modulate exterior temperature swings in a way that modern stick built structures can’t. The floor-to-floor heights in historic structures are also hard to find in modern residential construction.”

Aside from the black netting wrapped around the chain-link fence out front, there doesn’t appear to be any equipment on site or any signs of construction. There were, however, at least three people — a pedestrian, a driver, and a cyclist — who all stopped by the building to grab a brochure during my 10-minute visit yesterday afternoon.

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