Astoria Tower brings deco design, hotel services to condo project

Once the “Greek Town” of New York City, the Astoria neighborhood in Queens has become a blend of many different cultures and lifestyles. The South Loop is undergoing a similar demographic evolution, and Warman Development & Design acknowledged the parallel when it chose Astoria Tower as the name for the 30-story highrise development planned for the northeast corner of State and Ninth streets.

The name of the building is a nod to the character of the neighborhood, but the project also introduces a number of new concepts to the South Loop, starting with a stepped exterior and a brick and stone façade reminiscent of the art deco era of the 1920s and ’30s.

“The art deco look is not seen much in new buildings today,” says Keith Giles, a partner at Frankel & Giles Real Estate, the exclusive sales and marketing agent for the development. “Most of the contemporary buildings seem bland by comparison, and the design of Astoria gives it a real presence on the street.”

The cast stone and salmon-colored brick façade of Astoria is unique, especially in the South Loop, and it’s likely to make a strong statement. There are other new buildings that display a deco influence, but few that are so committed to the idea. In addition to the masonry façade and the strong vertical emphasis, hallmarks of the deco highrise, Astoria Tower has numerous setbacks that culminate in a pyramid cap – both iconic elements of art deco.

While it shows a certain reverence for the past, Astoria Tower takes a sharp departure from what’s become a standard configuration for residential highrises in Chicago. As at many buildings, the ground floor will house a furnished lobby and retail space – around 15,000 square feet, according to Giles. But the 244-car heated parking garage that occupies most of second through the ninth levels will be hidden.

Instead of showing largely blank walls to the neighborhood or engaging in the typical, awkward effort to mask a parking base with faux windows, architect Pat FitzGerald, of FitzGerald Associates, wrapped residential units and some office space around the core of parking on the exposed sides of the building, on State Street and 9th Street. It’s a smart solution to what has proved a cumbersome problem for builders who must include a large number of parking spaces in their new highrises but have not shown much creativity in integrating them into recent towers.

“You can’t see the garage from State Street or Ninth Street,” Giles says.

The amenities package is just as original and signals a new level of luxury in the growing South Loop. A “Life Center,” which includes an indoor swimming pool, exercise room and landscaped terraces, is located immediately above the garage, on the 10th floor. There’s also a business center, a library, a billiards room, a golf simulator, an Internet café and a private movie theater.

“What we have done is to bring a whole lot of activities together where people live,” says Bill Warman, a principal in Warman Development. The amenities and services are coordinated through a concierge who makes arrangements at the request of the residents.

“Everything is a la carte, so there is no cost to the residents until they use the amenities,” Warman says. “It’s just like a hotel, but it’s home.”

Most of the condos are located on the floors above the Life Center. They range from studios to three-bedrooms and include nine-foot ceilings, oversized windows, stainless appliances, granite kitchen countertops and hardwood floors. All of the units except the studios have balconies or terraces.

“The standard finishes package is excellent,” Warman says. “And there are a lot of small and medium size units available, most of which are priced at under $400,000.”

Prices begin in the $160s for the studios and one-bedrooms. One bedroom-plus-den with two baths begin in the $240s, while two-bedroom, two-bath units start in the $320s. Three-bedroom penthouses were priced in the $890s. Unit sizes range from 546 square feet for some studios to 1,260 square feet for some two bedrooms. Deeded parking is priced at $37,000.

“This building is attracting a lot of interest,” Giles says. “The location is great. It’s close to everything. There’s a lot of action in this area now, and the vibrant streetscape plus the unique design and the huge amenity package really make it unusual.”

Project sales manager Jim Psyhogios seems almost to surprise himself when he says that Astoria Tower is almost 50 percent sold after only eight weeks of marketing.

“Astoria Tower simply sells itself,” Psyhogios says. “The hotel-like services are a real plus, and it’s all at no cost to the residents. But everything is at your fingertips if you want it.”

Construction on Astoria Tower,, is planned to begin in spring or summer of 2006, with first occupancy scheduled for fall 2007.

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