A refurbished and remarkable space in Bertrand Goldberg’s Astor Tower is entering its second year on the market. As the only two-bedroom unit presently for sale—amidst several one-beds—it commands new attention. And with roughly 1,600 square feet, open living spaces, and claim to the prime southeast corner, it’s legitimate family bait. Michael Patten and his wife bought the place in 2002 and gut renovated.
“This place is like a secret,” says Patten, an architect formerly with the firms Lohan Anderson and Eptein. “Everyone’s always talking about the four Mies towers on Lake Shore Drive, but this is one of the coolest buildings in the city in my opinion.” Patten knows a thing or two about high-rises. He led the design of several significant Chicago towers including the Blue Cross Blue Shield building, One North Wacker, and 353 North Clark.
Astor Tower began life as a glamorous modern hotel with the legendary Maxim’s restaurant in its basement. The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, and Buddy Hackett were a few of the celebrities that dined and slept here in the sixties. Maxim’s was shuttered in the 1980s and donated to the city, and a few re-launches have since fizzled. There is another one in the works, by trailblazing restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff.
The buiding’s signature design element, the protruding concrete core—20 feet square and 300 feet tall and housing elevators, stairs, and utilities—is exposed in the tower’s lower 40 feet and outshoots the roof by another 40 feet. The core was poured all in one go and picks up the lateral loads for the building. The 24 floors are cantilevered off the core with perimeter columns giving an assist.
“Goldberg must’ve known that this thing was going to convert to something other than a hotel because all the units have so much storage space,” says Patten. Design details from the old hotel are abundant in many units, but Patten’s rehab only kept a couple: a set of wooded pantry doors, for instance, and and a set of mirrored doors in the master bathroom. “One thing I tried to do is get borrowed light from outside to inside spaces. The shower and the soaking tub, for instance, have back painted glass, sandblasted on so you get light from behind.”
As if that weren’t enough, the glass behind the soaking tub swings open to the master bedroom and floor-to-ceiling windows. And the second bedroom, used as an office, is missing a wall so that light and air can flood in from the living room. The rehab also incorporated an efficient kitchen console hanging steel cabinets and wooden shoebox cabinets. Here and elsewhere in the condo, Art Deco puncalouvers look and act like big nostrils ventilating the space.
The building had its workup a few years before Patten redid his space. Most importantly for property value, the dirt-collecting louver windows were replaced with conventional ones. Not only did this make their cleaning infinitely easier, it opened up the views. “Before, if you tried to catch the Hancock it was like looking up into the visor of your baseball cap,” says Patten.
Every dwelling in Goldberg’s building is a corner unit. Floors one thru 11 are split into quadrants with only one-bedroom units, and each floor after, up to the 28th, has one two-bed and two one-beds. There will always be more one-beds for sale, and the current crop are all priced under $300,000. Going back to October four comparable units have sold, from $545,000 for a 25th floor fixer-upper to $816,000 for a marble-drenched 28th floor specimen. Walk up one floor and you’re at the roof deck, the building’s key common element. One block east of the lakefront’s high-rise wall and otherwise buffered by landmarked low-rise Gold Coast, the roof delivers 360-degree views of undulating skyline like few others can.
The Pattens will leave the building but plan to rent in the Gold Coast.
Baird & Warner’s Victoria Amoroso has the listing.