Photography: Dennis Rodkin
If you’re looking for landmarks of the Chicago real estate market’s route up, down, and back up again during the past half-decade, a good place to start would be the blocks around Madison and Aberdeen in the West Loop.
There, a series of three condo buildings and a fourth that’s not yet under construction all share the slightly awkward first name “CA” (for Carpenter and Aberdeen, the streets that the first two faced). The first was a boom-years bust; after discounts, it and the second eventually sold out during the dark years. But the third and on-its-way fourth show how the market has popped back to life this year.
“I’m amazed at all the action,” says Alan Lev, president of Belgravia Group, the development firm that picked up the first building after its original developer failed and built the subsequent three. “If you had told me two years ago, I’d have been surprised.”
Launched in 2008, CA23 arrived during the last gasp of the high-flying days, and its developer described it as being “so classy” and having “sex appeal” in this promotional video. But the prices weren’t so sexy: asking prices topped out at about $785,000 for a three-bedroom, 1,900-square-footer. Belgravia knocked that down to $549,900 when it bought 11 foreclosed, unsold units at CA23 in March 2011.
The price cut worked: everything sold quickly. Belgravia followed up by going ahead with the second building—something Lev says he didn’t expect to do when his firm bought out the first part of CA23 but that the first phase’s success made possible. At phase two, “Lo and behold, we pre-sold everything before construction was finished,” he says. Act three was the 40-unit CA3, a little bit south on Aberdeen; it sold out this spring. So in March, Belgravia bought a site in the 1100 block of West Adams, where it plans on building the 50-unit CA Condos on Adams.
Here’s the most impressive part: the newest iteration of CA condos is priced at and above the 2008 variety. Prices range from $659,900 to $849,900—and they’re selling. Two dozen are pre-sold, Lev says, although move-ins aren’t until October. The condos are bigger—2,130 square feet, compared to 1,900 in 2008.
Belgravia is far from the only developer prowling the West Loop; a 350-apartment tower just began construction, and a bunch of hotels are going to join Randolph Street’s thicket of restaurants. On Monday, WBEZ described an all-around maturation that’s been going on in the West Loop in recent years.
Maturation is it: The neighborhood may have lost Oprah, but it’s gained the much-desired Skinner West elementary school, a very fun public park, an even funner new CTA station, and new Mariano’s and Target stores.
It’s no wonder that, as Lev says, “the appetite for homes here keeps going.”