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River North Adds One More Condo Tower to the Pipeline

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Another boutique condo high-rise was approved by the Chicago Plan Commission yesterday, continuing the recent trend of new condo projects targeting the high-end market. Proposed by developer Smithfield Properties, the project will feature 55 units in a slender 23 story tower which will be located at 800-820 North Wells Street, stretching from Chicago Avenue to Institute Place. The design is another collaborative project featuring Berkelhamer Architects as the designers and Antunovich Associates as the architect of record. This paring also worked on SoNo and the recently completed nearby apartment project at 805 North LaSalle known as Location. The project would replace three older low-rise brick buildings on a 20,789 square foot site. Despite the central location, the site falls just outside of the boundaries for 'D' classification in zoning, signifying downtown zoning districts with more generous allowances as of right.

The tower was designed with a taller and thinner form, with a footprint occupying a little more than one half of the site, with an intention to preserve view sight lines from neighboring buildings. The tower's facade is made up of an aluminum and glass exterior with 'reveals' — slits in the facade allowing for terraces which are positioned at different heights. The reveals also provide a visual representation to the outside for the change in the unit mix where duplex units (units spaning two floors, like a townhouse) are placed in the building. The slender tower will generally include three condo units per floor, two units per floor on the duplex levels as well as two penthouse duplex units on the top two floors. A single townhouse at ground level would be included in the podium of the building and would face northward onto Institute Place.

Chicago and Wells will have an "active corner," with ground floor offices featuring a new home for the headquarters of Smithfield Properties. The corner will feature constant illumination throughout the evening hours and residential units on lower floors would be oriented towards the corner as well. Parking levels are sheathed in a fritted glass facade and are placed to the north, and would be flanked by condos on the south end of the building and the lone townhouse unit at the north end, shielding the parking levels from view as much as possible.

The condo units are expected to sell for $1-$4 million each. As is typical with luxury buildings in Chicago, larger units have two parking spaces each, while smaller units will include one parking space. When questioned about the relatively high parking ratio of 105 versus 55 condos, a representative from Smithfield mentioned the demands of the local luxury condo require at least one space per unit, as prospective purchasers will have a car, but may still use public transportation.

Despite the relatively modest program of only 55 units, well below what current zoning would allow, there was fierce opposition present at the Plan Commission, almost exclusively from residents of the nearby Parc Chestnut condominiums. Most of the opposition focused on the opinions of the project being "too big," "generating too much traffic" and "out of character" despite their own building having 261 units. The Chicago Department of Transportation has in fact approved the plan already without a traffic study, citing the low number of units rendering such a study not needed.

Alderman Burnett commented on the fact that the Parc Chestnut itself was out of context when constructed in what was once an exclusively industrial and institutional area, without any residences and that building used to be located within the boundaries of his 27th ward when the change in land use was allowed. He mentioned the change was a good thing as the greater downtown area is continuing to evolve. Burnett went on stating that he doesn't make decisions based on views, and if he did, nothing would be built and that the Central Area of Chicago where more density is expected to be built in order to generate tax revenue for the entire city to pay for city services.

Shawn Ursini

·Another Residential Tower Looking to Plant Roots in River North [Curbed Chicago]
·Previous River North coverage [Curbed Chicago]