The first new apartment tower to rise in Lincoln Park since SoNo East in 2012 is throwing its doors open to renters. The 199-unit Residences at NewCity is enmeshed in Structured Development’s humongous NewCity mixed-use district, with its 370,000 square feet of retail and entertainment. It’s overshadowed, actually, with the city’s largest Mariano’s supermarket and its only ArcLight Cinema stealing the show. By November, Mariano’s will join Whole Foods’ flagship store a quarter-mile west to make West Lincoln Park and the Near North Side among the most well-fed places on earth (see my post from last year for more on the retail component).
The tower on its own represents the continuation of Loop and River North-style luxury apartment construction north of Division and away from the lake. There’s not much to set the NewCity tower apart from a 73 East Lake or AMLI River North, for example. Shared building amenities in the post-2010 luxury world are pretty fixed. Developers need to provide door staff, high-speed internet, work stations, conference rooms, lounges, demonstration kitchens, fitness centers, dog runs, swimming pools, and even yoga rooms to be taken seriously by a cohort of young professionals with dozens of options and a willingness to pay $3 a square foot. And units are given quartz countertops, tech niches, plank flooring, in-unit washer/dryer, floor-to-ceiling glass, and balconies. The principal difference is location and universally superb views.
Those views are a byproduct of a predominately low-rise environment in all directions, liberating a poster-like skyline. “The reason we’re shaped like a parallelogram is to grab maximum skyline views,” explains Structured Development’s Senior Director of Real Estate Jeff Berta. “Three-quarters of our units have at least a piece of the skyline.”
Just as low-slung Lincoln Park and Cabrini Green grant such vistas, The Residences at New City take a chunk of it away from SoNo East. But there’s a silver lining, one ripe for the spin machine, which became evident as the blue-glass façade took shape. “The sunset reflects cleanly off their building,” says SoNo Leasing Professional Lauren Monaco. “And we still have a lot of our original downtown view, just with an added dimension…. Oh yeah, and our pool is bigger.” SoNo is also less of an island unto itself with so much retail and dining opening a block away.
“Halsted Flats introduced the first major rental product north of North Avenue since the 1970s,” says Gail Lissner, a vice president at Appraisal Research Counselors. “They demonstrated the market for luxury rental towers in the larger North Side.” Last year Webster Place joined in with 75 high-end apartments in a converted seven-story hospital building, and in all likelihood two more large Lincoln Park rental projects will soon arrive—a plan for 225 units on the 2500 block of North Lincoln Avenue, and 540 units as part of the long-awaited Children’s Memorial Hospital redevelopment. But there’s little reason to expect a glut, according to Lissner. Lincoln Park is big enough, desirable enough, and resistant enough to densification (through zoning and a not-in-my-backyard attitude) that these additions will barely move the needle on supply and demand.
Move-ins at NewCity began in mid-July and the building is 21 percent leased and 14 percent occupied to date—a normal pace. The introduction of model units this week is expected to accelerate lease signings toward a goal of 55 percent by year’s end and full lease-up next summer. As of Wednesday at 11:00 a.m., studios rents started at $1,604 and high-floor two-beds maxed out at $4,299. The average one-bedroom unit rented for about $2,500, or $2.90 per square foot. That’s in line with SoNo East, Webster Place, and several Near North developments.
NewCity’s rents are determined by a demand driven market-pricing program called YieldStar. It basically works like airline pricing, albeit with fewer tricks to beat the system. The software performs broad market analysis and then adjusts to real time demand for units in the building and the nearby area. A prospective tenant is given 48 hours to lock in a price quote before it's pushed up or down again. And signing concessions that renters so covet during a buyer’s market are absorbed into this elastic pricing so that a building doesn’t have to explicitly offer them. It’s where things are headed, like it or not.