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Ritzy Amenities Are Changing the Chicago Real Estate Game

Your South Loop penthouse is nice. But does it have a bowling alley?

The game room at Eleven40.   Photo: Eleven40

Thousands of new apartments lease in Chicago each year — so many, in fact, that developers need to dream up new perks to lure young, upwardly mobile renters to their buildings.

In an effort to sign more leases, new residential towers are offering generous concessions — up to three months in free rent — and ritzy amenities you’d normally only find in hotels and condominium buildings. And as downtown highrises roll out communal spaces for work and play, the humble gym and bike room will no longer cut it.

Take Alta Roosevelt, the new 33-story tower in the outh Loop. The building contains two bowling lanes, a yoga studio, a theater room, and something the website calls a “coworking hub.” Rent prices for available units at the tower range from $1,849 for a 543-square-foot studio to nearly $4,000 for a top-floor penthouse.

Other new buildings with inventive amenities include the West Loop’s 14-story Emme, which features a rooftop farm, and the 15-story Marlowe, with a mailroom stylized to double as a library. At Eleven40 in the South Loop, there’s a “jam room" with a guitar, electronic drum kit, and keyboard. And at Gallery on Wells in River North, tenants can rub elbows with onsite "artists-in-residence” including Pacific Standard Time sous chef Tyler Houston and muralist Luis Ramirez.

The mailroom in River North’s Marlowe tower doubles as a reading lounge. Photo: Marlowe Chicago

Techy amenities like gigabit internet and coworking space are quickly becoming the norm in new developments, signaling a shift in the demographic of upscale renters. “Instead of having the compartmentalized business center or theater room, you’re finding nice, open spaces built for the people who are working from home,” says Aaron Galvin, founder of the brokerage Luxury Living Chicago.

Elsewhere, developers are touting third-party services, including Amazon package drop-off and Pressbox dry cleaning, a startup that places gym lockers in communal areas so customers can drop off and pick up their laundry.

In River North, the Marlowe tower lists its apartments as wired for smart home automation, including voice controls for window shades, lighting, and speakers. Across the neighborhood, Wolf Point West boasts “virtual golf.”

The greater Loop area isn’t the only place witnessing a wave of new amenities. According to Galvin, the neighborhoods are the next frontier for developers seeking to cash in on the rental boom.

“This is the first time we’ve seen the same quality and quantity of amenities in Chicago neighborhood developments that you’d find downtown,” Galvin says. “We’re effectively in year three of full-amenity luxury buildings in the neighborhoods and you’re seeing more and more each year.”

Galvin’s company represents leasing at numerous new rental developments on the North Side. Among them: Elevate Lincoln Park, a 200-unit building that replaced the aging Lincoln Centre mixed-use complex, and Wicker Park Connection, a 15-story mega-development on Division Street.

Galvin says that nearby retail is another important factor in luring renters, particularly in the neighborhoods. One store in particular, the Minneapolis-based Target, has been on a leasing spree, anchoring major new mixed-use developments.

A new Target store will be included in the upcoming Logan’s Crossing development in Logan Square.

According to Target’s website, the big box retailer operates 18 stories in Chicago. Four of them, including the Lincoln Park location on Clark Street, Wicker Park’s Division Street Store, and two new Lake View locations, have opened in the last two years.

The company plans to add two more Chicago stores: one at the forthcoming Logan Square mega-mall Logan’s Crossing, and another at the mixed-income Concord at Sheridan near Loyola University in Rogers Park.

Grocers like Aldi and Whole Foods have also landed on the ground-level of new rental developments. Last summer, Aldi reopened at its Milwaukee and Leavitt location in Bucktown with the completion of the Centrum Bucktown development. Meanwhile, Whole Foods anchors the Studio Gang-designed City Hyde Park near the southern lakefront.

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