Logan Square is the next Wicker Park.
So alleges a marketing brochure hyping the Logan Apartments, a mixed-use development by Fifield Cos. and Terraco Real Estate opening on the site of the old Mega Mall. It's a pronouncement of what many Northwest Siders already know: Logan Square has entered the same phase of gentrification that Wicker Park and Bucktown did a decade ago, in which trend-chasing developments make for rising rents and a wave of upmarket retail.
In other words, come grab a piece of the Hipster Highway while it’s hot.
But judging by the looks of the campus at 2480–2522 North Milwaukee Avenue, which includes a 27,000-square-foot Target store and 220 ritzy rental apartments now leasing, the corner may skip the Wicker Park phase and mirror neighborhoods like River North and West Loop.
“I think we’re seeing a new trend,” says Debra Dobbs, a broker in Logan Square with @Properties. “You’re used to seeing these kinds of high-rise properties more in River North and Streeterville, but now they’re increasingly coming to a fun and vibrant neighborhood like Logan Square.”
But in marketing to the tattooed set, the Logan Apartments raise their own question: Are those buyers ready to pay a premium for the kind of bougie digs you'd find near the Loop?
According to Gail Lissner of Integra Realty Resources, the answer is yes.
“[Logan Apartments] is nothing atypical," she says. "It’s the evolution of what’s still one of the hottest markets on the North Side. It’s consistent with what we’ve seen with development along the Milwaukee Avenue corridor over the last few years.”
Look southwest along Milwaukee Avenue and you’ll find one-bedroom apartments renting for $1,970 a month at the recently constructed Noca Blu. At the twin MiCA Towers at California and Milwaukee, they're going for $2,195.
Currently, living at Logan Apartments costs a minimum of two grand: $2,050 for a 574-square-foot studio, and $2,395 for a slightly larger one-bedroom. A two-bedroom, two-bath place tops out at $3,695. That’s significantly higher than the neighborhood’s average March rent of $1,244 for a studio, $1,382 for a one-bedroom, and $1,864 for a two-bedroom, according to apartments.com.
Dobbs doesn’t envision a rapid rent-out at the Logan Apartments, but believes all 220 units will eventually fill up in what’s turning into a hot spring for Chicago's rental market. But she’s not sure that’s an entirely good thing in an area in which escalating rents and property taxes have forced long-time residents to look elsewhere.
“The prices are crazy — double what you’d expect to see in Logan Square,” Dobbs says. “I think it will definitely change the dynamic here and I’m not sure it will be positive. I’m worried about what’s going to happen to the diversity and character of what’s been a fun and vibrant neighborhood.”
Bhaskar Manda, vice president of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, shares those concerns.
“We aren’t happy with this,” says Manda, who helped organize a protest of the project in 2017 based on the developer’s plans to build luxury apartments with few affordable units. “I’m concerned with affordability and sustainability in the neighborhood. This is guaranteed to displace people.”
Manda, also a small Logan Square landlord, doubts that the Logan Apartments will fill up at their advertised rates, especially since he has trouble renting out larger apartments in the neighborhood for $1,500.
“I do know that anything within a quarter of a mile of the Blue Line is getting higher rates.”
Jon Schneider, senior VP at Fifield Cos., said in a statement:
"Other apartments in Logan Square with comparable floor plans, finishes and amenities are similarly priced, and there is demand in the neighborhood for this type of rental. Though we are bringing to Logan Square what mimics downtown multifamily in terms of units and amenities, we are doing so in a way that is respectful of the existing aesthetic of the neighborhood. [We're] also offering 22 affordable apartments, including studios [and] one- and two-bedrooms featuring the same floor plans and finishes as the market-rate apartments, with the same access to amenities."
About those amenities: Tenants at the Logan Apartments will have access to all sorts of extras that are rare in a neighborhood mostly filled with brownstones and three-flats, including a gym, dedicated co-working space, fire pits, and an outdoor swimming pool with shade cabanas. And because the Logan Apartments are targeting a type, there are also 188 spaces for bike parking and storage, plus a so-called "bike kitchen" for maintenance and repairs.
As for the decor, the building's common space is adorned with works by local artists, an oversized historic map of Logan Square, and reclaimed graffiti from the Mega Mall, a structure whose demolition has come to symbolize the changing face of Logan Square.
For Manda, the nod towards the past is, if perfunctory, better than total erasure.
“It’s good they’re doing something to recognize the neighborhood’s history.”