List Price: $2.8 million
The Property: The brick and copper Beaux-Arts cornice of the former Assumption School—founded in 1899 by Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini—conceals a big two-bedroom penthouse that goes on the market today. Situated in a new fifth-floor rooftop addition, the contemporary unit spans the building’s 50-foot width and is nearly as deep.

The developers Bob and Rosa Levin bought the building (at 319 West Erie Street) in 2003, after it had been vacant for more than a decade; they received a landmark designation for the property from the city before starting a complete renovation. (It’s an odd coincidence, but, no, this isn’t the same Bob Levin selling the Elm Tower condo I wrote about here last week.) The Levins divided each of the building’s three middle floors into two condos—all of them have been sold—and set aside the lowest floor for parking. They had intended to keep the penthouse for themselves, but have decided to keep their North Shore home instead, Rosa Levin says.  

Reached via elevator, the penthouse has a foyer with partial walls that reveal a spacious living room; a sleek, modern kitchen with a back stairway leading up to a storage room (making it a good candidate for a secluded wine or meditation room); and two 200-square-foot terraces surrounded by arched brick walls that could be transformed into additional rooms. The master bath features an eye-shaped soaking tub in front of a tall backdrop of glass tile and a round sunroom overhead. The library and second bedroom have tall windows overlooking another terrace that is intended as a common area for all building residents but most likely will become a de facto private space, given that people must climb the stairs—rather than take the elevator—to reach it. The penthouse, which comes with four parking places, should be ready for occupancy within 30 days.

In 1889, Mother Cabrini, an Italian-born nun, was sent by Pope Leo XIII to New York City, where she founded an orphanage, the first of 67 institutions she would launch in North and South America and Europe. In 1899, she came to Chicago to start the Assumption School and work with the city’s impoverished Italian immigrants. She later founded Columbus Hospital, where she died in 1917 from complications from malaria. In 1946, a year after the Assumption School closed, the Catholic Church canonized Cabrini, making her the first U.S. citizen to become a saint.  

Price Points: The unit is structurally complete and most of the cosmetics are finished, but the Levins say they will work with a buyer to make any necessary changes or new finishes. Over the past three years, six River North condos have sold for $2 million or more, but all of them were new construction. This one is a distinctive hybrid: new construction atop a genteel old building.

Listing Agent: Cara Buffa, Sudler Sotheby’s, (312) 593-2608