Urban Sandbox mid-rise nearing completion

Urban Sandbox mid-rise at 1615 N Wolcott Ave in Bucktown, Chicago

Over on the 1600-block of North Wolcott Avenue, Ranquist Development‘s Urban Sandbox mid-rise is finally starting to resemble the architect’s renderings. Since our last update in November, large steel beams have been installed on the building’s exterior and glass plates have been added to the balconies.

Developer-agent Karen Ranquist is developing the Miller-Hull Partnership-designed mid-rise, which is located at 1615 N Wolcott Ave in Bucktown, and she says closings should begin by the end of March. In the meantime, she’s setting up a model in unit 201, a three-bedroom / two-bath priced in the $710s. The tiles and cabinetry are in, she says, and she says the rest of the unit should be finished by the end of the month.

The four unsold three-bedrooms the building are priced from the $710s to $1.39 million.

Just to the north of the mid-rise, Ranquist’s RCR Realty is handling sales for four single-family homes developed by JODI Development. Two of those homes have been completed and a third is under construction. The single-families at 1621 and 1623 N Wolcott Ave were designed by Studio Dwell Architects, and the two pictured below, which are located at 1625 and 1627 N Wolcott Ave, were designed by Osterhaus McCarthy.

Rate and review Urban Sandbox mid-rise
Rate and review Urban Sandbox single-family homes
View our list of Studio Dwell-designed condos

Related posts:
Ranquist roundup: Construction at Urban Sandbox (Nov. 5)

Urban Sandbox single-family homes at 1621 - 1627 N Wolcott Ave in Bucktown, Chicago Urban Sandbox mid-rise at 1615 N Wolcott Ave in Bucktown, Chicago

Urban Sandbox single-family homes at 1625 - 1627 N Wolcott Ave in Bucktown, Chicago


  • Seems as if these condo’s are quite pricey. Good luck in this market selling a 2br 2ba for 710K. Or other Conos for up to 1.39 Million. Seem’s absurd.

  • UptownR 9 years

    Some of these Studio Dwell buildings are quite nice. It makes sense that they would cost more than the average masonry boxes out there, but the costs do seem high.

  • I would agree they are nice, but It will be a rough sell considering all the factors going on today. How does that even appraise?

  • J,

    Your assumptions, I think, say far more about you than they do about either these condos or the market in general – whose state everyone knows.

    Do you have any facts to back up your assumption. I won’t even dignify what you have to say as an opinion, since it seems to be purely a pre-conceived notion that you want to impose on reality, without taking any account of the reality.

  • Stokes 9 years

    I agree with J. Pretty pricing for a cinder block box. These actually take less money to build as exposed block is cheaper than brick, no? Goes faster laying that’s for sure.

  • Stokes 9 years

    Also, that larger 4 story building looks like it should be on North, Milwaukee or Division…not Wolcott. How’d Waguespack let that one slip through the cracks?! Must’ve been rezoned by Matlak and Waguespack didn’t have time to downzone it before it broke ground.

  • Cg 9 years

    It does look like the 1615 has stained block (from the picture), which is to bad. The other single family houses use a CMU that has a finished face on it, which is much more expensive then standard CMU.

    It zoning comes from the old loft building that used to be there which had commercial space on the first floor… could be wrong though.

  • When did a 3 story building, over ground level, become a midrise?

  • cgcg 9 years

    Thanks again for the update on this one, Yo. It gets more beautiful by the day.

    @ Stokes

    Most of the brick that I’ve seen go up looks pretty cheap and nothing like that made in days long past so I’m not sure that assumption is correct.

  • Cg 9 years


    Agree about the brick.

  • Joe,

    What are my assumptions. I essentially said they are pricey condo’s for what is going on in the market today, and that it will be a rough sell.

    Please tell me what is a pre-concieved notion, that it is going to be a tough sell…Show me some “new condo’s” that are moving quickly at the top end of the attached home market in wicker park or bucktown?

  • J,

    You have a track record here of being on a single track. I was reacting to that and your suggestion that the pricing is “absurd” without offering any support for that proposition.

    I don’t know this particular market area well enough to know whether the price is attainable in the cirremt market. It may not be – but that doesn’t make it “absurd,” i.e. irrational.

    A quite rational player – the developer – has placed a bet that the price is rational. The developer may be wrong. The price may not be attainable. Or, it may be. I can’t see how it’s rational to call the price “absurd.”

    In a normal market – and we’re closer to a normal market than the superheated one we’ve seen in recent times – the high end of the market doesn’t move quickly and often takes a year or more to sell. Take some time and gain a perspective on the nature of the market we’re in and the type of product you’re so cavalierly dismissing.

  • Joe,

    Very fair response…Absurd may not have been the correct choice…

    But calling a developer a rational player may be well worth looking into also looking at the amount of prjoects going back to banks and monies that have been lost with developers on the front end of projects recently, including my own money invested in projects with a “well known” Chicago Area developer.

  • J,

    Ranquist has a pretty good track record from what I understand and I only referred to the developer of this project, not all all developers. Obviously some of them are nuts, some are wild-eyed gamblers, some are con artists and some are outright thieves. Most are careful and rational. All of that tells us nothing about any particular developer, and I prefer to deal in fact-based specifics.

    A lot of people, not just developers, have been blindsided by events recently.

    I considered myself a rational player, did my homework diligently, operated on conservative assumptions, tried hard to listen to more experienced players, had a number of successful projects – and got clobbered and lost a lot of money for a lot of people in an earlier market collapse. Development is inherently a risky business.

  • Abuyer 9 years

    The finished product doesn’t look nearly as nice as the render, but that could probably be attributed to the weather and lighting conditions. How does it look in person Joe? Not that i’d be caught dead buying one of them, but I’m always interested in the city’s architecture.

    And any idea on the square footage of one of the ones going for 700k? If its 1800+ it isn’t a horribly bad deal.

  • cgcg 9 years

    I vehemently disagree with the sentiment expressed above. And, in general, Studio Dwell et al’s finished product always seems to be spot on to the rendering.

  • I usually try to reserve judgment until the building is finished, but I think it’s a pretty handsome low-rise. It’s true that the gray photo doesn’t do it justice, but the only real difference between the rendering and the photo that I can see is that those steel beams are a slightly lighter color.

    Also, I’m pretty sure Miller Hull designed the multi-unit building. As far as I know, Studio Dwell was only involved in the single-families.

  • UptownR 9 years

    Are the sides exposed block? It’s hard to tell from the photo. The smaller projects pictured show a gray masonry coated with terra cotta or something.

  • UptownR,

    From the photo those look way too large, and with the wrong kind of joints to be exposed block.

  • SheridanB 9 years

    It looks like the midrise (since when is four stories a mid rise? What is the cut off? I know, I know, a high rise is more then x floors/x feet per codes) is block, probably coated with Modac (specialty paint for concrete) and the low-rise has what looks to be concrete brick (as opposed to clay) and probably cement board panels (or metal/exterior gypsum board). From the screw holes I’m leaning towards cement board.

  • SheridanB,

    We’ve left our goof in place, but we’re aware that 4 stories do not a mid-rise make.

    Six to 11 is a better definition. A code high-rise is 80 feet and the more conventional understanding is 12 stories or more.

  • SheridanB 9 years

    yeah, I’m of that mind too. To me, a walk up isn’t really a mid rise, though I’m aware there are 7 story and more walk ups in NYC (and still being built as a matter of fact). Actually, you could build that here, but no one would.

  • SheridanB 9 years

    Sorry, this building does have an elevator, doesn’t it, I was thinking of a different posting while typing.

  • UptownR 9 years

    I’d be suprised if they were block, but you never know what “value engineering” might do to an otherwise decent design.

  • Ken Tyler 9 years

    As a resident who is next door to all of this I hope the builders and designers can sleep at night knowing they have taken 70-80% of the sunlight from neighboring homes, not to mention air flow etc.
    This was an Alderman Matlak deal, per Scott W. the existing alderman “such a project would of never been endorsed by me”.
    The parking meters to be installed in front of these residental commercial units will certainly be a draw back for potential buyers.

  • SheridanB 9 years

    Unfortunately, sunlight, much like views, are not protected categories, nor something most people think much about.

  • Ken Tyler 9 years

    Very true, even though the City clearly spells out it’s desires to protect residences from such over shadowing structures i.e. light and air.

    It is interesting to read court cases regarding de-valuation of adjacent property in the city due to similar issues i.e. the inability of the city planners and reviewers of plans to view adjacent properties and potential impact. So far impacted residences have been very successful with law suits against the City of Chicago.

    The American Institute of Architects (AIA) clearly spells out in its guidelines (best practises) the importance of developing plans that do not rob existing residences of their status quo right to natural sun light and air-not to mention life safety code issues applicable to a large tall structure next to a much smaller one.

  • Ken Tyler,

    Can you cite some of those lawsuits for the benefit of the rest of us?

    Does the AIA actually use the words “rob” and “status quo right?”

    What are those “safety code” issues you’re referring to?

    You’ve tossed out a lot of loaded terminology and sweeping assertions. There’s no such thing as a broad “status quo right” to natural light.

    What about a developer’s right to build what the law allows?

    Doing what the law sanctions can’t be called robbery – unless you have an unshakable bias against development and a contempt for the law and the rights of others.

  • Ken Tyler 9 years

    Joe Z: If yor research the Chicago court docket site you will find several lawsuits filed against the city regarding the de-value of property due to associated construction-most cases are in the Lincoln Park-Gold Coast area. For obvious reasons I am not citing specific cases.

    Yes AIA does in fact use those terms in some of thier best value scenerios.

    Agree a developer has the right to build what the law permits and to build in accordance with other applicable rules and regulations, providing the city approves those plans as they affect other laws and regulations.

    My concern is not with developers but with city planners who review project submissions only viewing what is in front of them, city review officials should require additional information that would reinforce the city policy ….”to protect and strengthen city neighborhoods, implement the city’s land use policies to protect the characture, harmony and stability of residental and business areas”…

    There is also some terminology in City Building policy about protecting one’s right to light and air.

    You comment about law and rights of others is interesting, are you speaking about developers or impact on others, or both? Development of any kind as you know affects the entire community, it’s environment, it’s infra structure etc.

  • Mike 9 years

    For what obvious reasons are you not citing specific cases? I would be very interested in reading any cases that have resulted in rulings against the City of Chicago involving alleged devaluation of property due to adjacent construction permitted by the City reviewers.

    Please, cite away!

    City reviewers do consider the effects of new construction on adjacent properties. Protections for adequate light and air to adjacent properties are found in the bulk and density restrictions of the zoning code. Review is done on a property by property basis, but this review is based on a presumption that zoning district boundaries are established with concern for the entire area in mind. Admittedly, this is not always the case in Chicago and there are many areas of the City that are in need of a zoning remapping, but for the most part the system works. Highrises are constructed next to other highrises, single family homes and two-flats are constructed next to other single-family homes and two flats, etc. Zoning has been (and will be) abused, spot zoning occurs far more than it ever should, but the problems are largely at the Aldermanic level, not the plan review level. The reviewers work with the zoning presented to them, they do not set the zoning. As long as zoning remains completely controlled by Aldermen, this problem will persist.

  • Ken Tyler,

    Research the online court docket? That’s a blind alley – it contains no information that would enable anyone to find the cases you’re referring to without knowing the plaintiff’s name.

    So where did you find those cases? Are the obvious reasons that they don’t exist or haven’t resulted in opinions supporting your argument?

    I’d like to see some cites from the AIA – I’m skeptical that would refer to lawful behavior as robbery of a non-existent right, i.e. “the status quo.” It’s pretty hard to steal what doesn’t exist.

    And those “safety codes” you referred to?

    The city has a Building Code that has the force of law, not a building policy with the same force. It sets requirements (which are not “rights” in the legal sense) for ventilation and natural light. None of those requirements, to my knowledge, take neighboring buildings into account in the manner you suggest.

    Zoning, as Mike points out, provides some measure of protection to adjacent properties, e.g. by requiring yard setbacks, and setting bulk and height restrictions that vary from one zoning classification to another.

    It appears to me that you’re simply making this stuff up as you go along or not completely understanding what you’ve read.

  • Ken Tyler 9 years

    The court cases do exist. Note 1994 case regarding decreased property values as a result of airport noise and highway construction. A simple answer here is to just click on photo 3 and picture yourself or your family or your kids living in the home R-3 next to the 50 foot commercial/residental property going up next door C-1-2. I see no measure of protection.
    AIA has a pretty extensive web site, I assume you are familar with environmental impact scenerios. There is no need for rudeness or unprofessionalism on this site.

  • Ken Tyler,

    Do you not see the irony of making unsupported claims and then accusing people who call you on them of being rude and unprofessional?

    I’m no longer a legal professional, but some things about the law haven’t changed: 1) cases can be cited with great specificity, and 2) few laymen know how to interpret what they stand for.

    Care to give us a citation to that “1994 case?”

  • Ken Tyler 9 years

    Please also note the June 2008 Law Review by James C. Kozlowski JD PHD a simple internet search should pick this up also i.e. Lincoln Park, there are also a few others listed in Crains.

  • Ken Tyler 9 years

    Joe: If I could cut and paste on this site I would, unfortunately it does not permit such. No false claims here. I have no more to say. Maybe you can read a case in the near future, I’ll make sure I copy you.

  • Ken Tyler,

    Thanks for the follow-up. I can link, so here’s what you’re apparently referring to – Kozlowski’s column in Parks & Recreation magazine. The column is called Law Review, which is a far cry from what lawyers understand when they hear the phrase “Law Review,” i.e. a scholarly journal published by a law school.

    I scanned the table of contents, read several of the entries, and can’t find a single one that remotely supports your proposition.

    Added: I found the actual article you’re referring to (pdf). The case in the article turned on riparian rights in Indiana. Now that’s a highly specialized body of law that has no applicability beyond it. If you read to the end of the article you noted that the court affirmed a judgment granting zero – zero – damages to the property owners whose view was impaired by a pedestrian bridge. If you didn’t read to the end of the case you shouldn’t have referred to it.

    If you re-read the article, pay close attention to the quotes from the court about local zoning and its impact on views. It’s a position that’s totally opposite to yours.