That mess of concrete and steel at 13th and Wabash in the South Loop isn’t another Mariano’s going up. It’s a much more significant undertaking: the first condominium high-rise to be built downtown since the 2007–09 recession began. CMK Companies broke ground in mid-March on the 15-story, 144-unit glass tower at 1345 South Wabash Avenue. Construction will be completed by next spring, and units are already for sale.
The project is a sign of things to come. “The condo market is firming up, and we’re seeing successful small deals and townhome developments all over town,” says Gail Lissner, a vice president at Appraisal Research Counselors. “Downtown, there are fewer than 500 units of unsold [high-rise condo] inventory”—down from more than 3,600 in 2009—“so I think the stage is set for large new projects.”
To keep prices from getting too lofty, the developer ditched a fitness center, pool, and other shared amenities that have been common downtown in the past. Instead, the focus is on lush unit interiors: bathrooms with architectural tile and floating vanities, Italian cabinets, and quartz countertops. The starting prices are relatively modest for the South Loop: 700- to 800-square-foot one-bedroom units start at about $223,000 ($308 per square foot), and 950-square-foot two-bedrooms start at $290,000 ($298 per square foot).
Also under construction: an ultraluxury blue-glass condo tower at State and Elm in the Gold Coast. (It will have 34 units, across 23 floors, and is expected to be completed in early 2016.) The units—all three bedrooms—will range from 3,100 square feet at $2.1 million ($679 per square foot) to 6,700 square feet at $7.2 million ($1,083 per square foot). At this project, known as 4 E. Elm, Don Wilson, the developer, had little choice but to include plenty of shared amenities because it will compete with nearby Trump Tower and the Ritz-Carlton Residences, both amenity-laden properties. The new building’s terrace will include an outdoor pool, a fitness center, and a theatre room.
More downtown high-rise projects are in the pipeline. Lissner says she’s heard about “confidential dealings” of condo developments in the West Loop. With Google moving its 500-person Chicago office to that area in 2016, expect an even greater demand for housing nearby.