Buyers flock to intelligent lofts

There was a time when 1550 S. Blue Island was a great location for fresh food but not much else. Today, however, the 11-story former home of the Produce Terminal Cold Storage Co. has been resurrected as University Station Lofts, 231 loft condos.

At press time, New West Realty had sold 88 of the units – nearly 40 percent of the total. Why are buyers scrambling for a neighborhood that until recently was primarily industrial?

New West and other developers have provided plenty of reasons. Just east of University Station Lofts, New West is part of the team building University Village, a mixed-use project that includes condos, townhouses, dormitories and stores and has transformed Halsted. Enterprise Companies is building University Commons, another loft conversion with more than 800 units, a couple of blocks east, and Pilsen, to the south, has become a hot neighborhood.

If you notice a theme emerging in the names of these developments, you’re not alone. Builders and buyers are betting that the expanding UIC campus will continue to spur development in the area, which already has undergone major changes.

Another factor drawing buyers to University Station Lofts is pricing, according to Ted Mazola, president of New West Realty and a development partner. The loft condos start in the $150s, and the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which will mean lower taxes for buyers.

“The building’s landmark status offers buyers another reason to purchase a home at University Station Lofts – a tremendous break in real estate taxes,” Mazola said. Under a state program, the developer of an owner-occupied historic residential building can apply for a tax break that “freezes” the assessed real estate tax valuation of the homes near the pre-development level for eight years following the renovation.

The units range from studios, priced from the $150s, to three-bedrooms priced from the $420s. These are true lofts, with oak floors in living areas, 10-foot ceiling heights, exposed ductwork, track lighting and exposed concrete ceilings. Other features include master baths with maple or oak vanities, granite counters, GE appliances and wiring for cable television, high-speed data lines and Internet access.

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