Price: $2.75 million
When commercial broker Michael Caruso and interior designer Kelly Stevenson Caruso bought a new three-story live-work space in 2006, the newly landmarked Fulton Market District was far sleepier. Now they're testing the 2015 market, and it's a different story. “New stuff was arriving and the area was growing organically,” says Michael, “but now with the Morgan el and Google it’s a new kind of growth.”
Each house on this modern row directly opposite Google’s future Chicago office is architecturally varied and broken into a range of uses. Each of the seven addresses is three stories with a dedicated ground floor retail space of roughly 800 square feet, but B-3 zoning allows owners to spread their business onto two or three levels. There’s an ability to give one use a greater or lesser share of overall space, or one could simply rent out the whole shebang to commercial and residential tenants.
“That’s really the appeal here,” Michael observes. “A wide variety of buyers are drawn in. We had a showing this morning with someone looking for a four-bedroom single-family, which barely exists in this area.”
The Carusos’ residential space is 2,400 square feet with four bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths, although Kelly has turned one of the bedrooms into an office for her business, Kelly Stevenson Interiors. She brought a crisp, clean, and uncluttered design sensibility to the home, a counterpoint to any messy encroachment by their two-year-old. And the builder got things off on the right foot. Architectural details and finishes, including a slate fireplace, light hardwoods, grand arched windows, 12-foot-ceilings, skylights, elevator, and a 500-square-foot back deck over the garage have endured the marketplace’s shifting tastes. There’s no cherry wood in sight, and considering it was 2006, there could’ve been a lot.
Kelly considered taking the designated retail space for her business but couldn’t pass up the extra income. For three years the couple has collected over $2,300 a month from other tenants. Michael, an expert in valuation, claims that sweeping changes in the neighborhood makes $4,500 attainable, a nice little return on investment. “You can finally add the phrase ‘foot traffic’ to the district,” he says, “which brings market rents to another level."
Commercial rents aren’t the only thing skyrocketing. The Carusos paid $930,000 for their live-work nine years ago and are not at all squeamish about asking $2.75 million today. “We bought this as an investment and it paid off. It’s a great way to get involved in the neighborhood at a smaller scale than Sterling Bay. You get the same relative appreciation.”
Sterling Bay is the developer behind the 530,000-square-foot 1K Fulton office project, spun from a 100-year-old cold storage warehouse, and numerous smaller endeavors. It took the lead in the district and is being rewarded for it. One follow-up with another 290,000 square feet of office space is under way three blocks west, and it successfully steered Ace Hotel to Fulton and Morgan Streets, breaking ground soon. Restaurants are the other big arrival. La Sirena Clandestina is a hit, Bar Takito gets crowds by the Morgan station, and in the Google building the Boka Group is building out Armour & Swift, a steakhouse concept.
The Carusos don’t know where they’ll move. “We’re looking all over the city and suburbs and might stay in the neighborhood,” says Michael. “We weren’t thinking of selling until we started getting mailbox offers. Financially, it’s a good move for us.” Some of the early offers, especially from investors, have come from outside the country. It’s a similar story with the old meat packers. Some have sold high and packed it in or moved west to cheaper industrial corridors. Fulton Market has gone global.