October was another gloomy month for the downtown condo market, with developers hitting the brakes on both the Spire and the 76-story condo tower by Architectonica that was planned for Lakeshore East.
But October was also the month when deals closed on two very expensive penthouses at the Metropolitan Tower, the building with the blue…

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Housing Bulletin: What Makes The Blue Light Special

October was another gloomy month for the downtown condo market, with developers hitting the brakes on both the Spire and the 76-story condo tower by Architectonica that was planned for Lakeshore East.
But October was also the month when deals closed on two very expensive penthouses at the Metropolitan Tower, the building with the blue…

Metropolitan Tower, 310 South Michigan Avenue

October was another gloomy month for the downtown condo market, with developers hitting the brakes on both the Spire and the 76-story condo tower by Architectonica that was planned for Lakeshore East.

But October was also the month when deals closed on two very expensive penthouses at the Metropolitan Tower, the building with the blue beehive light atop a pyramidal tower at 310 South Michigan Avenue. One buyer paid $3.246 million for a penthouse on the 24th and 25th floors there, and another paid $6.45 million for a 5,400-square-foot space on the 29th and 30th floors. (Neither buyer is identified yet in public records.) Both of those prices are for raw, or unfinished, space.

The $6.45-million sale breaks down to $1,194 per square foot, and the building’s developer, Louis D’Angelo estimates that the new owners will spend at least $200 per square foot to finish it—which would bring the total price of that condo to more than $7.53 million. “The dollar size of these transactions is noteworthy in the context of where the stock and credit markets have been,” D’Angelo says. While the purchase decisions were made more than a year ago, nervous buyers could have cancelled their contracts and forfeited their deposits.

Over at the Trump International Hotel & Tower, the biggest sale on record in October was the $2.27 million sale of a 3,948-square-foot unit on the 44th floor, which works out to $576 a square foot. That’s in the range of the lower-priced Metropolitan penthouse, which went (unfinished) for about $601 per foot. And while about 75 percent of the Trump units are sold, D’Angelo says that that 80 percent of the Metropolitan’s 242 condos have been sold.

These are only a couple of sales in one building, but for a super-wealthy buyer to be willing to spend upwards of $7.5 million, the place has to have something going for it. Start with location. The Metropolitan, built in 1924 as the headquarters of the Straus family’s banking operations, overlooks Grant Park between the Art Institute and Buckingham Fountain.

“There’s nothing like this,” says D’Angelo. “We’re in the center of the park.” (I spoke to D’Angelo on Tuesday as he was preparing to host guests on one of the building’s rooftop terraces during the Obama rally that would unfold almost literally at their feet.)

D’Angelo takes a kind of family pride in the building, which he began converting to condos in late 2004. The building had been in his family’s hands since 1977, when his father became only the building’s third owner.

“There aren’t going to be many other [former] office buildings that become residential in that little corridor of Michigan Avenue,” says Gail Lissner, the Appraisal Research Counselors executive who monitors the downtown condo market. She notes that the building also still has a grand lobby and retains much of the architectural detail lavished on it by Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, the architecture firm that also designed the Wrigley Building, the Field Museum, and the Merchandise Mart. The 48 units still for sale at the Metropolitan Tower are priced from about $500,000 to $1.1 million.

 

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