Adaptive reuse offers innovative homes in historic properties

Whether it’s a vintage office building, an old industrial loft property or a historic retail structure, home buyers searching for an innovative in-town residence near downtown Chicago have a wide selection to shop in the “adaptive-reuse” condominium market, real estate experts say.

“Since 1994, there have been 81 new adaptive-reuse developments with a total of 7,945 condominium units added to the downtown Chicago market,” said Gail Lissner, vice president of Appraisal Research Counselors, a top condominium appraisal firm.

Adaptive reuse is the term real estate appraisers use to describe the off-beat housing carved out of vintage commercial buildings, from an office tower to a defunct produce terminal. Often, these properties have some unusual architectural features including terra-cotta facades, floor-to-ceiling windows, exposed brick walls, high ceilings, natural wood-beams and concrete pillars.

Metropolis, downtown Chicago’s newest major adaptive reuse project, opened in mid-July at the northwest corner of State and Monroe, in the heart of the Loop.

The historic 21-story highrise at 8 W. Monroe will offer 169 distinctive residences priced from the low $200s to the upper $400s, said co-developer Keith Giles, of Frankel & Giles Real Estate, a partner in Metropolis Partners, LLC.

Plans for the $50 million development call for the first two floors of the building to be developed as high-end retail space.
Terra cotta detailing highlights the structure, which was originally called the North American Building. It was designed by famed architects Holabird & Roche and completed in 1913.

Another new adaptive reuse project is No. Ten Lofts, the 259-unit condo conversion of a vintage timber loft building at 1040 W. Adams, in the West Loop. The vintage building features units with one to two-plus bedrooms, 640 to 1,500 square feet and prices ranging from the $230s to the mid-$500s.

Built in 1920, the vintage four-story main loft building on Adams between Morgan and Aberdeen streets has three private landscaped courtyards. Another section of the former warehouse building rises six stories.

Since the development’s grand opening on May 22, half of its 259 units have sold, according to Jennifer Arons, senior vice president of Centrum Properties, co-developer of the joint venture with veteran loft developer MCZ Development Corp.
In its first quarter 2004 Downtown Chicago Residential Benchmark Report, Appraisal Research noted several active adaptive reuse developments underway in the downtown area:

University Commons. Enterprise Development launched the 824-unit adaptive reuse project earlier this year at the 11-acre former South Water Market, along 14th and 15th streets between Racine and Morgan.

“Loft sales surged during the first quarter at University Commons,” Lissner said. “Given the success of its first phase, the developer expects to start the second building in this development within the next few months.”

The Ambassador. L3 Development targeted this development at the corner of State and Goethe to “wealthy buyers desiring outstanding established Gold Coast locations, tremendous unit sizes and luxurious finishes,” Lissner said.

The legendary Ambassador West hotel is being transformed into 38 luxury $1 million-plus condominiums ranging from a two-bedroom, 2.5-bath residence of 2,639 square feet to a four-bedroom 4.5-bath duplex penthouse with 6,820 square feet and a rooftop terrace.

Construction is moving rapidly ahead at the Ambassador and condominium sales have been strong, with more than 40 percent of the residences already sold. Base prices range from $1.095 million to $4.73 million.

Paramount Lofts. The 207-unit adaptive reuse conversion is transforming the vintage W. A. Wieboldt and Company’s former retail store and office building at 130 S. Ashland, in the West Loop, into condominiums.

The terra cotta and brick six-story building has one-foot thick concrete floors and concrete pier support columns. New West Realty, the developer, plans to add two additional stories for 44 luxury penthouses on the 7th and 8th floors. Prices range from the $180s to the $350s.

“This project has met with excellent success, selling more than 130 units within the first few months of marketing,” Lissner said.

The Montgomery. The glass-faced former Montgomery Ward headquarters at 500 W. Superior, in River North, is being redeveloped into 243 condominiums by Centrum Properties.

The 28-story highrise features “outstanding views of downtown,” according to Appraisal Research, and is more comparable to a new highrise than most of the other adaptive reuse buildings in the market.

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.,

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