Life on the Prairie

by barry pearce on 11/17/04

Rezmar’s Mansions on Prairie returns historic district to earlier splendor
Mansions on the Prairie If you want to see the quality of craftsmanship and one-of-a-kind design at the Mansions on Prairie Avenue project by Rezmar Development Group, www.Rezmar.com, there’s really no need to leave the expansive kitchen. It was there, 30 seconds after I’d entered the model, at 1815 S. Prairie, that sales director Rosalind Edwards began pointing out the details, subtle and not-so, that separate these homes from the crowd.

“This is one of my favorite things to show people,” Edwards says as she searches a drawer for the schematic that was used to assemble by hand the Italian mosaic tile that forms the colorful backsplash.

From the backsplash, your eye wanders to the faucet over the gourmet stove – no need to haul that pasta pot over to the sink for water. I could dwell next on the dark and light Woodmode cabinetry or the Bosch dishwasher and stainless steel appliance package, but right now I’m more interested in the relief work on the eight-foot walnut doors, which as in the rest of the mansion, are coordinated with the floors. One of those nearby doors leads to an elevator. City codes require a steel door, but the builder overlaid this with three-quarter-inch walnut to match the décor.

Consider that this is just one room in a five-story 5,885-square-foot attached mansion, and you realize there’s no way you can do the development justice in one article.

Perhaps the most telling detail is that only one of the 17 Mansions on Prairie remained for sale at press time, a model home priced at $2.5 million. That price tag might seem steep for the South Loop, and indeed, this is a new level of luxury for the booming neighborhood, but examine the Mansions model, and the price starts to seem like a bargain.

The heavily upgraded home, which was decorated by noted designer John Robert Wiltgen, offers endless amenities, from the fifth-floor media room with 560-bottle climate-controlled wine storage, a wet bar and a deck with lake views, to the four-zone heating system, which includes three furnaces, compressors and humidifiers – all controlled, like other functions, from high-tech panels on walls throughout the house.

A mere list of features does not convey the grandeur of this space but would include things like hardwood floors, granite countertops, 11-inch crown moldings, ceiling heights of up to 11.5 feet, a two-car attached garage, granite countertops, 400-amp electrical service, a central vacuum system, copper gutters, multiple decks…You get the idea.

The English basement level contains a large family room, the garage, and the mechanical room. The living room, dining room and kitchen, which includes a large island, a sitting area and a deck out back, comprise the first floor. The entire second floor is devoted to a master suite with a large bedroom and sitting area, two walk-in closets and an oversized bathroom with a rain shower and large, distinctly separated his and hers vanities. The third floor has three bedrooms, two baths, a walk-in closet and laundry facilities, and the top-floor penthouse level is the media room.

“This is $1 million less than it would cost in the Gold Coast, and it’s on a quiet, historic street that has parking and is very convenient,” Edwards says.

That historic tree-lined street, once home to the Pullmans, Fields, Armours and other elite Chicago families, was the inspiration for these homes. Their brick, porches, stonework, arches and other exterior details take the historic context into account without simply mimicking.

“The Prairie Avenue Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and designated a city landmark in 1979,” says Alexandra Korompilas, director of sales and marketing for Rezmar. “The rowhomes at the Mansions on Prairie Avenue are designed to reflect that original splendor.”

Though many of the historic homes that inspired the development are gone, several remain, including the Romanesque Coleman-Ames mansion next door, Henry Hobson Richardson’s Glessner House across the street and Henry B. Clarke House, probably the city’s oldest structure. The tranquil Chicago Women’s Park and Gardens, also across the street from the Mansions, assures buyers a pleasant view for as long as they reside on Prairie Avenue.

Given the success of the Mansions on Prairie Avenue development, Rezmar is likely to include a similar product as one component of its upcoming Riverside Park community, a 62-acre mixed-use project, south of Roosevelt Road between Clark and the Chicago River, that will include shops, restaurants, parking condos and homes (see South Loop story in this issue).

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