Chicago was settled at Wolf Point on the banks of the river, and people have lived on its murky shores ever since: in world class skyscrapers; in utopian housing experiments (River City); with dock and boat in far-flung Ravenswood Manor; in public housing (Lathrop Homes); and in all manner of non-site-specific abodes.
Along the North Branch, until recently there hadn’t been much of a recreational attitude in people’s dealings with the polluted water. Even though full cleanup is years away, legions of locals and tourists are kayaking, canoeing, and pleasure boating the scraggly waterway, witnessing the natural habitat recover in leaps and bounds. Sections of riverbank are getting a full ecological rebuild, like along Horner Park for example, and if birds and turtles are your thing those hardy creatures are firmly in control.
As the Illinois Pollution Control Board and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District plod ahead with new filtration plants, tunnels, and reservoirs designed to reduce flooding and combined sewer overflows, Chicagoans are reclaiming their river. It started in the late 1990s with significant townhouse construction in River West and Avondale, and with industrial loft conversions of Montgomery Ward warehouses and other striking structures in River North. Then Erie on the Park, Kingsbury Plaza, Parc Huron, and other towers happened. While there hasn’t been much new construction in the last decade, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s boathouse projects have angled a few key parks toward water sports. You can now rent a kayak almost as easily as a Divvy. And sections of river walk are continually being improved and expanded. Like the idea of all this in your front or back yard? Here are four properties for sale that represent newer additions to the city’s second waterfront.
Nestled Away in River Village
If you don’t know River Village that’s probably because the several-acre town home development is dominated by the Montgomery Ward loft conversions running up the east bank of the river above Chicago Avenue. Architecturally it’s no match, but River Village’s housing and exclusivity has stronger appeal for families. Thankfully this isn’t another walled-off and gated community, but there are points of design that enhance privacy. An outer band of town homes address the street while an inner band faces an interior one-acre park. Pathways lead in and out of the park and to the river walk, but these interior homes are definitely in a world all their own.
My featured listing is a three-floor home with three beds, three baths, and three outdoor spaces including a private roof deck. It has been on the market for eleven weeks and, though people are looking, listing agent Chrisinta Cloutier of @properties responded to broker critique by notching the asking price down from $674,900 to $639,000. Considering that still outstrips the 2004 sale price by $109,000, I won’t venture that this is the last adjustment you’ll see with this property. The interiors are basic and nice with a large kitchen, granite counters, hardwood floors, and a two-car garage.
A Timber Loft Beside the East Bank Club
To be able to afford a River North loft, pushing right up to the river is advisable. The river offers its own draw, of course, but to date the neighborhood’s dining and entertainment scene, centered several blocks east on Clark and Wells Streets, is the real driver of property value. A fifth floor one-bedroom unit at 550 North Kingsbury is newly listed for $299,000 and features exposed brick, 10.5-foot timber ceilings (low for a loft), painted ductwork, a monumental fireplace, an attractive kitchen, and an en suite bathroom. The building provides a common roof deck and riverfront patio, and a gym. Or, be like Mike and slip over to the East Bank Club to hit the courts, the pool, the track, or the driving range.
Anna Prodanovic of Premier Relocation has the listing.
A Short Sale in the Ever-Expanding River Walk Development
Fifteen years ago there was nothing much on the west side of the river between Diversey and Wellington. Then Walsh Development came up with “The Homes of Rivers Edge”, a dense gated cluster of condos, townhomes, and single-family houses. That project touched off a phased development of the riverfront at this location, a spot where a new river walk and trees on the opposite bank give some relief to industrial districts to either side.
A second big push—dubbed “River Walk Town Homes”—took place in 2006, when today’s three-story unit was built. The three-bedroom home has French doors throughout, three waterfront decks, a sunroom, a master suite with a 100-square-foot walk-in closet, and a one-car garage. It has been rented for the last couple of years because the owner, a college professor, took a job out of state. “She wanted to hang onto the place and the community,” says listing agent Maribel Selva. “But a short stint away turned into a long one.”
Unfortunately, the owner bought when the bubble was close to bursting in 2006, paying $545,000. An attempt to clear that amount by $5,000 last September didn’t pan out and the asking price dove to $485,000 and is now a short sale. For prospective buyers, “the good thing about a short sale is the price," says Selva. "The bad part is the back-and-forth with the bank.” The newest phase of construction at River Walk includes 15 townhouses and four condos and their sales activity “is trumping units like mine.”
High Floor, High Ceilings at the Riverwalk Lofts
Jutting rather weirdly from the center of the labyrinth that is the River Walk and Rivers Edge developments is the only pre-existing structure on site: the Riverwalk Loft Condos. It’s a hulkish 64-unit building that looks like every other loft conversion, except for units in the top-level addition that have corrugated metal ceilings and Juliette balconies along with full ones. The for-sale unit is a 1,000-square-foot one-bed on the upper floor with views south and east. Converted in 2000, the unit has hardwood floors, a gas fireplace, in-unit laundry, a walk-in closet, and floor-to-ceiling windows with nearly every panel a sliding glass door.
Listing in early August for $249,000, the “motivated seller” already has the ask down to $239,000—a very approachable price for the size, finishes, and location. Eric Tanquilut of Red Star Realty has the listing.