Mallinckrodt in the Park, a seniors-only living facility

At Wilmette’s Mallinckrodt in the Park, a seniors-only development housed in the former Mallinckrodt College, 26 of the 81 units remain unsold five years after the conversion. But recent action by the village could help animate sales. On September 28th, the Wilmette Village Board voted unanimously to lower the minimum age for Mallinckrodt residents from 62 to 55.

After an investor group bought the unsold condos in January—there were 33 then, but seven of them have since sold—the principals, David Rosen and Reuben Warshawsky, slashed prices and paid off the homeowners association’s roughly $100,000 in debts from unpaid condo assessments. They also started meeting with residents. “The homeowners board was questioning why it was a 62-and-over rule, when a large percentage of adult communities in America are 55 [and over],” Warshawsky says.

The cathedral arches in Mallinckrodt in the Park
Warshawsky (center) and Rosen (right) talk with a contractor in a two-bedroom condo that includes the pillars and arched ceilings of a portion of the original chapel. The condo’s price is $525,000; under the original developers, it was $807,000.

“We’d been working on changing that for two years,” says Earl Glass, who has been living at Mallinckrodt with his wife, Merle, since May 2007. “It opens up the market to more potential buyers, and it gives us more active, energetic people in the building.” Glass has his own theories about the original 62-year-old cutoff. “Some neighbors worried about the schools getting crowded,” he says. “But there’s not one child living here. If somebody is paying $500,000 and they have kids, they’ll buy a house.”

The age limit isn’t the only thing that’s been lowered. A partly finished two-bedroom condo, originally going for $427,400, now carries a $235,000 price tag. At the upper end, an unfinished two-story space in the college’s former chapel, with original arches and pillars intact, is priced at $750,000 after once being offered at $1.5 million, finished. (The investors are selling some units finished and some unfinished. In the latter case, buyers can work with either the investors or their own contractor to finish the space.) Don Shea of @Properties is handling sales.

Rosen and Warshawsky took on the task of changing the age rule only in part, they say, to stimulate sales. “The community has been nearly unanimous on saying there’s really no reason to cut it off at 62,” Rosen sales. And with price cuts of 35 percent or more, sales had already picked up. “We’ve closed seven units since January, and we have four more under contract,” he says. “With the new age limit, we do expect that to accelerate.”

The Glasses are delighted. They are buying a larger condo in the building and have their existing unit on the market. They bought that two-bedroom condo unfinished in 2007; the list price was $660,000, and they won’t divulge what they then spent to finish and decorate the space. Their new condo, with 500 square feet more interior space and a patio, cost about $510,000, finished.

When they decided to move—“we would only do it because of what [Warsahwsky and Rosen] have done for the building,” Merle says—the Glasses priced their old condo at $494,000; it’s now down to $389,000. “The loss we’re taking on this doesn’t make the new one a bargain,” Merle acknowledges, “but in the long run we hope we’ll make it up.”

How much do they stand to lose? “I don’t want to add it up for you,” she says. “Do you want to ruin a 49-year marriage?”