If you want to check the pulse of luxury home construction in Chicago, head to East Lincoln Park and count up the supersized new-builds of multimillion-dollar homes.
One of the most active blocks in the area is 1800-1900 North Orchard Street, where developers court buyers as they build. Developers can pay $3 million for a standard Chicago lot on Orchard, and construction costs and glitzy finishes push most new mansions into the $5 to $9 million range.
The big reason for the astronomical land prices, according to Coldwell Banker realtor Jennifer Ames, is that streets closest to the lake in East Lincoln Park are zoned for larger residential buildings than streets west of Halsted. And there’s a scarce supply of enormous new-builds, with pressure on developable lots coming from already saturated sections of the neighborhood as well as the Gold Coast and Lake View. “This correlates to higher land values which demand bigger new home construction,” says Ames, who holds two listings on this stretch of Orchard—a $3.829 million five-bedroom resale and a $1.95 million 80s-era contemporary four-bedroom home.
Now, at least four prominent local developers are mixing it up on Orchard: LG Development Group, BGD&C, Environs Development, and Foster Design Build. (None returned calls requesting comment.) The first three have multiple projects in the bag or underway, with several addresses recently sold or put under contract. Foster Design Build has a teardown proposition for 1903 North Orchard. These products, newcomers on the block, cater to lavish spenders with traditional tastes—quite a contrast to the new construction on another of Chicago's hotest blocks, West Town’s Race Avenue. The façades say it all—grand neocolonial or Georgian Revival laden with limestone.
Among these mansions on the rise is one that goes to the brink of insanity: 1955 North Orchard, a wannabe Versailles cast in concrete and straddling seven lots. Like investor Tim Mullen’s listed mansion on neighboring Burling Street, this thing could reach the $20 million mark. We'll just have to see how North Orchard sells once these new places are actually built.