The Bloomingdale Arts Building, formerly the ACME Artist Community, is a one-of-a-kind limited equity live-work condo complex reserved for practicing artists. A number of low- or no-equity owner cooperatives exist in town, but this is the only one with a condo board screening for artistic qualifications.
“It is really unusual to live in a 25-unit building where absolutely every household contains an artist or activist of some sort,” says Heather Lindahl, a core member of Chicago performance collective Lucky Pierre and a teacher at the School of the Art Institute who has her 1,257-square-foot unit on the market. “I think intentional communities are generally a good thing—especially for marginalized workers like artists. Everyone here has odd hours, we all have at some point struggled financially, and we have all used the common areas for project work. Everyone gets it, and no one is terribly put out by it.”
Lindahl and husband Michael Graham have a first-floor space with high ceilings, tall windows, two bedrooms (one of which is a natural studio space), and an open living area with a reasonably up-to-date kitchen. This condo is the largest of the simplex units; there are a lot of duplexes in the building, scaling up to 1,800 square feet.
An asking price of $199,900 may seem a steal at the edge of Bucktown and Logan Square and bordering the hotly anticipated “606” recreational trail, but there’s a neat and tidy formula behind it. The condo collective’s voluntary limited equity ordinance shelters artist-owners and future buyers from skyrocketing gains and precipitous crashes in home value. Resale price is arrived at by adding inflation (not to exceed 4 percent annually) and the estimated value of improvements to the seller’s purchase price.
Common areas include a verdant interior courtyard, even in winter, complete with a rainwater harvesting operation, and a large project space for shows, critiques, public meetings, and assorted events. Until he died in 2013, celebrated Chicago poet David Hernandez called the Bloomingdale Arts Building home and gave regular readings in the project space.
The build-out took several years to realize, since the founders were pursuing such a foreign co-housing model while trying to tap city subsidies. The city did invest, contributing as much as $30,000 per unit in down payment, greatly lessening the barriers to entry for artist-owners. Mayor Richard M. Daley even attended the ribbon cutting. Subsequently Chicago passed a live-work zoning change (B2), and two of the four street-facing spaces previously required to be commercial were phased into live-work.
The building’s original occupants, Lindahl and Graham included, were greeted by an egregious number of build-out flaws and infrastructure failings. Before construction was completed in early 2004, the building had already been victimized by a busted sewer under Bloomingdale Avenue that flooded a half-dozen ground-floor units. As detailed by the Reader and the Tribune, that incident led to mold taking up residence in the walls and floors, plaguing owners until major remedial work finally purged the spores about five years ago. The sewers outside the building are brand new, rebuilt in conjunction with the trail work.
A whole different scenario presented itself on Lindahl and Graham’s closing day. They arrived to find water seeping in from the roof after a heavy rain. Shortcomings in plumbing produced similar problems in the early going. “Every one of the building’s structural problems came through this unit,” says Graham. “I don’t even like to think back to it. We moved out two or three times waiting for claims to be resolved.” There’s a new roof now, too, so not to worry. And residents have been focused on more pleasant capital projects like the possible addition of a roof deck.
Melissa Stanley of Niche Realty/ArtHouse Chicago has the listing.