Webster Square, that slow-moving mixed-use redevelopment of the vacated Lincoln Park Hospital Campus at Webster and Lincoln Avenues, has had its most productive six months since Sandz Development acquired the property in 2009. Seventy-five apartments opened in the seven-story administrative building at the start of June, and work has ramped up on the 100-unit condo component in the neighboring 12-story hospital building.
Lincoln Park Hospital left in a hurry in 2008, so what Sandz encountered was a ghostly three acres of semi-operational buildings. Six distinct structures rose between the 1920s and 1970s and were cobbled together by pedestrian bridges and tunnels, with an ancient generator at their midpoint—some 600,000 square feet built with little regard for windows or natural ventilation. Residential conversion was impractical without first razing some of the structures to let light in.
Leasing for the first residential phase of Webster Square began in April and the luxury apartments are now 90 percent occupied, with more than 70 percent of renters moved in. David Goldman, a partner at Sandz Development, looked to differentiate the mid-rise from other like-sized rental properties by ceding prime square footage to common amenity spaces: the top floor is given over to a gym, party room, and wraparound green roof deck, all with neighborhood and skyline views; and the second floor offers business rooms.
The big surprise is Sandz Development’s confidence on the condo side, with a 12-story, 100-unit project under construction in the former main inpatient building. There’s no question the market is ripe for condos, with the cost of renting growing more cumbersome by the day. However, there’s only one larger project that’s broken ground since the Great Recession—1345 South Wabash.
Zoning approval has been in place since mid-2011, following two-and-a-half years of pitched battles over the appropriate residential density and inclusion of retail. “We were blessed with the opportunity to be able to rethink our plan several times during that process,” says a grinning Goldman. Neighbors resisted a grocery store, in particular, and one tenant did bow out before Mrs. Green’s Natural Market and a parking garage came to be on the spit of land opposite the residential buildings.
Two months of demolition remain, so never mind the Brutalist corrugated concrete. The ugly curtain walls are doomed with Sandz and architect Solomon Cordwell Buenz bringing in new masonry, squaring off the façade, and adding fifth and 11th floor setback terraces. Once this happens, the normal 15-month construction cycle kicks in, with occupancy coming in Spring 2016 and full maturity (read: sellout) by the end of 2016.
“Ultimately, our history is as condo and townhouse developers. That component was always first and foremost for us," says Goldman. "I think the market recovery has helped that become even more apparent.” Sandz’ North Side portfolio includes condos at 530 and 600 North Lake Shore Drive and 1301 North Dearborn, and the Dickens Court and Eugenie Terrace townhomes.
Building amenities include standards like 24-hour door staff, fitness center, media center, bike lockers, private courtyard, and underground parking. Leftover hospital foundations made below-grade parking more practical. It will stretch beneath all structures, including eight single-family parcels, which will be sold as lots for large custom homes, and the half-acre central courtyard, and will leave the ground floors in both rental and condo buildings for non-retail commercial uses and additional amenity space.
Price Points: The one- to four-bedroom condos range in size from 950 to 2,900 square feet and price from $480,000 to $2 million, and pre-construction sales are “imminent”, according to Peter Olesker, Executive Vice President of @properties, the brokerage in charge of marketing. “We expect some buyers of premium spaces on the top two floors and on the terrace floor to combine units.”
The few remaining apartments are renting for $2,270 for a 684 square-foot studio; $2,270 to $2,778 for one-beds; $3,325 to $3,839 for two-beds; and $9,000 for the lone three-bed, a 2,650 square foot anomaly on the ground floor with a private entrance and jumbo terrace. All condos and apartments come with a covered parking space—below ground for condo owners and across the street for renters.