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Barry Brecheisen

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Tour Catrina’s Unit in Chicago’s First Transit-Oriented Development

How an interior designer and her dogs make due in the East Village neighborhood

The building at 1611 W Division, the first of many Transit-Oriented Developments (TODs) built within the last few years, fulfilled all of the requirements Catrina and her two small dogs were looking for in a fresh start in the city’s East Village neighborhood. Undeterred by the absence of building parking, Catrina takes full advantage of the building’s other amenities which include designated bike storage, a large rooftop deck and, most important, a sweeping and panoramic view of the city from her one-bedroom apartment.

Who lives here?

Catrina, an interior designer and restaurant manager, and her two dogs: a senior Yorkie, Madison, and a rescue Brussels, Mya.

What are the specs?

A rented, 672 square-foot, one-bedroom unit on the seventh floor of the Wheeler Kearns-designed 1611 W. Division building overlooking the Polonia Triangle.

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How long have you lived here?

One and a half years. I resigned my lease this past November.

Can you tell us a little more about this building?

This is a very recent construction, completed in 2014, and the first transit-oriented development (TOD) built in the City of Chicago. I’d say the residents represent a range of ages but most are singles or couples without children. The building is completely made up of rental units, with no option to buy. It has all of the standard amenities you could ask for: a fitness center, a laundry and dry cleaning service, and a beautiful rooftop terrace with great views of the city. Designated as a TOD, there are no parking spaces for residents (though they can be leased next door) and tenants are pretty actively encouraged to utilize alternative forms of transportation. We have indoor bike storage and CTA Train and Bus Tracker monitors prominently displayed in the lobby and even a discount on a car sharing program. I personally try to ride my bike as much as possible but the rain these past few weeks has really put a damper on that.

So, how did you find this place then?

I was looking for my own place after ending a long-term relationship with whom I shared a condo in the West Loop. I wanted something newer and more contemporary but I liked this area, and this is one of the few options around here where units didn’t lean toward the "vintage" side. Safety and security was very important in my search and I also had the two dogs with me, so the fact that this building is dog-friendly was a huge selling point.

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What are some of the changes you’ve made to your place?

When I first moved in I had a pretty standard setup but, over the summer, I converted the one-bedroom layout into a studio bedroom plus office. My favorite thing about the unit was the view and I just wasn’t seeing it enough so I moved my bed in front of the three large east-facing windows where I used to have my dining table and now I wake up to a beautiful panoramic view of the city every morning. Having a separate office space is also very nice and it’s kind of fun to have an intimate dining area for the occasional dinner with friends or family.

Is there anything you don’t like about your unit?

The rent is really expensive. Everything is included and we do have a lot of amenities so I have to remember to take those things into account but it does pain me to hear how much my friends in the area are paying for the mortgage on their two- and three-bedroom places.

Can you tell us a bit about your design inspiration/theme/vibe?

I’d say I have a Bohemian but eclectic style. I love modern design but I also love to have texture and color in my home. I didn’t bring a lot with me when I moved out of my last place but it’s been enjoyable to start from scratch and look for new pieces.

Do you have a favorite piece in the house?

Probably the coffee table that I found at a vintage shop in the city. It’s a one-of-a-kind, 1960’s design and I got it for $70 so I’m pretty proud of it. I also have this reading chair from a Chairs for Charity event, where local designers are invited to create chairs for a charity auction. This one was designed by Raun Meyn of FoundRe Furnishing and is made completely from locally salvaged materials. It’s one of the few things I brought with me from my old place.

Do you plan on sticking around?

I think I’m going to stay for a while. If I move it will be a drastic move, like to Paris or something crazy. I just got back from a trip there so of course I’m in love.

PHOTOS BY: Barry Brecheisen

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