Despite trends towards bike-friendly cities and transit-oriented development, the need for parking spaces in prime locations isn't going to disappear anytime soon. It's a fact very much appreciated by real estate mogul Sam Zell, who managed to flip a garage on Ontario and Ohio and make $9M in the process, according to Crain's. Jones Lang LaSalle Income Property Trust snapped up the 366-space structure for $16.9M, a big jump from the $7.2M Zell paid in the summer of 2013. The building is kitty corner from the Castle nightclub, but more important for the list price, is near the River North tech corridor and across the street from an Embassy Suites. Zell's "Grave Dancer" nickname comes from his success working with distressed real estate (media companies, not so much), and an article he wrote in the Real Estate Review in 1978 describing his process ("I was dancing on the skeletons of other people's mistakes").
According to John Hammerschlag, president of Chicago-based parking investor Hammerschlag & Co. who is quoted in the article, buying an asset like a parking garage is basically like buying cash flow. Chicago is especially attractive to investors because, along with low interest rates, real estate prices here haven't jumped as much here relative to other big urban markets.