The Paper Place Lofts at Polk and Wells Streets was a general-purpose warehouse for printing facilities needing storage next to the old Grand Central Station. Built in 1912 as part of the second generation of post-Fire industrial loft development in Printer’s Row, the simplicity and elegance of Daniel Burnham’s design made it an obvious pick for residential conversion in the mid 1990s. Ten stories of red brick with limestone trim are devoid of the heavy ornament seen in nearby revivals like the Donohue and Plymouth buildings, yet the building still sings.
Only the ground floor units have 15-foot terra cotta and concrete barrel vaulted ceilings. One such space, with three bedrooms and 2,800 square feet, is on the market for $550,000. Clearly a shipping and receiving part of the building, the unit’s ultra-thick pillars have an additional chest-high iron skirt to protect against the bumps from vehicles and carts. A gentle oxidation has set in, giving the iron a blotchy, almost floral patterning.
The main level is wide open but for a bedroom on either end. The kitchen has granite, maple, and stainless steel; the living area spreads out along a wall of exposed brick; the dining nook occupies the space between the living room, one bedroom, and a partial bathroom; and a spiral staircase ascends to a lofted study.
Another open staircase leads to the basement, conventionally partitioned into rec space, master suite with Jacuzzi, and storage. There is, for now, a plastic slide at the foot of the stairs (much as I wanted to crash down it, those days are behind me). If this and the bunk bed haven’t made it clear, the sellers have a young child. They bought in 2011 and are interested in trying a different style of home, probably in the city, says listing agent Jeff Dyra of iTown Realty.
Three major developments are helping market the neighborhood to outsiders: Roosevelt Collection’s new retail and entertainment (with a multiplex theater), and the incoming British School (K-12) and expanded Jones College Prep High School. Four-hundred units of rental housing opened last summer at Polk and Clark, two blocks from the Paper Place Lofts and practically on top of the British School site.
Price Points: Few parts of the larger downtown are as neighborhood-y as Printer’s Row. Whether that’s a broad realization, I’m not so sure. The district has only been firmly residential for 25 years, following decades of benign neglect, and prices are still generally below the Loop and South Loop. The blocks bounded by Congress Parkway, State Street, Polk Street, and Wells Street have nothing listed for sale over $750,000 and only two sales in the past year have cleared $600,000. One of those, in the fabulous Donohue Building at 711 South Dearborn Street, is a 4,000-square-foot duplex live-work loft in great condition. Live-work is common in Printer’s Row, still often within the publishing and design world. These configurations can prove cumbersome for new owners, keeping prices depressed.
Directly across Wells is Bertrand Goldberg’s River City, a bizarre nautical world of oddly-shaped condos where three-beds can be had for under $150,000. One-beds go for that at Burnham’s building, and the closest comp is a seventh floor three-bed with 2,400 square feet that closed last Thursday for $465,000. Two levels of living space and detached garage parking included in the price gives today’s property a leg up.
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