On Ridge Avenue in Rogers Park—just north of Touhy Avenue and south of St. Scholastica High School—sits that wonderland of terra cotta called Casa Bonita. Its towers, crests, pediments, and other white clay accents signal that when the building went up in 1928, this wasn’t merely a place to live, but to live large.
Fundamentally, Casa Bonita is just another U-shaped courtyard building (at 7340-50 North Ridge), like countless others built all over the city when most people rented, rather than owned, their homes. But at Casa Bonita—built as apartments but converted to condos in the 1970s—everything was done a little more lavishly. Outside, there is all that creamy terra cotta, including dozens of twisted columns that run up the walls. Inside, those same twisted columns appear in smaller form: in each of the 66 condos, a pair of them supports an ornately carved mantelpiece. And at the far end of the courtyard is an indoor pool—three-fourths the length of an Olympic pool—lined with handsome old tile and flanked by men’s and women’s changing rooms, each with steam and sauna.
Elsewhere on the building’s lower level, what might originally have been trunk rooms, staff quarters, and other defunct spaces are now a children’s playroom, a game room with a small lending library, a gym, and a workshop complete with woodworking tools. There are also fenced rear yard areas and a patio off the pool—not to mention the courtyard itself, complete with a fish pond and statuary.
“There are more amenities than you’re going to find in high-end buildings on Lake Shore Drive,” says Jim Kramer, the Koenig & Strey agent (JKRAMER@KSGMAC.COM; 312-475-4543) representing a one-bedroom unit in the building that is listed for sale at $174,900.
I didn’t tour that unit for the accompanying video, but I did go through a vacant two-bedroom unit listed for $209,000 with Jim Brockhagen (SLJB1@AOL.COM; 312-592-2270}} of Sheldon Good Brokerage. Another two-bedroom unit, listed with Hawk Durham of @Properties, (firstname.lastname@example.org; 773-339-4171) just got taken off the market and rented out, but Durham is planning to put his own two-bedroom unit on the market within the next six to eight weeks. (Casa Bonita also has three three-bedroom and three four-bedroom condos, but most units in the building have only one or two bedrooms.)
There have been very few sales in Casa Bonita over the last few years, so it’s hard to evaluate the current asking prices. The assessments needed to support all those common spaces are somewhat high: in a two-bedroom unit, they are $513 a month, but that includes water and gas. Parking is either in some of the handful of deeded spaces out back or in spaces rented from neighboring buildings. Brockhagen says that the building’s early landlords owned a garage a few blocks away and employed runners to shuttle residents’ cars there. “It was quite the place then,” he said. And it still is.
TV Guide: Later this week on CLTV’s HomesPlus, I discuss recent and future trends in the local real-estate market with Rochelle Vayo Adkinson, the show’s host. You can see the program on Saturday, January 31st, at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., and on Sunday, February 1st, at 9 a.m. (Rochelle and I are partners now; she will be showing up in Deal Estate occasionally, and I on HomesPlus.) And you can get a construction worker’s view of the topping off of a South Loop condo tower—the 14-story 1555 Wabash—on the DIY Network’s Project Extreme. The segment, which was shot over two days last September, airs at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, February 4th.