NEMA Chicago, one of the city’s biggest apartment buildings to sprout up in years — both in height and unit count — is leasing up for its first wave of move-ins next month. The 896-foot tower, Chicago’s tallest residential rental building, will open at 1200 South Indiana Avenue in the South Loop on May 1, delivering 800 new units to the burgeoning downtown market.
Residents who’ve watched NEMA rise over the past year and a half might notice something familiar about its appearance. The building’s “bundled tube” design, which features a series of staggered setbacks as the tower increases in height, bears a striking resemblance to Willis Tower.
That’s no coincidence: Its developer, Crescent Heights, hired New York–based Rafael Viñoly to conjure a design that would serve as a southern bookend to Grant Park. In an act of homage to Chicago’s architectural legacy, Viñoly took inspiration from Willis Tower’s structural expressionism.
“There’s a lot of busy design in the area, and we wanted a building that could stand on its own,” says Tomer Bitton, the Chicago-based principal with Crescent Heights.
NEMA certainly cuts an imposing figure in the South Loop, which is home to a smaller cluster of skyscrapers than in nearby Streeterville and River North. The building is split into two segments: the “Signature” apartments (floors 2 through 47), and the “Skyline” apartments (floors 49 through 76). The first section comprises 674 units; in the more exclusive second section, there are just 126. And thanks to South Loop’s relative lack of density, NEMA’s shorter neighbors imbue those Skyline units with stunning views of the city.
Of course, none of this comes cheap. Rent at NEMA will start around $1,800 a month for a studio, Bitton says. An apartments.com listing shows monthly prices ranging from $1,865 for a lower-level studio to $25,000 for a four-bedroom floor plan, though this model won’t be available until August 1.
NEMA does not appear to offer any affordable housing units. In an email, Crescent Heights said that NEMA’s responsibility under the Affordable Requirements Ordinance “was satisfied by other means and therefore was not a requirement,” though they declined to say what those means were.
Bitton says his team is well ahead of its target on units leased. That success, he says, may be thanks to NEMA’s 70,000 square feet of amenity space. The building is leaning into fitness and health trends, with an indoor/outdoor pool, a boxing gym, a golf simulator, and a basketball court, many of them accompanied by a full schedule of programming and classes.
“These days, it’s an amenity war, and everyone is trying to fill up their buildings with amenities,” Bitton says. “[At NEMA], we’re trying to understand what will add value.”
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