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Inside Exhibit, River North’s newest apartment tower

The rental high-rise officially opened its doors earlier this month

As downtown Chicago is on track to deliver 4,500 new rental units to an increasingly crowded apartment market, developer and architects are looking for ways to differentiate their product in both design, target demographic, and price point. River North’s newly opened ‘Exhibit on Superior’ aims to do just that by embodying a philosophy of “smart living.” We stopped by the brand new 34-story tower to see how the building lives up to its lofty mantra.

Designed by Chicago’s bKL Architecture and developed by partners Magellan Development Group, MAC Management & Parse Capital, Exhibit draws its name from its location in the heart of River North’s art gallery and furniture showroom district. The cream colored, brick-clad high-rise contains a mix of 298 convertible, one-, two-, and three-bedroom rental apartments starting at just under $1,700 per month.

Even in its smallest unit—known as a junior convertible—Exhibit features clever touches like keyless entry with smartphone integration and the option for a space-optimizing built-in murphy bed provided by the building for a small monthly up-charge. While kitchen appliances are sized proportionally to not overwhelm the living spaces, Exhibit still offers generous bathrooms across all of its floor plans.

With such a focus on small but efficiently designed units, Exhibit is clearly targeting a younger professional demographic that is willing to forgo space for a chance to live in a walkable neighborhood close to their downtown place of work.

“This might be your first Chicago apartment as a professional,” Michael Byun of bKL Architecture tells us. “You’re in the same neighborhood as everyone else paying more, but by renting less square footage it allows you to have the access to the neighborhood and its restaurants, night clubs, and art galleries.”

Exhibit currently has three of a planned seven model units now open and on display. Aside from showcasing a diversity of floorpans, each apartment is decorated in such a manner that conveys a variety of interests, professions, and lifestyles. For example, the larger convertible model unit has a music theme with records and ukuleles on the wall while the two-bedroom corner unit skews more towards someone working in the fashion industry and features a sewing machine and pegboard dotted with spools of thread.

Exhibit’s fifth floor resident amenity space—dubbed Howie’s as a nod to the Howard Johnson’s that previously occupied the site—was designed to serve as a so-called third space for renters. “The focus was that you would not spend as much time in your apartment,” explains Byun. “The amenities space is sort of your second full-sized living room. There’s a dining room, a meeting room, and other spaces to supplement how residents would interact and entertain.”

While the outdoor deck with its pool, hot tub, cabanas, and grilling stations is still being furnished, the indoor portion of the club level sports a slightly more rustic aesthetic compared to some other highly-amenitized new rental developments. It features a communal lounge with an overhead lattice of ropes, a similarly designed private dining room, secluded reading nooks, and a dedicated conference room behind mesh wire inlayed glass. A well-appointed fitness center is joined by locker facilities and an impressive sauna that might rival some of Exhibit’s bedrooms in size.

Below, Exhibit meets the ground with a modest but handsome residential lobby. Ramps to its well-concealed 109 stall parking garage and 14,500 square feet of retail space round-out the building’s lower levels. It was announced just today that Left Coast Food & Juice will open its second Chicago location inside the two-story commercial space overlooking Exhibit’s plaza at the corner of Superior and Wells. Designed by landscape architect Kettelkamp & Kettelkamp, this public pocket park also contains the building’s dog run.

While Exhibit was made available for resident move-in starting on the 15th of this month, most of the building’s new tenants have opted for February/March/April leases. Typical of many new high-rise developments, Exhibit is opening in portions as build-out continues on its higher levels. Right now, floors 2 through 12 are ready for occupancy with the 13th through the 18th expected to follow suit in mid-February, explains property manager Deanna Yates.

Exhibit is the first in a batch of new River North rental towers replacing some of the neighborhood’s more kitschy tourist traps, in this case the aforementioned Howard Johnson’s. With additional towers rising at the former sites of Ed Debevic’s and a Planet Hollywood turned Gino’s East pizzeria, perhaps it’s only a matter of time before the likes of the Rain Forest Cafe and Hooters outlive their usefulness and are put to higher, better uses.