High-rises push south to Cermak Road as red-hot South Loop bursts its borders

Don DeBat

With a lakefront location and plenty of vacant land for residential high-rise development, Chicago’s red-hot South Loop neighborhood is about to burst its boundaries.

“The South Loop housing market is outperforming all other downtown neighborhoods in the first quarter of 2006, capturing a whopping 44 percent of all new-construction condominium and townhome sales in the downtown area,” said Gail Lissner, vice president of Appraisal Research Counselors and co-author of the Downtown Chicago Residential Benchmark Report.

New residential corridors are emerging along State Street, Wabash Avenue and in the area between Michigan and Indiana avenues. The wave of development is pushing south to Cermak Road and west to the Chicago River – the neighborhood’s traditional borders – and includes a slew of high-rises positioned along some of downtown’s most coveted streets.

One such project is CMK Companies’ 1720 S. Michigan, where 295 of the 498 units were under contract at press time. The contemporary looking high-rise was the fastest selling condo project in the neighborhood during the first quarter of 2006, according to Appraisal Research Counselors. The 33–story high-rise is 65 percent sold and under construction.

Another fast-selling project is Michigan Avenue Tower II, a 28-story new-construction high-rise planned for 1400 S. Michigan Ave. More than 60 percent of the 268 units were sold at press time, according to Russland Capital Group, the developer.

Sales also were strong at The Enterprise Companies’ Museum Park community in Central Station, overlooking the southern end of Grant Park. The new One Museum Park West high-rise posted 119 contracts in the first quarter, while 1600 Museum Park logged 105 contracts, according to Appraisal Research.

“A major attraction for South Loop condominium buyers is a lakefront and park location,” said Doug Horwich, vice president of Rubloff Residential Properties. “In the Central Station enclave, you are buying views of Grant Park, Lake Michigan, Soldier Field and the Museum Campus, starting at about $300 a square foot,” Horwich said. Condos in high-rises in the Museum Park community fetch as much as $500 a square foot.

The South Loop’s State Street corridor also is in the throes of a new-construction condo boom.

Construction is scheduled to begin this summer on Astoria Tower Residences and Spa, a 30-story art deco-style high-rise at 9th and State streets. Plans for the $80 million brick, stone and glass building, developed by Astoria Tower, LLC, call for 241 units.

A ground breaking also is slated this summer for One Place Condominiums, a 10-story new-construction mid-rise development at 1 E. 8th St. that is nearly 85 percent sold. The mixed-use project offers 96 condos, a 44,000-square-foot XSPORT Fitness health club, 18,000 square feet of commercial space, and parking for more than 300 cars, said developer Harlan Karp, of One Place Condominiums, LLC.

At least three major mixed-use developments containing more than 8,000 housing units are scheduled to get rolling in the booming South Loop this year, according to Appraisal Research Counselors. Here are some highlights:

Prairie Station District. This $500 million mixed-use neighborhood is underway at 21st Street and Prairie Avenue, on the southern edge of the South Loop. Plans by a consortium of developers call for more than 2,000 affordable and market-rate condos and townhomes, retail, health clubs, movie theaters and restaurants.

Sales have hit the 50 percent mark on the first two phases of Prairie Station. Demolition work is underway on Phase I of the eight-story Chess Lofts, a 119-unit adaptive reuse project at 320 E. 21st St. Phase II of Prairie Station is Aristocrat Tower, a 24-story new-construction high-rise containing 146 condos.

Nearby, construction is underway on the 96-unit Lakeside Lofts, a five-story new-construction building planned for 2025-2035 S. Indiana Ave., within the Prairie Station neighborhood. A 70-unit companion loft project, yet to be named, is planned for a site immediately to the south, said co-developer Robert Frankel, of Bluestone Development.

The Roosevelt Collection. Centrum Properties is planning this 1,000-unit residential and “lifestyle retail” center on 12 acres bounded by Roosevelt Road, 9th Street, Wells Street and the Metra tracks, west of the new Target store. Sales are projected to begin in fall of 2006.

Plans call for loft-style condos and two high-rises to be built over the next five years, as well as a 20-screen cinema, shops, restaurants and a health club.

Riverside District. This $3 billion venture will utilize the 62-acre tract of undeveloped land along the south branch of the Chicago River, south of Roosevelt Road to 16th Street and east to Clark Street, according to Heritage Development Partners, LLC. The Riverside District will include retail and restaurants as well as 4,600 residential units, including studio apartments, mid-rise and high-rise condos, lofts, townhomes and mansion rowhomes. The developer expects to launch the first phase in early 2007.

Real estate columnist and media consultant Don DeBat has written about Chicago-area housing and mortgage markets since 1968. He is chief executive officer of DeBat Media, Inc., www.dondebat.net.

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