People may have their hang-ups about investing in Humboldt Park, but for residents of the Color Works lofts, a former paint factory at 2675 W Grand Avenue, neighborhood lines are academic. The 24-unit converted concrete loft building sits on the Humboldt-West Town border, opposite the lovely Smith Park. “The Smith Park area been a mix of Italian-American and people of Eastern European descent for quite a long time,” says Coldwell Banker broker Mark Wohlgenant, also an original owner in the building. “But there’s been some recent changeover because of the park.”
One can direct their attention wherever they’d like: to eclectic communities just northeast; or to the up-and-coming East Humboldt Park, increasingly a hotbed for artists and their ilk. Grand, meanwhile, is primarily an active industrial corridor—there’s no escaping the Metra repair shop next door (though they do keep regular hours). But the building was a powerful enough draw all on its own: first to renters in the early 1990s and then owners a few years later, back when no comparables existed in the area.
“When we go to meet an appraiser, we have to have comparables,” says Wohlgenant. “How do you compare this with something? These things don’t turn over a lot.” The rule of thumb for comps is you pull three months of sales data from a half-mile radius and six months of data at a mile out. Even though the larger zone ropes in Ukrainian Village and much of East Village, there’s still a dearth of large lofts.
Unit 201, the one on the market for $750,000, gobbles up 3,900 square feet. The foyer extends and widens the hallway into a curvaceous gallery off of which spill the four bedrooms, one after one. Polished concrete floors slicken the path to the gargantuan great room combining spaces for cooking, dining, gaming, big screen movie-watching, and plain old living.
The previous owner broke down an exterior wall and blew out the second floor to extend over the single-floor vestibule. The resulting great room fits the retired factory aesthetic perfectly, down to the corrugated metal ceiling with exposed ductwork. You know you’re crossing a threshold by the red brick envelope at the passage from bedroom wing to common area.
Concrete lofts lack some of the rustic charm of a timber loft, but they offer something scarce to inhabitants: silence. There aren’t any creaky footsteps above or rumble of stereo from below. A previous owner, however, elected to open the master bedroom to the kitchen via a high-set rectangular cut through the former exterior wall, adding architectural interest and subtracting privacy. A well-placed skylight (one of several in the newer addition) works double duty for the kitchen and master.
Five-packs of eight-foot windows ensure the great room is well lit, and the owner relies on furniture to carve varied nodes out of the enormous space. At one end, an elegant floating staircase sends people to the 375-square-foot deck overlooking low-slung industry and the pocket of housing around Smith Park. According to Wohlgenant, when the clock strikes five on weekdays and the train yard clears out this becomes a quiet place, against all odds, with long vistas south and west.
Price Points: Vanda Haenlein paid $602,500 for the unit in 2006 and set an asking price of $750,000 in today’s market. Two parking spaces are included. The homeowner assessment, at $365/month, is low—very low for a 3,900-square-foot space in an older structure. Wohlgenant explains that he and the other owners self-manage the building, and they’ve been lucky enough to realize big savings. Downsizing is driving Haenlein’s move, a very common motivation.