Room with a view

Vue 20 focused on innovation, affordable prices

Vue 20Architect David Brininstool rarely likes the overwrought names developers tend to attach to their projects, but he says “Vue 20,” a new highrise by CMK Development, at 1845 S. Michigan, is that rarest of real estate creatures: a building with a meaningful name.

“We usually prefer calling a project by the address, but once we got up a few floors in this building, the views from there are just incredible,” says Brininstool, whose firm, Brininstool & Lynch, designed Vue 20. “There’s not a bad view in that building, either of the city or lake, so this is one case when the name really fits.”

Vue 20, as the name implies, is 20 stories, with 140 units and clear views of the lake, city and skyline. From the 17th floor, an observer feels he could just about toss a stone into Lake Michigan or reach out and touch the Sears Tower. The first residential floor sits atop five stories of parking, so the lower units get an eyeful too. And the surrounding landscape guarantees that these vistas will last.

“We’re surrounded by low-rise housing, Clarke House, the park, Engravers Lofts…so these views aren’t going anywhere,” says Scott Hoskins, of CMK Realty, which is marketing the project.

Brininstool’s design capitalizes on the sweeping views with floor-to-ceiling glass of a light green tint. In addition to opening up views, the wide expanse of glass adds a feeling of spaciousness to even the smallest one-bedroom, Brininstool says.

The design is decidedly modern, with a sheer wall of glass on the Michigan Avenue side, clean lines and a definite sense of the structure’s skeleton. In the tradition of the Chicago School, it also has a solid composition, with a clear base, mid-section and cap. A series of large aluminum panels covers the parking garage on the lower floors. The building then steps back about ten feet, rising in a glass wall that’s capped by an overhanging sunshade element (“the eyebrow,” Brininstool says) at the top.

“The sunshade does provide some shade for the top floors, but it’s more to signify the top of the building,” Brininstool says. “The base sits out ten feet, and the sun shade comes out almost the same distance, so it sort of creates this exterior space between the two, the air rights outside your unit.”

The lakefront location demanded a deep and expensive foundation, so Brininstool’s challenge was to use the fewest possible caissons and columns to create the greatest possible square footage. The result is a “post-tension” design that allows for spans of concrete longer than those in most buildings, and units that are uninterrupted by columns.

“We spent more on the construction so you don’t have columns minimizing the spatial qualities of the residences,” Hoskins says. “The clean, contemporary architecture is carried through to the interiors, which have smooth, polished concrete ceilings and no exposed columns, ducts or mechanicals.”

That contemporary look is complemented by a surprisingly high level of standard finishes, given the building’s aggressive pricing.

“Our base package really differentiates us,” Hoskins says. “We have hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances, granite counters…We really wanted to define the project in a positive way and build an identity based on these features and the architecture.”

The condos also have 42-inch upper cabinets, track lighting, brushed chrome hardware, balconies (per plan), ceramic baths, pre-wiring for high-speed cable and Internet service and washer and dryer hookups. Remaining one-bedroom one-bath units start in the $160s, and the top available two-bedroom condo, which includes a den, two baths and more than 1,200 square feet, is priced in the $310s.

In order to keep prices down, CMK did not include amenities like door staff or a fitness room in Vue 20. The result is assessments of about $75 to $150 a month, extremely low for a downtown highrise.

“We have a two-bedroom one-bath unit in the $190s,” says Colin Kihnke, president of CMK Development. “It’s hard to find that price point anywhere in the city. And we’re closer to bringing product on line than any of the projects around us.”

At press time, CMK expected first occupancy at Vue 20 beginning Jan. 15, and the development was 75 percent sold.

“We’re far along, but there’s still a good mix of units left,” Kihnke says. “We have a lot of product both for first-time buyers and people moving up.”

With prices starting in the $160s and interest rates that at press time, hovered under 6 percent, Hoskins says many former renters will be paying less on their mortgages at Vue 20 than they did on rent.

“In terms of price point, unit configuration and architecture – this very clean-lined feel with lots of glass – there’s nothing in the South Loop to compete with Vue 20,” Kihnke says.

At the other end of the pricing spectrum, CMK has started construction on Contemporaine, a tony boutique of 28 condos at 516 N. Wells, in River North. Units here start in the $500s and range up to $2.5 million.

Though it’s priced for a more affluent buyer, the project shares with Vue 20 a progressive philosophy that makes architecture a priority.

Designed by Ralph Johnson, of Perkins & Will, the building will feature a glazed four-story base that allows passersby to see cars coming down the parking ramps, cantilevered balconies that extend forcefully over the street like mini-catwalks and some glass atriums more than 20 feet high. Its signature element, a long concrete column, rises in a corner cutout, continuing a theme begun at the building’s base.

“Here you have just 28 buyers, and there’s no question they’re buying for what the building is,” Kihnke says. “Typically, you set up a footprint and just start building floors all the same. On this building every floor is a little different. A lot of time and effort and money went into it. We wanted this to be something completely different from what’s out there.”

In a market rife with vintage knockoffs, that’s never been a problem for CMK.

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