Southward bound

Sutherland Pearsall’s Drexel Parc brings loft living to South Side

Shortly after Sutherland Pearsall Development Corporation was formed in 1996, when Mark Sutherland and Alexander Pearsall met through a mutual friend, the partners turned their attention south, to a part of Chicago long ignored by most local builders. What they discovered while completing more than half a dozen residential projects on the South Side, was an area of beautiful parks and boulevards, historic homes and prime lakefront.

They also found communities that had suffered neglect but were eager for rejuvenation.

“We’ve seen a tremendous response to our projects in these neighborhoods,” Sutherland says, “and we’re happy to say that the redevelopment of this once struggling area is coming along very well.”

During the past seven years, Sutherland Pearsall has completed a variety of projects in Hyde Park, Woodlawn and North Kenwood, most moderate in size, ranging from six to 15 units.

Until now.

Drexel Parc Lofts, Sutherland’s latest South Side development, is a seven-story 58-unit soft loft conversion located at 4537 S. Drexel Boulevard, in North Kenwood, close to the Kenwood Historic District and a ten-minute drive from the Loop. The size of the project and the product type (lofts generally have been a downtown phenomenon in recent years) are signs of how far the area and its housing market have developed.

But fortunately for buyers at Drexel Parc,, Sutherland says, unique development opportunities are still available on the South Side and costs are still lower than on the North Side.

“We were fortunate to be able to be able to purchase this property about a year ago,” Sutherland says. “Originally it was a residence, and then it became a nursing home. We like to think we’re pioneering luxury soft loft living on the South Side, and this structure lends itself nicely to that concept.”

Built in the early 1900s, Drexel Parc Lofts has the look of a formal residence hall on the campus of some grand university, an effect augmented by the wide grassy median of historic Drexel Boulevard, outside the front door.

The building is set back a generous distance from Drexel, and the setback is occupied by a large formal courtyard filled with mature shade trees. The front entrance is marked by a pair of stone pillars at the sidewalk and a wrought iron fence that wraps around the property.

The mid-section of the structure is indented, adding formality to the lobby and creating an eight-sided configuration that makes most of the lofts corner units, with more light and air than is typically found in condo buildings. The elegance of the design is carried through to the façade, which features terra cotta paneling. Terra cotta and stone detailing appears throughout the brick exterior, even on the balconies, which Sutherland is adding as part of the conversion.

The restoration of the historic building is part of a renaissance on Drexel, where old homes have been rehabbed and new ones built at a quick clip recently.

“This is a fascinating area,” says Brent Norsman, whose firm, Norsman Architects, designed the project. “It’s a rich strong neighborhood with a lot of character and potential. There is an abundance of good housing stock, and I look for it to enjoy a very bright future.”

While there’s no shortage of new housing nearby, Norsman points out that Drexel Parc Lofts possesses some distinct characteristics. “It’s the tallest building in the neighborhood,” Norsman says. “Almost everything around it is just three or four stories, and the zoning height restrictions prohibit anything taller. You have guaranteed unobstructed views in all directions, including great end views and treetop views, and you can see the lake and city skyline from the upper floors.”

Buyers have been equally impressed with the views inside these units, however, and with the loft aesthetic that’s become so popular downtown.

“The soft loft concept brings a very open feeling to the interiors of the residences,” Norsman says. “Partial height walls, lots of glass and nine-foot ceilings create a sense of spaciousness throughout the units.”

The condos have open floor plans, fireplaces, balconies, large windows, designer kitchens with custom cabinetry and granite countertops, oak floors in living areas and luxury master baths with marble or slate floors. The building has a formal lobby, two elevators, video and intercom systems and an exercise room.

Most units have one or two bedrooms and one or two baths, while penthouses have three bedrooms and two baths. Prices range from the $140s for a one-bedroom one-bath unit to upwards from the high $190s for penthouses. Off-street parking is included in the purchase price.

Sutherland Pearsall has just begun to market Drexel Parc Lofts, while the builder finishes off another project across the city, the Grand on Grand, Located at 200 W. Grand, this 27-story glass tower contains 111 units, with only six residences per floor. Delivery of the condos is scheduled for this spring, and at press time, only 20 percent remained for sale. The units have one to three bedrooms, luxury finishes and downtown views. Prices, which include parking, range from the high $280s for one-bedroom units to the high $470s for three-bedrooms.

Units at Drexel Parc Lofts should be ready for first occupancy later this year, according to Charmor Roller-Brown, of First Chicago Realty Corp., exclusive marketing agent for the development.

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